Jun 22, 2009

Oh Baby!

One of my bestest friends, Jenn, is getting ready to have a baby. Very, very soon in fact! While helping with the planning of the baby shower, I volunteered to make the cake. And I said I'd make it match the invitations. Why do I bite off more than I can chew? I didn't procrastinate as usual, and actually made the cake a day in advance. I have a tendency of waiting until a few hours prior but decided against the stress this time around. Jenn didn't want the cake too girly or pink or baby-ish which is why I opted for the invitation look-a-like. Drum roll please........

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The cake was chocolate with vanilla frosting and the lettering was done with fondant that I colored and then wrote on. The flowers were fondant as well. Fondant tastes disgusting but it sure is fun to sculpt and play with:) The cake was a hit and I can't wait to do more!

May 27, 2009

my first love



It all began when I was just a wee little fetus. My mom would drink strawberry protein shakes almost daily. When I was born I had a red birthmark on my noggin. As a child, whenever asked what kind of cake I wanted, the swift reply was always "Strawberry!!!!!" with a hint of "duh!" added in for bonus. Even to this day I yearn for the days when strawberries are in season so I can eat them in mass quantity. Usually, I don't want anything tainting them. No sugar, no cool whip, no cream, no chocolate. I just want the strawberries. I just want to bite into the sweet, juicy fruit, feel the crunch of the seeds and savour every tiny morsel. And I love how strawberries have the green top on them--it's like a little handle. How many other fruits have a cool handle?! A few fun facts about strawberries:

~on average, each strawberry has 200 seeds!
~it is the only fruit with seeds on the outside
~it's name is believed to come from the fact that farmers would lay straw underneath the berries to keep weeds at bay and to keep the berries from touching the ground and rotting quickly
~strawberries don't ripen once they are picked (so never buy ones that aren't bright red!)
~they were the symbol for Venus Goddess of Love (perhaps because of their vivid red color & heart shape?)
~it has many medicinal uses, but unfortunately many people are highly allergic to them (sorry for you! more for me:)

As you can see, my love for strawberries goes deeper than my tastebuds. I even have strawberry scented candles, lipgloss and my favorite lotion from the Body Shop. I have to use it sparingly because I usually want to eat my arm it smells so yummy! You can imagine my delight when I was at a local market this weekend and found 1lb containers of strawberries 3 for $1!! That's not a typo! I swiftly loaded up my cart with nine pounds. Now that I'm thinking of it, I should've gotten more. My freezer is now loaded up with bags of strawberries--conveniently frozen for future use in smoothies. Of course I left a container out so I could just munch on them. I think I'll go have some more:)

May 20, 2009

Insalata Caprese



This dish will always bring me back to my days in Europe. I'm so enthralled by its simplicity and complex flavors that I don't want to ruin it by writing too much. Just stare at the picture, and if you've ever tasted this wondrous dish, notice your mouth salivating. If you've never had it, go to the store and get the ingredients! Now! What are you waiting for?!


~fresh mozzarella (none of that processed hard block of shit you normally find). fresh is in brine or water
~plum tomatoes
~fresh basil
~extra virgin olive oil

May 18, 2009

Ajo


We loooooooove garlic. When a recipe calls for 2 cloves, we use 5. We eat it so much that I sometimes fear the pungent scent is seeping from my pores. I have yet to hear any complaints nor have I seen people turning up noses in disgust so I guess I'm in the clear:) If vampires are real, they certainly steer clear of our house! During my daily jaunt on Craigslist I ran across an ad stating "Garlic Harvest Work Party". I'm listening!

Turns out, Forever Yong Farm harvests lots of garlic and if you join them you get to take home a load of garlic for yourself, plus enjoy a huge home cooked lunch. Granted, it's a lot easier to just go to the store and buy some but we wanted to get out in the fresh air and learn more about where our food comes from. Saturday morning we woke around 6am and drove the hour drive to the farm in Amado, AZ. Upon arrival to the farm, we were in love with the place. Just the journey to the farm was picturesque, lush greenery, rolling hills. It definitely didn't feel as though we were in Arizona. Though, once the noon sun rose higher into the sky, reality settled in and as sweat rolled into my butt crack, I knew we were indeed, still in AZ.

