Month: March 2014

Dirty Dogs and Making Etched Glass

We went to the dog park yesterday, which always tires our pup out. Towards the end of our time there, a woman and her teenage daughter arrived with their dog, a little terrier. The woman was one of those people who thinks dogs are weird and gross, unless it’s her little angel. She climbed on top one of the benches in the park and pulled her knees up, like she was on a dock and afraid that fish were going to bite her toes. Dogs kept running under and past the bench (it’s a dog park). She thought that all dog behavior was the weirdest thing she’d ever seen: “Why are they doing that? Why are they running around? They’re hurting each other! [They were not.] Should they be wrestling? [to me] Your dog’s going to get dirty!”

Lady. Seriously. I understand that dog parks can be kind of overwhelming for small children and the elderly, but you own a dog. Not a puppy. You own an adult dog. It’s not like you got her yesterday and this is your first time out. I feel like you should not be as confused about general, normal dog behavior as you were. You know what happens when dogs play? They get dirty. And then, like magic, you give them a bath and all that dirt goes down the drain.

I kept trying to tell this woman that if their tails are up and wagging, everything’s fine. No one’s seriously mad at anyone else; they are playing. This is how dogs play. And if our dog, Puppy K, was actually hurting this Other Dog (not even hers), Other Dog wouldn’t keep coming back for more. I tried to kindly explain all of this, and explain that we can give her a bath. I don’t know what her deal was, but people: if you have a dog, try to understand the basics of how dogs work. Never thought I’d have to say that.

She also refused to pet a puppy that had come over to the bench. Her daughter said, “Mom, pet this puppy. It’s so cute and soft!” The mom said, “No, ew, I don’t want to pet it. I’m not touching it.” You know your dog is a dog, right?

 

ANYWAY.

I love personalizing generic house stuff. Everyone has plain Pyrex bowls, or a plain glass casserole dish, or plain pint glasses–with just a little magic etching cream and a few stencils, you can make awesome, one-of-a-kind housewares that are pretty and functional.

(more…)

Advertisements

Crafting, Anxiety, and Granola

This article on CNN Health yesterday really hit home for me. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which basically means my brain overthinks everything and I’m always worried. I could be on the beach, sipping a margarita, and I’d still be worried about something. It doesn’t even matter what I’m worried about; it’s usually something that most people would think of as insignificant. My overactive brain makes relaxing pretty much impossible. But new studies show that crafting, whether it’s knitting, scrapbooking, glass etching (more on that tomorrow), or decoupage, can help anxious and depressed people calm their minds. Focusing on a craft project can bring your mind to a state of flow, where you become so engrossed in something that it’s hard to think about anything else. Crafting has definitely done this for me; I find that when I craft, I become relaxed and, as a bonus, have a sense of pride in my accomplishment. I feel the same way when I cook. So get out to the craft store, get some glitter, and calm your brain. This morning, I made granola, something I’d attempted before, but never successfully. This is delicious, easy, and multi-purpose; it’s great in yogurt, with milk, or just in dry handfuls stuffed in your mouth.

Fruit & Nut Granola

  • 8C rolled oats
  • 1.5C oat bran
  • 1C chopped almonds
  • 1C chopped walnuts
  • 1.5t salt
  • 1/2C brown sugar
  • 1/2C honey
  • 1/4C molasses
  • 1C vegetable oil
  • 1T cinnamon
  • 1T vanilla extract
  • 2C dried cranberries (or pineapple, or raisins, or mango, or whatever)

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine oats, bran, and nuts in a really big bowl. Combine salt, brown sugar, honey, molasses, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan; bring to a boil, then pour over the dry ingredients and stir until it’s all coated. Spread evenly over two baking sheets. (I didn’t line mine and it worked perfectly). Bake for 20 minutes; stir at the 10-minute mark. When you take the granola out, it will look like you messed it up; it won’t be crunchy or anything. Don’t worry! Once it’s cooled, it will transform, and you can take a spatula and chunk it up. After it’s cooled, mix the dried fruit in with the granola. Store in an airtight container.

Raspberry Jeans (and Raspberry Scones)

I love baking, but Mr. Something has Type 1 Diabetes, so I try not to do it that often. Here’s the other thing: I don’t even like sweets that much. I’d rather have an extra helping of dinner than have dessert (that’s a lie; I’d rather have extra dinner and dessert and then more dinner). However, I really enjoy the process of baking, and I can usually find a friend or two to take some cookies or whatever. Thank you, friends, for taking that great burden off of my shoulders.

This morning, after I had a ridiculous number of clementines for breakfast, I wanted something more. I wanted butter and sugar and flour, and sure, throw some fruit in there just so I don’t feel too bad about it. So I made scones. Scones are wonderful because they aren’t too sweet and they make a nice breakfast or a good snack with tea at the end of the day. (I love food.)

