Tuesday, July 31, 2007

it's good to have goals

Getting paid once a month puts a serious strain on a body, you know? Especially since I had lots of unexpecteds this month like car repairs, a gajillion doctor's appointments, prescriptions, etc., and because I had two dog-sitting gigs cancel. But, these things happen. I was hoping that I'd have saved $400 by the end of the month, but I actually ended up with $100 saved. I'm kind of disappointed, but really it's much better than I've ever done before. Normally I'd be out of money after the first week or two. This time I made it through the month, and actually had something to show at the end of it! That's progress. And, I have to remember that it's not all going to happen overnight, right? So, I'm trying to let go of the disappointment, and concentrate on the fact that this is probably the best I've ever done--and, that's despite the unexpecteds that came up (and, inevitably will).

So, I've mentioned several times about getting my finances in order and trying to save money for something specific. And, I've talked to several of you, dear readers, about my goal, but haven't discussed it in this forum. But, I think it's time. I think that saying it aloud (er, typing it aloud?) will help me keep my eyes on the prize.

So, here goes. I've long struggled with what I've wanted to be when I grow up. And, for the past, like, eight years (ugh) I've been an admin-type. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, and it's a living (albeit a meager one), but it's certainly not my life's dream. But, the problem has been that I just didn't know what my life's dream was. I'm interested in lots of things. I think I'm fairly smart, and pretty motivated when I'm involved in something I care about. I've gone back to school a few times, but never finished a degree. I've been embarrassed about admitting what I do for a living. I've longed to do something that not only provided me with a decent living, but also was a conduit for creativity and passion. And, again, I just wasn't quite sure what that was. I dream of being a socio-political essayist, a zoologist, a political activist and organizer, a nature photographer, a novelist, a movie reviewer, a restaurant reviewer, an actor, a therapist, a professor...basically something real, you know?

And then, and then, and then? And then I started getting really interested in food and nutrition and agriculture and cooking, and a few months ago I had a friend over for dinner, and she asked if I'd ever consider possibly doing some personal chef stuff for her. And, I did consider it. I started considering it then, and I haven't stopped. I know that I'm not really interested in opening a restaurant, but the idea of going into someone's home and really discovering what their needs are and creating delicious and nutritious food for them sounds amazing. And, so I started talking to people about it, and discovered that a friend had started doing just this thing in NYC, and that another friend was going to start doing it in York, PA. And, my mind was whirring with possibilities. And, so I started talking details, and thinking about how I could best do this--without a culinary degree, but with a lot of passion and a growing knowledge and ceaseless curiosity.

So, I started formulating a plan. And, then talked about it with my beach girls in June, and one of those girls, my dear, dear Dra, proposed an idea that I just fell in love with. She said that I should come to the Land of Plenty (aka California), and start up a small business doing exactly what I wanted to do--all vegetarian, organic, local, seasonal cooking for personal clients. And, I'd been thinking about heading West, but wasn't quite sure how I'd do that. Maggie suggested Portland, but I just kept thinking of and longing for the Bay Area and Northern CA, and 3000 miles is a long way to move to be kinda, sorta near where you want to be. But, it's expensive to move to the Bay Area, right? So, Dra made me an incredibly generous offer--I could stay in the "in law" apartment adjoining her house for about six months while I got on my feet in exchange for doing some cooking and some baby/dog sitting for her family. She even thinks she might be able to help me drum up some business.

So, with both elation and terror, I started making these plans. I started with, literally, no money, and that's why I went to see the financial counselor and have been working on saving money. I'm hoping that I'll have met my savings goal ($3500.00) and will be ready to set off by spring. I'm hoping March-April-May-ish. And, luckily, Dra and her family are being really supportive and flexible with the date. And, I opened up my mail on Saturday to find a t-shirt from Dra emblazoned with the statement: I HELLA LOVE OAKLAND. I can't wait for that to come true.

This is HUGE for me. I've been in Pittsburgh for almost ten years, I've floated along happy with my wonderful friends, but discontent, broke and aimless with regards to my career for, well, ever. But, I'm going to change my life. I'm going to live the dream.

So, I'm trying to do everything I can to generate some extra cash (dog sitting and some other projects I have in the works) and trying my darndest to save. It helps to have a big goal.

I'll miss my friends and the life I have in Pittsburgh--it's largely been a good ride, but I'm really ready for the next challenge. So, if you have any tips or words of wisdom or cash-paying gigs, let a sister know, alright?

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disclaimer: i have no idea who this woman is, but that's the shirt:
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Monday, July 30, 2007


OCIM. That's my new acronym in answer to TGIF. OCIM. Oh crap, it's Monday.

And, Monday means that just as soon as I finish this blog entry, then I will Get To Work and probably also Buckle Down. Eh. I have a huge pile on my desk of stuff I need to do, like, right now. Ugh.

But, the weekend was good. I trimmed down some of the activities, and added some others, but all in all a good time was had.

Friday after work I swung by the farmer's market in the North Side, and picked up a couple eggplants and a few other assorted goodies (a chocolate-raspberry cookie from Sand Hill Berry Farms, a bunch of basil from Joseph King, a cantelope from someone...?). I'd unfortunately let a couple eggplants rot in the crisper a few weeks ago, and was determined not to ever let that happen again, so I started thinking about what I could do with my deep, dark, purply-black, nightshade beauties, and decided to do a twist on an eggplant parm. I'd also wanted to make up a big batch of pesto with the basil bunch I got at the market and the bunch I got in my CSA (I pert-near picked my little plants clean recently, so I'm letting them come back for a week or two). So, I hatched a plan to do an eggplant parm-ish/lasagne-ish kind of a thing with a pesto layer and some other veggies. I wanted to make it rich, but also cut some corners on the fat where I wouldn't sacrifice any flavor. So, I opted for a part-skim mozzarella and ricotta and baked the eggplant rather than fry it. It came out so well! Delicious! And, plenty of it, too. I ate some that night, took some for our lunch during the farm tour on Saturday, took some to Maggie's for dinner on Saturday, ate some yesterday, and brought it today for lunch. And, I still have a half of a piece left. I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Now, I need to come up with a good name for it that will make it sound fancy.

Eggplant Thingy
(makes a 9x13" pan, really full)

2 medium eggplants, sliced into thin rounds
sea salt
small bowl of milk (around 1 c.)
1 c. onion, , small dice
1 c. green pepper, small dice
2 c. shittake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 c. grated parmesan
2 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. part-skim mozzarella, grated

2 big bunches of basil, washed, destemmed and patted dry
1/3-1/2 c. olive oil
juice of one lemon
grated zest of one lemon
1/4 c. grated parmesan
1/4 c. toasted pinenuts
sea salt, to taste

tomato sauce:
2 lg. cans diced tomatoes
10 sun-dried tomatoes
1 c. hot water
small bunch fresh oregano and parsley
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. onions, small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
crushed red pepper, to taste
sea salt, to taste

4 slices good whole wheat bread
4 dried shittake mushrooms
1/3 c. toasted sesame seeds
1/2 t. coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350. First slice the eggplants into thin rounds, place into a colander and shake on salt liberally, and let drain for about a half-hour while you're making the sauces and breadcrumbs.

To make the pesto, place all the pesto ingredients into a food processor or mortar and pestle, and puree.

