Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ice Creamery

I'm totally obsessed. I'll admit it. In spite of the lingering cold weather, I just can't get enough. What is the focus of my new culinary craze? Homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt! A good friend recently passed her ice cream maker on to me, and I've been having a blast coming up with different concoctions. I broke in the ice cream maker by recreating Laurie's pomegranate ice cream for Taste&Create. If you remember, though, while the ice cream tasted lovely, the texture was off.

Determined to achieve frozen dairy success, I did a little Googling, regrouped, then returned to the fray. This time, I arrived armed with a recipe: Happy Herbivore vegan blogger Lindsay's 99% Fat-Free Chocolate Vegan Ice Cream. Whew! How's that for a mouthful? Even though I'm not a vegan, I had high hopes for the texture of the ice cream that this recipe would yield. With a tofu base, I thought it would surely churn into smooth, creamy goodness. I was right! This ice cream was rich, silky, and quite tasty. Based on my success with this recipe, I'm excited to try using tofu as a base for future creations. I did unveganize this a bit by using regular skim milk and sugar-free varieties for the two syrups. However, even the Best Husband Ever liked it! He did mention that he liked the pomegranate ice cream better, though. Regardless, between the two of us the vegan chocolate ice cream did not last long.

Invigorated by my first true ice cream success story, I returned to the challenge. This time I wanted to make a fruity frozen yogurt. I used my ice cream maker's manual for inspiration this time around. I mixed the following in a bowl, then churned it for about 30 minutes in the ice cream maker:
  • 6 oz. vanilla yogurt
  • 3 oz. plain yogurt
  • about 1/2 cup skim milk
  • half of an individual serving packet of stevia
  • 1 banana, chunked/mashed
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and diced
I think that was it. The resulting frozen yogurt -- Banana Kiwi Frozen Yogurt -- was my favorite concoction to date! It tasted light and refreshing, and the fruit combination added a nice kick. The Best Husband Ever thought it was too banana-y at first taste, but later amended his critique to say that the fruit mixture was in fact quite good. Huzzah for success number two!

Remember how I mentioned that I was obsessed? Well, my second ice creamery victory of course only spurred me to make yet another batch. I must have been feeling a little cocky, though, because I forgot to follow some basic procedures. Instead of combining this frozen yogurt's ingredients in a food processor or a mixing bowl, I stirred them all together right in the frozen receptacle of the ice cream maker. This proved to be a grave mistake because a) I couldn't get the churning arm to sit properly in the receptacle, and b) the ingredients froze to the side of the bowl, jamming up the churning arm once I finally got it in there. I had to unstick the arm, scoop out as much of the ingredients as possible, and then wait for the receptacle's frozen interior and the bowl's remaining contents to melt so I could start the whole process again. Several hours later, I mixed up these items in a separate bowl before setting them to mix in the ice cream maker for about 30 minutes, creating Lemon Blackberry Frozen Yogurt:
  • 6 oz. lemon yogurt
  • 3 oz. plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • splash of lemon juice
  • half of an individual serving packet of stevia
  • about 1/2 cup frozen blackberries, slightly thawed and mushed
If possible, this fro-yo was even more refreshing than the banana kiwi variety. However, it was not my favorite due to the blackberry seeds, which I had to chew. The Best Husband Ever made this same critique, so the next time I try to make berry-based ice cream, I'll be sure to puree the berries and the seeds they contain first.

Ice cream creation is fun! And not only is it enjoyable, but it's super easy to boot. It takes only a few minutes to blend the ingredients before leaving them for the ice cream maker to have it's way with for a half an hour. Plus, homemade ice cream lets me go for healthier options than its store-bought brethren. I can make low- or no-fat calcium-rich dessert, and it's cheaper. Besides, it leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and something to blog about. What more can a food blogging gal ask for from her sweets?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Spring Break

It's spring break! That means one week off of work, complete with extra reading time during the day, the freedom to get outside with my dogs, and to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Now, if only we had some beautiful spring weather. . . . That's right, folks. This weekend saw my Montana hometown hit with chilly rain, then a blustering snow storm.

