Friday, June 29, 2007

everybody's workin' for the weekend!

[oops...meant to post this on Friday...duhr...]

Woo hoo! TGIF, my people! TGIF! That is what I am talking about. Are you feeling me and/or do you feel me?

And, equally as worthy of a "Woot!" is that I finally got my car fixed today because it is payday! The two front windows have been stuck down for nearly two weeks, and I've had them classily taped up with garbage bags since then. And, believe me when I say, that is not much fun. I had to drive it the other day because I had to go to that credit counseling appointment and then to work and then to pick up my CSA and then somehow get myself down to my dog-sit house, and it was a pain in the behind untaping and retaping--especially when I was doing that during the torrential downpour. It's being worked on Right Now, and should be done by 4:00 p.m. It will set me back $306, which is sucky, but still. The moral of this story is that you should always get a car with hand-cranked windows (that even sounds cute, doesn't it? hand-cranked?). Unless, of course, someone gave you that car for free in which case you should shut the hell up and just be grateful that your ass is mobile most of the time, right? Right.

[and, I never finished it, but still.]

Thursday, June 28, 2007


My uterus has once again risen in revolt and is currently staging a coup. I feel like surrendering and crawling under my desk and napping until quittin' time. Instead, as a compromise, I'm just not working yet sitting at my desk and being somewhat pleasant. That counts for something, right? Plus, she's trying to force me to go to Spice Island for some java fried rice. Instead I am eating carrot slices and feeling bitter.
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But, in good news, I just checked on bus schedules and there's one that goes from work directly to my dog-sit house! One bus! No transfers! Sweet! This morning I walked downtown and caught a bus to Oakland from there, and that was nice, but in the evenings I just wanna get there. Plus, Zeke's mom is getting central air installed As I Type so it is going to be a deliciously cool and humidity-free oasis this evening. I brought a cheesy movie over to watch, too. It's so cheesy I can't admit the title (even though I know that one of you has watched it already 'cause we talked about it). Okay. I'll tell.
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Don't blame me! It's my sappy, belligerent uterus!

I have been reading this site all morning. She has some fantastic-sounding recipes and she knows Heidi. 'Nuff said.

I can't wait until the weekend. For one, no work. For two, my car will be fixed. For three, I will get paid and can get some groceries (farmers market and co-op, here I come!). For four, there are some queerific fun times happening this weekend. For five, my bff will be back from vacation. For six, weekends are always far superior to non-weekends.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

book club (aka delicious food club) and A Huge Relief

When I got home last night I realized that I did, in fact, have a tiny bit of olive oil with which to make some white bean dip for book club, so I did it. It's the first time I've made it, but friends, it won't be the last. It was possibly the easiest thing I've ever made and was really tasty. I'd cooked the beans (great northern white beans) the night before with a piece of kombu after soaking them overnight. Kombu is a sea vegetable, and if you use a little piece in your pot o' beans it helps make them more digestible and according to The Internet is rich in protein, calcium, iodine, magnesium, iron and folate. Lower rates of breast cancers have been reported in Japanese women eating a diet high in kelp. Lignans, which help fight cancer are found in high quantity in kelp and may provide protection against certain cancers. So, good stuff. Here's the recipe for the easiest-peasiest white bean dip in the history of white bean dips:

2 c. cooked white beans, drained
a little water
a little olive oil
a little salt

In your food processor puree the beans. Add some water for the right consistency. Add a little bit of olive oil and salt to taste. Then drizzle with a little oil to finish. Serve with pita wedges or your favorite veggies.

For real. That is the simplest recipe ever. And, really delicious in its simplicity. You can serve these like you would mashed potatoes, too. Or, I was thinking of pureeing some olive oil with some fresh parsley and making a swirl. And, you could add whatever herbs you like, but I just liked the pure soft white creamy goodness. Also, low-cal and low-fat and high protein and fiber. And, yum.

You shoulda seen the table of treats at the book club last night. Peeps were throwing down! Cheesecake with mangos and white peaches! Watermelon salad! Vegan rosemary-pine nut shortbread! Zucchini muffins! Fresh fruits! Rice crispy treats! Sesame noodles! And more! I can't even remember everything because there was so much goodness. And, I stuck around long enough to be sent home with a doggie bag full of a piece of cheesecake, some watermelon salad and shortbread. Yuh-um. For reals.

Apart from the food it was just a super-fun book club. We discussed Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You and most of us (all but one) felt real, serious love for this book. I adore it. It makes me happy just thinking about it. If you also like to be happy, you should see the website for this book. It's the cutest/cleverest website ever, too. I love you, Miranda July!
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You know what else makes me happy? Huh? Guess. No, guess. I mean, I already told you about it, so guess. Give up?

Okay. I had my appointment with the debt counselor guy this morning, and I'd been so terrified for so long about doing this and was on the verge of tears when I sat down in this guy's office, and I'd already had a conversation with myself and given myself permission to cry if I had to because I figured that this dude had probably seen it all before, but to try not to because I'm already super stuffed-up still and it would suck to be even more stuffed up, but either way It Would Be Okay. And, you know what? It was okay. All of it. Like, I didn't even have to cry (well, not too much).

I went to Advantage Credit Counseling Service in the South Side. I'd called the United Way, and asked them for a recommendation for who to talk to, and they said that this was the only place they recommended in Pittsburgh. And, it's free. (There is a charge if you set up monthly debt consolidation payments with them, but even that is pretty cheap, but the counseling is totally free). And, they pulled my credit report, went through my monthly/yearly budget, talked about my future plans and current/desired situation, made very helpful and realistic suggestions, and the guy I saw was just a really kind, friendly guy. You should go. Ask for Justin. He's super. And, he told me about this site where you can get one free credit report per year, and it pulls from all three credit agencies (they don't let you take the one they pull; they have to shred it). Seriously, it was one of the best things I've ever done for myself. I finally got a clear picture of my debt and some good, objective advice about the best way to get to the place I want to be. To my surprise, he didn't push any services on me, and didn't even advise that trying to pay everything off right away was the best idea for me (since I'm needing to save right now for something specific). He was great. I feel so relieved. And, you know what? It wasn't as bad as I thought. My credit, I mean. I'd built it up into this horrible, scary thing that I could never hope to deal with, but I can. I have the knowledge I need now to do it. I talked to someone honestly about my real situation and the ground did not open up and swallow me whole. I didn't find a bunch of money, either, but now I know what I'm dealing with. And, the only time I cried was at the end of the meeting and that was with gratitude and relief. And, only a few tears--not nearly enough to make me stuffier.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

why won't this cold go away?

Okay, it's just been a week, but still. I am a mouth-breather. Mags and I took this picture as a joke a few weeks ago, but now this is actually me. It is not good. It sucks when you're so stuffed up that you have to take small bites and eat them really fast so you can breathe again. Dang.
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I have book club tonight (yay!), and I had planned to make my food-to-bring last night, but when I got home after the queer dinner I pretty much just completely passed out. I was one tired lady. Plus, I had planned to make these lemon bars, but then remembered I was out of sugar. So, now I need to think of something tasty and quick because Jess is picking me up at 6:30, and I get home from work around 5:45. I did cook a small pot of white beans last night. Maybe a white bean dip? With a swirl of parsley oil? Oh dammit! I just remembered that I'm also out of olive oil! Hmmm...will have to think about this....but my head is stuffy and weird...what were we talking about?