Of course, I wanted to eat one of these when they came out of the oven. When I was done savoring its buttery, crumbly texture (i.e., shoving it down my gullet), I noticed I’d dropped two whole raspberries on my jeans and smeared them in like fingerpaint. So now I’m doing laundry.

Raspberry Scones

Adapted from La Petite Brioche

  • 2C flour
  • 1/2C sugar
  • 1T baking powder
  • 1t salt
  • 1T orange zest (I used clementine zest, because I’m obsessed with them, and got about 2t out of two clementines)
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into chunks (I used salted, since that’s what I had–I think it worked well)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2C heavy cream
  • 1C frozen raspberries (peaches would be delicious, too)
  • some more heavy cream for the tops
  • some extra sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In your stand mixer bowl (with the paddle attachment), put flour, 1/2C sugar, baking powder, zest, and salt. Whir that around on the lowest speed til its mixed, then throw in the cold butter. Add the heavy cream and egg. Mix til it looks lumpy and just blended. Add raspberries and mix.

Flour your counter and knead the dough into a ball. Squish it down so its 3/4″ thick. Cut into eight triangles. I am bad at this, so I accidentally cut mine into twelfths. There’s a reason I’m not a mathematician.

Brush with more cream, sprinkle with sugar, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The tops should be brown and the scones should be firm when you poke them.

So my scones sort of decided to spread out more than I think they should have, which probably means my butter wasn’t cold enough. Next time I’ll cut up the butter and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes before adding it to the flour.

Spread out or not, they are super, super good.

Week of Mondays (and Italian Chicken Soup)

I have no idea why, but this past week has felt like a week of Mondays. I, appropriately, feel sort of like Garfield: I want to sleep in a box and eat lasagna. There’s some wacky business going on right now–lots of weird news, asshats on the Internet (which is nothing new), I keep forgetting what state I live in, and thankfully, that chocolate pudding pie isn’t around anymore, because I sort of want to dive into it. It’s cuddle-with-cats o’clock.

This super comforting soup was perfect for yesterday, when it was windy and snowy. It’s not lasagna, but it’s rich, savory, and really quite wonderful. I’ve changed the original recipe a little; I only used one jalapeño (it was pretty big, though), and I reduced the cream by 3/4C. We have an insane amount left over, despite having two bowls each last night.

Be warned; this recipe requires dirtying a bunch of pots and bowls, but you can prep a lot of it early. If you cook the chicken earlier in the day, or even the day before, that will save you a bunch of time. You could even use a rotisserie chicken if you were super pressed.

Italian Chicken Soup

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman (she is a veritable genius)

  • 1 box little pasta (I used elbows; you could use orzo, ditalini, etc.)
  • 1T olive oil (to toss with pasta)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut up
  • 8C chicken stock
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1T olive oil (to saute veggies)
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes
  • 1.25C heavy cream
  • 1/3C olive oil (to mix with oregano)
  • 2T dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan to top soup

Cook pasta, rinse in cold water, toss with olive oil, and set aside.

Put chicken and chicken stock in a big pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let it sit for another 30 minutes. Remove the chicken, strain the broth into another big pot or bowl (you need it later), cool the chicken (I threw some ice cubes on top of it), and shred. Set that aside, too. Save the bones to make your own stock.

Chop up the canned tomatoes and put them back in their juice. Set those aside, too.

Heat a small pan til it’s pretty hot, then remove from heat, and add 1/3C olive oil and oregano. Stir that up, and set it aside.

In a big stock pot, saute the onion, green and jalapeño peppers, and celery in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions get kind of brown. Pour in the chicken stock, shredded chicken, and tomatoes. Bring it up to a boil, then down to a simmer. Throw in the cooked pasta, cream, and oregano/olive oil mixture. Stir that up, add salt and pepper to taste, give it a minute to heat through, and turn off the heat.

Serve with parmesan and good bread.

Pi Day (and Chocolate Porter Pudding Pie with Porter Whipped Cream)

Yesterday was Pi Day (3/14). We love the idea of a math holiday, so we celebrated by going out for pizza and coming home to an amazing, kinda boozy chocolate pudding pie. Pudding pie is Mr. Something’s childhood favorite, but I wanted to do something more than just plain ol’ Jell-O in a crust. I’ve made this pudding recipe before, and it’s amazing on its own. It’s even more amazing, I think, in a graham cracker crust. The crunch cuts the richness of the chocolate and whipped cream a little. It’s much easier than you’d think, and it looks (and tastes) really impressive. I’m definitely making this for Thanksgiving this year. It’s a mother-in-law impresser.