The rain didn't stop the Best Husband Ever and I, though. We started off the weekend with a treat day at Bernice's, nibbling our goodies over a game of Scrabble. It was a very close game, and I only emerged victorious by a handful of points. He keeps me on my toes!

After lunch, we decided to hit the home and garden show at our local university. Since we are just about to become first-time home owners, we thought it would be fun. We did see some interesting solar water heating gadgets, and we were also marketed some very sketchy "I.Q.-enhancing" electrolyte drinks. I'm not sure what that has to do with homes or gardens.

After visiting the show, we decided to visit my in-laws. Did I mention that it was raining out? Further, did I mention that we biked to the home and garden show? Or that the Best Husband Ever's folks live quite the distance from the university? Or that I didn't have adequate rain pants for attempting such an activity? Regardless, we biked over to his parents' house. Unfortunately, I was so saturated with rain by the time we got there that I didn't have the heart to go in and visit. I knew that if I stopped biking, I would never be able to go back into the rain and bike home, so we just turned around and headed back. (We later visited by car.)

After our wet ride, we took some very hot showers and did the only thing that seemed right -- treating ourselves to a dinner at HuHot Mongolian Grill. HuHot is a restaurant where you put together your own bowls of stir-fry which the chefs then cook right in front of you on a massive grill. It's quite fun, and we enjoy putting together different flavors with the sauces. The Best Husband Ever always tries to put together something extremely spicy, and never feels that he meets his goal. Until this weekend, that is. This time around, he happily stated that his mouth was on fire the entire time. I didn't go for something spicy, but instead for a heaping plate of hot, garlicky veggies with some salmon, noodles, and -- my favorite! -- mango. It was delicious, and perfect after a freezing, drippy bike ride.

Hopefully the weather will improve for my week off. I'm not hopeful, though. Yesterday it snowed the entire day, and more snow is forecasted. Ah, well. I suppose a chilly, snowy hike is better than no hike at all! Besides, a cold hike followed by a Twilight reading session with a steaming mug of tea and a fleecy blanket makes life extra snuggly. Don't you agree?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Feeling the Muffin Love

Today's Saturday Scrabble sweet treat: a massive lemon blueberry buttermilk muffin from Bernice's. I was feeling the muffin love this morning. Yum yum.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Life and Passing of an Ill-Fated Peep

It's Easter season, which means (among other, much more significant things!) that grocery store shelves are stocked with the best candy of the year. Cream-filled eggs, more chocolate than you can shake a stick at, and, my favorite, Peeps. Sweet, crunchy in their singular and stale way, Peeps make me smile. This in turn makes the Best Husband Ever Shake his head at me in pity -- he thinks Peeps are rather revolting.

Still, as much as I love a good Peep, there's not much that's redeeming about them. 140 calories for 5 peeps isn't bad for a treat, but there is nothing nutritional in them. At all. Plus, they're completely composed of refined sugars, which spikes and drops your blood pressure like nobody's business.

So when I spied some sugar-free Peeps at Wal-Mart, I had to try them. Yes, I know that Splenda is probably even worse for you than refined sugars, but I was curious. How do "healthy" Peeps measure up? The nutrition facts are fairly close. While both sugar-free and regular Peeps contain no fat, the sugar-free version totals only 60 calories for 3 chicks, which is 20 calories per Peep. The regular variety calculates to 28 calories per Peep.

Next came the taste test. The sugar-free Peeps look just like the normal ones, so I hoped that the same would be true for taste. It was, for the most part. The sugar-free Peeps tasted just a little more fake, if that makes sense. Still, since regular Peeps are fairly fake themselves, I didn't find the deficit too concerning. Also, the sugar-free chicks were not as crunchy as I would have liked. Probably due to the fact that Splenda is a relatively new invention, and these Peeps were not manufacture sufficient decades ago to allow for optimum staleness.

