Wednesday, January 27, 2010

cuban pork stew

Last night I made Cuban pork stew for dinner  It was a plan I hatched when trying to constructively deal with the vast amount of pork shoulder I cooked last week... for two people.  The pork was delicious the first round, but just too much for our small household.  Without making any trips to the store, I was able to create a delicious soup from my leftovers and some fridge and pantry staples.

I always have soup stock around.
I always have beans on hand, either canned or dried.
I always have onions in my fridge.
I always have bacon in my freezer.
I always have limes in my citrus bowl. - don't you have one sitting on your kitchen table?

Mix these all together, add a few spices like salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and voila!  Soup du jour!  Why was this stew successful?  I kept it simple.  I don't need fancy ingredients (or very many ingredients, for that matter) or elaborate cooking methods to jazz up food.  I just make sure I have the important elements present: salt, tang, sweet, and texture. 

I like thicker soup bases.  Sometimes this means I need to puree some of my ingredients to get that, but often a concentrated stock will do the trick.  Tomato paste will also have a nice thickening effect if you're going that route.  I try to stay away from filler thickeners like corn starch, but I'm not above them if that's what it takes.  If the broth tastes like salted water, I am an angry girl.

The best part about the soup?  I can freeze it in individual servings for future lunches.  I love doing that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


As you've probably guessed, Andrew got me a digital camera for Christmas.  I'm still figuring out how to use it properly, but I'm not one to go read the manual - no, no.  I need to learn by trial and error.  It's just how I operate.  So while my photography skills aren't the best, aren't you impressed that I'm no longer uploading pictures from my phone?? So am I.

Over the weekend I was a participant in a bacon party, hosted by some friends who do this sort of thing annually.  I had no idea what I was going to make until Friday night when my family came over for dinner.  Then it hit me; with one delicious bite, I knew what to do.

Most of you know I'm living life gluten-free these days.  I've said this before, but it's pretty effortless if I'm cooking for myself.  There are a lot of foods that don't have wheat in them.  I barely notice the change.  But then I start craving pizza, bagels, pasta, and cake.  I haven't had good luck with gluten-free baking in the past, but then I came across a recipe for gluten-free biscuits.  I replaced half of the rice flour with tapioca flour so that it would have a more doughy texture than a grainy one.  My first shot at these was the night my family came over for dinner.  I figured it would be a gentle crowd if they didn't go so well.  Lucky for me, they were AMAZING.  There was no hint that these biscuits were sans wheat.  They were just light, fluffy, and delicious.  I served them with homemade cherry jam that my friend Kori had given me as a birthday gift this past summer, and the crowd went nuts.  I knew at that moment I had to modify these in a bacon sort of way and take them to the party Saturday night.

The problem is, my kitchen is minuscule.  It's so small that two people cooking in there does not work.  Any baking project destroys the kitchen.  See?  No counter space either.

 I threw in some bacon crumbles and some shredded cheddar to the dry mix and then poured the buttermilk (or in my case, lemon juice with fat-free half-and-half) overtop and stirred that baby up.  The recipe made 3 dozen little gougere-style biscuits.  They don't puff up really, so what you see is what you get.  Before they went into the oven, I sprayed the top of the biscuit with cooking spray and then sprinkled some bacon salt over them.


 When they came out of the oven, they looked like this:


I wanted to eat them all.  But I didn't.  I knew there were going to be some fantastic dishes at the party, so I practiced a little restraint.  I'm glad I did, because when I got to the party there was a plate of bacon-wrapped filet mignon bites.  Helloooooo.

weekend project - go!

Saturday morning I got my sewing machine out, itching to work on a project.  I decided it was time to finish the living room chairs.  So I got out the bag of fabric and templates and spread it all out on the floor (Andrew saw what was happening, put on his shoes, and ran out the door to spend the afternoon at the climbing gym).
It looked like this:

I work in approximates for stuff like this.