To make the tomato sauce, drain (and reserve the liquid) from the tomatoes. Puree all ingredients in a food processor, and season to taste.

To make the breadcrumbs, just put everything into a food processor or spice mill, and pulverize to a small coarse grain.

Okay. So, now your eggplant slices have drained a little and had the bitterness sucked out of 'em, and you're ready to prep and bake them. So, get yourself a dish for the milk, a dish for the breadcrumbs, and have some baking sheets ready to go that have been sprayed or slathered with olive oil. Now, dip each slice in milk, then in crumbs, then place in a single layer on the baking sheet. When you've done all the slices, spray the tops of them with some olive oil cooking spray, then bake on each side for ten minutes.

In the meantime, chop the veggies, and set everything up in your Assembly Station. So, here's how I assembled:
-spread a little tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish
-put a single layer of the eggplant slices
-sprinkle with the onion, green pepper and mushrooms (we're gonna make three layers, so keep that in mind)
-spread on a layer of the ricotta
-sprinkle on some parmesan and mozarella
-spread on a layer of pesto
-now, start again with the tomato sauce and make three repeating layers, ending with the tomato sauce and some more mozarella and parmesan on top.

Bake for about an hour, uncovered (if it starts to get too brown, then just lightly drape some foil over the top, but really it's best of the edges get a tiny bit crispy). It's good to put this on a baking sheet as well, because the pan is really full, and may run over.


here's the before:
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here's the after:
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So, Friday night was all about making the eggplant thingy and reading Harry Potter. Good times. Really, my ideal kind of an evening.

Saturday morning I met up with Ellen and Kara at Beleza, and we set off for the PASA farm tour. We'd targeted Blackberry Meadows, Dillner Farms and Soergels. Blackberry Meadows and Dillner's both have CSAs, too! Blackberry Meadows was the only organic of the three, but Dillner's seemed to mostly use organic practices, too. Soergel's seems mostly to be an orchard, and was sort of an activity play-place thing with a market. Good for kids. Plus, they gave us a free ice cream cone.

You can see my fliker pics of the farm tour here. They're in reverse order, and while it keeps saying that I've changed the order, they're still backwards. Ah well...

In other big news for the weekend, I finished reading the last Harry Potter book. So good! I won't say anything about it, though, because I was terrified that someone would give something away before I was done. Lauren told me yesterday that when a friend of hers went to pick up her book, the night it came out, some a-hole in line got their book, opened it to the last page, and read it aloud. What a jack-hole. I seriously might have committed murder at that point (via killing curse). Avada Kadavra! You may think I am a nerd right now, but honestly? You haven't heard anything yet. After work I'm going to see a HP-themed band play some wizard rock at Schenely Plaza, the Remus Lupins! And, then am going to play some Scrabble. So? So?

On Sunday I backed outta the bike-n-swim. A few other peeps ditched out, and it was hot and I had a headache, and oh! woe is me! I had decided just to stay inside all day and whine, but Ellen talked me into sticking with the brunch plan, so we met Lauren, and hit up the Big Idea Benefit Brunch. It was a vegan sensation. Deana, the vegan cupcake lady, was putting it on (with some other peeps that I don't know), and it was bomb. We had waffles with blueberries and strawberries, dilled potatoes, roasted veggies, kale and the most heavenly cinnamon buns ever. $5! (well, the cinnamon bun was an extra $3) Good cause, great food, good times.

Then Lauren and I went to the Carnegie Science Center, and tooled around for hours and saw an Omnimax of the Deep Sea. So fun! Lauren and I always have fun adventures.

Then I came home and realized that it was time to deal with the pile of zucchini that has been building up in my kitchen. I saw a recipe on Heidi's blog for these chocolate-zucchini muffins where she used coconut butter for the vegetable oil (original recipe from The Rebar Modern Food Cookbook). Yum! I wish I'd cooked them just a couple minutes less (I think my oven is cooking hotter than it claims. I'm buying an oven thermometer tout suite), but they are super chocolately, rich, fragrant and delicious.
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Oh, but a sad update on the pina colada pops. They were cute, but disgusting. I'm thinking that maybe it was the non-fat yogurt (I always see peeps cautioning against using non-fat yogurt for fro-yo), but the texture was chalky and grody. Blech. So sad.
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Friday, July 27, 2007


For reals! Friday! Woot!

I wanted to ride my bike to work again today, but it's raining, and is supposed to rain on and off all day, so that nixed that idea. I pictured myself riding and my glasses being all wet, and taking them off, and running head-on into traffic, and well, it wasn't good. But, maybe it'll be dry later and I bike around the 'hood after work.

I had a date with myself last night. I didn't get lucky, but I did have a tasty dinner, watch three episodes of "The Extras" (thanks to Ellen & Lareese for the tip. hilarious!), and read about a hundred pages of Harry Potter. Good times!

Speaking of Lareese, dood. I stopped by her house the other night to taste this ice cream she'd made for an ice cream party. Whoa. It may be the best ice flavor EVER and OF ALL TIME. It was a curry-coconut-caramel-cashew. Wowza.

Anyhow, yes, last night was a good time. I made otsu for dinner. I've made it before, and I'll make it again. It's a Heidi recipe, and she says it's one of her favorites, too (in one of her, ahem, emails to me). I had cucumber and green onion from my CSA and some cilantro from the farmer's market and my favorite tofu (it's organic, from WV!). (they sell it at the co-op. it's super-firm, like nigari-firm).
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The Hurd stopped by to pick up some mail I'd gotten for her, and had some too. I think she liked it. (I've listed this recipe before. Look for the 'otsu' tag in the archives.)

Yesterday during a chat with The Gooch she mentioned that she'd just gotten some popcicle trays, and that very morning I'd looked at the box of popcicle trays I'd gotten when I was at the beach, and had thought I should make some. Since she mentioned them the same day, I was pretty sure that it was a sign from the baby jesus that I should make some. So, I made a batch this morning, and will try one when I get home. I underestimated the amount of stuff I'd need, so I only made four (instead of six, which the tray holds), and was in a rush, so didn't mix up another batch, but I think they're gonna be good. I went with a pina colada pop, and just sorta through stuff into the mixer until it tasted good. I used some frozen pineapple I'd chunked up into large chunks and frozen (the chunks are, like, 2" x 2"). I think I used six chunks, about 1.5 T. of organic raw coconut butter, about 1/4 c. of shredded unsweetened coconut, about 3 T. agave nectar, 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3 T. greek nonfat yogurt (fage 0% total). Blended it all up, then just filled the tray, and loosely draped it in some plastic wrap, and popped them into the freezer. I can't wait to try one when I get home!
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I canceled my plans for tonight so my new plan is to make some dinner, eat some pina colada pops and read more Harry Potter. And, maybe watch more of "The Extras".

Thursday, July 26, 2007

catching up

The last few days have been busy. Mostly with a controversy that erupted on a mailing list that I moderate (queer events; lemme know if you'd like to be on it). Well, it started as a queer events listing a few years ago to promote some events I was organizing, but then just grew and evolved into this bulletin board kind of thing. Every once and a while there will be little eruptions (it's largely user-moderated), but I generally stay out of it and just watch it unfold. It's pretty fascinating. But, this week an issue came up that coinciding with re-quitting smoking and pms and lots of fiery indignation into the perfect storm that made me a rant machine on the list. I think it was good, ultimately, and hope for a good outcome, but it definitely has taken up the bulk of my time and energy for the past couple of days. [if you wanna know what the hell I'm talking about, it's all about an issue where a local organization that puts on an event called Celebrate The Night as a women's night of celebrating coming out, and their subsequent transphobic exclusion of one performer, you can visit Sue Kerr's blog for a summary and her commentary or ask me and I'll give you a link to the actual conversation].

