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breakfast, a love story

I never used to be a breakfast person. I’d had my heart broken too many times by Pop Tarts, Nutri-Grain bars and Jimmy Dean. It wasn’t until about seven years ago, when I was living alone for the first time ever, that good breakfast food and I became reacquainted. It started out with a bowl of cereal now and again, and soon we were seeing each other every day. I changed my eating habits so much for the better that year, in no small part due to the positive influence of a nutritious breakfast.

Luckily, there is room for more than one love affair in my life, and I ended up marrying someone who’s just as smitten with breakfast as I am. To this day, Tony and I have breakfast for dinner at least once a week. And, like all good love stories, this one must have a happy ending. So, let’s talk about some of the things I like best to eat in the morning (and afternoon, and evening), shall we?

  • Blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup. Fancy crepes and healthy whole wheat flapjacks just won’t do. Simple, delicious and almost completely devoid of nutritional value, Martha’s buttermilk pancake recipe (plus blueberries) is where it’s at. And, please, please no artificially flavored Aunt Jemima syrup. Real maple or nothing, baby.
  • Plain yogurt with granola. I’ll admit that plain, unsweetened yogurt is an acquired taste, but I love it, especially drizzled with the tiniest touch of honey or agave nectar. And, when paired with 101 Cookbooks honey-toasted granola, it’s pure bliss.
  • Peanut-butter toast. The bread varies (it’s usually some kind of sprouted grain). But, let’s be honest, the toast half of the pair is the Andrew Ridgeley of this breakfast. Peanut butter is the real star, and the bread is just a delivery vehicle so that I don’t feel guilty about licking peanut butter right off the spoon.
  • Cereal or steel-cut oatmeal with bananas. I adore all cereal, even Shredded Wheat, All Bran, plain oatmeal and any other kind that moms everywhere have to force their kids to eat. I like it best with sliced, *thisclose* to overripe bananas.
  • Any combo of eggs/cheese/bacon/sausage/veggies. Seriously. Frittata, quiche, omelet, whatever. It’s all awesome to me.

as if!


Flixster – Share Movies

Recently, Tony compared the way he helped me become tech-savvy to that scene in Clueless where Alicia Silverstone gives Brittney Murphy a makeover to help her become popular. After I got done making fun of him for knowing the plot of that movie so well, I had to admit he was right. When he and I first transitioned from “friends” to “couple” almost seven years ago, I didn’t even have a home Internet connection, and these days, I’m all over the World Wide Web.

I use an RSS feeder to make sure I never miss a post on my favorite blogs. I participate in not one, but two, social networking sites, although I’ve mostly stopped using MySpace in favor of the slightly more grown-up Facebook. I have a personal Web site (obviously) and we post videos to You Tube. And recently, I started using Twitter.

I still don’t fully understand Twitter and all its uses, but the basic idea is simple enough: Send a short message (“tweet” in Twitter-language) about what you’re doing out to a bunch of people (“followers” in Twitter-language) at the same time. It’s strangely addictive, and even the most mundane actions seem Twitter-worthy. Watched a lame movie? Oh, I should tweet about that. Have plans for the evening? I should tweet about them too. It’s raining outside? Put that up on Twitter. You get the idea.

I may have been slow to get on board with this whole computer thing, but I’ve fallen hard for Web 2.0. So, if you’re interested in reading even more of the random stuff I’m doing, go to twitter.com/colleen1112 and become one of my followers. Because, like Miss Silverstone said, “I actually have a way normal life.”

EDIT: Tony tells me it’s called an RSS reader, not RSS feeder. What-ever. I suppose I’m not as savvy as I thought.

the return of doc marten

I pretty much lived in three-eye, black Dr. Martens during the early and mid 1990s. I wore those shoes everywhere: to school, to work, to concerts, to weddings. That last one really is true, unfortunately. I wasn’t always as fashion forward as I am today, but eventually, I left behind my baggy jeans, band T-shirts and pink hair. As part of my style evolution, I traded chunky, manly shoes for prettier, girlier styles like these and these.