Then I realized I was about a yard short of what I needed to do the whole thing, and I had stuff to do.  I decided to focus on one piece of the slipcover: the back and wings.  The rest will have to wait until I can get more charcoal felt.  For now, it works, though it does look a little strange.
As I took photos, I kept finding little vignettes in my apartment living room that I love.  Wouldn't you like to see?  Here's a little window into the coziness of my home:
A closeup of Andrew's carved stone chess set from Iraq and his lamp I redid last year (it used to be dirty brass).  I just love it.
 We're into books, deco, and craftsman-type stuff: classic, not too gender-specific.
 Portraits of my grandparents and my parents are on the shelves of my side of the library.
Thanks for stopping by! (and stay classy)

kicking off the new year!

Andrew and I decided to kick off the new year with a weekend getaway to Suncadia, just a 90 minute drive from Seattle, right on the other side of Snoqualmie Pass.  The price and the timing were right, and I couldn't be more excited.  Winter always gets me fantasizing about a snowy wonderland, complete with a rustic lodge and winter fun.  This place was beautiful and included everything I wanted.

When we arrived, the room wasn't yet ready, so we decided to cool our jets at the bar in the lobby of the lodge.  I was feeling a little on edge, and Andrew and I were annoying each other, so cocktails seemed like the right choice to round the corners and take the tension down a notch.  Andrew discovered the "Suncadia Snuggler," which was chai tea (his fave) and Bailey's.  I'm not gonna lie - I tried it and it was waaaay better than my gin and tonic.

When we got to our room, we got the fireplace going and enjoyed being on vacation.  It was everything I wanted it to be.

The view from our room was spectacular, and these photos don't do it justice.

The next morning we slept in, had a late breakfast, and went to the recreation center to rent showshoes. We spent the next couple hours hiking around on the snow-covered golf course.

 We climbed hills... made friends...

 ...and then retired to our room for games and wine.  It was a perfect day.

After dinner, I decided I wanted to ice skate.  We probably lasted 30 minutes before we called it a night.

The final morning there, before check-out, we got up early and worked out, went in the hot tub, and got a delicious breakfast of granola and yogurt before cruising back home.  It. Was. Exactly. What. I. Wanted.

Monday, January 18, 2010

tying up loose ends

Saturday morning I woke up at 7am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and itching to sew something.  I had a million different new quilt designs in my head, but decided to go a new direction - finish something I've already started.  This quilt is one I've been working of for about three years.  I finished the top fairly quickly, then sandwiched and quilted it, but didn't like the way my stitches looked.  My intention has been to quilt it over top of the unsavory stitches and then pull them out once I have the good ones in place.

Let's face it, Monica - that ain't never gonna happen.  I've had the binding ready for years and decided that it was time to just finish the dang thing and love it for what it is, bad quilting job and all.  Plus, from a distance it actually looks really great.  This is just a section of it.  The finished product is really quite large - big enough for a generous queen size.  I plan to have it done this week.  So far I'm on track.

My personal goal is to finish two projects before starting a new one.  I've got my work cut out for me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

must share my wtf dream with you

So I watched Biggest Loser last night with a couple of girlfriends, and then that night I had a dream that I had a Jillian-style trainer/wedding coordinator.  She didn't look anything like Jillian, but she was a total hard-nose and got me to a point where I had the most amazing abs on the planet for my wedding day.  I was elated.  I didn't even care that the rest of my wedding, which she had coordinated and planned was totally  frumpy and horrible.  I was over the moon.  So in addition to my fantastic physique she created, my wedding hair looked something like this:

And the wedding colors were something like this (maybe a little more faded):

And the flowers were a rattier version of this (in the above colors):

And the music for the reception was the Swingers soundtrack played on a loop.  I have no idea where this all popped into my head (I'm not even planning a wedding!), but in the dream I remember recognizing how frumpy and bad it was, but being so thrilled with how she helped me work out that I just didn't care.

I don't even know what it was all about, but I can tell you one thing:  I will have those abs!