Monday, June 25, 2007

i wish every day were the weekend

...because weekends are where it's at. I was even (still) sick this weekend, and it was good. Any benefactors out there want to make this a reality?

Anyway. I finally found some big glass jars so I could start the kombucha magic! My dear Doggie gave me a mother and some starter liquid, and now she's started. It had actually started to form another mother in that small jar. You can see both of them in the photo.
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If you're not familiar with kombucha, it's a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). It's full of goodness (this from wikipedia):

Acetic Acid: Its main function is to inhibit harmful bacteria. Acetic acid is used as a preservative because of this action. It is also what gives Kombucha that 'kick' to its smell and taste.
Butyric Acid: Is produced by the yeasts and when working with gluconic acid. Might help combat yeast infections such as candida.
Gluconic Acid: Is effective against many yeast infections such as candidiasis and thrush.
Lactic Acid: Found in Kombucha in its most potent form L-lactic(+). Lactic acid is essential for the digestive system.
Malic Acid: Is also used in the body's detoxification process.
Oxalic Acid: Encourages the cellular production of energy and is a natural preservative.
Usnic acid: Potent antibiotic that exhibits antiviral, antiprotozoal, antimitotic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity.
Kombucha also contains vitamin groups B and C, beneficial yeasts and bacteria.
Also, this:

In addition to, or aside from any possible health benefits, many users report a relatively subtle but definite perceptual shift after consuming kombucha. This perceptual shift is generally characterized by mild euphoria, relaxation, and an overall sense of physical and mental well-being. This effect is not to be confused with the highs associated with some illegal drugs. There are no known psychoactive or psychotropic substances found in Kombucha other than trace amounts of alcohol and if not made with decaf tea, caffeine. Alcohol amounts vary from .5% to 1.7% depending on brewing time and amounts of sugar used in the fermentation of the tea which may account for the experiencing of these effects by some consumers. Stimulation of the circulatory and immune systems, and associated glandular releases, may also account for some of these effects.

AKA It kinda makes you feel a little bit high. Personally? I enjoy that. And, it's really easy to make. I started it on Saturday, and hopefully it'll be ready by Saturday. It's really up to personal taste, so I'll start tasting it on Thursday and go from there. Woo hoo! I love that stuff, and it's so good for you! E. & A. are in line for their own mothers when I get a few ready. If you're in the 'Burgh, and would like one, let me know and I'll put you on the list.

I'm going to start some kefir soon, too. I just need to get the car back in working order (have an appointment on Friday. please cross your collective fingers that it's super easy and cheap to fix) so I can get over the east side of town where they sell organic milk. Dang.

I did start a new batch of chick pea sprouts for veggie burger making. I love those sprout burgers! The ones I made at the beach were super-duper, so I'm going to add a bunch of the same stuff, and this time they'll be even healthier since they're sprouted.

And, speaking of healthier, I lost two more pounds! I swear to the baby jesus that it's the shedding of the secret that is once again allowing for the shedding of pounds. I was stuck, and now I'm un-stuck. So,

Starting weight (02-jan-2007): 245
Lowest weight: 205
Today's weight: 208
Goal weight: 140

Sweet! I can't wait until I break the 200 pound mark. It's been a long time since I've seen the other side of 200 pounds, and it makes me a little giddy to think about it.

Okay. So. On Saturday I got some lovely mushrooms at the Farmers @ Firehouse farmers market from Mushrooms For Life (locally foraged and cultivated). I got a 1/4 lb. of beautiful shittakes and was trying to decide what to do with them when I was on the phone with my chef-mentor Doggie, and she suggested that I bake them. I'd actually just seen that somewhere online recently, but had forgotten about it, and she instructed me to slice them really thinly, then toss them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper, then bake them at 325-350 for about 20 minutes (shaking them after 10 minutes, and then again every 3-5 minutes until they're ready). Oh. My. God. This is one of the best things I've ever tasted! They're really crispy and smoky and taste a LOT like bacon. Freakin' magically delicious.

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I also saw the cutest, sweetest mushroom I'd ever seen. It was a pompom mushroom, and it was described as being "similar to crab". Oh, hell yeah. First off, it's truly beautiful, secondly, the texture is *exactly* like crab, and thirdly, the flabvor is fantastically mild and delicious. She suggested that it's best with eggs and mild cheeses. So, I made an omelette with the pompom, parsley, green onions and chevre. And, sprinkled some of the baked shittakes on top. YUM. (I bought one mushroom and it was enough for two omelettes).

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I also made a really tasty quinoa salad this weekend. Last week I had a doctor's appointment near Whole Foods, and was starving when it was done so I ran in and grabbed something from the prepared foods bar--which I'll never do again since it was approximately one bajillion dollars. And, it wasn't even very good. I got this orange-almond-mint quinoa salad, and it just didn't have much flavor. So, I used that as my inspiration and made this salad. Which, I gotta say, was way better.

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Quinoa Salad

juice and zest of two oranges
2 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
2 T. greek yogurt (I'm in love with Fage Total 0%--fat-free!)
1/2 t. fine-grain sea salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. finely minced crystallized ginger (honestly, I can't really taste this in the finished product, so feel free to leave it out or add 1 t. fresh grated ginger instead)

Whisk together and set aside.

5-6 c. cooked quinoa
1 c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley (you could also use mint, but I didn't have any)
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced
more salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts.

Mix the cranberries, parsley and green onions into the quinoa and add the dressing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Sprinkle generously with pine nuts when serving (if you put them all in they'll get soggy).

It's really yummy, and really good for you! Quinoa is a complete protein! Totally a little powerhouse grain. I love it.

Apart from cooking, I had some other fun this weekend. Yesterday I hung out with Lauren. She took me to brunch at Zenith where we met up with Austin (the birthday boy!). If you haven't been to brunch at Zenith, do it. It is amazing. The tastes and the unbelievable bounty. It is something to behold. And, we ended up sharing our table with Monica and Jai, and they were a real good time. We had a really interesting discussion of our religious backgrounds, hilarious religious-related stories and childhood secrets and dreams. All while shoveling in some fabulous food. That is where it's at.

Afterwards, Lauren, Austin and I went to the Carnegie Museum of Art to see the Phil Collins (not that Phil Collins) exhibit, the world won't listen. It's a video installment of fans of The Smiths in Istanbul singing karaoke from The Smiths' repertoire. It is amazing. Really amazing. Fun and funny and touching and sad and sweet. Really amazing. We danced, we sang, we had a wonderful time. It's only there until July 1st. If you get a chance this week, go see this. I'm a HUGE Smiths fan, but I think this would be fun for anyone. So good.

Then we bid Austin adieu and headed over to Braddock for the I Made It! craft fair and free vegan cupcakes from Dozen (chocolate with coffee icing--yum). Tons of super-cute stuff. Lauren snagged an adorable shirt, skirt and hat. Good stuff.

Okay, it's Monday and I have work to do. So, yeah.

Friday, June 22, 2007

p.s. HealthQuest 2007 update & more growing (and shrinking!)

