Friday, November 5, 2010

Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Sauce

Really tasty...really all around winner!  I served this at a small family dinner party a few weeks ago and it went over really well.  I couldn't find a recipe for what I wanted, so I just went at it in the kitchen!

Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Sauce**                
An Original
4 large tomatoes, cored and quartered*
1 large can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped (save the liquid)*
1 small can diced tomatoes, drained (save the liquid)*
Olive Oil cooking spray
Salt and Black Pepper
Minced Garlic
Olive Oil
2 - 2½ sweet onions, chopped
1 small can crushed or pureed tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
2 small cans tomato paste
2-3 tbsp beef soup base (optional)
1 cup dry red wine (or 1 mini bottle)—I used a Cabernet Sauvignon
1-2 tbsp Italian herbs
1 tbsp dried parsley
2-3 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground red pepper flakes
½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a casserole dish sprayed with olive oil cooking spray, lay cored and quartered tomatoes skin down.  Season with salt and pepper and a generous amount of minced garlic; drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in oven for approximately 1 hour (check at 30 minutes and 45 minutes).  Let cool, then remove and discard skins and chop the tomatoes.
In a separate dish sprayed with olive oil cooking spray, combine the chopped whole tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and a generous amount of minced garlic; drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in oven for approximately 30 minutes.  Juices will begin to brown. 
Meanwhile, preheat a dry skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and slowly cook.  They will give off moisture in the beginning, but eventually dry up and start to stick.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil once they start to stick.  Turn the heat down slightly.  Continue to cook slowly until browned and caramelized, about 45 minutes.  Do not let them burn.
In a slow cooker, combine roasted tomatoes and pan juices(both dishes), juices from canned tomatoes, caramelized onions, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, additional garlic, 1-2 good sized tablespoons of beef soup base (can add more near the end if you want a heartier taste), wine, and all spices.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours (or however long you need it to cook).  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Let simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes while you pull everything else together. 
Serve over Polenta with a Spinach Salad and Crusty Bread.
*Use this combination or do all fresh, whole, or diced—I wanted to see the difference in the three

Basic Polenta                                                                                                                                     Giada de Laurentiis
6 cups water/milk mixture
1¾ cup cornmeal
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter

In a large skillet, heat water/milk mixture to boiling.  Slowly whisk in the salt and cornmeal; whisk continuously until thickened, approximately 2 minutes.  Add butter and stir until melted. 
Serve with Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Sauce
For Polenta Cakes: Pour hot polenta into a greased pan (size depends on desired thickness) and let cool.  Slice into desired shapes.  Bake or skillet fry polenta pieces as desired.

Walnut Spinach Salad**                                                                                 
An Original

Baby Spinach
¼ red onion, sliced and cut into thin strips about 2” long
¼ large apple, peeled and cut into thin strips about 2” long (recommend honeycrisp)
1-2 tbsp Lemon juice
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Walnut Balsamic Dressing:
3-4 tbsp walnut oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper
Dash onion powder
Dash ground mustard

Prepare onion and apple.  Pour lemon juice over apple to prevent browning, tossing to combine.  Toast walnuts in a skillet until fragrant but not burned; cool.  Remove apple from lemon juice and dry with a paper towel.
Combine salad ingredients and toss in a large bowl.  Wisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad.  Toss to combine and serve.

**All ingredient amounts are estimates. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What have I been up to since early September?


Lots of football...

(shhh....I'm  moving to the dark side and enjoying Alabama football more than Auburn...Roll Tide!)

Lots of doctors...

(the idea of putting radioactive material in my body still freaks me out--even though I've now had it done)

Hubby's Birthday...

(I got him this, so now we have lots of racing in our living room...)

A little bit of painting.  Hubby took me to Bottle & Brush (painting with wine)...  

(It was the first time I've picked up a paint brush since college)

My Painting
Hubby Finishing his Painting

It was FUN!!

Lots of class work and studying of national security...

(Anyone an expert on America's policy of reducing nuclear proliferation???)

And work...lots and lots of work...

I will leave you know with a video of Whatley in the kitchen...he is wanting a bowl of sauteed cabbage, corn, and a bit of fish.  It's really funny how crazy he gets for veggies.  The evening I had the HIDA scan, I still wasn't feeling well so I had hummus and carrots for dinner while hubby had mashed potatoes and fried chicken.  Whatley sat between us and what did he want???  Hummus and carrots!

Without further ado...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Long Absense, Busy Days's been over a month.  I've really not been very good at this. 

It's been a very busy month.  Work has been nonstop and school has picked up.  I have my midterm next week and a big part of my paper due the week after--I need to get going on that! 

I've also been having gallbladder issues (chronic cholecystitis) and am trying to learn how I need to change my diet.  I saw a specialist yesterday and he agreed that I can try to control it with food--I don't want to have surgery if I don't NEED it--and right now, I don't--no gallstones, no continuous pain.