Even though I don’t wear them very often these days, I still have–and love–my old, beat up Dr. Martens. So, imagine my delight when I came across a totally gorgeous, feminine pair of Docs while searching for boots on Zappos recently. Of course, I had to have them. A girl needs a well-rounded shoe wardrobe, after all. And, maybe it’s because ’90s style seems to be creeping up everywhere lately (Mini backpacks? Seriously?), but these 20-eye, red ones also look awfully cute to me. What goes around, comes around, eh?

bring on the year of the ox

Oh, my. For the last couple of months I’ve been way too distracted by shiny things, pretty dresses and holiday festivities to do much blogging. The season of cheer has been wonderful, though. I spent great times with family and friends, I ate pounds and pounds (literally) of amazing food, and I am still enjoying the last few extremely lazy days of a two-week vacation from work. (Why, yes, I have been wearing these same pajamas since yesterday morning. Shut up.)

Santa was pretty good to me too. Some of the thoughtful and generous presents I received were pasta-making attachments for my Kitchen Aid, snazzy yoga gear and a bunch of accessories for my iPod, including the Nike+ chip that syncs my running shoes to the Nano. Craaazy technology.

I am not at all sad to see the last of 2008; it was tough for me in a lot of ways. Both Tony and I lost family members, I was disappointed by quite a few things that didn’t work out the way I’d hoped they would and, of course, the troubled economy had everyone on edge. But I’m excited for the beginning of the new year, and this would probably be a good time to write down a few of my goals for 2009. Are you ready? Let’s get to it.

  • Run another 5K. Now that my sneakers hook up with my music, I have no excuse to skip running.
  • Go to hot yoga once at least once a week. Even when I don’t feel like it.
  • Cycle the 55-mile portion of the Horse Farm Hundred bike ride from Gainesville to Ocala.
  • Get back into eating healthy. The holiday festival of carbohydrates is over.
  • Learn to make fresh pasta. Umm…this might be at odds with the one above, so I also need to…
  • Have more self control. I’m 32 years old; it’s about time I learned moderation, no?
  • Get my hair cut even shorter a la Victoria Beckham. Ooh, did I really just say I want to look like Posh Spice? Embarrassing. But I can’t help it; her new pixie cut is super cute.
  • Write in this blog more often. Letting my site sit idle for two months is shameful.

I’m sure the list will change and evolve as the year goes on, but this is a good starting point, and, with any luck, it will help keep me honest when I feel like slacking. Before I go, I’d like to wish everyone I know the all best health and happiness for ’09!

my favorite things: day of the dead edition

Happy Dia de los Muertos, everyone!

Would you like to hear about a few of the things I’ve seen on the Internet recently that made me feel happy to be alive?

Bread & Honey’s Butternut Squash Curry, which I made with shrimp and green beans. I ate more than my share of this fantastic curry last night for dinner and polished off the leftovers this morning for breakfast. Gross, I know, but I couldn’t help myself. That’s how amazing this recipe is.

I’m completely blown away by the creativity and craftsmanship of this letterpress calendar on Etsy, which I first spied via etsy-love. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought the calendar was very beautiful; it’s sold out now.

Kathryn Amberleigh shoes I’ve been coveting ever since I spotted them on Hey Suzy just might be making their way into my closet soon.

Pretty much every single one of the vintage products and eccentricities over at British shop H is for Home make me smile.

I’m off to enjoy the remainder of the weekend–an extra-hour long, thanks to Daylight Savings time ending. Tons of DVR’d TV shows and Smitten Kitchen’s crispy salted oatmeal white chocolate cookies await. What more could a girl ask for?

why, hello there

Clearly I have not been eaten by bears, so what has been occupying my time during the 5+ weeks it’s been quiet around here? Well…I went on two trips for my job. I became totally enamored with 101 Cookbooks (more to come on that in future posts).  I attended a toga party for my friend’s 30th birthday and celebrated my littlest sister’s 21st birthday all in the same weekend. I put in lots of volunteer hours developing an event-promotion plan for Alachua County Emerging Leaders (The Great Local Debate. Oct. 27, 7 p.m. You should go.) I ordered a shiny new, orange iPod after my old Mini finally bit the dust.

Oh yeah–I also WENT TO BARCELONA on vacation with Tony!!! The trip was beyond wonderful. We toured the city on bicycles, looked at incredible art and architecture, stuck our toes in the Mediterranean, visited a monastery carved into the side of a mountain where we got to touch a nearly 2,000-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary, we shouted “GOOOOOAL” along with a bunch of other Barca fans at a soccer game, and we even did a tiny bit of hiking in Park Guell. We were there during the biggest festival of the year, La Merce, and as part of the festivities, we saw tons of fireworks, all manner of bands and lots of street performers, including castellers–human towers at least three people tall.