With the help of a group of locals from the community and neighboring farms, we plucked loads of garlic from the ground and also learned to bundle and hang it to dry. The labor was somewhat therapeutic and mind clearing. I felt as though this is something I should be doing often. Now I want a garden even more! It's definitely hard work, but very rewarding when you know the fruits of your labor will eventually be devoured in a savory dish. One that you helped come to fruition! We have a bundle hanging on our back porch, drying and I can't wait to cook with it!
jeff with a large bundle of garlic
me & others harvesting the garlic

May 9, 2009

wedding cake

Thursday was my last cake class & for the final I had to make a wedding cake. To stay true to my procrastinating ways, I waited until the night before to even come up with a plan as to what style I was going to make. I wanted something simple, but not traditional. Something that I would enjoy looking at every time I open my refrigerator for the next week, as this cake slowly gets eaten away (by my boyfriend, NOT me--haha). Don't get me wrong, the cake is fantastic, but I don't need my daily intake of food to consist of cake!! It is super delicious though! Here is the final product. Not too shabby considering I've never done anything like this before.The cake is chocolate, with a chocolate espresso frosting. It is covered in fondant, which I didn't make but it is vegetarian. However, I did color the fondant myself which was a whole process in itself. The brown color used up a LOT of coloring to get the shade I wanted. Fondant is a lot like molding clay, and it is what I used to make the flowers as well. I've tried making roses with frosting and they usually look horrible. So I decided to whip up hot pink fondant and mold the roses by hand, and then painted them with edible glitter.

May 1, 2009

breakFAST smoothie

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not too fond on making & eating breakfast. At least, not as soon as I wake up. However, whenever there is fresh fruit in the house, I load up on whatever we have and throw it into a blender to come up with this: (not a great photo, but you get it)There's never a precise list of ingredients. When it comes to deliciously mouth watering, juicy fruits does it really matter? Wait, that sounded like a starburst commercial:( They all taste fantastic and when in season they're even better! With these smoothies you're guaranteed to get your daily intake of fruit. This morning's concoction consisted of:

~banana
~lots of fresh strawberries
~pineapple & some of the juice
~orange juice (the Simply brand. i'm a juice snob and don't really like the taste of others)
~ground flax seed (for my dose of Omega3 fatty acids)

put it all in a blender and let it go! Try playing with the ingredient amounts and the type of fruit you use. Delicioso!
other fruits to consider:
~peaches, blackberries, raspberries, mango, the list goes on. Really anything that is fleshy & not hard will work great!
You could also add yogurt, plain or flavored. I don't do flavored because most have gelatin in them and well, I don't eat gelatin (that's a whole post in itself). You can also use water or other flavored juices.

Apr 27, 2009

Rise & Shine

Today we made a scrum-diddly-umptious breakfast. Breakfast is, unfortunately, somewhat of an oddity in our household. Jeff doesn't have an appetite in the morning and I usually space about it until it's almost lunch time. We've been trying to get better with our morning eating habits as this meal is supposedly the most important of the day. Today we had:

~Tofu Scrambles
--tofu, fresh mushrooms, some seasoning--ie turmeric, cumin, s&p
--you can add any seasonings to achieve the flavor of your desire. tofu takes on whatever flavors you add to it
--drain the tofu, place all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook until there is no more liquid


~Fried Potatoes (okay, maybe more like sauteed & partially steamed)
--sliced potatoes, olive oil & fresh garlic
--place in a skillet, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender


~and my favorite part of today's meal:
Fresh Strawberries & Blackberries
mmmmm delish!

a change to the change

I’ve been slowly working towards a BS in Parks & Recreational Management through NAU, which is in Flagstaff (northern AZ). Obviously the courses are online so I don’t get the benefit of hands-on courses, which I really thrive on. I took a little over a year off while I was in massage school and started back this spring. As this semester is nearing its end, I’ve been doing lots of thinking and have decided to end this learning path and go in the direction of something else. Shocked?! Yeah, me neither! I change my mind like a hooker changes partners.