I got an email from my friend K. this morning, and she mentioned that she liked the "new horizons and old habits" blog from a couple weeks ago, and she took a step in shedding her shame and sent me her stats of starting weight/lowest weight/current weight/goal weight! Well, actually, I don't know what her shame-level is with that, but for me it was a HUGE step to put that info out there. And, it was just one more step in making my way towards a more genuine, honest and shame-free life. It brought a tear to my eye, as so many things do lately.

And, it reminded me that I have a good-news update! The scale finally moved again, and not up this time! I (re)lost three pounds! Yay! So:

My starting weight was 245.
My lowest weight was 205.
This morning I weighed 210.
My goal is 140.

And, with my confession this morning (see earlier blog from today), I literally feel lighter. Amazing.

And, speaking of tears brought to eyes, I just reconnected with a friend that I've been estranged from for a while. About a year and a half ago we had a little spat. I got my feelings hurt and took things pretty hard, and then made the incident into way more than it needed to be and held a grudge. But, then recently another in-common friend was telling me about that friend's wedding, and I started thinking about how silly the whole thing was and about how I'd made a pledge to myself after my dad's death to not to let that kind of shit rule my life anymore and about how I don't want to be a grudge-holder anymore, and then I came across her name on a website, and knew that it was a sign from the baby jesus that it was time for me to reach out and apologize and hope that she was happy to hear from me. So, I did. And, I got the warmest, sweetest email(s) back from her. And, we have a plan (actually, two plans) to meet up soon and reconnect and catch up on our lives. She sent me pictures from her wedding, and it was so genuinely sweet and I was so genuinely moved by her immediate acceptance of my apology and willingness to let bygones be bygones that I bawled like a baby. In a good way.

Wow. This has been a big week for me.

Phew. Okay. I'm tearing up again. So, how about a recipe?

I made this zucchini salad at the beach, and the gals went wild for it. So, here's the original recipe and my notes below for the changes I made:

Greek Zucchini Sald with Crumbled Feta
serves 6

Fresh mint, feta cheese and zucchini are a favorite summer salad combination in small tavernas throughout the Greek Isles. for a more colorful salad, use one zucchini and one yellow squash.

3 T. lemon juice
2. t. grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 t.)
1/2 c. olive oil
2 medium zucchini, peeled into thin ribbons (about 4 c.)
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced (about 1 c.)
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 green onions, chopped (about 1/4 c.)
1 T. fresh mint
1 T. fresh parsley

Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest and garlic in large serving bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add zucchini and onion, and toss to coat. Cover and marinate overnight, or up to 2 days. Sprinkle with feta, green onions, mint and parsley just before serving.


Okay, so I changed this slightly based on what we had handy. I also only marinated it for about 4-5 hours, and I'm sure it'd be better with a longer time in the juice.
-I used both zucchini and yellow squash. I made the ribbons, but cut them at about 2-3" so it was easier to eat (although the picture with the really long ribbons looks really pretty).
-I used red onion because they're pretty.
-I used basil in place of the mint. I think it'd be good with all three--basil, parsley and mint.
-I didn't use green onions, but I totally would, and would cut on a very diagonal bias for ultimate prettiness.
-I used the dressing that I'd made up for the wheatberry salad--which is very similar (just adds orange and uses shallots instead of garlic), and I think is the best, most simple dressing ever. Also, I only used about a 1/4 c (plus about an extra tablespoon of lemon juice), because that was plenty to coat all the zucchini and onion without bogging in down in oil. So, the fat content is about half what is listed above.:

citrus dressing:
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice [I used the juice of 1 lemon]
1 T. minced shallot
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

coming out, again, in a different way.

So, I mentioned the other day about being broke, and I'm sure if I haven't mentioned that before in the blog, I've mentioned it ad nauseum to those of you I know in "real life".

I've had an issue with money management and debt and the resulting guilt/shame/embarrassment/terror about it since, well, since I can remember. And, I've been really pretty good at pretending like I don't like in a constant state of panic about (the lack of) money to most of the people I know. But, I've been in a pretty desperate position financially for a while (my entire adult life), and I'd only really told two people the extent of it--and, not then even fully. But, just recently a potential opportunity has presented itself to me in changing careers and geographical location, and while I was excited, I know that it will probably be a year of facing my demons, working really hard to get things in order, and saving every penny to make this happen. So, it may not happen--well, not, at least, in the way it was originally intended. But, it's been a huge gift, even though it's one of the hardest things I've ever done, to have to face up to the actuality of my situation and try to figure out how to deal with it. Because I'm tired of living like this, and I've made lots of positive changes in my life over the past months, and I want to keep that going.

So, despite being nearly paralyzed with fear and driven to severe nausea, I just made an appointment with a debt counselor for next week. They want me to bring all the names and balances of my debts. And, I had to tell them that I don't even know what those are because I've tried to avoid them and all evidence of them for years--which is why I'm in this predicament.

I never learned how to manage money, and my fear and intimidation about it let me get myself all crunked up and in a horrible spot. I live in a state of near-panic all the time about money, and it's time for that to stop.

During my beach trip we had a Women's Circle, which my friend D. proposed. She works with a woman in her midwife center that started doing them years ago, and wrote a book about it, and D's been having them for a few months with some friends. The idea is that you have a small group of women and you gather (in the case of her group, once a month) and each of you takes a turn to go around the circle and talk about whatever is going on in your life or on your mind. No one else speaks, and no one interrupts--even to offer tissues--until that speaker says she's done, even if she takes some time in the middle of her stream-of-consciousness style speaking (called "holding space" for that person). D and her group have found it to be immensely healing and satisfying, and so we did it at the beach. But, we were catching up on an entire year (since we'd seen one another last), and because we are used to being very intimate with one another, this was a very, very intense experience. I mostly talked about how I've always been a failure. I didn't expect that to happen, but out in came. And, then afterwards I just felt really horrible and embarrassed and ashamed. And, unfortunately, I think I made D feel bad about introducing us to the experience. But, honestly, it's maybe one of the most powerful things I've ever done. I laid stuff out I hadn't admitted to my friends or my therapist or even myself. It sort of shook me to the core. I kind of think, actually, that it's maybe why I've been sick for the last week--because I was still resisting dealing with it.

And, D's also the key factor in this possible opportunity I mentioned above. I just sent her an email this morning "coming out" to her about the reality of my situation and how that will postpone me going forward immediately.

But, wow. Mixed in with the guilt/shame/embarrassment/terror, I feel some hope. For the first time.

Thank you, D. You've actually just changed my life for the better.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

summer solstice

Yep, it's officially summer! As of 2:06 p.m. I will say Yay! Summer equals swimming and tomatoes and cucumbers and basil and cute girls in minimal clothing and being busy in the best of ways. Again, yay!

I had a little plate of summer last night for dinner. I picked up my CSA (I got the whole thing this week since Jen's outta town! Yay!). We got: lettuce (mesclun?), spinach, green onions, peas, parsley, beets, zucchini, squash. Verdict: yum.