There was only one thing left to do -- the microwave test. Dreaded by Peeps everywhere, this test provides far too much pleasure and amusement for sadistic Peep enthusiasts like myself. There is no simpler food-related joy than to watch a Peep slowly blow up and deform under appliance-level radiation. But would sugar-free Peeps react in the same way?

The answer is yes. Sugar-free Peeps distend quite satisfactorily in the microwave. Although they also deflate and flatten quickly. I can't recall if regular Peeps do this as well, so I will discount this factor. Once the Peep in question was nuked, there was still a last step to take -- taste test number two.

This is the stage where the plucky sugar-free Peep finally fell short of the real deal. The marshmallow was extra gooey as I decapitated the Peep with a spoon. I sniffed the spoonful -- it smelled toasty and delicious. I tasted it -- sweet and delectable, with just a hint of fake-ness. I chewed. And chewed. And finally tried to swallow -- and choked on the now-unrecognizable Peep. Apparently, microwaved sugar-free Peeps turn into glue, and I could not break it down enough with my teeth to swallow safely. Instead, it stayed in a gooey string, which was decidedly unpleasant. I guess the Peep had its revenge in the end.

While my sugar-free Peep experiment was fun, I did not appreciate the Peep's final attempt on my life. Also, while the nutrition stats for sugar-free Peeps are slightly better than their sugar-ful counterparts, it doesen't seem to be enough to justify the fake aftertaste, the lack of proper staleness, and the strang glue-ification phenomenon when exposed to radiation. If you're going to have a treat, do it right and get the real things, peeps. It's worth it. Besides, those sugar-free Peeps can be tricky little buggers. Best to keep it safe, eh?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Okay, I'm not really blogless. Rather, I'm idea-less. I'm feeling decidedly uninspired to blog tonight. With that said, I'll leave you with yesterday's lunch: Rachel's plum honey lavender yogurt (this yogurt really is "wickedly delicious," as the company moniker states -- I highly recommend this flavor!), a TLC pumpkin pie granola bar from Kashi, and kimchi.

I first encountered kimchi in Malaysia. A spicy Korean pickled cabbage concoction, kimchi takes a little getting used to. It's flavor can be a shock to the taste buds. Once you're acclimated, though, I think kimchi is quite a treat. I prefer to eat it as a cold side salad. You could also mix it into noodles or soup, top a burger with it, or even make savory kimchi pancakes. I find kimchi's smell appealing, if distinctive. Kimchi is also super healthy, and was even named one of the World's Healthiest Foods by Health magazine. Check out some of these health benefits, according to Eating Healthy and Wikipedia:
  • low calorie and low fat
  • high in vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, and iron, and is loaded with fiber
  • packed with lactobacilli, a healthy bacteria found in fermented foods (like yogurt!) that helps with digestion and can prevent yeast infections
  • made with fermented cabbage, which may help prevent cancer
What's not to love? You should try some! Kimchi is available at some food stores, and particularly at health food or import markets. If you can't find premade kimchi, try out this recipe for ultimate kimchi and let me know what you think!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Foodbuzz is so good to its bloggers! I recently received a buy-one-get-one coupon offer from Foodbuzz on Kerrygold cheese and butter products. Imported from Ireland, I wanted to try one of their cheeses as well as nab some butter for the Best Husband Ever. Unfortunately, we could only find Kerrygold cheese locally, so we decided on Dubliner cheese and a package of Blarney Castle cheese.

I tried the Blarney Castle first. Touted as a "creamy, gouda-style" product, I did find it to be creamy and very rich. However, that's all I can really say about it. The taste is pleasant but not particularly singular or extraordinary. At over $5.00 US for a 7 oz. package, I probably would pass on this cheese in the future.

The Dubliner variety held its own a little better. This is a firmer cheese, which I tend to go for if I'm just having a slice of cheese on its own. The taste was more sharp and tangy, and quite nice. Again, though, for the steep price tag I probably wouldn't purchase this without a special deal like the Foodbuzz-sponsored coupons.