But, in health/food news, I did in fact re-quit smoking a couple days ago. After the bike ride to work day made me feel like my lungs were trying to burst out of my chest. I just hope it's not always a multi-daily battle like this. Damn, I wish smoking was good for you.

But, on a positive note, I'm already gearing up for the weekend. Friday night I'm going to stop by a party to celebrate a friend's divorce being finalized. Saturday, I'm going on a farm tour with Ellen and Kara. Here's the info for that, if you're interested:

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
presents the first annual Allegheny County
Summer Farm Tour
Saturday, July 28, 2007
10 am - 2 pm
We want to connect you and your family with some of the farms in the Pittsburgh region offering you the best in healthy, sustainably raised food.

The farms on the tour include:

1. Blackberry Meadows Farm, Natrona Heights
2. Dillner Farms, Gibsonia
3. Garden Dreams, Wilkinsburg
4. Soergel Orchards and Greenhouses, Wexford
5. Triple B Farms, Monongahela

We hope your experience will leave you with an understanding of how critical local and organic food systems are to preserving the beautiful rural and urban landscapes of Allegheny County.

Download the Map.
cows Take the Tour

* Load up your friends and family.
* Locate the farms you want to visit on the map and decide on a route.
* Pay for your $10/per car at the first farm you visit. The same pass gains you access to all the participating farms on the tour.
* All farms open, rain or shine!

marketTips for Taking the Tour

* Bring a cooler! Eggs, meats, cheeses, milk, veggies, fruit and more will be available for purchase!
* You won't be able to visit all 5 farms since you'll spend time taking tours and traveling.
* Leave the pets at home. Farm tours are for people, not pets.

Additional tips.
The clearest path to a sustainable food system is by purchasing our food and fiber from local farms that work in harmony with nature using practices like organic or grazing.


Julie Speicher
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

PASA's Mission
Promoting profitable farms which produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment.

Sunday I'm gonna go to the Big Idea Benefit Brunch*. Here's the scoop on that:

*brunch is my favorite meal of the week.

Sunday, July 29th 11AM - 2PM

Benefit BRUNCH for The Big Idea Bookstore to raise funds for awesome

WHERE? 244 39th Street in Lawrenceville (across from Arsenal Park)

COST? $5 donation gets you a delicious vegetarian/vegan meal
of buffet-style foods including roasted potatoes, waffles (yes, vegan
waffles), veggies and more. Coffee and herbal tea available for a tiny
bit more.

WHAT ELSE? Other yummy vegan treats (cinnamon buns, cookies, cupcakes
and more) available for additional donation to take home.

Come eat delicious food and hang with good folks.

Also, the gal that's cooking for this (others might be, too?) is the Deana, the vegan cupcake lady. I had one of her avocado-coconut cupcakes last year at Handmade Arcade, and it was so good that I wrote her a fan letter. For reals. That good.

After that brunch-fest, I'm gonna meet up with some peeps on Washington's Landing for a bike-n-swim. We're gonna ride bikes over to the Sue Murray pool in the N.Side, take a dip, then ride back.

And, then? Well, then's it's time for the weekly Scrabble Smackdown with The Gooch.

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I have a few little plants sitting on my front steps--the only place around my place that gets direct, full sunlight. So, I have two basil plants and two tomato plants. I harvest the basil a lot, but the tomatoes just grew a little tomato, and it gradually, gradually ripened until I had one perfect tiny tomato ready to be picked this morning. So I picked it. It's cute as can be!
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But, I just ate it, and the skin was tough, and the flesh was a little mealy. Eh. But, still cute.

Speaking of, a guy I work with just told me, "You look like the movie Hairspray today. Like, the original one." I don't think he meant it as a compliment, but I totally took it as one!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Dang it! I've been so absurdly busy that I haven't been able to post a blog, and it's killing a Hurd*.

*Hurd is actually my friend Amy's last name, but I love it so much that I also like to refer to myself as "A Hurd"--especially when I'm talking to her. As in, "A Hurd is feeling a Hurd. I totally know what you're saying." Plus, it's just really fun to say stuff like "it's killing a Hurd". "Hurd" also goes really well in nearly all popular music songs: ex. 'All I need is a miracle...All I neeeeed is Hurd!' or 'I'm bringin' Hurdcakes** back, Ow!'.

**Hurdcakes is another variation and a real good time.

A Hurd and a half a Hurd (new years in Toronto, which i will not discuss other than to say: down with Canada).
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Anyhow, yeah, I didn't even get to do a rant about Mondays yesterday, as is my custom. Too bad, too, 'cause I was on a roll with hatin' yesterday (my uterus made me do it). I even forgot my mantra about hatin' being so last year.

But, the weekend? Oh, the weekend. How I love thee. I had a great one. The weather could not possibly have been better. And, I was out and about biking around! You know I mentioned that a few weeks ago my friend Marsha hooked me up with a (FREE!) bike from a woman she works with? Well, it was awesome, but a little big for me, and it has a boy-bar, so that I was terrified of having to stop suddenly and damaging my delicate lady-parts, so I worked out a trade with Mags. She's a little taller than me, and liked how light and fast that bike is. I like how hers (now mine) has a girl-bar (girls rule, boys drool--fyi) and just feels more my size, and I feel more stable on the seat, and like that it came with a WVU Horticulture milkcrate. I just got it a few days ago, and have made good use of it so far!

I rode down to a meeting for the Northside Co-op on Friday. Riding down Troy Hill was thrilling! I had big plans to ride it back up, but there was no way. I'm pretty out of shape, so I gotta ease into this thing. Luckily, Sandra and Jessica were also at the meeting, and gave a Hurd* a ride back up the hill, and let me store my bike at their place for the night.

Saturday Ellen and I rode over to the farmer's market (so fun!) from the Northside (to the Firehouse Farmer's Market in the Strip) and back. I'd met the manager of the market, Megan Cook, at the co-op meeting on Friday, and that made it even more fun 'cause I got scoop on stuff (well, really just that it was the first week for sweet corn, but still. she's a peach).

Sunday I went swimmin' at the Bloomfield Pool and then rode over to the Quiet Storm to meet up with The Gooch for our weekly Scrabble Fight To The Death. I totally kicked her ass. Just sayin'.

And, today? Today is my crowning achievement thus far. I drove to Bloomfield this morning and parked, then rode my bike to work. And, rode it down into Oakland to meet Roya for lunch (java fried rice and Dave-n-Andy's. don't blame me--the uterus made me do it) where she GAVE ME HER BRAND NEW COPY OF THE NEW HARRY POTTER BOOK (thank you, Roya!!!)!

I feel like a badass. For real. I bought a bike rack on Sunday, and so I'm going to take my bike everywhere I go, park a few miles away and ride so that I can gradually build up my stamina and tackle hills.