I supplemented a little from Whole Foods and made a salad for dinner with spinach, green onion, basil, cherry tomatoes, peas and avocado. Served it up with the last of my lovely raspberry dressing, some baguette smeared with brie (fromage d'affinois) and a mango Synergy kombucha. It was a fresh delight!
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I'm still kinda sick, but I could feel the freshness starting to heal me. It totally works!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

WV Day!

I'm kinda sick-as-dog today. I seem to have developed some kind of flu-type illness that is kicking my ass. So, the last thing I feel like doing is eating. But, it's West Virginia Day so I wanted to give a shout-out to my home state and to all the Moutaineers (and honorary Mountaineers) in the house. Here's Senator Byrd's WV Day speech from 2003. It's a good one! Montani Semper Liberi!
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Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd
June 20, 2003

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

It is that time of year again.

It is that time when the flowers are in full bloom and birds are chirping the sweetest and the loudest. It is that time when you feel most like breathing the clean, fresh air blowing in from the Appalachian mountains. The time of year when you feel most like taking your loved one by the hand and strolling, arm in arm, through your favorite park knowing that all is right with the world -- and all is right with the world because it is West Virginia Day!

June 20th is West Virginia Day. I am celebrating this glorious day. It was 140 years ago that West Virginia became a State. It was on June 20, 1863, the Reverend J.T. McLure offered the State's inaugural prayer. Referring to the fact that the State was created in the middle of the American Civil War, he prayed:

"We pray Thee, almighty God, that this State, born amidst tears and blood and fire and desolation, may long be preserved and from its little beginning may grow to be a might and a power that shall make those who come after us look upon it with joy and gladness and pride of heart."

I am pleased and proud to say, 140 years later, that I can look upon my West Virginia with "joy and gladness and pride of heart." On this West Virginia Day, I again want to speak about the people of West Virginia, the hardest-working and most patriotic people in the United States. They have endured hardships, poverty, and floods of biblical proportions, but have remained loyal to their state and our Nation. Whenever the country has needed them, in war or in peace, they have always been there, and I have always been so proud to represent them in the United States Senate.

On this West Virginia Day, I again speak about the splendors of my State -- truly one of the most beautiful states in the Nation. With its rushing, trout-filled mountain streams, its majestic rolling green hills, picturesque villages and towns, magnificent forests, scenic state parks -- no wonder the State has been depicted in song and verse as being "almost heaven." There are the State's natural beauties like Seneca Rocks and the New River Gorge. There are the State's natural wonders like Cranberry Glades, Hawks Nest, and Berkeley Springs.

You can go camping in West Virginia's beautiful parks like Cooper's Rock State Forest, Babcock, Pipestem, or Watoga. You can go fishing in the Greenbrier river, Holly River, and Tygart Lake. You can take a ski trip in the wondrous Canaan Valley, or go white- water rafting down the magnificent Cheat River. Go hiking along the awesome Appalachian Trial.

Simply drive around the state and enjoy a pace and a view far different than the drives most of us suffer through daily. I invite my colleagues, the people in the galleries, people everywhere, to take a drive in West Virginia. You will love it. You will never forget it.

I have often spoken enthusiastically of the "wild and wonderful" scenery of West Virginia. Therefore, on this, the 140th anniversary of my great and glorious State, I want to tell you about its history.

Some of my State's history is well-known and well-documented; like the fact that it is the only state created from another state without the parent state's permission, and that it is the only state to achieve statehood by the proclamation of a president (Abraham Lincoln). It can be argued that the first battle of the American Revolution took place at Point Pleasant and that the last battle of the Revolution was fought at Fort Henry, in Wheeling. The State is rich in Civil War history; at Harpers Ferry, John Brown began the bloody quest to finally eliminate the scourge of slavery from this nation, and the first significant land battle of the Civil War took place at Phillipi, on June 3, 1861.

But there is another, lesser known, side to my State's history that I want to talk about today -- a history that shows what a unique, diversified, and fascinating state West Virginia really is.

Most of my colleagues are aware that West Virginia's political history includes providing the Senate's Majority Leader, the Senate's Minority Leader, the chairman of the Senate Appropriation's Committee, and the second longest serving Senator in American history -- and that was all one person, me! But I proudly point out that my State's political history includes the first African American woman, Minnie Buckingham Harper of Welch, to ever serve in a state legislature (1928). In 1934, West Virginians elected the youngest person ever elected by popular vote to the United States Senate -- Rush D. Holt . (His son, Rush Holt, now represents the State of New Jersey in the Congress).

Most people are aware of the importance of coal to West Virginia, and the importance of West Virginia coal to the Nation. For nearly a century, West Virginia coal helped fuel America's industries, heat our homes and power our battleships. But West Virginia's natural resources have also included America's first natural gas well (1815, near Charleston) and the world's largest gas well, "Big Moses" in Tyler County, which was drilled in 1894 and produced 100,000,000 cubic feet of gas per day. In 1941, the first and largest synthetic rubber plant in the United States began operation near Charleston.

There is so much to see and do in West Virginia. There is nature. There is beauty. There is history.

With the State's modern highway system, you can drive to Weirton, West Virginia, and see the only city in the United States that stretches from a state's eastern border all the way to its western border.

At Grafton, West Virginia, you can visit Andrews Church, which, on May 10, 1908, was the site of the first celebration of Mother's Day. Just a few hours away, near Thomas, West Virginia, is a unique, picturesque little church, Our Lady of the Pines, once considered the smallest church in the United States.

You can travel to Charles Town, West Virginia, and see where rural free mail delivery began in 1896 and see the Court House in which more than 500 coal miners went on trial for treason and insurrection in 1922.

Speaking of labor history, drive over to Martinsburg and see where the great railroad strike of 1877 began, or down to Logan County, West Virginia, and view the site of the largest labor uprising in American history, the Battle of Blair Mountain.

West Virginia also has a fascinating business history. The first trust in the United States was the salt trust organized in 1817 by the salt manufacturers along the Kanawha River. The first patent for a soda fountain was granted to George Dulty, of Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1833 and outdoor advertising had its origins in that same city in 1908. The first municipally owned parking building in the United States opened in Welch, in 1941.

Sports history, West Virginia has that too. Colliers, West Virginia, on June 1, 1880, was the site of the first barenuckles heavyweight championship fight. At Burnsville, in 1960, Danny Heater scored 135 points in a single basketball game, for which he is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Finally, let me invite you to drive over to Ritchie County, West Virginia, and see where history was made when a Mountain was made from a Mole Hill – literally. It actually happened. It happened when the good people of the town of Mole Hill, West Virginia, decided to change the name of their town. They changed it to, you guessed it, Mountain.

On this the 140th anniversary of West Virginia, we will welcome you.

On this, the 140th anniversary of West Virginia, I say happy birthday, West Virginia. Congratulations, West Virginia.

"Born amidst tears and blood and fire and desolation," in the words of Reverend Mr. McLure, from a "little beginning" you have grown "to be a might and a power" that has made us look upon you " with joy and gladness and pride of heart."

West Virginia

This was no land for lily-fingered men
Who bowed and scraped and danced a neat quadrille,
In towns and cities far beyond the ken
Of mountaineers - - who loved each rock and rill.

It was a place for lean, tall men with love
For freedom flowing strongly in their veins,
For those attuned to vagrant stars above,
To rugged peaks, deep snows and June-time rains.