The thing with the Parks degree is that I could get a job at a national park—but I’ve looked at some of their internship programs and they don’t allow facial piercings or excessive tats. I spent the last 10 years taking out my piercings and covering up for work and I’m done hiding who I am! If I can't get a job somewhere that accepts me for me, then I don't want to fucking work for them. Plain and simple. I could still get a job with a city park I’m sure. But my problem isnt with the actual job or finding one, its with some of the required courses. About 10 of them, to be exact. I’ve been putting off all of these courses that have to do with planning, paperwork, building recreational programs, etc. I don’t want to learn about that shit. I could take the courses and do just fine, but the problem is that I have no interest in doing them whatsoever! I want to learn about nature. I want to take people on tours, guided hikes, educate them. I don’t want to make a plan for an after school program for one of the community centers. My lack of interest in these required classes got me doing a lot of soul searching and thinking about what interests me.

I love geography. There was a time in my younger years where I knew almost every country in the world and its capital. I know all the shapes of the states. I’m good with direction. I love to read & study maps. I can read a road atlas for hours, studying every vein of the roads traversing the pages, imagining what each place is like. When I fly, I HAVE to be in the window seat, staring out until we’ve reached high above the clouds and I can no longer study the natural and human made landscapes. When I was in elementary school I would close my eyes when I was in a car and try to figure out where I was according to which turns we took. Just in case I was ever kidnapped and blind-folded. Sick mind, I know! Haha. I never want to own a GPS unit for my car! I would be sad to never peruse a map again. With all that said, I’ve decided to go to the UofA, which happens to be in Tucson. I’m going to persue a BS in Geography with a focus in Cartography (map making). Whoohoo!!

Also, if you’ve read my foodblog (mindyourpeasandqs.blogspot.com) then you know how I love everything that grows. The problem is, I don’t know much about it! Ive always wanted a garden, always wanted to grow my own food and have always been intrigued by plant life. So I’m going to double major and get a BS in Plant Sciences with a focus in controlled environments (greenhouses). I’m super stoked to learn how to make plants have sex—hehe. I would love to become successful at growing some of my own food and then share my knowledge with my neighborhood—perhaps starting a community garden someday.

I’m really looking forward to the hands-on experiences that both of these degree courses offer. Yes, there will be classes that are uber boring and totally kick my ass but I have a feeling the good will outweigh the bad. I sent in my application a couple days ago. Cross your fingers & toes that I get accepted:) (and that i'm not the only "old" person in my classes--hahaha)

Apr 26, 2009

Pasta Salad with Dill & Feta

This is a great cold dish that can be served as a side or stands alone as a complete meal. For the flavors to fully "pop" like they should, make sure to use fresh dill. The tomatoes I used were a small variety I found at a farmers' market. They weren't quite as small as a cherry tomato, but looked more like a tiny version of a normal tomato you'd find at a grocery store. They were sooooo juicy and scrumptious but I can't remember what they were called. Guess I'll have to go back and get more *sigh;) You can use any variety of tomatoes in this and I'm sure it will be good.

Sorry there are no pictures. This NEVER lasts long in our house.

~package rotini pasta (the twist kind)
~1/4 c olive oil
~2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
~lots of minced garlic
~salt & pepper (small amounts--just season to taste)
~tomatoes (as many or as little as you want) cut into wedges or bite-size chunks
~can garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed & drained
~6-8oz container crumbled feta cheese

~large cucumber, peeled & cut into bite-size chunks
~can black olives--chopped
~fresh dill, chopped (at least 1/2 c)


Cook the pasta. Drain it and rinse under cold water to cool it off. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Add the drained beans, tomatoes, feta, cucumbers, olives & dill. season with salt and pepper. Mix in pasta until everything is well coated and serve. Or chill in the refrigerator to be eaten later.

Apr 21, 2009

Lentil Soup With a Twist

Usually when I make lentil soup I use lentils (duh!) and whatever random vegetable I have in the bottom of the crisper that is slowly at the end of it's life line--celery, carrots and maybe onion. Most of our soups are made on days between paychecks, days where the refrigerator offers slim pickins, or days when we don't feel like going to the store. We just gather what seems good together, throw it in a pot with some water or broth, if we're lucky enough to have any, and let it simmer for an hour. Simple and cheap!