And the food, oh, the food. Paella! Cafe con leche! Hot chocolate thick like pudding! Pretty much everything was incredible. I can cross a few more items off my Omnivore’s 100 list now too. Thanks to my mediocre Spanish, I accidentally ordered snails from a non-English restaurant menu. They were kind of chewy but not too bad otherwise. We indulged in a tasting menu at a super-posh restaurant, and there I tried foie gras, which I found to be rich and delicious in flavor, but icky in texture.

The fancy food was fantastic, but my favorite meal of the trip was a late-night dinner of simple Catalan tapas and amazing Spanish red wine. After two hours wandering mildly lost around Barcelona’s labyrinth-like Gothic Quarter, we stumbled upon a dark, romantic wine bar tucked away in El Call, the Jewish neighborhood. We ordered chorizo cooked in apple cider, goat cheese, pan con tomate (rustic bread rubbed with a cut tomato), escalivada (eggplant, onions and roasted red peppers) and crema Catalana (creme brulee). Maybe it was because we were tired and completely starving, or maybe it’s because there is nothing better in life than sharing a meal with the one you love, but food never tasted so good as it did that very moment.

I’ll remember this vacation for the rest of my life, and I’m so blessed and lucky to have had the opportunity to go. Now it’s time to start planning ways to top it for next year…

there is no tri

I competed in the Escape to Siesta triathlon today. There it is written in black-and-white, and I still can’t quite believe it actually happened.

I am not a natural athlete. I exercise only because I love to eat and still want to fit into my clothes. I often have to trick myself into working out by taking drastic measures, like deciding to do a triathlon out of the blue. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but back in April, I chose Escape to Siesta because it was held near my sister’s house and because I’d have plenty of time to train for it (or…umm…talk myself out of it).

The swimming part of the triathlon took place in the Gulf of Mexico. I was not excited about drowning, being stung by a jellyfish or getting my leg bitten off by a shark, so I did double running instead of swimming. Technically, this is called a duathlon (which is just a dumb-sounding word, if you ask me).

The first portion of the race was a one-mile run, which normally is relatively easy for me. What I didn’t realize is that the running was on the beach. Let me tell you–running on sand is more difficult than road running and WAY more difficult than treadmill running. Even so, I knocked out the first mile in eight and a half minutes.

The second part was a 13-mile bike ride around Siesta Key. Compared to all the other athletes, me riding my retro beachcruiser was like an RV racing a bunch of Ferraris. I love my bike, but it’s not exactly built for speed. Still, I biked the 13 miles in just less than one hour.

I finished the event with a 5K run (3.1 miles) back on the beach. This was the hardest part for me. I did much more of a run/walk hybrid than I wanted, and it took me a little more than 35 minutes. I was really hoping for a faster time, but by the last half mile I was dragging. I managed to turn it on in the end and crossed the finish line at a sprint, passing two other women who were ahead of me.

I completed the whole race in one hour, 42 minutes, which was not a great time compared to the other duathletes. (The first-place winner’s time was one hour. Dang.) But, I tried to keep in mind that I was only competing against myself. I’d hoped to finish in an hour and 45 minutes, and I beat that by three minutes. And, I kicked J.Lo’s ass. So, I’m happy and proud. And sore. Oof.

remodeled and looking good

When Tony and I bought our house, we knew it needed some TLC. The backyard flora had been allowed to grow wild. The wall colors included shades of vomit and bruise.  The windows and appliances looked like they’d been around since the house was built in 1948. And, with its powder-blue tile, chipping grout and leaky toilet, the master bathroom was in rough shape. We had a feeling revamping that bathroom was going to be a massive undertaking, and we managed to put off doing anything about it for almost three years before finally hiring a group of contractors in June to do a complete remodel.

We’ve worked on enough smaller projects around this house to know that nothing ever goes as smoothly or as quickly as planned. When our sales person assured us that the renovation be finished in five to 10 days, it was all I could do to keep a straight face. The contractors were no worse than most, but there were several missteps and surprises along the way, and sure enough, SEVEN WEEKS later we finally have a shiny new bathroom. Here’s how it all went down.