And so our State was whelped in time of strife
And cut its teeth upon a cannon ball;
Its heritage was cleaner, better life,
Within the richest storehouse of them all.

With timber, oil and gas and salt and coal,
It bargained in the world's huge marketplace.
The mountain empire reached a mighty goal;
It never ran a pauper's sordid race.

And best of all, it sired a hardy flock
Whose fame will grow with centuries to be,
Tough as a white-oak stump or limestock rock,
The mountaineers - - who always shall be free.

-- Roy Lee Harmon

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

oh wait. one more post today.

I also wanted to post about the pizzas I've been living on since I returned from the beach. I made a recipe of Heidi's thin-crust pizza dough from Cook 1.0, except that I used half whole wheat flour. She gets six pizzas out of it, but I got five very thin crust pizzas. They are very yum. And, since they're relatively small and the dough is very thin, they're not even so "bad" for you!

E-dawg came over for dinner on Saturday in the middle of our Pride celebration and we had a fresh green salad (spinach, romaine, radishes, amorosa tomatoes, basil and the raspberry dressing) and a pizza with sun-dried tomato puree, fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, veggie sausage, chopped dried figs, red onions and crushed red pepper. It was yummy, but I thought it needed something salty to balance the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes and figs. I made another one the next day (or, was it in the middle of the night when I got home...?) with all the same stuff except using feta instead of the goat cheese and it was perfect.
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Here's one with banana peppers, red onion, parsley, a tomato sauce that is just fresh and sundried tomatoes pureed, grated cheddar and mozzarella. But, again, I felt like it needed something. It was pretty acidic, and needed something to balance it.
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So, I made it again last night and swapped out the cheese for feta and added some roasted garlic. Perfect.
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I love keeping a big ball of pizza dough in my fridge because then I can make something delicious to eat in under 20 minutes, including baking time (10 mins).


back in bidness

Well, quite often during my beach week I remembered to photograph the food, but sometimes I forgot and sometimes it was too good for me to get up and grab my camera. I took a couple old standbys with me--Heidi's wheatberry salad and otsu. Always good. We ate the otsu in the car after picking Dra up at the Philly airport, and ate the Wheatberry Salad right after arriving at the beach and settling onto the back deck. But, everyone there was a talented cook, and a couple of them are honest-to-god chefs, so believe me when I say we ate like queens.

I held strong with sticking to my vegetarian ways and didn't eat any seafood even though it looked and smelled dreamy. Seafood was always my favorite. I considered just making an exception for that week, but then I opted not to go the route that would ensure guilty feelings. So, no fish for me, but I'm including a couple pictures with seafood because it looked so good.

What I made: otsu, wheatberry salad, mesquite chocolate chip cookies, lemon soup, zucchini-feta-herb salad, crepes w/ lemons and sugar and/or berry-rhubarb compote, veggies burgers (based on the sprouted garbanzo burgers and a bunch of extra stuff throw in), fresh rolls, Heidi's Yucatan street corn, marinated tofu filets, and, um, that's all I can remember.

wheatberry salad on fresh greens (based on Heidi's recipe from Super Natural Cooking):
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lemon soup (Molly Katzen's recipe from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest):
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corn and fixin's (crema w/ lime zest, queso blanco and limes dipped in chipotle chili powder):
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fresh rolls with spicy peanut sauce and mango relish:
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crepes with lemons and sugar and cherry-strawberry-rhubarb compote:
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marinated and grilled tofu filets with grilled veggies:
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veggie burgers with nowlzie's remoulade sauce and the best gaucamole in the world:
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And, here's a sampling of food my friends made:
Dra's famous Caesar Salad with Dina's famous croutons:
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Dra's famous "fancy boli" that we like to call "The Dra" (half with procuitto, half without):
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Dina's potato cake:
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Schwatts's clam extravanza:
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Schwattzie-Bear's lobbie madness:
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Also, some highlights not pictured: Doggie's effing amazing raw dairy whole grain waffles with raw cottage cheese, fresh strawberries and maple syrup; Dina's famous lobster bisque; Schwatts's famous bacon-wrapped scallops; Schwatts's awesome potato chowder (and seafood chowder variation); Dina's chicken salad and faux-chicken salad; hardshell crabs; Dina's bananas foster bread pudding. I know there was more, but that's all I can think of right now. If you would like any of the recipes, lemme know and I'll hunt them down and post 'em up. But, suffice it to say, we had a fabulous week--and not just the food. These are some of my favorite peeps on earth. And, look how happy they are!
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p.s. Doggie gave me starters for both kombucha and kefir. Stay tuned for more about this!

Monday, June 18, 2007

i'm baaaaaaaack!

I'm back from vacation, and that was a-okay until I realized that I'm outta money for the month (getting paid once a month is for suckers) despite my, I thought, careful scrutiny of the ol' finances (I've really, really, really trying to do better, but it appears that I've, in fact, done worse), and then my car windows froze in the down position (and I can't fix them due to the aforementioned being-broke problem), and then I came into work today and had a really nasty email from a co-worker. What the bleep? Can't I have a few days of easing back into the real world before it all comes crashing back down on me?! Plus, even though I remembered my little camera card thingy to download pics, I forgot to bring the downloading thingy so I have no pictures of my fabulous beach treats for you--yet. Tomorrow is another, hopefully better, day, right?

But, on the up side, my pal Marsha found a *free* bike for me! A friend of hers is giving it away, and I will be the proud recipient! Hooray! So, that rocks and I will now commence to stop the bitchin'. Plus, I had a great Pride all day and night on Saturday and that is super.

I will just say a couple things, and then I'll be off until tomorrow.

1. My beach babies freakin' rock and I adore them and it is a gift from the universe that I have such wonderful friends and get to spend a fantastic week with them once a year.
2. We ate like queens, even though it was very, very hard not to eat up a big ol' mess of seafood.
3. confession: I smoked at the beach, and smoked three cigarettes on Saturday night at the Pride In the Streets thing, but now I'm going smoke-free again.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

oh man, oh man, oh man

I become a nervous wreck before trips. I don't know why. I think it's because I'm a freak for a plan and there are just so many unknowns or something. But, that said, I'm always willing to try new things, but still. I don't know. But, I do know that I haven't even packed yet! So, I just announced that I'm leaving work at noon today so I can do that because I have this meeting/training thing this evening, and then I'm getting up at the cracka the ungodly hour 3:00-ish a.m. to hit the road to York, PA to meet up with my lady Schwatts, then we head on to Philly to scoop up our lady Dra, then to the beach!! We should be there by 3:00 p.m., and I'll already have some good lady-time under my belt by then.

But, all my big plans of making a buncha food in advance did not happen. The only prepared thing I'm taking is the raspberry vinaigrette, I think. Maybe I'll whip something up this afternoon if I can pull myself together. Phew!

Last night Mags came over for dinner and dish-doggin' (my god, this is the best arrangement of my life!). I made a big salad with lettuce and the most tender baby greens ever (thank you, CSA!), broccoli, orange bell pepper, radishes, strawberries, red onion, basil (fresh from Ani's garden and delivered in the most beautiful packaging ever--all basil should get this kind of a treatment!), cucumber, avocado and the lovely raspberry vinaigrette. We had that with a beans-n-greens dish that I based around a Heidi recipe.