Chocolate Porter Pudding Pie with Porter Whipped Cream

Adapted from The Beeroness (she has AMAZING recipes–try her Mirin Stout-Glazed Roast Chicken)

Graham cracker pie crust (just buy a pre-made one; you’re already making pudding and whipped cream, so go easy on yourself)
Pudding
  • 2/3C sugar
  • 3T cornstarch
  • 2oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4C heavy cream
  • 3/4C chocolate porter (I used Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder Beer)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2t vanilla extract
Whipped cream
  • 1C heavy cream
  • 1/2C powdered sugar
  • 3T stout
  • 1/2t vanilla extract

How to!

  • In a large saucepan, whisk the sugar and cornstarch until there are no more cornstarch clumps. Add the cream, porter, and egg yolk; whisk until well combined. Add the chocolate.
  • Bring to a boil, whisking from time to time over medium heat. Whisk constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  • Add the vanilla. Stir until well combined.
  • Pour into pie crust. Lick the bowl. Let the pie cool on the counter until the top of the pudding is  room temperature, about 30-40 minutes; otherwise, the pudding will melt the whipped cream.
  • To make the whipped cream, add the cream and powdered sugar to a stand mixer. (You can use a hand beater if you don’t have a stand mixer.) Beat on high until medium peaks form. While mixer is running, add the porter and vanilla and beat until you have peaks slightly stiffer than medium. This way the whipped cream will stay firmly in a layer on the pie.
  • Top pie with whipped cream (you might have some left over; it’s great in coffee, on ice cream, on a spoon…). Lick the bowl. Refrigerate for an hour or so until totally cooled. It’s super rich, so cut little slices.

Finally Mrs. Something (and Tomato Cream Cheese Toast)

Changing your name when you get married is a personal choice, and one I always knew I was going to make. My maiden name is long and hyphenated. Yep, I’m one of those ’80s kids whose name was hyphenated since birth. I’ve never liked it, and personally, I don’t think it’s a great idea to hyphenate your kids’ names. It creates confusion with schools, doctors, the USPS, the DMV, etc., and it always made me feel disconnected from my family. We weren’t the “OneName” Family; we were the “Mom’s Name,” “Dad’s Name,” and “My Name” family. I could never get one of those signs for above the fireplace that said “The OneNames.” (I always wanted one of those signs.) People would ask, “Which name do you use?” and “When did your parents get divorced?” and (when I got older) “How long have you been married?” (In order: “It’s hyphenated, so it’s technically one name, and it’s hyphenated on my birth certificate.” [Some people would respond, “I’ll just call you ‘Amanda “Mom’s Name.”‘ “Piss off.”] “They’ve been married since the early ’80s.” “You think I would do this to myself?”)

I knew from a young age that when I got married, I would change my name. I feel great about my decision, and I’ve gotten to the point where seeing my maiden name on junk mail is weird.

The process of changing one’s name isn’t that complicated; it’s just really annoying. You have to get a copy of your marriage license, go to the Social Security office (which I swear is in an alternate dimension where old people go to drink free crappy coffee and watch daytime TV), wait for your new card to come, go to the DMV to get your new license, and then go to the bank to change your name on your accounts. Additionally, you have to change your name on subscriptions, email, etc. I was pretty excited to tell Playboy about my name change, mostly because I’m a strange person.

I finally got my new debit cards from the bank, which marks the last official thing I needed to change to be Mrs. Something. Once we have a fireplace (and a house) later this year, I think I’ll get one of those signs I always coveted: “The Somethings, est. 2014.”

 

This isn’t really a recipe, but it’s a delicious thing that I’ve been eating for breakfast lately. I can’t get a good bagel here to save my life, so I’ve given up on sad bagels and moved on to toast with tomato and cream cheese.

Tomato Cream Cheese Toast

  • whole wheat bread
  • cream cheese (go on, use full-fat; it’s so yummy)
  • thinly sliced Roma tomatoes (I use about 1 tomato for two slices of bread)
  • salt & pepper

Toast the bread until it’s pretty brown, then spread with cream cheese. Slap those tomatoes on there in an even layer, and sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper. Chomp. It’s weirdly good and wonderfully simple.

Neighborly Fun (and Crock Pot Pasta Sauce)

The past few days have been full of neighborly fun. Someone made an anonymous call to Animal Control about our puppy’s crate; they said she was being “kept” in there “all day” and that it was too small for her to comfortably stand up and turn around. In order for someone to have seen her crate, they would have had to press their face against our bedroom window, and in order to get to the window, they would have had to climb through a bush. I’m pretty angry about the entire situation. An animal welfare officer had to come to our house yesterday and make sure the crate was adequate (it was; she actually loves being her crate, she just hates being alone for the 6 hours a week I’m out of the house). The officer was very nice and resolved the claim as “unfounded.”

