Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Peek Into My New Kitchen Changes

Here's my newly re-vamped appliance workspace! It's been a long time coming. Nearly a year ago, I removed the shelves that John and I had installed when I first bought the house, and then I repainted the walls in this creamy beige color. I have to say, though, these new shelves are much better.

After searching for months for 1. something that would fit, 2. something we would like, and 3. something that could be re-purposed elsewhere easily, we finally spent a nearly two-year old wedding gift card at Crate and Barrel on the folding shelves above. The best part was that our new shelves were free! Moreover, they were a snap to pull out of the box and fit into the corner (they fit exactly). And, as a surprise benefit, the light-colored wood matched the wood trim in the kitchen.

The impetus for the change was my upgrade to a Cuisinart 14-cup food processor. I needed space for it on the kitchen island that I use for the primary baking workspace.

The Cuisinart also was a good buy. I had a gift card from Macy's for about $160 and two store coupons that would make it nearly free for me. But, the saleswoman said the coupons could not be applied to electrics such as the food processor. Fortunately, John was with me (to carry things as I limped along in my post-surgical, ski-boot-looking device) and applied for a Macy's credit card, for which we received about $36 off the purchase. In the end, including tax, the Cuisinart cost us $14. Yay! Not a bad bit of frugal business, eh? But it doesn't stop there. Because I "spent" more than $100 on a Cuisinart appliance at Macy's, I got a $20 gift card voucher for a future purpose.

And now, there it sits, right next to the KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer.

Finally, the biggest change, although it may seem like the smallest one, was that we repositioned my Home Depot $5 flood lamp that I use for filming my kitchen photos and videos. John also found me a more powerful bulb and rigged up a power strip so that the lamp and the appliances could be powered in a very handy way. He's just the best!

Now I just need to start cooking there again! Well, I did a tiny bit just to try out the new toy, and I'll post on that later in the week.

Finally, just a short health update, all is coming along with my left foot 3+ weeks post-surgery. The surgeon took more x-rays this past Tuesday and said things couldn't be better. Best of all, now I'm back into my sneakers (albeit very loosely tied) and limping a bit less. When all is done, I'll post the photos of the whole thing up in my Picasa Web Albums, but not on the blog because some of it is pretty gory.

More than anything, I'm looking forward to being on my feet for a while because this coming weekend I have pies to bake. Mmmmmm. Pie.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Basil Tomato Garlic Sandwich

While they taste like they were grown outdoors, these lovely green basil leaves were plucked just seconds earlier from the AeroGarden in my dining room. Because it's been so chilly, I wanted to make some thing that would warm me from the inside out. What better than some very tasty basil, tomato and garlic sandwiches. These open-faced sandwiches brought summer to my winter kitchen in the most delicious way!

Here's how I made them:

1. Started with great bread from Calandra's bakery.
2. Spread minced garlic and olive oil on each half.
3. Chopped the basil leaves and sprinkled some on each half.

4. Placed sliced tomatoes (lovely hothouse tomatoes from Whole Foods) on top of the basil.
5. Sprinkle grated cheese (a variety of Italian soft cheeses) on top of the whole pile.

6. Toasted them in a preheated toaster oven until the cheese melted.

7. Dug in and enjoyed a summery sandwich during a frosty afternoon!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Varied Diets Do Not A Disaster Make

In an article in today's New York Times online, Kate Murphy contends that dietary differences can strain a relationship. I can understand where there may be challenges, but if the person is truly important to you, compromises and alterations can easily be made. For example, John and I don't overlap a lot in our diets, but that's such a low priority when it comes to our mutual affection, respect and love. Where are these people's priorities?

It's not difficult to keep two sets of cooking utensils and implements (and dishes, if required) -- we did it for a while. If the thought of a potential significant other eating something other than what I have on my plate is so abhorrent, than why would I seek someone who doesn't hold the same values as dear? More importantly, what right would I have to be so intolerant in the first place?