Headed to the in-laws for the weekend.  It's been a month and this time will be different as Hubby's brother is overseas for school.  My sister also graduated from massage therapy school (yay!).  She's got to finish her clinicals, then get her license.  I have a massage scheduled for the 23rd and can't wait!  She's quite good!  :0)

Sister and I at her graduation luncheon

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hummus: It's Whats for Breakfast

My mother-in-law (MIL) can cook.  Really.  She is good and I've always felt like Hubby is comparing our food (he's really spoiled; so is the dog).  I get worried sometimes, but I really shouldn't be.  She loves it when I cook.  Hubby loves it when I cook.  Brother-in-law loves it when I cook.  But hummus for breakfast caused a little bit of concern.  

We visited Hubby's family this past weekend and I ended up in charge of breakfast on Saturday morning.  Looking through the fridge, I took stock of what was available and started to formulate an idea.  I wasn't even sure how it would work (specifically the hummus and cheese).  But, I ventured forth.  MIL was really concerned and kept trying to get me to go somewhere different with thus.  She finally relented and it was amazing.  The dog agrees.  

Ham and Hummus Toast
An Original

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
olive oil
salt and black pepper

4 slices dense whole wheat bread
1 tbsp butter (optional)
3 tbsp hummus
8 thin slices quality deli ham
gruyere (or other swiss cheese), shredded
8 eggs

Heat olive oil in a skillet; add onions and peppers, along with salt and black pepper.  Saute until the veggies are caramelized.

Toast bread (spread with butter, if desired), then spread with hummus and top with ham, veggies, and cheese.  Stick under a broiler until toasty and cheese is melted.

Meanwhile, fry the eggs in a skillet until desired hardness (me: hard; hubby: runny).  Place an egg on top of each slice of toast, sprinkle with a touch more cheese and salt and pepper (if desired).  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Glazed Carrot Soup

I know what you are thinking...really?  Carrot Soup?  How good can this be?

AMAZING.  There is no other way to put it.

Hubby gave me the stink eye when I first told him I was making this.  He doesn't like carrots.

Sister looked at me weird when she came over while we were having leftovers.

Both were shocked and amazed.

This stuff is like crack!  Serve it with a fresh country bread for dipping and you don't need anything else.

Glazed Carrot Soup
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 1/2 pounds carrots, sliced
2 3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon tablespoon maple syrup
salt and black pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons parsley, minced

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the carrots.  Saute several minutes until fragrant and they start to brown.  Add 3/4 cup water and maple syrup and turn the heat on high.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes.

Uncover and raise the heat a bit.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are cooking in the butter.  Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very tender, about 10 minutes more.  If they start to stick or brown, add a tablespoon or so of stock.

Add the stock and turn the heat to high.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the syrup at the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat so that the stock gently bubbles and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes more.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Serve, garnished with a sprinkle of parsley.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monterey--One of God's Great Gifts

Indescribable Beauty.  The Fresh Smell of Pine.  Luxurious Wine.  Ocean Waves Beating Against the Cliffs.  Rough Rocks and Smooth Stones.  

Monterey County is an exploration for the senses and a place for relaxation.  Enjoy the sites...

Monterey Peninsula

The Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach

Views from the drive to Big Sur

The Waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Sangiovese Grapes Ripening on the Vine
My Love Upon the Rock

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Endocrinologist's Assesment

Well, I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.  And I am relieved to know it.  The endocrinologist appointment went relatively well.  He basically told me that if my numbers are normal, then I just have to deal with the symptoms.  But the more we talked, the more he realized that I probably do have an issue.  He did think I may have a B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia), but I didn't.  He made reference to the "autoimmune disorder [I] have inherited" and "hashimotos."  Well, he ordered labs and my TSH levels came back on the high side, but it was my antibody levels that were off the charts, which confirms that I do indeed have Hashimoto's.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Hashimoto's disease is a disorder that affects your thyroid…the thyroid is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that coordinate many of your body's activities (from digestion to metabolism to reproduction)…Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system creates antibodies that damage your thyroid gland. The disease causes inflammation of your thyroid gland (thyroiditis), which may impair the ability of your thyroid to produce hormones, leading to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Then, your pituitary gland attempts to stimulate your thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones, thus causing your thyroid gland to enlarge (goiter).

So, what does this mean?  Not much, really.  I need to watch my TSH levels.  They need to be kept lower than normal.  My thyroid will eventually "die."  But this means my levels and symptoms will even out and I will be completely dependent on synthetic thyroid hormones (which doctors prefer, I have been told).  It is more reliable.  Hashimoto's, because it is an endocrine, autoimmune disease, can lead to lots of other, unsavory things, but this is extremely unlikely as I am on medication and have been.  

I really am extraordinarily relieved to know what my issue is.  I've known I've had an issue and it feels good to finally have that confirmed.  Having Hashi's is really no different than plain hypothyroidism in regards to treatment and outcome.  But, there is always the possibility of having more endocrine issues.

One final note...I did ask the doc about avoiding goitrogenic foods (this was distressing me as many on the list are regulars in my diet) and he said that I would create more problems than solve by eliminating these foods.  He told me there was no way I'd ever be able to eat enough soy to inhibit iodine absorption at a level that would affect anything.  I'm still breathing a sigh of relief.  :0)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vegetarian Month: A Recap

Vegetarian month was awesome!  I LOVED it!!  We will be doing it again in January.  My eating has changed dramatically and part of me REALLY wants to become a vegetarian.  But, it's not going to happen.  Too much prevents it for me, at this point in my life.  But, vegetarian meals now play a much bigger role in my life.  For the month of August, I think I've cooked meat three times thus far.  I've eaten it more out, for sure, but at home--many more veggies.