Here’s the thing. I already didn’t like this apartment complex, and I already didn’t feel super secure here. And now we have a Peeping Tom willing to call Animal Control at the drop of a hat. What happened to knocking on your neighbor’s door and asking them what’s going on? Now we’re going to have an animal welfare investigation on our records, and while it’s resolved, it doesn’t make me feel like sunshine and lollipops. It means we have a neighbor (or someone who works at the complex) who is looking in our windows and making snap judgments about how we treat our dog. Someone out there thinks we’re bad dog owners and, therefore, bad people. I hate that. I hate it so much. I think I might know who called it in, and I’m going to do some poking around to find out for sure–this person is going to get a piece of my mind. They might have thought they were helping, but there are quite a few things they should have done before they made an anonymous call to Animal Control.

GAH.

Anyway, I made this pasta sauce a few weeks ago and it was phenomenal. I got the recipe from Iowa Girl Eats and tweaked it a little; I added red wine, and used a combination of beef (in the form of leftover meatloaf) and hot Italian sausage. You can even use leftover burgers or any sort of meaty leftovers you might have.

Crock Pot Pasta Sauce

Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef (or leftover meatloaf or burgers or whatever)
  • 1/2 lb. hot Italian sausage (either links, split open and squished out, or ground)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (I used the food processor)
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1T brown sugar
  • 1/4-1/2C red wine
  • 1 bay leaf (or 2 small)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2t dried oregano
  • 2t dried basil
  • 3/4t salt
  • 1/2t dried thyme
  • 1/4t red chili pepper flakes
  • 2T butter

Brown beef and sausage with onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain; add to a large crock pot. Add all the ingredients except for the butter, stir to combine, then cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove bay leaves, stir in butter, then serve over cooked pasta.

This is even better the next day!

Destructo Puppy (and Balsamic Roasted Broccoli)

So we have this great puppy. She’s an Alaskan Malamute and she’s 9 months old. Cutest thing in the world. But right now she’s in an angsty teenage phase where she destroys things, like previously indestructible toys. The other morning, while I was at the grocery store for a half hour, she completely obliterated the tray in her crate. It looks like a shark took a huge chomp out of it. I wish I had been there to witness her efforts, because, honestly, I’m a little impressed. Mr. Something and I went to the store and bought a new tray, and then he whipped up a simple contraption to keep her from pushing the tray out again. (It involves a small piece of wood and some zip ties.) I was so proud of his engineering skills.

In our house, we have the Destructor, the Fixer, and me, the Fretter. It balances out.

Speaking of balance, we try to eat pretty well here–lots of veggies and lean proteins (and occasionally, a lot of butter). I’ve been making this broccoli thing for a while, and I swear we eat 5 pounds of it a week. It’s that good. There are really no specific measurements here; make your favorite balsamic vinaigrette (other vinegars work really well, too) and you’ll love it.

Balsamic Roasted Broccoli

Two gigantic stalks of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces (you can make as much or as little as you want, but the broccoli kind of shrinks in the oven, and it’s delicious, so make a bunch), olive oil, salt/pepper, and red chili flakes.

Mix all that together and throw it in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375F (or until the broccoli is brown and crispy on the edges–it should look kind of overdone).

In a bowl, mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt/pepper, more chili flakes, and some rosemary, if you want. Mix the hot, roasted broccoli with the vinaigrette. Just as good at room temp as it is warm!

Feeling Useless (and a delicious recipe!)

I’ve been down with a cold for the past five days, and let me tell you: I think I felt crappier mentally than I did physically. My job is to take care of my house, husband, and animals, and I couldn’t really do any of it because I felt so gross. I felt useless. Mr. Something told me, “You’re not supposed to do anything when you’re sick; you’re just supposed to rest and get better.” This, while making perfect sense, is not easy for me. I’m terrible at doing nothing. Even when I watch TV, I have a second activity going on, whether it’s knitting, or doing dishes, or poking around the Internet. I had to accept that doing nothing was the best thing I could do. Yesterday I made sure I lazed around, and today I’m feeling so much better. Uselessness has a use sometimes.

Since I haven’t cooked for almost a week (which is extremely weird for me), but I’m still not 100%, I’m making a crock pot standby for dinner tonight. It’s one of my favorites because it’s super easy, really delicious, and it lasts for at least two dinners for two people and maybe a lunch or two.

Crock Pot Coconut Chicken Curry

Place in crock pot:

3 chicken breasts (cubed or whole; if whole, shred about 30 minutes before serving)

Place in blender and blend til smooth:

1 whole onion

1 whole red pepper

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk

1.5t salt

1T curry powder

1T garam masala

1 jalapeño, seeded

Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve over rice, and sprinkle some cilantro and lime juice on top. I always add some sriracha, too, but I like my food to kind of hurt.