Also, I'm totally giving up the back-sliding smoking 'cause it makes my lungs want to bust through my chest when I'm biking. So, smoking: 0, biking: 1.

look! i'm so far ahead 'cause i'm so fast!
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bike-n-me photoshoot (all my farmer's market goodies are in the back):
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farmer's market
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I got a bunch of stuff at the farmer's market because I was going to the 2nd Annual Pittsburgh DYKE MARCH & Picnic on Saturday afternoon. It was a real good time seeing all the ladies and marching, and I loved the addition of after-picnic. I made some tomato-bean-potato salad (based on a recipe from Chef Lon in a Whole Foods class. i couldn't find the exact recipe, but I think it was close), some of the white bean dip with basil drizzle with baguette, and a Blueberry Crisp (based on this recipe from Heidi's site).
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The salad was a breeze to make, and is super-tasty.
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I just quartered a bunch of new potatoes (I used a mix of red, gold and purple for cuteness' sake), and boiled them until tender. And, meanwhile blanched the green beans. I quartered a bunch of small tomatoes (plum? the ones from the farmer's market picture above). I julienned a handful of basil, and tossed all that stuff together, and added the dressing:
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. vinegar (i used a mix of white and apple cider)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 rounded teaspoon of whole grain mustard (i used Double C)
salt & pepper to taste
I just put it all in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake it-shake it. I didn't use all of it for the salad, just add enough to coat everything well, and then use the rest for salads. It'll keep for a week or two in the fridge. Yum.

For the crisp, I followed Heidi's recipe exactly, but substituted blueberries for the peaches and plums and rosewater for the orange blossom water. I probably could've cut the sugar in half, too. But, it was tasty!
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In between the farmer's market and the Dyke March, E-dawg and I went to the pool (Jack Stack), and then stopped by The Vault. We'd tried to check it out a week or two earlier, but were there on Sundays, and they're closed that day (I hate when coffeeshops are closed on Sundays!). But, it was worth waiting for. It's the cutest place ever! they have a bunch of hilarious signs, friendly staff, a great magazine selection, cute decor, and possibly the best pb&j sandwich Of All Time!
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Mark my words, I will be back!

I went out to Operation Sappho and got my dance party on late Saturday night, so I was ready for a hearty breakfast again. I had to do the Shirred Shittake Eggs and fried potatoes again. So good. Thank you, Eric Gower!

Last night was the "Queers: They're What's For Dinner!" dinner at the Gypsy Cafe, and it was some good eatin'. My favorite thing was the crostini with this creamy veggie spread. Yuh-um.

Phew. Okay. I think I'm caught up. Just in the nick of time, 'cause a Hurd* needs to ride a Hurd's* bike over to Bloomfield to get a Hurd's* car.

Friday, July 20, 2007

busy beaver

Man, it has been a busy week. Still is, in fact. And, a week of lots of ups and downs--most of which I don't really want to talk about publicly, but it all seems to even out. The universe likes balance, it seems.

Anyhow, let me tell you about two highlights of my week.

One was last night. I went to see Neko Case at the Byham. I bought my tickets a while ago, and expected that they'd be sorta good, but they were hella good (that's the first time I've used "hella"; I'm trying it out)! We were in the fourth row! Amazing! Neko, I love you! She has this voice that blows me away--the range, the richness. Again, amazing. And, she played for hours! Incredible! She just seems really sweet and humble and fun. I still remember the first time I heard her. I used to subscribe to CMJ magazine to find out about what the kids were listening to, and "Twist The Knife" by Neko Case and Her Boyfriends was on that compilation, and I listened to it over and over and over. She didn't play that one last night, but she did play lots of other favorites.

And, her back-up singer, Kelly Hogan, was a riot. I liked the opening band, too--Eric Bachman. Especially this instrumental number called "To the Races". Good stuff.

That show made my heart feel full of joy.

Another thing that made my heart full of joy this week was a meeting that Ellen and I had with Brad Spencer and Elena (didn't catch her last name). They're part of a committee working to create a North Side Food Co-op. I heard about plans a few months ago, and sent out some emails trying to get some info to no avail, but then a few weeks ago my pal Sandra forwarded me an email about the co-op. I sent an email to the google group asking for more info, and then started emailing with Brad about it (he even reads this here blog--hi, Brad!). I thought it was awesome that there would be a co-op in the North Side, but really, this is so much larger and more incredible in scope than I'd ever imagined. It's freakin' revolutionary! They are envisioning a community meeting place where local growers/producers of all sorts would bring their products there and interact with the community members in a very real way. They are envisioning setting up all sorts of local gardens for the community. They are envisioning the co-op being a place where community members could cook meals--in both commercial and non-commercial kitchens. There would be space for meeting and eating and joining together. I got to see some of the plans, and the inspirations, and folks? It was one of the most exciting conversations I've had in and about Pittsburgh! Seriously. This new model for what a co-op can be will rock your socks in the best possible of ways. Really. And, guess what? You don't have to just rely on these little snippets. Tonight there is a community meeting, and you can come and get more information and Be A Part Of Making Pittsburgh A Better Place To Be. Here's the scoop:

If you are interested in making the Northside Community Grocer Coop (NCGC) a reality, please join us this Friday evening for an important meeting to help JUMPSTART the efforts of our MEMBERSHIP Committee.

Meeting details and AGENDA are provided below:
DATE: Friday, July 20th (yes, THIS Friday)
TIME: 7:00 pm-8:30pm (Meeting will start and end ON TIME)
LOCATION: Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church;
416 West North Ave, on the corner of North Ave and Resaca Place (North Side of Pittsburgh)
Directions: http://www.alleghenyuu.org/direct.html

If you would like more information prior to attending, please email: NCGC-Membership@googlegroups.com

North Side Community Grocery Coop Steering Committee

This weekend should be action-packed with goodness, too! I'm attending that meeting tonight, and tomorrow E-dawg and I are meeting up in the morning to ride bikes over to the Firehouse Farmers Market. It'll be the first time I hafta ride my bike up Troy Hill. I'm a little scared, but I'm just going to try to take it slow, and use my gears to the best advantage. I can't wait to pack my little milk crate with fresh goodies and ride around. I think I will feel both happy and badass--what's a better combo than that?

If it's warm in the afternoon we're going to hit another city pool. I'm voting for something close to Squirrel Hill because last Saturday I got a red velvet cupcake from Dozen, and it freaked my freak it was so good. I want one. I know that is not what I should be eating to make my way towards the elusive 200-pound crossing mark, but dang. That is some good stuff. But, speaking of making my way down, I did re-lose a couple more pounds. I'm now at 209. You can do it, little guy! (I mean me. I needed a cheer.)

Also on Saturday, it's the 2nd Annual Pittsburgh DYKE MARCH!!! Woo hoo! Sweet! Dyketastic! Ladyriffic! I'm really excited. Last year was awesome, and I can only assume that this year will be Even Better. And, then afterwards there's a picnic (byop), and that night there's an Operation Sappho dance party spectacular! Right on!