Both cheeses would probably be great on sandwiches. The Dubliner especially seems to be begging to be layered between two slices of bread with a flavorful mustard, apple slices, and perhaps some turkey or hummus. The milder Blarney Castle would not only do well on a sandwich, but would probably melt quite nicely. Still, as the Best Husband Ever said, while these cheese are fine in their own right, he'd probably rather spend the money a good, old-fashioned block of quality cheddar.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Results Are In!

I ran my first 5K race this morning. Remember how nervous I felt? Well, guess what -- I had so much fun! I still can hardly believe it. I think that I'll probably participate in some more of these races! I don't know if I have a half-marathon in me, but a 10K is also a distinct possibility. I tend to choose to go on 6-7 mile runs for exercise, so the slower pace seems to suit me a little better.

However, on to today's race recap! The day was chilly and gray, but I bundled up with some thermals and checked in. I got my t-shirt, some other goodies, and my very official-feeling number.

Don't you love the face? By the way, all photos are courtesy of the Best Husband Ever. He biked along the whole course, equipped with a camera and lots of encouragement and double thumbs up. Thanks, hubby! You seriously rock.

After warming up, I hung out for the last few minutes before the start inside Wheat Montana, the bakery that sponsored today's race. Can you tell that I'm super nervous? I had a mp3 player full of peppy tunes like Clocks by Coldplay, Desire by U2, and Stacy's Mom by Fountains of Wayne (I know, I know, it's wrong, but I love this song!), and despite the jitters I felt ready to run.

We all gathered for some quick instructions before the start. As you can see, it wasn't a very large race in terms of numbers of runners. Can you find me? I'm wearing a white headband, a gray sweatshirt, and black pants with a white stripe down the leg.

By the time we grouped for the start, my nerves were mostly gone. I ended up toward the front, in the middle of a bunch of older guys who were running together. One of the men joked that they should probably move back to avoid being flattened. I wondered if there might not be some truth to that . . .

. . . but I need not have worried. I got passed by quite a number of runners straight off the bat as I expected would happen, but I certainly didn't get flattened. As I watch person after person seemingly fly by me, though, I began to think that I must certainly be right at the back of the pack. It wasn't until I turned the first corner that I glanced back and saw that I was doing a decent job of holding my own in the middle-frontish section of the group. I felt that I certainly held a solid middle-of-the-pack position for the entirety of the race, and was closer to the front runners than the rear.

I even passed a bunch of people! It felt good to be doing some of the passing rather than getting passed. In fact, after the start and first leg (I broke the entire race into 6 fairly even pieces in my mind), I don't think I got passed at all! I ran at what felt like a challenging pace without overdoing it. And guess what else? God showed up about halfway through! Strangely enough, it was during the song Stacy's Mom. Weird and inappropriate, right? Maybe. But I first heard this song 5 years ago as a soon-to-be college grad. As I ran, looking at the snow-peaked mountains and feeling strength and ability coursing through me, my heart just sang with praise at how far I've come, at how good God is, and how much He's still doing in my life. He is amazing! He made this already fun race that much sweeter.

So not only did I complete my first 5K race today, but I also finished well. I ran the entire way, pushed myself, and, most importantly, had a fantastic time. I love the intense, gross, nose-dripping expression on my face as I crossed the finish line. Hooah!

I finished in 26:37, and I didn't walk a bit! In fact, I ran much faster than I do during training runs. That's my time at the top of the picture, above and to the left of the blue tag. I didn't win any ribbons, but I feel darn good about my race, and that's the most important thing for me.

And even though I didn't place in terms of time, I did make out like a bandit. In addition to the experience, which was more than worthwhile by itself, I got my t-shirt, a squeezeable stress ball-esque figure, and a key chain light. Plus, I won nifty new running socks in the door prize drawings. I'd say my premiere 5K was a 100% success.

Off and Running

I am so nervous right now! In one hour and 20 minutes, I will be starting to run in my first 5k race ever!!! I haven't raced since I was 11 years old, so I've got a pretty bad case of the nerves. Eep!