I've got a ton of new recipes I want to try, as well as a bunch of red lentils, french lentils, barley, black beans, quinoa, and other random stuff in my pantry.  I made more falafel this month and it is fantastic.

My body has also really decided it likes vegetarian food.  I have not felt near as good in August as I did in July.  I've had lots of issues and have been more tired and have lacked energy and concentration.  This last week really enlightened me--the conference was in town, which meant my busiest week of the year.  My food choices were not my own (mostly).  I did make turkey sausage, "egg," and veggie burritos for the week as I needed something extraordinarily filling for the mornings.  But, my tummy complained--so much so that I had to take pepto in the mornings before eating them.  I was thrilled to get back to you yogurt and berries.  But lunches were at the conference.  One day, after feeling yucky and really not thrilled about the bacon wrapped, cheesy-filled, artery clogging chicken, I ate three salads for my meal.  They had roasted tomato halves, roasted red onion, and asparagus.  Eaten with the vinaigrette, they were phenomenal.  I didn't even want the dessert.

But anyways, I digress...

So, did I reach my goal?  Yes.  I am much more comfortable cooking vegetarian recipes and incorporating more food in my diet.  I am eating healthier and less, my body is functioning properly, and I've been loosing weight.

How has it changed me?  I am much more opened minded about food (as long as there are no mushrooms or tofu)!  I am happier eating this way and I want to continue it.  I have begun to consider health over low-fat or low-calorie.

Friends were fascinated by our experience.  Some thought we were crazy, some were impressed, and one even joined the fun. Another friend sent us an interesting article that put into words some of what was going through my head when I decided to do this.  The article is about gluttony, but it touches on being willing to give up things, or at least consume less.

All that to say.  Veggie month was a success and I highly recommend it to people.  Choosing to forgo meat for one month is doable for anyone.  Open your mind.  Experience something new.  And learn.

And for something completely's a photo of the Tennessee River taken from the helicopter this past week...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oh Wine, How I Love Thee

It's late, I'm tired, and I've had 1/2 a bottle of wine.  For me, lately, this is a lot and I am certainly feeling the effects.  I've cut way back since October (bad, bad night) so I normally don't even drink half a bottle.  But, tonight's wine (Sebeka Chenin Blanc) was excellent.  Very light.  Slightly citrusy.  Very mild.  Very soft nose.  Enjoyable.  We drank it with grilled chicken (Hubby's first time grilling chicken--roaring success), tourlou tourlou (adapted from Elly Says Opa), and pearled barley (cooked in veggie broth, with a bay leaf thrown in for good measure).  The veggies were like butter.

Dinner was tasty.  I loved it.  Dinner last night was good too...we went to my favorite restaurant in town and had a great steak with a good glass of cabernet.

That is all.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So Long...

But not farewell...I have not forgotten about you!  Life has been extraordinarily busy the past few weeks, both at work and at home.  It's also been ridiculously hot, which has made me want to be lazy.

Here are some things I owe you, so be on the look out:

-Report on the endocrinologist and diagnosis
-Recap of veggie month
-Recipe for some yummy Glazed Carrot Soup I made last night.

One final note...we drank the Kool-Aid and both got new iphones this week.  They are pretty awesome.


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Endocrinologist

Tomorrow, I will be visiting an endocrinologist for the first time in my life.  I am happy, yet a little nervous about this.

Prior to late December of last year, I had never heard of endocrinology, despite having problems with my thyroid for almost 10 years.  You see, I have hypothyrodism and am dependent on medication.  It runs in my family.

Dear Mom,


Your Daughter

Well, for many a year I had it completely controlled.  I rarely suffered symptoms and was able to more easily loose weight (the epic battle of my life).  From September 2006 until February 2008, I lost 40 pounds--five pounds away from my goal weight.  Then, I met my husband, became deliriously happy, began drinking wine and eating good food.  I slowly started putting on weight--that is until my thyroid got out of whack.  It went nuts and I have gained back a ton of weight in a very short amount of time.  I thought I got it under control again, but this only lasted a few months.  My levels went up again.  And again.  Eventually I had to get a thyroid ultrasound and see an ENT.  Everything was normal and my levels stabilized.  But the symptoms have not gone away.  They still exist and dominate my life.  So, I'm seeing an endocrinologist.  Something is off and I'm tired of not knowing what is going on in my body.  Yes, my numbers look normal right now, but my body is screaming to take a closer look.

I am a little OCD about being prepared for things.  I have three pages of questions/documentations, plus a chart listing all of my thyroid levels since my doctor starting checking it.  I think my biggest concern is that he will tell me its all in my head.  I don't like it when people don't listen to me.  What do I do?  What do I say?  What else may this be?  And WHY CAN I LOSE NO WEIGHT, ONLY GAIN, WHILE WORKING OUT AND EATING HEALTHY?!?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Musings of a Dog, by Whatley

A post, by Whatley, the Dog.  Here chronicles his year in married life; not him, silly--his people!

Where are we going, Mommy??