This time I decided to make a lentil soup but embellished it. This lentil soup is a great twist on our normal, simple recipe. Costs more money to make because of the more complex ingredients, but it was delish!

~olive oil
~red onion, chopped
~lots of minced garlic (at LEAST 3 cloves)
~half a bag of dried lentils
~2 Tbs ground cumin
~1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
~1 Tbs honey

~3 bay leaves
~1 Tbs red wine vinegar
~plain yogurt or greek yogurt


In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat enough oil to cook the chopped onion & garlic. Saute until it is soft. Stir in the lentils and cumin. Then add the tomatoes (including any juices), honey, bay leaves and 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until the lentils are soft. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. It really depends on your stove, how old the lentils are, the size of pot you are using. When the soup is finished, remove from the heat, remove the bay leaves and stir in the vinegar. Place the soup in bowls and add a dollop of the yogurt to each serving.

Apr 12, 2009

You Can Have Your Cake, But You Can't Eat It:(

In my cake decorating class we had to make a cake for our midterm, decorate it and turn it in. I guess it's being sent to the fair for judging. I'm not sure though because I don't fully pay attention in class--just being honest. As is always, I procrastinated until the day before it was due, causing myself a slight bit of stress and lack of my nightly Zzzz's. After I baked the cakes, I went to the store to purchase stuff to make the icing. When I returned home, I noticed that my sneaky dog had reached up on the counter and nibbled away a large chunk of one of the cakes. Chocolate, mind you! Chocolate is bad for dogs. She's okay.
Here is the culprit:With a face like that, I couldn't be upset with her. After smelling the delectable aroma wafting in the air, I'd probably climb up on the counter for a quick taste too!

So it was back to baking. Then making two different icings. Then coloring them. Then assembling & frosting the cakes. It was then I knew I had make a mistake. Instead of going with a tried & true, yet disgustingly tasting frosting recipe my teacher had given us, I decided to use a new scrumptious recipe. NEVER use something new on a project. NEVER. The minute I put the frosting on the cake I knew I was going to have problems. It slowly started to slide down the cake. I tried putting it in the fridge so it would harden, but I knew after sitting around at the judging table it would end up a catastrophe. Oh well--can't change it now! So I did everything as quick as possible and this is what I ended up with:

Simple, yet pretty I think. (there are pink & purple polka dots all around the sides)

The next morning was a bigger fiasco than my sliding icing. We were to turn in our cakes by 9am. My teacher never showed! I honestly wouldn't have expected less from her. About half the class waited and waited and waited--about 2 hours! The school didn't even have a contact number for her. How lame is that?! Finally we got someone to open the doors so we could drop off the cakes. In spite of the fact that my cake probably now looks like a 4 year old made it, I better get an A for waiting around for her douche-bag ass.

Oh--and I found out that the cake isn't even going to be eaten! So realistically I could've decorated a piece of styrofoam and used the extra thick, gross frosting recipe from my teacher. Damn it! I could've saved the yummy cake for me!

Apr 9, 2009

Bean Wrap

We like this recipe. A LOT! Depending on how many people are eating, you may end up with a good portion of leftovers. There are many ways to vary this recipe and I'll add those at the end. Feel free to tweak this as much or as little as you want.

~1 can each of pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans (rinsed & drained)
~1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
~1 cup brown rice
~ground cumin
~ground cayenne pepper
~multi-grain tortillas
~red-leaf lettuce
~some type of hot sauce--we use garlic chili sauce

Boil 2 cups water, add the rice, cover and simmer until rice is tender & water has cooked away. Season with cumin & cayenne pepper. Place the beans & tomatoes in a large dish. Mix well. Add the cooked rice and mix again. Assemble a tortilla with lettuce, rice mix & hot sauce. And you're done! Easy peasey!