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Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens
(from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, p. 152)
serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

1/2 lb. medium or large dried white beans, cooked
3 T. clarified butter
fine-grain sea salt
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6-7 big leaves chard, preferably rainbow chard, leaves cut into wide ribbons and 1/2 stems cut into 1/2" pieces
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
fresh grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

Drain the beans, then heat the butter over medium-high heat in the widest skillet you've got. Add the beans to the hot pan in a single layer. If you don't have big-enough skillet, just do the saute step in tow batches or save the extra beans for another use. Stir to coat the beans with butter, then let them sit long enough to brown on one side, about 3 or 4 minutes, before turning to brown on the other side, also about 3 or 4 minutes. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Salt to taste, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the onion softens. Stir in the chard and cook until just beginning to wilt. Remove from the heat and season to taste with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of top-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.

Heidi's note: I've tried this recipe with canned beans of different varieties, but I always ended up with a mushy pot of bean mash--tasty, but not what we're after. Ther freshly cooked dried beans manintain their structure much better during saute-ing. Giant corona beans, cellini beans or white cannellini beans are the best choice here.

Okay. So, I changed this a bit. For one, I didn't have any big white beans, so I used some great northern beans. I soaked them overnight, then cooked them for about 45 minutes with a piece of kombu and some onion (also Heidi tips!). I didn't take the time to make the clarified butter, so I just used 1/2 butter, 1/2 evoo. I also didn't have any chard, so I used spinach. And, I left off the parmesan and evoo drizzle. They were still amazingly delicious!

For dessert I had some of yesterday's vanilla frozen yogurt. I set it out to thaw on the counter for about an hour before I could scoop it, and in the meantime I squished some strawberries with a tiny bit of sugar (like 1/2 t.?) and some minced fresh mint and let it sit while the fro-yo was softening up. It was some seriously tasty stuff. That fro-yo is amazing. It's hard to believe it was so simple to make! It's just got this incredibly creamy texture and the taste is really tangy and just slightly sweet. Man, oh man!

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Okay, I'm sorry, but I don't have time to do the recipe calculations today, but here's today's breakfast and lunch!
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Okay, I won't have internet again until...the 18th? Maybe before that, but probably not. But, when I get back I'll have lots of good eatin' to report. Two of the beach babies are chefs, and the others are all great cooks!


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

breakin' legs

Don't worry; it's the *good* kind of breakin' legs! I went to the audition yesterday, and it was really, really fun! I loved reading for the part, and I got to see a couple other people audition, and that was really interesting, too. The film project is for a pilot that a friend of mine is pitching to the premium networks (like hbo, showtime, etc.). I stuck around to do a complete read-through of the script afterwards so they could time it, and it's a great story. I'd totally watch it. I hope it gets picked up! I mean, I, obviously, wouldn't be in any kind of finished version that would actually air on the TV, but still. It's a great story, great characters (all the main characters are women), and I think it's going to be great. I volunteered to help out with whatever is needed because it's just super interesting and fun. Go, Dominga!

Before heading out for that adventure, I stopped by home and made a quick salad and an awesome salad dressing. The dressing was a raspberry vinaigrette, and I got the recipe at the raw foods "cooking" class at Whole Foods a couple of months ago. This is a recipe that Matt devised when he was trying to recreate the raspberry vinaigrette from Sand Hill Berry Farms. I haven't had theirs, and in general I'm just kinda over raspberry vinaigrettes, but this one is so amazing--in taste and appearance. Seriously. A show-stopper. And, really easy to make.

I should've taken the picture before I coated it in a fine layer of pepper, but you can still see the gorgeous color:
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Here it is in its jar with an orange and lemon for color gauging:
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Matt's Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette
(keeps up to 2 weeks refrigerated)
1 c. raspberries (that have been frozen and thawed, so they're releasing their juices)
2-3 dates, pitted
4 1/2 t. apple cider vinegar or 3 T. lemon juice [ek-I used the lemon juice]
1/2 c. - 3/4 c. water
1/4 c. flax oil [ek-I used extra-virgin olive oil]
2-3 cloves of garlic [ek-I used 3, but I'd use 2 next time]
3/4 t. sea salt

Place all the ingredients except the oil into a blender and puree. Drizzle in the oil while the blender is running to emulsify the dressing. (per serving, cal: 27, carbs: 2, fat: 2, protein: 0)

Yum. I'm going to take this to the beach with me.

And, after returning home last night I was craving some vanilla frozen yogurt. I'd read a post on Heidi's blog about a recipe for vanilla fro-yo from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop (which is right now, at this very moment, waiting for me to pick it up from the library). This is the most simple recipe ever. And, freakin' delicious! I used Fage Total (full fat) because I kept reading that you couldn't make it with the fat-free (not sure why. maybe the texture doesn't freeze well?). Next time I'll try it with the Fage 2%. I think that'd be fine.

I just used 2 containers of Fage Total greek strained yogurt, 3/4 c. organic sugar, 1 t. pure vanilla extract. Mix it all together until the sugar dissolves, and throw it in your ice cream maker. It's done in about ten minutes. I ate half my bowl of it before I remembered to snap a picture, which didn't come out too well, but here it is. You should look at the photo on Heidi's site. That is what made me Have To Have It.
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So, at the end of the day I stayed in my nutrition ranges. I ended up at:
Cal: 1273 (range 1200-1550)
Carbs: 194 (range 135-252)
Fat: 45 (range 27-60)
Protein: 43 (range 30-136)
Water: 7 (goal 8+)

And, I wasn't hungry at all, and didn't really think about it that much.

It's CSA Day! I love CSA Day! Ellen picks hers up on Tuesdays so I get a little preview. She said it was lots of greens, strawberries!, pea shoots, herbs (oregano, thyme, sage), garlic scapes, lettuce. Yummy freshness!

Here's today's breakfast-n-lunch pack:
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From the top, clockwise:
-salad with romaine lettuce, red onion, avocado, hardboiled egg, orange bell pepper, bac'uns, and raspberry vinaigrette (cal: 298, carb: 17, fat: 21, protein: 11)
-grape nuts, Fage Total 0% yogurt, strawberries and 1 T. honey (cal: 335, carb: 72, fat: 1, protein: 13)
-otsu (cal: 186, carb: 25, fat: 7, protein: 9)

And, three glasses of water so far.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

new horizons and old habits

Okay, so yesterday I was talking about needing to get back to the principles of the HealthQuest 2007. Meaning, time to stop resting on the ol' laurels, and kick the diet/exercise up a notch. Now, I'm not talking about trying to get skinny. I'm talking about getting healthy--physically and emotionally. And, being in a body that I'm proud of and feel good about. When I first started trying to get healthy someone accused me of being "unfeminist" and "not fat positive". Which is bullshit. I think that the most feminist thing you can do around body acceptance is to love yourself enough to be healthy and strong--regardless of your dress size, and to be happy with yourself and how you're living. I started this Health Quest because my dad died of diabetes complications after being sick for years, and I saw myself headed down that same path. So, the right thing for me to do is to take care of myself--including losing weight.