I'm trying to stay realistic and sane about the whole thing, though. It should be a fairly short race, for one thing. Also I know that I can run 5k. I have run 7+ miles in about 1 hour previously, so I know that I can finish. That's my goal: to finish, and to run the whole way. I'm not so great at running fast, but I'm not racing for time today. I'm racing for the experience. And the t-shirt. (Okay, maybe not . . . but the t-shirt is a nice bonus!)

Here's the weather report for today:
Showers likely, mainly after noon. Cloudy, with a high near 54. Calm wind becoming west northwest around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
And right now the temperature is 39*F, with windchill bringing it to 33*F. That's not bad, considering it was snowing earlier this week. I'll still have to bundle a bit, though.

Okay. I've fueled (1 cran-bran VitaTop). I've tried to hydrate better than usual. My mp3 player is ready to roll with some peppy tunes.




Friday, March 20, 2009

A Tale of Three Quesadillas

Apparently it's been quesadilla madness in my kitchen. And not just any quesadillas. I've been putting together entirely new combos and concoctions that, while I never would have thought of them on my own, are absolutely delicious. I highly recommend all three, and urge you to try out the recipes for yourself. Yummo!

Ever since baking a batch of asparagus spice cookies, I haven't been able to get enough of this vegetable. So naturally my first quesadilla was an asparagus and goat cheese combination, inspired by an AllRecipes recipe. This was so delicious! I didn't realize quite how good goat cheese can be. Although I probably should have considering how much I enjoy goat's milk yogurt. I served this with a side of raspberry asparagus, which was interesting but a little odd. I'm glad I tried it but probably won't make it again, unlike the quesadilla, which was a winner.

The second quesadilla was also goat cheese-based (I had to use up the goat cheese, after all!). The recipe for this goat cheese and roasted corn quesadilla is from this month's (March 2009) edition of Cooking Light. I saw it while leafing through the magazine when I was waiting on the check-out line at Safeway, where, incidentally, I had just been shopping for ingredients for the first quesadilla. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The mixture of corn, green salsa, and goat cheese is amazing, especially when spread between crispy corn tortillas. This was probably my favorite of the two goat cheese quesadillas.

For quesadilla numero tres, I left goat cheese behind for this sweet potato, apple, and cotija quesadilla from The Duo Dishes blog. I used canned pumpkin, and thought that this recipe topped them all. I've never used cotija before, which is a part skim Mexican cheese. It really added a distinct Mexican flavor, though, and I adore it. I think I may have to use it in place of cheddar in my southwestern dishes from now on! If you only choose to try out one of these three quesadillas, this one is it.

I can't believe how many new recipes I tried! Usually I'm all for browsing recipes online and then making them my own, but with these I pretty much stuck with the authors' original plans. And it paid off! Tinkering in the kitchen has its place . . . but so does following directions. I think I need to try it more often. What about you -- do you like to free-form cook, or are you a devout recipe-follower?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Terrifying Tuna

There's no food that scares me more to prepare than meat. It is unpleasant to eat if it is cooked poorly, leaving you gnawing a hunk of tough and dry hunk of meat for what seems like an eternity. As if that wasn't bad enough, underdone meat can make you sick. To top it all off, handling raw meat is, in a word, gross. At least, I think so. All that to say -- I don't like cooking meat dishes. I don't like handling meat, figuring out what makes it taste good, and the seemingly inevitable failure to turn out a decent slab. Give me legumes any day!

Still, sometimes you just have to face up to your fears and give that daunting challenge your best effort. Over the past few months, the Best Husband Ever has truly outdone himself dishing up some delicious fish fillets. He made tilapia for Valentine's Day, and he's also made some super-delicious salmon. This weekend, he served ahi tuna steaks for a dinner with his family. Since we purchased the tuna from Costco for cost efficiency, we had one big fillet leftover, begging for one of us to do something with.