Sunday I'm a-gonna go swimmin' again if it's warm enough, then meet up for my weekly Scrabble Showdown with The Gooch. She's goin' dahn!!!

ps. here is the gorgeousness that is Java Fried Rice:
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ps. we went to Sue Murray pool in the N.Side on Wednesday, and it got two thumbs up, way up (actually four 'cause both of us gave it a thumbs' up). here's a friend we met in the pool:

As fun as that friend was, I'll stick with this one:
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Happy Friday, my peeps! Make the most of your weekend!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

ps. one happy thing, one sad

I went for it. I walked down into Oakland proper and got myself a little pick-me-up in the form of a big plate of java fried rice from Spice Island Tea House. This stuff is amazing. I was studying it between bites, but I honestly don't know how they make it so delicious. It is magical. And, at lunch it's only $5.95 (plus $.50 for adding tofu). Dang. I am in love with it! And, it's enough that I was totally happy eating half, and then having the other half to bring home for dinner later. The gift that keeps on giving. I think I may also have just officially started pms-ing today, as that's when my need for java fried rice peaks. I resisted last month, but Spice Island won today. The sweetest defeat I've ever suffered. [if anyone knows the secret recipe, i will give you one gajillion dollars* for it]. It says it has "sweet soy sauce" on the menu. What's sweet soy sauce? It also has millions of bits of tofu (as well as the big chunks added for the $.50), onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, green bell peppers, bits of red chilis, green beans, mushroom, egg and crispy shallots.

And, speaking of sweetness? I topped my lunchtime extravaganza off with a cone of cinnamon-apple-honey-granola yogurt from Dave & Andy's. This is my favorite meal on earth, I think.

But, the sad thing referenced in the title of this post? I was going to bottle my kombucha, and when I took one of the canisters out I saw that it had a tear in the paper towel cover, and there were freakin' fruit flies in it. So, I had to throw out a whole batch and two mothers. Luckily I still have two, so can start new batches today, but that's sad. No one wants fruit fly larvae in their fermented beverage treat.

*don't try redeeming this shit. there's no such thing as a gajillion, sucker.

no rest for the wicked

Dang, it's been a busy few days. Or weeks. Or months. Something like that. Good busy for the most part, but still. But, now I have a minute to settle down with my breakfast (fage 0% total greek yogurt, a handful of blueberries and a drizzle of honey--yum) and write a little something in this here blog.

First of all I'd like to sing the praises of Fred's Eggs. You can occasionally find them at the co-op, and I'd been hearing about them for a while, but had never been lucky enough to be there at the precise moment when they had some in stock. That is, until last week. I heard someone freaking out (in a good way) in front of the dairy case, and went over to inspect. Fred's Eggs! I snatched up a dozen, and I'm so glad I did. These are the premiere eggs in this here township. They're from Araucana chickens--who happen to not only be cute, but to also lay really beautiful blue eggs. And, in addition to being just lovely, the eggs were super fresh and very rich. Everything I've made with them has showcased the brilliant orange yolks and have been full of deliciousness. That's what you get when chickens are allowed to be true to their chickeny nature (paraphrasing Joel Salatin in the narrative related by Michael Pollan in The Omnivores's Dilemma). By the way, if I can convince you to do one thing this year, it would be to read The Omnivore's Dilemma. Pollan is a fantastic writer, and he takes us through the history of four meals--one from industrial agriculture, one from industrial organic agriculture, one from local, sustainable "organic", and one that he hunts and forages himself. It's fascinating, and he examines these meals from every aspect. And, while he clearly has an agenda (he's become a superstar for slowfooders and the like), he's never preachy. He's not even a vegetarian, if you're worried about him convincing you away from your favorite foods. Read him. Do it. It feels great.

Okay. Anyway, I was talking about Fred's Eggs. See for yourself:
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I've done just the littlest bit of cooking the past couple of days. On Monday evening I went to Classic Book Club. I'd been on hiatus for, like, a year, and it was my first meeting back. Guess what we discussed? Ding! Ding! Ding! The Omnivore's Dilemma. I read it back in March, and was all fired up then, and now I'm all a-fire with love for it again. Since I knew it was going to be a snack-a-thon (it was), I just made a snack to take, and went hungry. I made my white bean dip again, but this time made a basil oil dressing to drizzle over it. It's easy as pie.

White Bean Dip

-some cooked white beans (I used white navy beans, soaked them overnight, and cooked them for about 50 minutes with a piece of kombu) - about 3-4 cups
-2 cloves garlic
-1 T. olive oil
-a little of the reserved cooking liquid from the beans (or the can, if you're using canned) to thin the dip to the desired consistency
-sea salt, to taste

Put it in your food processor and puree. Voila! You can also serve this as a side dish like you'd serve mashed potatoes.


Basil Dressing
(I just really made this by mixing and tasting, mixing and tasting, so all the amounts are approximations)

-a big handful of basil leaves, washed and patted dry (probably about a closely packed cup)
-1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
-the juice of two lemons
-1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
-1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
-sea salt and pepper to taste

So, it's just like a very thinned-out pesto sauce. Just puree it in a food processor, and just keep tasting until it's delish. Then I drizzled some on the bean dip (and have plenty leftover for salads), and served it with some sliced carrots and cucumbers.
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And, last night I went over to my friend Emily's for dinner. She made possibly the best version I've ever had of Sesame Peanut Noodles (spicy-i-licious!), and we had a little white wine (contributed by the other guest, Susheela, who I met for the first time last night) and I brought dessert, a baked lemon custardy thing. I googled for the recipe, and I totally forget where I ended up finding it, so sorry I'm not crediting you, Random Person On The Internets. But, it was really easy and really tasty. I forgot to take a picture, and it's all long gone. But, here's the recipe:

Baked Lemon Custard

2 T. butter, softened
1 C. sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 T. flour
juice and grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons
2 C. evaporated milk
1 t. lemon extract

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in egg yolks, 1 at a time. Add flour, juice and zest. Add milk and lemon extract. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold lemon mixture into egg whites. Pour into a buttered 10-inch pie plate.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake 1 hour until brown and firm. Let cool slightly. Consistency is between a custard and soufflĂ©. Cut in wedges and serve warm. [ek note: it didn't really hold up in wedge-shapes, it was more like a blob. maybe if you chilled it first? but, it was so good warm.]

I forgot to bring lunch today, and my thoughts have turned to my faithful friend the java fried rice from Spice Island Tea House. I texted my friend Susie to try to talk her into going with me, but didn't hear back, and am thinking I might just hold out and maybe order it when I leave work, and pick it up on the way home. Except it's in the wrong direction since I need to go pick up my CSA, then go meet Ellen at the pool (unless it's thunderstorming then). Hmmm...should I just go now? I'm hungry thinking about it...

Monday, July 16, 2007

again, the weekends kick the non-weekends' collective asses

As always, the weekend rocked and Monday is the object of my anti-desire. But, I actually came in to work to a really nice email from one of the guys I support that he sent to my supervisor, my boss and my boss's boss about what a number one, right on employee I am. Sweet! That was really nice. And, I got a super-sweet email from a friend via myspace. Monday is really trying. I'll give it that.

But, but, but! The weekend was super-duper. And, I, for one, enjoy super-duper. Friday I went a-dogsitting in Squirrel Hill. He's a sweet little guy. And, I ran out for some errands, and to go see my friend Bob Snyder's opening at Gallerie Chiz. He makes these awesome little paintings on wood that are just amazing. He even did a portrait of me a couple years ago, and I cherish it. We used to work together, and I hadn't seen him in a while, so it was really fun to catch up and also see my pal Alan and his wife Heather who we also used to work with. A nice little reunion. Good times. (AH - They asked about Hurdcakes, too, fyi).