Amy just sent me this awesome YouTube video called "A Fat Rant" with a woman, Joy Nash, talking about being fat, her body, society, health, other women, excuses, living, etc. It's awesome. And, she challenges women to tell their weight. And, that's something I haven't done before even though I've been doing all this blogging about food. And, I hadn't done that because I was ashamed. And, I just don't have room in my life for shame. This lady is right. So, since January 2nd:

My starting weight was 245. My lowest weight was 205. This morning I weighed 213. My goal is 140.

And, being fat doesn't need to be an excuse for everything in your life--like it was mine for years and years. This healthquest is about caring about myself. Caring enough to eat good things, exercise and make my body strong, quit smoking (I'm now cigarette-free for 7 weeks and 4 days!), to participate in therapy to work through stuff I've been struggling with for years, to try to get my money issues under control, to surround myself with people that care about me and are positive and care about themselves, to not feel too ashamed to try things I've always wanted to try, to think I'm hot-to-trot, and to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

So, I went back to a tool that has helped me in the past--keeping track of what I'm eating and drinking and how I'm moving. I used the site Sparkpeople for a couple months to track food, exercise and progress, but quit when I was both doing well and starting to cook with more unusual ingredients. Because, even though they have a recipe calculator (nice feature), their database doesn't have a lot of the ingredients I'm using so I'd have to google the particular item and its nutrition profile, then enter it all in and it was kinda a pain in the rear. But, I want to do it again for a few days and just see where I'm at. So, in the interest of getting me back on track and full disclosure, here's today's tally so far:

Grape Nuts cereal with Fage Total 0% greek yogurt, strawberries and honey
cal: 335, fat: 1, carbs: 72, protein: 13

Otsu (without the toasted sesame seeds, but only because I forgot them)
cal: 372, fat: 14, carbs: 51, protein: 17


My personal nutrition goals* daily are:
cal: 1200-1550, fat: 27-60, carbs: 135-252, protein: 30-136, water: 8-8 oz glasses

*they calculate your goals based on your height, weight, age, activity level, goal weight, date for goal weight, etc.

Here's my little breakfast-n-lunch pack today (not pictured: 1 organic pink lady apple, 1 bottle of water)
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So, despite my big plans of making a bunch of salads in all my free time this week I ended up making dinner last night and then running over to Maggie's (so she could help me prepare for an acting audition!) for a bit. But, I did make a delicious dinner of Otsu (from Heidi's Super Natural Cooking). It's a Japanese soba noodle creation and addictively delicious.

from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, p. 62)

Heidi's note: In Japanese, otsu means something strange, quaint, stylish, chic, spicy, witty, tasty or romantic. In keeping with its namesake, this buckwheat noodle salad has flavor and personality to spare. Buckwheat, which technically isn't a grain, is lysine-rich and close to being a complete protein. In this recipe, buckwheat noodles (soba) are tossed with a fiery dressing tempered by a generous dose of cooling cucumbers, green onions and pan-seared tofu. Seek out nigari tofu whichis typically even firmer than other types labeled "extra firm."

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Ginger-Sesame Dressing:
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1" cube of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 T. honey
3/4 t. cayenne [ek-I used 1 t.]
3/4 t. fine-grain sea salt
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4. unseasoned brown rice vinegar
1/3 c. shoyu sauce [ek-I used Bragg's Liquid Aminos]
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. toasted sesame oil

12 oz. dried soba noodles
12 oz. extra-firm nigari tofu
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped, for garnish
1/4 c. toasted sesame seeds [ek-I forgot these! so, they're not in the nutrition breakdown above]
[ek-I also used a little grated lemon and orange zest for garnish]

To make the dressing, combine the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar and shoyu and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.

Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water. While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry and cut into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (1/2" thick and 1" long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden and bouncy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the 1/4 c. of cilantro, green onions, cucumber and about 2/3 c. of the dressing and toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter garnished with the cilantro sprigs and toasted sesame seeds.

That shit is off-the-chain tastilicious. For real. It is like magic.

New Horizons #1:
Okay, so I just dropped a mention of this audition above. It's for a small part in a pilot episode of a project a friend of mine is working on for a show about women and therapy--both the therapists and clients. I've just read a tiny piece, but it sounds really good. She emailed me the casting call she had placed on craigslist, and asked if I'd be interested in auditioning. I have always secretly wanted to try acting but I have always been a-scared to death to be that vulnerable in front of other people and thought I was too fat. But, I'm doing it! My audition is tonight at 7:15 p.m. Wish me luck (or leg-breaking). I hope I get it, but even if I don't I'm going to feel really glad and accomplished that I tried it. Heck, I may even try it again.

New Horizons #2:
Sue from the Pittsburgh Lesbian blog sent an email to the queer events mailing list this morning asking if anyone was interested in joining a blog as a contributor for a women's blog project she's working on with some friends. It sounds like a pretty great concept--all women blogger in the 'Burgh blogging about things that are important to women. So, I signed on. I just wrote my first intro post, but I'll be adding more soon. Check it out here.

Right on, right on.

Monday, June 4, 2007

counting down days

Yes, I am counting down the days until I'm going to the beach for my All Gal Beach Extravaganza 2007!!! We go to Stone Harbor, NJ, every year. Schwatts' dad has a house there that he generously lets us use for a week each summer and it's just a little slice of heaven. Half a block from the beach, two decks, lotsa bedrooms, lotsa mac-n-cheeses (what Katherine calls the bright orange throw blankets). And, we just get together once a year to chill, catch up on our lives, do workshops for one another, make and eat some tasty food, play in the ocean and bake on the beach and generally just have the very best week of the year. I'm chomping at the bit!

So, this weekend I went grocery shopping at the Co-Op, Trader Joe's, the farmers market and Reyna, (and Family Dollar for a cooler!) and stocked up with ingredients for some recipes I'd like to make in the next couple of days to take down with me. I think I'm going to make otsu, sprout burgers, wheat berry salad, crunchy/creamy beans-n-greens, chile de Arbol sauce and some mesquite chocolate chip cookies. But, I really only have one free evening until we go, so that's the goal list, and it'll probably be a little smaller than that actually, but I can take the other ingredients with me--'cause now I have a cooler! Guess whose recipes those all are? I'll give you one guess. Her name rhymes with Meidi Mwanson.

And, speaking of Heidi, I was reading her blog today and she gives a link to the Elastic Waist website because they have a video up of one of the contributors making the Straw and Hay Fettucine Tangle with Spring Asparagus Purée recipe from Heidi's Super Natural Cooking. I haven't made this yet, but Nowlze and I were just discussing alternative pestos last week, and I mentioned this one. It looks so good!

This weekend was a good time. You may or may not know that I like a good time. Friday was Gist Street (one of my favorite evenings of the month). I again did not win the eggs in the raffle, but maybe my luck is just saving itself up for a week when the chickens go crazy and make One Billion Eggs. I think that must be it.