I saw my chance. Pushing aside all thoughts of how slimy the raw fish would feel, and how it might smell, I hit the internet. Browsing through various websites for inspiration, I finally found a tasty-sounding recipe for citrus-ginger tuna steaks on AllRecipes. I mixed up the sauce and let the fish marinate for about 8 or 9 hours. Instead of grilling the steaks like the recipe called for (we don't have a good grill), I cooked them on the stove top. Due to the tuna's thickness, this may not have been the best choice. The hubby and I were nervous about eating fish that was still pretty raw in the middle, but I also didn't want to overdo the steaks' exteriors. I need not have worrie, though, because the steaks turned out fairly well. I'm not sure what the ideal texture is, but the marinade tasted wonderful. The Best Husband Ever went back for seconds . . . and thirds, which made me feel quite accomplished.

What's the scariest dish you ever made? Or, for that matter, what is the most daunting meal that you haven't made? Why not give it a try? Barring burning your house down in the process, what's the worst that could happen?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Malaysia: Orphanage Wrap-Up

I can't believe that I haven't posted about my Malaysia trip since over a month ago! I need to keep up with it so I can continue to share my amazing time with you. For this [mostly] Wordless Wednesday post, here are some highlights from the remainder of our weekend at the Tamil orphanage.

The Hokey Pokey! The kids loved this one.

Sharing photo albums and postcards from home. The children loved pointing me out in the photos, and quickly learned the Best Husband Ever's name so they could pinpoint him, too.

Praying before lunch. Remember, it's a Hindu orphanage, so it was a little different from what we westerners were used to.

Making pipe cleaner creations during arts and crafts time. They were so inventive!


Enjoying birthday cake at our Christmas party, a.k.a. the birthday party for Jesus. Baking the cakes was quite an adventure. We brought all the supplies for them over from the U.S., only to get to the orphanage and discover that they don't have an oven. And why would they ever bake? Malaysia's an equatorial country, after all! Thankfully, our host families allowed us to use their kitchens and they turned out great.

Playing party games (this one is pass the Lifesaver -- no hands allowed!).

Pinata time!

Heading back to our main base (via a very crowded and diverse boat), leaving my heart with the orphanage children.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Innovative Oat Bran Report

Staying with the theme of newness, both in general life and in the kitchen, I've been shaking up my morning routine a little. Instead of a messy bowl of yogurt or peanut butter with cereal (a classic favorite, to be sure), I've turned up the heat. As the temperatures dropped again last week, I decided to make something warm for breakfast instead. I decided on some purplicious oat bran.

Why purplicious? Well, obviously due to the purple blackberries that I headed into the bowl. And a scattering of the last of my blueberry flax granola seemed to make it that much more purple. But it's really the secret ingredient that made this breakfast taste purple -- dried lavender. The herb gave the oat bran a more savory spin and a very interesting taste. I'm not sure I'd put lavender into every breakfast, but I'm definitely glad I tried it. Here's what went into this bowl:
  • 1/3 cup oat bran
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • spoonful cottage cheese
  • sprinkling of blueberry flax granola
  • sprinkling of dried lavender
  • 1/2 packet Stevia powder
  • drizzle of vanilla extract
I mixed the cottage cheese in at the end, which is also when I put the blueberry granola on top. The berries went in toward the end of the cooking process (about 8 minutes simmering on the stove top until most of the liquid is absorbed), too, if I remember correctly. This made for a hearty and warming breakfast on a chilly day. Yum!

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Leaves

I think that this week's theme is going to be new. Big things are happening in our lives, things that are exciting and scary and new. Namely, a house. Of our own. To live in. The Best Husband Ever and I have been shopping around for our first home. We found an excellent one, and yesterday we put an offer on it. Today our offer was accepted. Now we're taking off on a roller coaster ride of inspections, financing, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. The hubby is my hero in this area and taking care of a lot of the things that I either can't due to inflexible scheduling, or simply have no idea about. Like I said, new.