Week 1: Demolition begins. The carpenters find a chimney (!) behind our shower and discover that the floor joists are completely rotted and need to be rebuilt.

Week 2: Sub-floor is in and the bathtub is installed. Framing for the pocket door is up. Old drywall is cut away and huge holes get punched through the wall into our kitchen by accident. New drywall is put up. Old hallway closet door is replaced. Kitchen holes remain.

Week 3: Floor and wall tile goes up. Sink/vanity and toilet are installed. A new light fixture is put in place upside down. The superintendent working on our bathroom gets into a drunk driving accident and breaks his arm in two places.

Week 4: Painters apply wall and trim color. A new carpenter replaces the baseboards and door trim in the hallway, frames out the pocket door, builds the shelves, hangs the mirror and medicine cabinet, turns around the light fixture and patches the kitchen wall holes. A 1/2 inch gap remains where the tile doesn’t meet up with the door trim.

Week 5: We discover that the sink has been leaking, the water has pooled and mold is now growing inside our vanity cabinet. Tile guys fix gap between tile and trim. Electrician installs our light/fan, our outlet and our switches. Painter touches up pocket door and sloppily applies black paint to the trim in our hallway.

Week 6: I apply lovely wall decals, switch out the cabinet hardware and bring in some additional storage. Tired of looking at the dirty, dusty sink, toilet, tub and walls, I scour the bathroom from top to bottom.

Week 7: Vanity is replaced and shower doors are installed. Some of the paint still needs to be touched up in the kitchen and the hallway, and I’d like to get some new accessories, but otherwise…Fin!

That’s seven weeks of Tony and I sharing one bathroom on the opposite side of the house; seven weeks of having strangers in our home when we’re not there; seven weeks of keeping the dogs on lockdown in the spare bedroom while the contractors were working; seven weeks of the whole house getting covered with drywall dust, grimy fingerprints and dirty footprints each time any work was done; seven weeks of finding creative storage solutions for things like extra towels, sunscreen, lotion, peroxide, etc.

Was it worth it? You betcha. But I’m so done with home improvement for a while.

the omnivore’s 100

Below is a list of 100 food items every omnivore should try, or so says British food blogger Andrew Wheeler of Very Good Taste.

I’ve eaten 42 out of the 100, and I only ruled out four foods on the list. (Fish so poisonous it could kill you? No thanks.) A few of my all-time favorite foods made an appearance here, and I put those in bold and italics.

I thought this was a really cool idea. It introduced me to foods I’d never even heard of and gave me a whole list of things I’d love to try. (Epoisses? Heck yes!)

Want to see how your results stack up against mine and other people on the Internet? Here’s what you do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters

29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39.
Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

labor of love

Sometimes food doesn’t ask much of you. A paper-thin slice of salty prosciutto requires no preparation or adornment. Heck, you don’t even need a fork to enjoy a perfectly ripe pear or a  handful of crisp, cold carrots or a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese.

But sometimes food makes you work. Artichokes, for instance. With their thick, sharply pointed leaves and fibrous choke centers, artichokes almost dare you to eat them. Shallots are another example of high-maintenance cuisine. To get to the sweet center of a shallot, first you have to pry away layer upon layer of papery peel, which clings tighter than a pair of too-small Spanx after an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Ahem. Could you guess that I served Braised Baby Artichokes and Shallots for dinner tonight? The recipe called for the artichokes and shallots to hit the pan at the same time, but next time I’d put the shallots in first to let them get super caramelized.

Dessert–Sara Moulton’s New Wave Zabaglione–was a bit of a pain too. Because I use my KitchenAid almost exclusively for mixing, I don’t have a hand mixer. Which means that I had to stand over the hot stove whisking this custard by hand while the egg yolks, sugar and wine thickened and became velvety smooth.

I intended to top the zabaglione with ripe summer apricots, but hard little stone fruits I had were disappointing to say the least. To coax some flavor out of the less-than-perfect apricots, I had to apply some heat. I cooked the fruit up with cardamom pods, a pinch of salt and a little agave nectar, finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It worked like a charm.

I’m not going to lie: cooking can be a chore. But hard work pays off, and that certainly proved to be true in my kitchen today.