When I first started dating John, I was vegan and completely sweetener free. We had a difficult time finding places to eat except at Indian, Italian, and Thai restaurants, and diners, which wasn't that bad at all, really. After some time, I slowly re-introduced diary back into my diet -- and not because of any other reason except that I missed cheese and yogurt. Later, when I learned how to make my own ice cream, I remembered how much I missed that as well.

Originally, I'd given up dairy because my lactose intolerance had gotten so bad it was not only embarrassing, but downright painful. But, slowly reintroducing diary back into my weekly dietary consumption has greatly improved our eating out and in options (as well as fed my dairy cravings).

After we had been together for more than two years -- managing our dietary differences by individually trying some new things and keeping things in perspective, on a trip to Maine a couple of years ago, I gave up being a vegetarian and added fish and shellfish back into my diet. Now, there aren't any limitations placed on where we can eat together. And, best of all, I really enjoy seafood.

All that to say, prior to that Maine trip, I'd been vegetarian for nearly half my life (and I'll be 39 in March). While I still eat veganly at least 2 times a week and vegetarianly at least 5 times a week, my dietary choices have never stood in the way of my happy and loving relationship with John.

Though the Times' article talks about some couples like us who have made compromises and changes in their lives to accommodate their individual choices, the premise of the story is pretty weak. If people want to meet, date and marry others who have very strong food views, there are plenty of ways to do that -- singles groups, organizations of like-minded folks, fund raisers, and even blogs!

I just had to speak up about this "issue" because while I made some changes in my life (and don't get it twisted, John made some changes too), the key reasons why I make my dietary choices are focused on health and quality of life. I guess this is appropriate given the "Hallmark holiday" tomorrow. But, as both John and I contend, every day is Valentine's Day when you get to spend each day with your best friend as well as the love of your life.

Friday, February 08, 2008

AeroGarden Update

Since my last posting on the AeroGarden (and my new limpiness due to the surgery), the wee plants had a giant growth spurt.

Since I took this photo, I plucked a bit of the classic basil (in the rear row) for a yummy provolone and basil sandwich. There's nothing like freshly picked herbs. Mmmmm.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Surprise Tastiness

Yesterday, I accidentally made some incredibly tasty guacamole. Normally, my guac is yummy, but when I added 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste instead of minced garlic from a jar of very similar size and appearance, I inadvertently raised the flavor profile of this avocado dip a notch or two. The best side effect was that it was the only thing that calmed my stomach. I'd been taking a lot of Alleve since my foot surgery a week and a half ago, and it just about burned a hole in my gut. My guac saved me!

Here's the recipe, if you'd like to try something different with yours. It serves two.

Ginger Guacamole


2 ripe Haas avocados
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ginger puree (I used Trader Joe's jarred ginger)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon of your favorite salsa pureed (I used Herdez mild)


1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Use avocado or potato masher to bring the mixture to your desired texture (I like mine just barely chunky).
3. Enjoy with your favorite chips or veggies!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Another Handy Gadget from The In-Laws

In addition to the uber-useful AeroGarden below, John's parents also gave me a nice steamer for Christmas. The way it works is very similar to an electric kettle. You fill the base with water before turning it on, and a heating element in the water heats it to boiling temperature.

Next, add your ingredients to the plastic chambers. In my first few tries, I used broccoli as my test food.

Then, set the timer to the desired steaming time. Here, I'm steaming the broccoli for about 15 minutes.

Within minutes, the chambers fill with steam, which cooks the contents of the chambers.

Finally, a few minutes later, you have perfectly steamed foods!

The steamer came from Cooks Essentials. It was very easy to use and clean, although it would have been great if the plastic parts were able to be washed in the dishwasher. Regardless, I've used it to steam large quantities of veggies, and they've all turned out just the way I like them -- colorful and slightly crunchy. If you like yours a bit tender, just adjust the timing on the base.