Why do I have to sit back here?!?  I want to DRIVE!!
This doesn't seem like a very good idea to me...
Hmmm...which toy is best RIGHT NOW???  How is a dog to decide...
What more could you ever want than ME!
Whatley, Alabama loves me so much, they named themselves after me! 
OCD?  NOT ME... ... ...
Time to go, Mommy--hurry up!!

The End.  Time for Beauty Sleep.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Week, Another Meal, Another Smile

It seems as though all my posts revolved around food--I guess you can see what is on my mind and what I enjoy!

One full week of vegetarian month left!  It is hard to believe it has flown by so quickly.  I've enjoyed it thus far and plan to continue cooking vegetarian most nights a week.  I'm still not willing to give up meat for good, but I do think I'll be buying so little of it that I can afford the "good" (i.e. grass fed, cage free, etc etc) stuff.

16: Dinner was fried polenta, steamed butternut squash, and caramelized green peppers and red onions
17: Almond-Vanilla-Cherry Oatmeal, Lentil Soup (first time having lentils--quite tasty!), foccacia
18: Fruit smoothie; pizza out for lunch with friends, leftovers
19: Tomato Basil Soup and Salad for lunch; Mediterranean Night!  Saganaki, Falafel (woo hoo!  It worked this time), Kafta (only tried a taste as hubby made it), hummus, tzaziki with way too much garlic, cumin brown basmati rice, and pita; lime squares for dessert.
20: leftover greek for lunch; Whole Wheat Grilled Pizza with EVOO, spinach, fresh mozzarella, feta, caramelized onions,  balsamic glaze and sea salt
21: Salad at Earth Fare for lunch; Egg, Veggie, and Black Bean burritos
22: Nothing but Noodles for lunch; Rice and Black Bean Burritos (do you see a theme?) with fresh guacamole
23: leftovers for lunch and Veggie Curry from Surin for dinner.  Yum!

Fresh Hummus
An Original

2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 scant cup dried chick peas (rinsed and cooked on low heat for 8-10 hours) or 1 can chickpeas, 16 oz
1/2 cup tahini, well stirred
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil, or to taste
3 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon Ground red pepper, to taste
1 1/2-2 teaspoons Cumin, to taste
Warm pita bread

If using dried chickpeas, rinse, cover with water, and boil on low for 6-8 hours, or until done.  Drain whatever chickpeas you are using, reserving liquid; rinse.  On a cutting board, mince and mash the garlic with the salt.

In a food processor, puree all ingredients and ½ cup chickpea liquid, scraping down the sides.  Add more olive oil and/or chickpea liquid until desired consistency is reached.

Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with pine nuts, if desired.

Serve with warm pita bread.

What are you lookin' at?!?  Eating all that food makes me sleepy!

Any brilliant ideas for the final week of July?!?  Bonus points for being seasonal-veggie filled and fragrant with spices!

I leave you for now with a beautiful sunset and a calm good-night.
Sunset over Lake Michigan (Traverse City, Michigan)

Friday, July 16, 2010

I could get used to this vegetarian thing...

Oh. My. Goodness.

Last night's dinner was amazing!  So fresh, so flavorful, so simple.  Also, I made Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies.  The recipe was originally vegan, but I was out of a few ingredients, so this version is not.  Oh well.  It is still very tasty. 

Granted, I'd change a little bit, like chopping the roasted tomatoes up a little more, using more spinach, or perhaps putting the spinach on top of the polenta.

Without further ado,

Polenta with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic on a Bed of Spinach
Adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Polenta (recipe below)
tomatos--I used three from my MIL's garden
Garlic--I didn't have any, so I sprinkled garlic powder
olive oil
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Parmesan Cheese

Make polenta, pour into a greased cookie sheet, casserole dish, or other dish (depending on how thick you want it).  Cool.

Wash, core, and quarter tomatoes.  Sprinkle with garlic (or garlic powder), salt, pepper, and drizzle in olive oil.  Roast in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes.  Cool until easy to handle.  Peel and chop tomatos (I forgot to chop them--it would have been easier to eat chopped.

Decrease the oven to 350F.  Cut polenta into squares or use a cookie cutter of your desired shape.  Place on a baking sheet (with a lip) and top each piece with tomatoes, garlic (if used), and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Drizzle a little oil from the tomatoes over the top.  Bake polenta and tomatoes for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wilt the spinach in a pan with olive oil and garlic (I used crushed jarred garlic).

Place the spinach on a plate and cover with a slice of the polenta and tomatoes. 

I think you could also either put the wilted spinach on top of the polenta, then add the tomatoes or place raw spinach on top of the polenta, then top with the tomatos and bake as directed.