So as we make our way into this new adventure and chapter in our lives, I thought I'd carry this theme of newness onto the blog. Looking back over the past week or so, I've noticed that I've been trying a lot of new things in the way of food. I've printed out and tested more recipes in the last seven days than perhaps ever before, and every one of them was tasty and delicious. Yesterday's post on trying a new bread recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is just one example.

Another is Susan of Food Blogga's recipe for ricotta hotcakes. That's right -- ricotta. The Italian in me balked at the idea of including ricotta cheese in any non-lasagna (or at least non-pasta) dish. Thankfully, I'm more than simply Italian, and the voracious pancake-lover in me made a good case for the hotcakes. I made them. I ate them (with a side of blackberries and topped with maple syrup). I heartily enjoyed them. And I bet that you would, too, if you tried out the recipe!

The hotcakes are surprisingly fluffy and delicious while also packing nutritional contents that have more staying power than your typical pancake. I made the hotcakes exactly as the recipe dictated (other than using fat-free ricotta, skim milk, and egg beaters, which are what I had on hand). Next time I might try using a whole grain flour, but I'm not sure what that would do to their taste or texture. They're so good that I would hate to mess them up with my tinkering. That happens in my kitchen. A lot.

Here's to all things new! New houses . . . new foods . . . new perspectives. Watch the blog this week for more new dishes and culinary concoctions. And why not join me? Post with any new endeavors you are embarking upon, any new leaves you are overturning, be they food-related or otherwise. Sometimes change is fun, but sometimes it's terrifying or daunting, too. Let's face our new challenges together, foodie blogger-style!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gettin' Bready Wit' It

Looky at what I made this weekend! It's Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day's recipe for rye bread. And it was deeeelicious. I love homemade bread!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Morning Adventures

Today the Best Husband Ever and I hit Bernice's Bakery for our Saturday morning Scrabble rendezvous. He tried a new treat -- a maple danish with cherries on top. So did I -- an almond croissant that was filled with some sort of almond marscapone. It was tasty, and sort of savory but also very sweet. It was a super sweet treat Saturday!

Scrabble was an interesting game. We start out neck-and-neck, but then I pulled ahead. After a couple of high-scoring moves, though, I stayed at 103 points for seven turns in a row while the hubby steadily gained and then pulled ahead. Ouch. Unwilling to give up a bunch of letters that are heavy on points but also difficult to form words with (J -- 8 points; Q -- 10 points; V -- 4 points . . . and so on), I resorted to making up words. Not a great strategy! I managed to make an unlikely comeback, but the results were never certain because we had to abandon our game before it was finished.

Why did we have to leave our Scrabble game? Because we had appointments to go house-shopping! And I do mean shopping for a house, not shopping for stuff to go inside our home. It is a fun and scary endeavor that is fraught with questions, high hopes, visions of future children, and much nail-biting. Any advice on the blogosphere for first time home buyers?

Today we visited one major dud of a house (it was owned by smokers and needs lots of work), one really great option, and one that is a fantastic investment but a bit out of our price range. We also connected with some realtors who are friends of the hubby's family, super nice, and sold out on God, which is a special bonus. It will be interesting-terrifying-exciting to see what develops next in this process. Send good thoughts our way as we wade through this unfamiliar territory!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Peanut Butter Sandwich Experimentation

I love all things peanut butter. I mean, you could slather some peanut butter onto a pile of dirt and I'd probably try to eat it. With fruit, toast, ice cream, vegetables, muffins, chicken, cookies, chili -- you name it, and I bet that peanut butter could only make it better.

So when the Peanut Butter Boy revealed his fifth Great Peanut Butter Exhibition, I knew I had to participate. He called for bloggers from near and far to submit their favorite peanut butter sandwich concoctions. I'm sure he's received entries from the standard PB & J to completely unique and crazy contrivances. I can't wait to see the results!

As for my own submission . . . I had a little trouble. Trouble deciding which sandwich to enter, that is. I created three sandwiches -- well, wraps, really -- and they're all so different that I'm not sure what to send in. You've seen a couple of these on a previous post, but here is some more detailed information on each. Which is your favorite?