Saturday was more dogsitting, then off to the annual Gist Street Cook-Out. Even though it was the seventh annual cook-out it was my first, and it was AWESOME. Bringing two of my great loves--authors/books and food--together. Ellen and I both made Heidi dishes. I made the sprout burgers--this time with an Italian twist--used lots of basil from my front-step plants, sundried tomatoes and parsley. Yum. And, E-dawg made Heidi's kabobs with muhummara slather. Hot damn. Actually, when we were leaving one of the grill guys said, "Whoa! That sauce was intense! We put it on everything!" of the slather. And, it was--tangy and spicy and delicious. Yum. Thanks, Heidi! And, I actually won something from the raffle this month! I've never won before. I won a set of notecards by a glass artist...whose name I'm blanking on... Anyway, a good time was had by all.

Sunday was a lazy morning with some reading, some attempted (but ultimately unsuccessful) napping and a re-watching of Election. And, a kick-ass breakfast, courtesy of Eric Gower. I made his Shirred Shittake Eggs. Oh, dang. So good. I made them with some crispy garlic homefries and oj, and it was a breakfast fit for a queen. Seriously. I'm going to make baked eggs all the damn time now. I forgot to bring the recipe, but I think I remember it:

Shirred Shittake Eggs
from Eric Gower's The Breakaway Cook

4 eggs
2 T, plus 1 t. dried shittakes, pulverized [I probably used a little over 3 T., which was about 3 dried shittake caps]
2 T. butter, plus more to coat the ramekins
sea salt and pepper
a little shredded cheese, such as gouda [ek - I used an extra-aged Beemster gouda]

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the 2 T. butter in a small skillet, and add the 2 T. of shittake. Cook for a few minutes until the butter foams up. In the meantime, coat the 2 ramekins with butter, and sprinkle in some shittake dust and shake around like coating a baking pan with flour. When the mushroom-butter mixture is ready split between the two ramekins. Break two eggs into each ramekin, top with sea salt and pepper, a little more of the shittake dust and a little shredded cheese. Place into the oven and cook for about 12-14 minutes, until there is very little movement when you shake the pan, but the yolks are still soft. Turn out onto plates with a rubber spatula.
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Sunday afternoon was all about hitting the pool. Ellen and I have set a goal to try to check out all the city pools. So far we've been to:
-Jack Stack
-Highland Park
-Scheneley Park
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And then I rolled over to the Quiet Storm for my weekly Scrabble bout with The Gooch. Once again, she cheated. That is all I have to say about that. Except that everyone should try the pina colada vegan milkshake. It is bomb.

I have a book club (Classic Book Club) tonight, and need to make a snack. I'm thinking of doing another white bean dip with basil oil. I loved the last white bean dip I made, but Hurd said it didn't have enough flavor, so the basil oil should take care of that. I love white beans. And, on Tuesday I have dinner at a friend's house, and I'm going to attempt Eric Gower's Maccha Truffles. Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, July 13, 2007

small gestures that mean so much!

I'm posting twice today because I just received a package. Actually, yesterday I got a notice from UPS at my house that they'd tried to deliver a package from Amazon that required a signature. I couldn't figure out what I was getting from Amazon since I'd declared a moratorium on Amazon buying. Could it be that they'd noticed my lack of activity and were trying to lure me back? Was it something I'd pre-ordered ages ago and forgotten about? What could it be?

So, I called UPS, and they wouldn't deliver without a signature, so I re-routed it to my work address, and just got back from my lunchtime jaunt with Dolce (the new dog-sit dog) to find an Amazon box on my desk. And, guess what I opened it to find? My very own copy of Eric Gower's The Breakaway Cook! I hadn't ordered it, so I scanned the paperwork, and discovered that it had been sent by my lovely friend Alex (posts as "a" sometimes in the comments)! She just moved to Poland last week, and yet she found time to read my blog where I whined about needing this cookbook and having to give it back to the library and order me up a copy! So sweet!

Alex, you totally made my day! I'm am so cooking you a multi-course meal from this very cookbook when you're back in the U.S.S.R., I mean good ol' U.S.A.!

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fortitude vs. foible

Yesterday I succeeded in the water campaign (goal: 64oz, actual: 80oz), and I did, in fact, do a sinkload of dishes, but I did not, in fact, stay within my caloric goal range. I was brought down by the seductive lure of Ben and Jerry's cinnamon buns. It should be illegal. And, I also smoked several cigarettes, dammit.

So, half thumbs' up, half thumbs' down. I'm just a human bean. (My neighbor, Sherrie Epperly, had a t-shirt that said that when I was a little kid, and I always wanted it. It had a picture of two beans with faces. Cute.)

But, either way, I did make a fantabulous dinner last night. I thought Maggie was coming over, but she wasn't feeling up to it, but it worked out anyhow because this dinner was the bomb, and I was excited to have leftovers. I'm actually having a hard time not eating my lunch right now. But, I'm enjoying some delicious Fage greek yogurt (Total 0%) with a drizzle of honey and some water for breakfast (of champions), so I think I'll be okay.

I tried out a recipe from the cookbook I mentioned yesterday, The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley. I made the Tofu with Lemon, Soy, White Wine and Butter Sauce. Yum. This is one of the recipes I copied down when I was looking through Ellen's copy, and one of the first that jumped out at me yesterday when I was flipping through my library copy. It was really easy, and really delicious.

Tofu with Lemon, Soy, White Wine and Butter Sauce

from The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley

1 lb. firm tofu, slived into six 1/2" thick slabs [ek - I actually got eight, all the better!]
1/4 c. dry white wine
2 T. soy sauce, naturally brewed [ek - I used Bragg's Liquid Aminos]
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. honey
3 T. unsalted butter, cubed [ek - I used 2 T. to cut down on a little of the fat]
2 T. finely chopped shallot
1 1/2" slice fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 t. sea salt [ek - I skipped this]
pinch of red pepper flakes
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary

Set rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat ovent to 400. Lay the tofu in a small ovenproof skillet that will hold it comfortably without overlapping.

In a small bowl, tir together the wine, soy sauce, lemon juice and honey. Scatter the butter cubes, shallot and ginger over the tofu, pour the wine mixture over and around, and season the tofu with the salt and red pepper flakes. Scatter the thyme or rosemary sprigs over the tofu. Bring to a boil over high heat, then transfer the pan to the oven and bake for ten minutes. Place the pan over high heat, bring the sauce to a simmer, and simmer until it begins to thicken, 3-5 minutes. Discard the herbs and serve the tofu drizzled with the pan sauce. [ek - I was confused about the last part--bringing it to a simmer again after taking it from the oven. When I took it from the oven, the sauce was pretty thick, so I just turned the tofu, and let it sit for a few minutes, then served].


I made this with some mashed potatoes-n-chard and some steamed broccoli. For the mashed potatoes (I just made this up as I went along, but they came out remarkably well).

about 4-5 medium potatoes, washed and chopped into 1-2" dice (skin on)
2 large cloves garlic
about 6 stalks of swiss chard, stalks and leaves chopped
2 T. freshly grated parmesan
2 T. unsalted butter
sea salt and pepper to taste
just the teeniest bit of your favorite finishing oil to drizzle when serving (I used white truffle oil)

Place the potatoes and the garlic cloves (peeled but left whole) into a pan with enough salted water to cover them by about 2" and bring to a boil. Boil under tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and place into a bowl.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, then add the chard and cook for 1-2 minutes until tender and leaves are bright green. Drain thoroughly, and squeeze out the excess water.