Anyway you make it, mmmmmm, mmmmmm, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Well, let's go over vegetarian month days 7-16:

7: catered mexican lunch at Space Camp (it was easy to avoid the meat); dinner was a speedy margharita pizza with fresh basil from the garden (the zucchini casserole didn't turn out faulously because of the beans I added).
8: organic boxed mac and cheese with spinach
9: salad for lunch (followed by a dead car--again); Dylan got home from travel and we immediately headed to B'ham for the weekend.  Dinner was at the Olive Branch and was a falafel pita sandwich
10:  oatmeal and fried eggs; banana bread, and dinner at a really nice resaurant (small piece of quail and Shrimp & Grits); yes, I cheated here--I didn't have any other option.
11:  baked oatmeal, peanut butter and banana sandwich (ehh); Black Bean Quesadillas with quick quacamole (this was really good, but my body rebelled; I think something was bad)
12:  catered lunch at a BOD meeting, so 1/2 ham sandwich--no other option; grilled zucchini and squash with barley for dinner
13:  jason's salad bar for lunch; memorial dinner for a friend that recently died--one bite of chicken, the rest was veggies and fruit
14:  black bean soup and ceasar salad for lunch; aloo palak and naan for dinner at an Indian restaurant with friends
15:  Falafel Wrap; Polenta with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach
16:  farewell pizza for lunch; dinner will be leftover polenta and something to do with homegrown butternut squash and green bell peppers

I've been eating LOTS of fresh fruit and breakfast most days is plain yogurt and berries.  I'm really enjoying this and I think I'm down a few pounds (yay!!!).  I haven't worked out this week b/c we've been sharing a car as mine is in the shop.  Until yesterday, we thought we were going to have to replace it.  God's grace has rained down on us though; my car is fixable and the dealership isn't charging us a penny!!  Thank you, FATHER!!

Wow.  This is long.  Sorry about that. Ciao for now.  :0)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vegetarian Month: Days 1-6-ish

Hope you had a great 4th of July!  Ours was very relaxing.  What did you do?

Vegetarian month is in full swing! So far, so good! It is day 6 and I’ve not had a single meat craving. Granted, we had meat at a cook out we were invited to on Saturday, but we already knew that in a situation like that, we would partake. We also bought a grill this week. Thus far, we’ve made grilled corn using it.

Here are my meals since the beginning:

July 1—Strawberry-Peach Smoothie | Pasta Salad | Spinach and Feta Quesadilla
July 2—Strawberry-Peach Smoothie | Pasta Salad | Chaysu Ramen (from Mikawa)
July 3—Egg whites with sautéed onions and peppers and cinnamon raisin toast | tahini nut cookie (from Earth
             Fare | cookout—burger, chips with salsa and guacamole, baked beans, a deviled egg, and
             strawberry pizza
July 4—No Breakfast (late for church) | Cashew Nut Stir Fry with Mixed Veggies (from Surin) | Falafel,
             Hummus, Tzatziki Sauce, Pita, Spinach, Tomato, Red Onion
July 5—Pecan Oatmeal Pancakes with fresh blackberries | Fresh Peaches | Grilled Corn and leftover Falafel
             and Greek fixings

Thus far today, I’ve had fresh homemade yogurt with berries. I’m having leftover cashew nut stir fry for lunch and making zucchini casserole, along with various leftover veggies, for dinner.
Here is a recipe of the day for you…these were really tasty and filling! You could certainly play around with the types of cheese to get a different flavor.  Any other recipes peak your interest?

Spinach and Feta Quesadillas (Weight Watchers)
Cooking spray
1 medium large shallot, minced
1 3 cloves garlic, minced
10 12 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
¼ ½ cup Reduced Fat Feta Cheese, crumbled
½ cup Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons half-and-half
¼ ½ cup cannellini Great Northern beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 medium flour tortillas, 6-inch

Coat a 10-inch skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté 1 minute; stir in spinach. Cook until spinach is hot and liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes; remove from heat.  Add feta, parmesan cheese, half-and-half, beans, pepper, and lemon juice to skillet; stir until well-combined.

Spread ¼ of the mixture onto half of each of the tortillas. Fold over and press closed, ensuring filling does not leak out the sides.

Recoat skillet with cooking spray. Place 2 folded tortillas in skillet and brown over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes per side; set aside and cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas.  Cut each tortilla in half to form quarters.

Yields 2 quarters per serving.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Joy of Caramelized Onions

Did you know onions can mist?  Evidently they can...I got misted last night--luckily not in the eyes.  : 0)

I've been on a serious caramelized onion kick lately.  It started with French Onion Soup several weeks ago.  Then, I made a caramelized onion and spinach dip--I really could have just eaten the onions.  For my birthday dinner, I had a pasta dish with caramelized onions, but still wasn't satisfied.  I couldn't get them out of my mind.  So, I decided to make Pasta with Caramelized Onions.  I found this in a vegetarian cookbook I read through and It. Was. Phenomenal.  OMG!  I can still taste it.  The hubby LOVED it as well and wants it regularly.  It is definitely a 5-Star Recipe.  Do not Stop.  Do not pass Go.  Make it tonight.  The onions are like butter, they are so tasty.  It is so simple, yet so yummy.  I will be making this at least once a month (which is often, for me). 

Pasta with Caramelized Onions
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

5-6 medium onions (I used 6 vadalias)
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil (plus a drizzle for the pan)
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 pound long pasta (I used spaghetti)
Parmesan Cheese

Peel and thinly slice the onions (recommend either using a mandolin or a food processor as there are so many onions).  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle a tad of olive oil and once it is hot and shimmery, add the onions, stirring to coat.  Cover and cook onions for about 30 minutes*, turning with a wooden spoon every 5 minutes or so. The onions will give off lots of liquids.  Once the liquid starts evaporating, the onions are translucent and golden, and they start to stick slightly, uncover and add 1/3 cup of olive oil and a generous amount of salt (I used kosher) and fresh black pepper.  Continue stirring every few minutes.  Cook another 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.  Once onions are caramel-brown colored, fragrant, and regularly sticking to the pan, taste, adjust seasoning, drain the pasta, and add to the onions along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a little more salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with Parmesan, stir to combine, and serve with more Parmesan.