For my sandwich/wrap, I wanted to come up with something one-of-a-kind. However, I also wanted to try some old standbys that I've heard about but never eaten myself. The wrap that represents this from my peanut butter trifecta is . . .

~ PB & P, a.k.a. Peanut Butter and Pickle Wrap ~

Gross-sounding, right? That's what I first thought when I heard my school's library discussing her favorite peanut butter sandwich combos. She mentioned peanut butter and jelly . . . peanut butter and bananas . . . peanut butter and honey . . . and then PB & P. Strange and revolting as the idea, seemed, though, I wanted to try it. So I did a little research and it seems that this type of sandwich is not as uncommon as you might think. Also known as a Poor Man's Sandwich, it often incorporates mayonnaise and onions as well. I modified my recipe to the following:
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • 1 T peanut butter
  • 1 spoonful Quark (or mayo of your choice)
  • 1 dill pickle, sliced into long strips
  • romaine lettuce
I spread the peanut butter on the tortilla, then put the Quark over that. I layered the pickle slices and romaine on one half of the tortilla, then folded the tortilla over. Voila! A PB & P wrap! And you know what? It didn't taste half bad. However, I wanted my Great Peanut Butter Exhibition entry to be more unique, so I then created . . .

~ PB & P (take two), a.k.a. Peanut Butter and Pear Wrap ~

Ah, now that's more like it! I've never heard of pairing pear with peanut butter before. But it sounded intriguing, and as I had a Costco-sized haul of pears quickly ripening in my fridge, I decided to go for it. My recipe for this sandwich incorporated:
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • 1 T peanut butter
  • 3-4 slices of a ripe pear of your choice
  • 1 tsp dried (OR 1 T fresh) rosemary
  • romaine lettuce
Just as with the first sandwich, I spread the peanut butter over the tortilla. Next I sprinkled about half the rosemary over the peanut butter before arranging the pear slices on one half of the tortilla. I sprinkled the remaining rosemary over the pears, topped it with some romaine, and closed the wrap up. The result was delectable. The juiciness of the pear and the spice of the rosemary melded well with the peanut butter, lending a truly singular flavor. I highly recommend combining pear and peanut butter, and plan on trying again myself. In fact, I already have with . . .

~ Curried PB, P & P, a.k.a. Curried Peanut Butter, Pumpkin, and Pear Wrap ~

Another one-of-a-kind combination! This time I used a curry-flavored peanut butter. I mixed in some pure pumpkin puree and threw some pear slices in as well to lend a variety of textures. As if this wasn't tasty enough raw, I went ahead and toasted it for some extra crunch, and warming the wrap gave it some extra flavor, too! Besides toasty peanut butter is never bad. To make this sandwich, you'll need:
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • 1 T curry peanut butter*
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 2-3 pear slices
  • 1 tsp pumpkin butter
Spread the curry-flavored peanut butter on the tortilla. Cover that with a thick layer of pumpkin, and cover that with a thin spread of pumpkin butter. Arrange the pears over half the tortilla, fold the tortilla over, and toast until the edges begin to brown and the center of the wrap puffs up. (*If you don't have curry-flavored peanut butter, simply mix in 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder -- or a combination of cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and chili powder -- with a Tablespoon of plain peanut butter.)

There you have it -- three totally tasty, completely nutritious, and perfectly filling peanut butter sandwiches (er, wraps). But which one rises above the rest and gets sent off into the wide world of peanut butter sandwich competitions? It was a tough choice, but the curried peanut butter, pumpkin, and pear wrap ended up making the cut. The combination of savory peanut butter with the subtle sweetness of the pumpkin and pear put this concoction over the top. Plus, a toasty, crunchy wrap is never a bad thing.

So which of my three wraps sets your taste buds tingling? And do you have a favorite peanut butter sandwich creation of your own? Why not tell me about it? Or, better yet, submit it to The Great Peanut Butter Exhibition! The deadline is March 15, so you've still got a few more days.