Mash the potatoes and garlic in the bowl with the chard, butter and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Voila!


For the broccoli, I just steamed it for a few minutes until it was tender and vibrant green, then tossed with a little squeeze of lemon juice, a tiny drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt and pepper to taste.


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I'm dogsitting tonight in Squirrel Hill for a little maltese named Dolce. Since I won't be going home to cook after work, I'm thinking of justifying the java fried rice from Spice Island. Dare I?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

is it lunch time yet?

I am happy to report that I met and exceeded my water-drinking goal yesterday.
goal = 64oz
actual = 88oz

Sweet. Now, the extended goal is to keep doing that every day (32oz down so far today), and add on an extra goal. Today's goal is to stay in my prescribed calorie range goal, 1200-1550. Yesterday my calories were 1838, so I need to cut that down a bit. Another goal is to do one sinkload of dishes.

Yes, baby steps.

I had my abdominal ultrasound today where they pressed on and photographed my gall bladder (which they think might be the offender), kidneys, spleen and liver. But, the tech said that she didn't see anything odd-looking with the gall bladder. Which is good since I'm rabidly anti-surgery (I had surgery about a year and a half or so ago, and I'd rather not do that again because it sucked), but bad because I just want to know what the hell is going on. I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday to talk about the results, so we'll see. Keep your phallanges crossed for me.

I just got a copy of The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley from the library. Ellen had it checked out, and when we did our hang-out-and-look-at-cookbooks-day I was entranced by it. I can't wait to dig it. It's full of recipes that have a meat and non-meat version so you can make them both simultaneously, if you like, to please the veg and non-veg diners at your table. I still won't make the meat, but I like the concept. And, he has some really great recipes, and lots of basics--which I especially love as I'm learning.

In non-cooking and/or health-related news, I went to see the new Harry Potter movie last night. Yeah, it was opening night, and therefore especially nerdy, so? What do degrees of nerdiness matter at that point? I had considered drawing on a lightning bolt-shaped scar on my forehead, but both ran out of time and suspected that my friend Roya might ditch me. But, we did see a few peeps in capes and such. Good times. And, the movie was awesome! I want to go back and read all the books and watch all the movies again now. I wish I went to Hogwarts. For reals.

I found this little gem on someone's myspace blog. I'm, like, so totally there!
Wizard Rock Concerts with the Carnegie Library
Celebrate the release of the new Harry Potter book and film with two free wizard rock concerts at Schenley Plaza! To learn more about the Carnegie Library's Potter Mania programming this summer, click here.
Tuesday, July 31, 6 - 8 pm - Remus Lupins help celebrate Harry Potter's birthday

Sunday, August 19, 6 - 8 pm - Harry and the Potters with Draco and the Malfoys

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

okay, baby steps.

Well, as you may have gathered from my whiny, morose post yesterday, I've kinda been down in the dumps. But, I got a really sweet email from Nowlzie this morning reminding me of the fundamentals and to take it one step at a time. So, I decided that I'm going to approach one goal each day, and then add on from there. Today's goal is to drink at least 64 oz of water. I used to be so good at this, but it's always a struggle. But, it's 1:01 p.m., and I have over half of it (40 oz.) down so far. Yay!

I'm also wondering if the down-in-the-dumps thing isn't a reaction to my therapist moving. Who knows? But, yeah. Baby steps.

Last night I needed--no, wanted--some comfort food. First I tried to talk Hurd into going to Spice Island Tea House for my favorite, number one comfort food--java fried rice (and then was imagining a trip to Dave & Andy's afterwards). But, she declined because she was going to the gym, and suggested that I make something comparable. So, I made Heidi's Millet Fried "Rice" (I made this a couple months ago, too, and posted the recipe here), and added in some broccoli, peas, and sprinkled on some of my baked shittakes. It wasn't as spicy and greasalicious as the java fried rice, but it was pretty good. I'd forgotten my camera card, but took a pic with my phone. So, the quality's not great but:
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On the down side of last night...I bought a pack of cigarettes and two Heath ice cream bars. I figure if I make myself confess here on the blog, I'll be less likely to do it. We'll see. Thanks for following along with me, and for the reassurance--I can really use it right now!

In other news, hopefully the mystery illness will be identified soon. I went in this morning for my blood tests, and have the abdominal ultrasound tomorrow morning, and then a doctor's appointment next week to discuss the results. Keep your fingers crossed for me. But, the ear/throat thing did mostly clear up with the allergy medicine, so here's hoping it's an easy fix.

In other actual-good news, I've been doing well at the saving! Barring any disasters, I'm hoping that I'll have $400 at the end of the month! Who knew I could do that?!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hmmm...it wouldn't let me post a title. What's up with that? Is this program tired of my uninspired blog titles? Well, it probably knew what it was talking about because I didn't have anything good today either.

I need to confess something, and hope that in confessing it will get me back on track. 'Cause that's the confession. I'm off track, and have been for a while. I plateaued over a month ago, and instead of kicking the exercise up a notch and cutting down on calories, I did the opposite and justified it because I quit smoking. But, then I smoked while I was at the beach, and since then have been smoking off and on, here and there. I haven't been feeling well for a while, and have used that as an excuse, too. Ugh. It feels like starting over again. But, I can't keep getting on the scale and seeing 214 and 212 every day. I'm so close to crossing that 200 pound mark, and I really want to! Why am I stalling? Why won't I make myself drink more water? Why do I justify eating ice cream? And, why is my apartment getting disgusting again?


Monday, July 9, 2007

weekends, i love you.

This weekend was so fun that I'm not even really feeling that bitter about it being Monday! I like my weekends with a little laying about and a little bit action-packed. This one did not disappoint.

Friday I met up with Lauren to meet one of the dogs she sits for because I'm going to fill in for her this weekend. I had some time to kill before I met up with them after work, so I went to Trader Joes and got a couple of things and flirted withe some of their cute dykployees. Always a good time. Then, met up with Lauren and Dolce (a lil' maltese), and we took a little walk in the park and hung out for a bit. Then I went home, made a big salad with some jalapeno chips and mango salsa on the side (chips from TJ's, mango salsa from Reyna), watched a movie (Fixing Frank, 4 stars), pet and scratched and massaged the China-Bear and the K-Bear and we all passed out around 10:30. Good times.

Then, I was up at the cracka on Saturday because E-dawg and I were headed off for our raw milk roadtrip. We took a lovely drive (well, it was on 28 which isn't all that lovely, but still) out to Worthington to Le-Ara Holsteins/Wilson Farms. It's owned by two sisters, and we met Lara who I'd been emailing with. She's the cutest lady-farmer in all the land! And, they're planning on expanding into making a bottling facility so that they would be able to sell the raw milk in stores (like, the co-op, WF, etc.). It was a sweet little farm, and the cows seemed happy and clean (E's mom was concerned about them being clean), and with a gajillion barn cats hanging out looking cute (and also clean).
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Then, we drove back to the 'Burgh, hung out for a while at Beleza, then in the courtyard at Zeke's house (where I was dogsitting) and shared cook books and recipes until we were hungry enough to warrant a salad. Nerdy and delicious. My favorite.
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After E-dawg left, Zeke and I took a big walk and then just chilled out around the house, read, played around on the internet. Then I made a big ol' pile of Eric Gower's Breakaway Fries and watched some tv (cable!). But, he said that his are done in 5-7 minutes. Mine were more like 20-25 minutes. Hmmm. I forgot to take a picture, but they were freakin' awesome and very easy. I used four large potatoes cut into shoestrings. Heated 1 T. butter with 1 T. olive oil in a large skillet and added about 1 t. of chipotle chili powder. Pan fried them until they were golden brown and crispy-ish, and then shook on a bunch of paprika salt (just paprika pulverized with some coarse sea salt). Served it with a dollop of ketchup and a dollop of mayo. Not light, but mmm, mmm good.