*All times are guesstimates.  I didn't time anything--I just did it by sight.

Now Laura, I have updated my blog!  :0)  Can I have the brand of your bread machine?!  Hehe...

I will post recipes...I've got a number that I am dying to make.  Ever since we decided to do vegetarian month, I've unconsciously cut back on cooking meat.  I made lunch for the family yesterday--no meat (much to my sisters dismay).  And we love Asian food and lettuce wraps.  I'll have to add that to my food list.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Long Time No Post

Well, it's been a little while and I've been a little busy.  I've been wanting to post pictures, but it just hasn't happened.  Here's a run down of the last month:

We had our first anniversary and it was wonderful!  He bought me flowers.  :0)

We went to Destin to see my grandparents over Memorial Day.  My grandfather appeared to be doing better than I had been led to believe, although things are still rough.  For the first time ever, I cooked more than the grandparents did.  While we didn't see any oil, we did see a school of sting rays!  I managed to get some photos, although they aren't too clear.

I had my 27th birthday last weekend and it was filled with lots of good food and wine!  The hubby even made me breakfast (twice)! 

I'm debating a bread maker.  I really want to make more fresh, healthy bread, but it is SO time consuming.  What brand do you recommend?

I'm also trying to get all my recipes organized on the computer and get ready for vegetarian month.  I'm actually super excited about it!

We're going to Michigan and Canada later this month.  It should be nice, especially the Canada part (although we are just driving across the bridge...not going much farther).  I now need to figure out menu stuff for our trip b/c the town in Michigan is one where we need to do our own cooking.  Recommendations?  Right now I'm thinking Baked Oatmeal and Oatmeal Pancakes for breakfast for two days, but I've still got to figure out lunches, dinners, and the other breakfasts.

We had a horrendous storm last night.  We lost power for two hours, which was odd as we have underground power lines.  Whatley was incredibly freaked out by it.  I also felt sick and all I wanted was yogurt.  When we finally got power back, I had my plain yogurt with honey.  I just wish it could have been Greek yogurt.  Oh well.  I obviously lived.  :0)

I really want a vegetable garden but have a very black thumb. 

Anything else you want to hear about? 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anniversary v. Mother's Day: The Epic Battle

Sunday is our first anniversary--it is really hard to believe that already a year has flown past.  I'm so happy that God gave me the man he did.  It's been an amazing year and I am so excited to see where our lives will go. 

This past year has been so much calmer than last year--which is understandable as there was no wedding to plan.  :-)  One of the biggest causes of stress last year was the fact that we were getting married on Mother's Day weekend.  We didn't know this, of course, until after we'd already booked all of our locations and let everyone know the date.  Then, my mother called me mortified, wanting to know if we could change it because of Mother's Day.  No.  That was the end of it for me, but it was not for her.  I did not see her last year on Mother's Day considering that we left for St. Lucia at 0-Dark-Thirty on Sunday morning.  She seemed to take this hard.

Well, now this year my anniversary is ON Mother's Day.  Let me tell you how well that has gone over (plus, it was IMPOSSIBLE to get dinner reservations, so we had to settle for Saturday night).  She's been generally gracious about it, but has laid on the guilt lately (which is something I've really been struggling with emotionally with her).  Comments, not to me, but to my sister or others, have been really bothersome.  My sister and I planned to take her to lunch this Saturday....but, she's got plans (hosting a shower, so that is understandable).  Then, she leaves for England on Friday and the weekend after she returns, we will be in Florida.  Because of work, I cannot take a long lunch during the week.  I'm really not trying to complain, but I'm just really bothered by this.  I am thankful for her and do want to celebrate with her, but I also want to celebrate with my husband.  I'm just at a loss for how to handle this, especially as it will be a problem for the rest of our lives.  My husband and anniversary is the most important to me, but I still want to respect my mother's feelings and desires.   

On a side note, have you ever seen spinach shaped like this?  I bought some at the farmer's market this weekend and discovered it's odd shape last night.  The interwebs suggest it may be Horenso, a Japanese Spinach.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I've never had any desire to give up meat.  I enjoy it too much--chicken, fish, beef, bacon--I love me some protein.  But lately, I've been thinking a lot about health.  I've been on a journey to lose weight but have been failing miserably, thus far.  I've been working out at Curves, which I love, although not 100% religiously.  I worked out once in March due to sickness. big problem has been food.  I eat too much and don't make healthy choices.  My portions have been getting better, but I'm beginning to really think about ingredients and health for the body--not necessarily low fat, low sodium, low fill-in-the-blank.  I'm talking things like organic, natural, etc.  I'd never really thought about it before I married the hubby.  But, he's always been more health conscious thanks to his mom.  She is well aware of diet and its opened my eyes.  Combine that with research I have been doing has brought me to the conclusion that while yes, I want to loose weight, that should not be my ultimate goal.  Instead, I should focus on healthy eating--more fruits and vegetables (local if possible), cutting out things like high fructose corn syrup, and using fresh, natural ingredients.  A good example is yogurt.  I eat a lot of it, but it wasn't until I started making my own that I started considering what was in the store bought stuff.  Thankfully, one brand now makes a natural yogurt that I feel comfortable buying, even though it has fat in it.  Another item is half & half for my coffee.  I won't by the fake, flavored stuff, but I've been living off of the Fat Free Half & Half.  But, I've starting thinking about the ingredients.  What are the first two ingredients:  Water, Corn Syrup.  That just does not seem healthy.  So, despite the fact that it will be adding more fat to my diet, I am going to switch to organic half & half.  Now if I could only figure out how to drink my coffee black.  :-) 