*Variations*
~add corn to the mix
~omit the rice
~use fresh tomatoes
~omit the tortilla & lettuce and use as a side dish
~top with chopped fresh cilantro
~add sliced black olives

statistics

I absolutely LOATHE my statistics class. I've always prided myself in being decent at math. Until I started this class. I am scraping by on the skin of my teeth. The only reason I'm taking this horrible class is because it's a requirement for my degree. Otherwise I wouldn't even give this class a second thought (I mean, why do I really need to know 50 different ways to get a statistic about something??). Every week I learn and then dump, learn, then dump. When this course is over I will have retained nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. To top it all off, it's an online class, which I'm sure is making it more difficult. As long as I'm diligent in keeping up with my homework I'm partially okay. My saving grace is the online bulletin board where all the students post questions, anwers to everyone's problems with the assignment. Without these people whom I've never met, I would have failed at this course already. Thank you strangers!

Apr 7, 2009

The Magical Fruit

Sing along with me--beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel. So let’s have beans for every meal!

I’m pretty sure I’ve known this song just as long as I’ve known my ABC’s. It must be a rite of passage into youth in my family because I remember numerous family members singing or humming this tune whenever beans were being cooked. I have no doubt that I will pass this on to my children. But “magical fruit”?? I understand that it rhymes, but why fruit?!
I’ve always known some veggies are really fruits. Like tomatoes, for instance. But what about beans? Is the song just a clever ploy to confuse & entice eaters? After all, aren’t fruits supposed to be sweet and juicy?

Fruits are classified as being the ripened and seed-bearing ovaries of flowers. Beans are considered a dry fruit. Apparently there are many fruits in the botanical sense but when it comes to culinary uses and descriptions they fall into the vegetable category. Beans are one of those. Think of them as one of the many cross-dressers in the food world. Now I like them even more!

Types of beans you can find EASILY at any grocery store, canned or dry:
~chickpea (also known as garbanzo bean)
~kidney bean
~black bean
~pinto bean
~mung bean
~azuki bean
~lima bean
~soybean
~fava bean
and the list goes on

You can enjoy these delicious protein & nutrient packed little morsels in numerous ways. They can be added to salads, soups and can be the sole ingredient in a standalone bean dish. They can be served hot or cold. But when devouring them don’t forget to hum the tune and remember you are really secretly eating a fruit :)

Apr 3, 2009

Squatternut Bosh

If you are an avid Friends fan like I am, then you get the title ;)

Here's an easy recipe for a simple dinner using Butternut Squash, Green Beans & Mashed Garlic Red Potatoes. FYI--I don't use a lot of measurements in cooking (unless baking), especially if I am not following a recipe.

Butternut Squash, or to the scientific geeks, Cucurbita moschata.

It has a tough exterior yet a soft fleshy interior, like many people I know;) Butternut squash has a more delicate, lighter flavor than pumpkin. It can be pureed into soup, chopped, diced, cut into chunks for casseroles, or simply halved & baked. This recipe goes with the latter.

With a sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise, like so:Next, place the halves in a baking dish, face-up & add water to the bottom of said dish. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, brown sugar & a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cover with foil and bake at 425F until the flesh is super soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. If you've ever made a baked potato, it should have that same soft consistency in the center--that's how you know it's done.

Green Beans. Contrary to popular believe, green beans DO NOT grow in a can. They grow from the ground! I know, strange huh?! So many people steer clear of prepping fresh veggies because they feel it's time consuming and it's much easier to open a can or frozen bag. Oh so wrong and oh so sad! It's just as easy to prepare fresh green beans as it is a can of them, so I strongly suggest if you've never had them fresh you give them a try! They are crisper and pack more of a flavorful punch. You may never go back to the canned version again! And for those of you who have never seen them fresh, here they are in all their glory:
Simply cut off the ends, put them in a steamer and steam until tender crisp.

Mashed Garlic Red Potatoes. Again, this recipe has no measurements. Just play around with the ingredients to get your desired flavor and consistency. Boil a pot of water. Leaving the skin on, cut the potatoes in cubes. Once the water is boiling, throw those suckers in, cover and cook until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain the water. Add minced garlic, butter, margarine or olive oil and milk (I use soy or rice milk). If you aren't sure how much butter & milk to add, start with a small amount. It's always easier to add more than to take away if you have too much. With a handheld beater, mash the potatoes until you get the consistency you'd like, adding more butter or milk as needed. We like our potatoes a bit lumpy:)

If you try this meal, or any of the components of it and enjoy it, let me know!