Saturday morning the K-Bear and I met up with Zeke (my dog-sit friend) and his mom at this really beautiful dog park in Aspinwall/Fox Chapel. You can tell it's where the richies live 'cause it's super clean and unspoiled and just generally awesome. Lots of trails, a creek, biodegradable poop bags. Caleb and Zeke were thrilled to see one another. They get especially excited when things are out of context. I wanted to snap some pictures of them but they were way too busy sniffing stuff to pose. Here is a picture of some wildflowers, though.
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I spent the rest of the day on Saturday doing some grocery shopping and napping. And, then Kara came over in the evening for an ice cream and game party (for two)! It all started when we were emailing back and forth about recipes, then ice cream recipes, and then we had to have some homemade ice cream! We both made a base in advance and got our ice cream machines ready, and then the plan was to play some games while the ice cream was freezing. Which was a perfect plan except that Kara's ice cream maker bit the dust. We noticed that it hadn't really frozen at all after nearly an hour, and so it had instead been actually warming up instead of freezing. Her maker was a really nice automatic Krupps one, but evidently something had gone horribly wrong with its freezing power. So, after I made mine, we tried using my maker, but the combo of it having just been used, my refrigerator not being an optimum temperature (due to all the new groceries) and it having been warmed and whipped for an hour it just never did sit up that night. But, the next day? Woah! She left it in the machine at my house, and that is like hitting the jackpot! Her ice cream flavor was avocado (and it's even raw and vegan!). Hot damn. The flavor is Like, it tastes a little like just under ripe bananas (which are my favorite fruit, but only when they're not quite ripe) and like avocado and like goodness. It's a little bit icy, but I'm thinking that might be because of the prolonged freezing process. Oh my god, it's good.
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I made a rose petal ice cream. I got the recipe by googling one billion rose petal ice cream recipes and settling on the one that sounded most reasonable and rich. It's from the Border Grill:
3 fragrant organic roses, petals only [E note: use organic here for sure!!!]
1/2 cup milk
3 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar, separated
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup rosewater (or to taste), available at Middle Eastern stores
3 drops red food color, optional


Wash the rose petals in cold water and pat dry. In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, place petals of 2 roses, milk, cream, and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Place over medium heat and heat to just under boiling. Let steep about a half hour to infuse.

[E note: there's a misprint with this recipe because they never tell you to add the rosewater. I added it when I added the rose petals.]

Combine the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk until thick and pale yellow. Bring the rose/cream mixture back to a near boil and whisk 1/4 of the warm mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then pour all of the egg mixture into the rose milk and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Strain into a bowl and chill on ice. Pour into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer finished ice cream into bowl and add the torn petals from the remaining rose. Fold into ice cream and pack into freezing container.

Due to do the temperature issues described above, we ate it as soft serve (or, soup). It was really rich and deelish.
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This is what it looked like the next day:
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Sunday morning I was supposed to go to WV to visit a friend, but she wasn't feeling well, so I stuck around the 'Burgh and met a Hurd for brunch at the Quiet Storm. We got two of the specials and split them: Avocado-"Bacon" Frittata with Smoked Paprika Aoili and Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Honeyed Ricotta. (and I got some grits and she got some roasted sweet potatoes--just to make sure that we were in pain). Oh, golly. Those were good. Especially the frittata. Dang.

For dinner I made a salad that was inspired by a sandwich that Bozena brought to the after-kayak picnic. Her sandwich was avocado, hardboiled egg and argula on whole wheat. My salad was spinach, basil, hardboiled egg, avocado, sauteed pea shoots with egyptian onions in a tad bit of toasted sesame oil. The dressing was just fresh-squeezed lemon juice with sea salt and pepper. I made the same thing for lunch today. Yum.
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Okay. I've also come to a hard realization, too. It is that I lost 40 pounds by eliminating the processed crap out of my diet, but now my body has acclimated to that and it's just not enough anymore and I still have 60 pounds to go. I've been just thinking (aka justifying) that as long as I'm pretty much making everything I eat from scratch then that'll do it. Because it is all good for me, but it isn't all good if you're trying to lose weight. So, I need to kick this stuff up again. I did the whole first part of my diet with pretty much only changing the way I eat, but then got lazy. So, now I need to make a commitment to exercise at least three times a week and to drink at least eight glasses of water every day. I do best with this stuff when I actually write everything down. It helps me to be aware of what I'm doing and I always enjoy a good spreadsheet. So, dear friends, help keep me honest, and that means that if I say that I think it's a good idea to get those white chocolate chip and raspberry chocolate cookies from Sand Hill Berry Farm at the farmers market, you punch me in the throat.
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Friday, June 1, 2007


I had a very bizarre evening. I went to my work's "Appreciation Dinner", and talked E-Dawg into being my date (Oh E, will you ever forgive me? Believe me when I say that I didn't know). It was at the LeMont. I'd been there once before, and it was weird, but I was with close work friends (last job), and it was okay. But, this was really wonky all around. First of all, I shoulda known because yesterday I started asking all the peeps at work that I regularly converse with if they were going, and none of them were. The only people that said they were going were the more...socially challenged types (I work with all computer-genius-types, remember?) or ones that are kinda like the boss of me or just ones that I don't talk to much. But, I figured it would still be interesting, and free food & drink, right?

Wrong. It was a cash bar (and, for reals, I feel more appreciated when I'm being plied with booze). The only red wine option was an unnamed Merlot (I swear that the label was scraped off the bottle, too). And, the beer options were Augustiner, IC Light and Iron City. The whiskey was Jim Beam. E and I went for the merlot, which wasn't, actually, too horrible. But, still.

The veggies were crinkle-cut which leads me to believe that they were formerly frozen or sold in a giant-ass bag at Sam's Club or something, and there were deli cheese slices as hors d'oeuvres. Again, not bad, necessarily, but definitely bizarre.
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The salad was way overdressed, the bread was day-old Breadworks salt sticks, my pesto pasta tasted like water-flavored paste, E's crabcakes tasted like WonderBread, the waiters (all men, by the way) seemed sorta criminally insane (one of them sported a Hitler-style moustache), there were weird fancy chandeliers in the drop ceiling acoustic tiles, E's "berry torte" was really a berry tart.

The moral of this story is to never, ever go to the LeMont. The view is spectacular, but everything else is crap.
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But, now I feel guilty for not being grateful. Or, rather, I feel that I'll feel guilty if anyone from work ever reads this. Or, actually, I feel that I'll feel bad if anyone from work ever reads this and then they fire my ass.


We were all fanced-up, so we decided to hit the town afterwards. First stop was Remedy Lounge (formerly Ray's). I liked it better when it was Ray's. Even with Keri freaking out on Ray and the staff in front of you. Ah, memories.

Then a quick stop into the Blue Moon (Thursdays are Ladies Nights) where we ran into Vince (a bartender from Remedy/Ray's) who told us about a new gay bar that had just opened on 44th St, Cattivo. So, we went there. It's nice--big, clean, well-stocked, friendly bartender, good drink, pool tables, juke box.

[as an aside: last night was a blue moon. i told lots of people to look at it. and, i even went to a bar named "Blue Moon", and walked around outside a bit, but did i look up last night? um, that'd be a no. what the bleep?]

The funniest thing of the night, besides our running commentary, was that at one point this woman from across the bar stands up on her stool and stares at me for a second--with anger or something, but then stares at Ellen--with lust and desire. I think I came real close to almost having to fight for her. She was lookin' fine, but I'm a lover, not a fighter!