So, back to vegetarian eating...I've become aware of what goes into our meat.  I prefer to buy organic, grass-fed, cage-free, free-range, whatever it may be meat, but this isn't always possible or wallet friendly.  I've become disgusted with the amount of hormones and genetic modification as well as the treatment of these animals.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I LOVE meat.  I WANT to eat meat.  In fact, my body craves it sometimes.  But, does my body need it?  Was it created to need meat?  Looking back at Genesis, I would have to say no.  Also, look at Daniel--while in captivity, he and his friends requested a diet of vegetables and water (Daniel 1:8-16).  It worked.  I've really been wanting to increase my veggie intake, so this is a perfect way.

I want to try this as an experiment.  I think I'm going to do it for one month and am thinking July, which will give me plenty of time to plan and I won't have to deal with classes.  We will probably go back to eating lean meat and fish when we are done, but hopefully a lot less often.  Hubby is supportive and much more used to this than I am, so this will help.  I'll need plenty of time to figure out what to do.  I like to plan my menu a month in advance, so that will help.  I'm trying to gather recommended recipes that we will enjoy.  So, we will see.  Thoughts?

The biggest question left is will we eat eggs?

On a side note, I've just begun reading Desiring God by John Piper.  I'm just in the intro, so no thoughts yet, but I'm really hoping to get a lot out of it.

Sorry for the length...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

An End to Small Wineries?

I like wine.  A lot.  As in, I'd love to get into the wine business somehow.  But, I don't like mass market wine--we're talking Beringer, Sutter Home, Barefoot, etc.  Grocery Store Wine.  I've already told you I'm a wine snob and I meant it. 

I like wineries that stay true to the grapes, not those that aim to appeal to the greatest number of people or try to insure their wines taste the exact same year after year.  Often, these are smaller, more personal wineries.  Family owned.  Examples include Brochelle and Lioco.  There are many more, these are just two that I know vary depending on the year and their vines.  These types of wineries often depend on direct shipping in order to stay in business.  They have Wine Clubs where members are guaranteed a certain number/varietal of each vintage.  The wineries ship these members their wine directly, versus going through a larger organization/board.  If I lived in a state that didn't have antequated laws, I would be a member of at least one wine club.  But alas, Alabama will not allow shipping of alochol.  Everything has to go through the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board.

Well, if H.R. 5034 makes it through Congress and is signed by the President, it appears as though the rest of the nation will be subject to laws similar to Alabama.  Wineries will no longer be able to ship directly to patrons.  The purpose is to reaffirm and protect the authority of the States to regulate alcohol (in other words, tax and prevent certain types from entering the state). The bill was  lobbied for by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA).  Evidently states and the NBWA (i.e. wholesale distributors) are concerned of an "alcohol epidemic."  Give me a break!  Wholesalers still sell alcohol--they just sell it directly to the state and don't want to be threatened!

I've got some more research to do, but from what I've seen thus far, I am displeased and I see a letter to my Congressman and Senators in the near future.

Wine Spectator has provided an interesting article that discusses both the legislation and the hearing that came before the legislation.  It makes some interesting points, via quotes from various individuals regarding the monopolies wholesalers are trying to set up, the competition they are attempting to stifle at all costs, and the fact that cheap and easy to access alcohol will be more harmful than they are willing to admit.  Okay, I need to stop.  I could keep going.  Just read the article.

On a side note...the fencing club finally emailed me back!  Looks like I'll be able to take the beginning fencing class!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Big Man and My Little Man

This is Whatley, my little man (photo taken December 2009).  He is a rescue that I adopted from a DC shelter.  He had been abused and was severely malnourished.  He is my buddy and took care of me when I was living in DC.  He has enjoyed the move, for the most part.  :-)  He loves living close to Omi and Papa--who adore watching him.  

He immediately fell in love with Dylan when he met him and loved him more than me for a long while.  Now, I'm back up top due to Daddy laying down the law in ways Whatley does not enjoy.

This is Whatley about 3 days after I adopted him (February 2006).  He looked and smelled awful.  Isn't the difference amazing?!?

And here is my big man...isn't he handsome?!?  I love him dearly.  :-)   This was during our honeymoon a hike of Pigeon Island that was next to our resort in Saint Lucia.

This is a picture of us from our July 09 trip to Tokyo.

Yay for our wedding day!  It is amazing that it's almost been a year of wedded bliss!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thank You, Uncle Sam

In honor of Tax Day, I would like to take this opportunity to officially thank Uncle Sam who has graciously provided us with a new (and REALLY nice) dishwasher and my new MacBook Pro (not ordered yet, but will be in a few weeks).  The generousity of the IRS in giving us back some of our money is greatly appreciated.

Okay, in all seriousness--Happy Tax Day!  We've had our tax return back for almost a month, now.  I'm a firm believer in doing my taxes early--less stress and you get your refund back early or have plenty of time to come up with any money you might owe.  I did our taxes late this year--late February.  I just couldn't get my act together.  I also do them by hand--no purchasing software or taking it to someone.  I'll occaisonally ask my best friend accountant a question.  I did end up making a mistake this year--I missed a credit we were eligible for, but the IRS fixed it for me and blessed us.  Oops!  I know how to prevent that this year.  Taxes just really aren't that hard for us.  If we ever own a business, I will get a professional--I promise.

So, I am serious when I say "Thank you, Uncle Sam."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Lotus

I saw a Lotus on the way to work this morning!  It was quite beautiful and makes me sad we don't have ours yet.  On top of that, it is a perfect Lotus day!  It is going to be so much fun once we actually get it--I just hope they haven't stopped selling it in the U.S. by the time we can get it...

Isn't she beautiful?!?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I am mortified by the recent return of an adopted Russian buy.  If you haven't heard, a boy (now age 7) was adopted from Russia by a family in Tennessee last year (September, I believe).  This past week, the boy's adopted Grandmother (GRANDMOTHER, not mother) bought him a one way ticket and put him on a plane back to Russia, hired a driver, and had him delievered to the Russian education ministry--unannounced!!! 

What in the world possessed this woman to do something so henious, especially to a child!  And not just any child, but one who has had more heartache than any child should have to deal with!!  It breaks my heart and I just want to cry.  I have such a heart for parentless children (surprising, since I'm not crazy about kids).  For as long as I can remember I have wanted to adopt an unwanted child--to choose to provide a home to someone without one. 

I think what gets me more than anything is that it was the GRANDMOTHER!!!!!  Where was the adopted mother in this?  I get that things were hard--they will never be easy with adoption!  I get that there are struggles, but to completely disregard not only your legal obligations, but also your moral obligations with taking this child in and promising to love them as your own. 

According to an article on CNN, the boy--Justin--cried that he missed his grandmother--the same woman who deliberately abandoned him! I really really hope that there is some way this woman will be prosecuted.  She has single-handedly threatened adoption-relations between the U.S. and Russia. 

I'll say it again, this just makes me cry. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm trying not to be boring (although failing miserably)...

I really enjoyed this weekend.  The weather was wonderful for every bit of it--made it a little hard to come back to work today.  Saturday evening was very enjoyable--I found a great rain coat (on clearance!), ordered take-out, and listened to Dvorak's 8th Symphony.  It was beautiful--just the thing I was in the mood for.  The second movement, particularly caught my attention.  It had such a sweeping, emotional (read: romantic) melody. 

Church on Sunday was really good.  We actually got up in time for Sunday School.  It was the first time we'd been at this church and we definitely want to keep going.  The minister just started a study on Revelations.  The sermon was also wonderful, yet heavy (in a good way).  We will be going through 2 Corinthians for a time.  I'm looking forward to what God will teach me during both of these studies.   

I also finished the sixth Harry Potter book.  I've been working my way through them and this was the first one that I really noticed a much more mature writing style.  I didn't like the fifth book and the fourth still seemed somewhat juvenile (although I really liked it).  So, the seventh has begun, but my paper is getting in the way.  :-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Oh What a Beautiful Day!

It is a gorgeous (although pollen-y) day here!  I've enjoyed it immensely thus far.  Wonderful, relaxing wake up, breakfast (that someone else cooked) outside in the sun, and wonderful weather to enjoy.  I spent some time on my plants this morning--I don't have a green thumb, although I'm trying.  All the blinds are open and the natural sunlight is intoxicating.  I plan on running some errands later and plan to enjoy the weather while I'm out and about.  Now, if only I didn't have to work on my paper.  :-/

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Beginning

Well, I'm going to try and give this a go...again.  :-)

I've never been very successful in the past, but I plan to approach this a little differently.  First, I tend to be long-winded, so I get discouraged because I don't seem to have enough time.  Second, I'm a realist (although most would say pessimist).  No one wants to read about the horrors of life.  I'm not doing this to get a great following (although I do hope someone stumbles across it), I'm doing it as a bit of an outlet for me.  I tend to hold things in and stew over them.  Third, I love art-be it visual, audio, or edible.  I love to view it, listen to it, and create it.  My husband, who loves food, regularly compares meals to works of art (a big complement when it happens to be a meal I've cooked).  I've talked about creating a food blog, but ultimately decided that wouldn't be interesting enough because most people aren't as fanatic about cooking as I am.  Fourth, I'm a bit of a wine snob, coffee snob, tea snob, spice snob, you-name-it snob.  I like the finer things in life and love to share when I find something wonderful.  Fifth, I have been slacking lately in recognizing my Savior in the both the beauties and pitfalls of life. 

So, here are my goals:
1.  Short, concise posts--for the most part
2.  Try to recognize the beauty of life around me which will help my need to become more positive
3.  Share victories of life, things that become art--whether permanent or temporal
4.  In those victories, recognize the grace and presence of God