Sunday morning Ellen and Kara came over for a raw milk waffle brunch. We were still at Zeke's house, so had the awesome courtyard for an al fresco brunch. Our menu was:
-coffee with raw milk and sugar
-orange juice
-wholewheat "almost as good as buttermilk" waffles, made with raw milk (I forgot to bring this recipe, but I'll try to remember it tomorrow--from Doggie's recipe from the beach)
-waffle toppings: ricotta cheese, sliced strawberries, the most gorgeous raspberries I've ever seen that Ellen foraged in the North Side, maple syrup and Richard's "country honey"
-Kara's tomatoes stuffed with an avocado-melon salad (I'm having the leftovers of this for lunch today!) with lemon cucumbers and watercress (was that watercress?)

Hot damn. That was some good eatin'!
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Wow, that was good. I wish I had another waffle right now.

Then, E-dawg and hit up the Riverview Park pool (home of our favorite graffiti: "you know you eat shit") to cool off, then I met up with The Gooch for a Scrabble Showdown. She beat me. Again. I cannot abide this.

I had plans to check out the Fair Is Fair show last night to see some jazzercizing quipsters and other fun times, but I was pooped by then. Plus, Sunday nights are for relaxing, right? I went home and hung with my babies, watched the second half of a movie I'd started on Friday night (The Devil's Backbone, 3 stars), then hung with Zeke, read and went to bed early.
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Ahhhh. I feel super today.

Friday, July 6, 2007

my newest love

I'd been hesitant to post about my newest love because I have his book from the library, and there's only one copy in circulation, and I want to keep it forever. But, I just checked the library site, and now there's a dang hold on my copy so I won't be able to renew it. Crap. Buying new books does not fit into the budget, but I'm in love with this chef and his cookbook. Whoever has the hold on this book--a pox upon you!

So, anyway, the book is The Breakaway Cook by Eric Gower.

Last night I made two of the recipes from his book. The Edamame Salad with Pickled Ginger, Maccha Salt and Roasted Almonds and the Crispy, Tangy Tofu. Holy cow. Both were amazing. Very light and perfect for a summer dinner. I made them, and took them over to Maggie's with a jug of my homebrewed kombucha. Yum.
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Eric's whole philosophy of "breakaway cooking" is that:

A breakaway cook is, above all, someone who loves great home cooking without excessive fuss – it’s all about keeping things very simple and accessible. Simplicity is what distinguishes breakaway cooking from fusion food, which often muddies the waters with needless and excessive complexity. Breakaway cooking reaches all over the globe for inspiration and ingredients to produce easy, no-fuss food. The flavors are bright and fresh, and the ideas are simple yet sweeping.

Breakaway cooks aren’t fancy restaurant chefs trying to achieve cutting-edge or trendy results. They typically work solo, or if they’re very lucky sometimes have a friend or family member to help out, and they typically work in imperfect kitchens, with imperfect tools, limited budgets, and limited time to cook.

A breakaway cook is someone who's willing to take a culinary leap by combining everyday staples—chicken, eggs, common vegetables, pasta—with an international bazaar of readily available ingredients: miso, green tea, tamarind, chutney, star anise, pomegranate molasses, lemongrass, ginger and galangal . . . the list seems to grow everyday. The Breakaway Cook shows home cooks how to take these "global flavor blasts" down from the shelf and use them in new, time-saving ways. These intense flavors then get combined with the freshest of local organic produce, and are woken up even more with the liberal use of excellent salts, citrus, fresh herbs, and good olive oils and vinegars.

I love his style, and I LOVE the way those recipes tasted. And, they were really easy and straightforward. I had to make a couple substitutions/omissions, and it was still amazing. I'm especially down with his ideas of making flavored salts and vinegars as a simple way to infuse your cooking with "flavor blasts". I made his maccha salt last night for the edamame recipe, and used it today on some hard-boiled eggs with my lunch. So delicious!

Here's the tofu recipe:

Crispy, Tangy Tofu
serves 4 [ek: uh, this served 2 and I could've totally eaten more]
from The Breakaway Cook, p. 100

zest and juice (about 1/4 c.) of 1 large lemon, preferably Meyer
zest and juice or 1 orange
2 T. carrot juice [ek: i didn't have carrot juice, so just used water]
1 T. honey
1 T. soy sauce [ek: i used Bragg's liquid aminos]
pinch of cayenne
3 scant T. rice flakes or fine dry bread crumbs [ek: i used panko]
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of freshly crushed black pepper
1 block silken tofu, drained, then wrapped in paper towels to absorb moisture
1 egg yolk
1 generous T. unsalted butter
1 t. chopped fresh chives (optional)

Put the citrus juices into a small saucepan, add the carrot juice, honey, soy sauce and cayenne, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer while you prepare the tofu. [ek: i actually added the zest, too. when i read through the recipe i thought he forgot to add it, but i'd do it again. it made the sauce extra citrusy and delicious].

Put the rice flakes (or bread crumbs), salt and pepper in a coffee or spice grinder and pulse a few times. Be sure the paper towels have absorbed as much water as possible from the tofu, then slice the tofu along its "equator", creating 2 large flattish slabs. Cut each of those in half, giving you 4 pieces. Spoon the egg yolk on one side of each piece and evenly spread the rice-flake crust over them. Heat the butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and saute the tofu, crust side down, for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Carefully flip the pieces over with a spatula and briefly cook the other side, about 2 minutes. Pour some of the reduced sauce into a warm plate or shallow bowl and slide the tofu into the center of the sauce, crispy side up. Top with the orange and lemon zest and the chives, if desired.

And, here's the edamame salad recipe.

Edamame Salad with Pickled Ginger, Maccha Salt, and Roasted Almonds
serves 5 or 6 [ek: Mags and I each had two helpings of this, and I had one helping left over for lunch today]
from The Breakaway Cook, p. 66

1 T. unsalted butter
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. minced shallot
3 c. cooked edamame
1/2 c. pickled ginger (p. 38), juilienned [he makes his own pickled ginger, which I'm totally going to do, but I didn't have that ready, so just used it from a jar]
1/4 c. vinegar from Pickled Ginger
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced into irregular shapes
freshly crushed black pepper
maccha salt (p. 36)
1/4 c. roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the galic and shallot and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large serving bowl and add the edamame, pickled ginger, vinegar and avocado. Mix and sprinkle in plenty of pepper. Divide the salad among individual plates, dust each serving liberally with the maccha salt, and top with the almonds.

I can't wait to try as many of the recipes as possible before I have to return the book (on 7/18, you bastard! no, not you. that person who has a hold on the book). I will definitely be buying a copy of this when I'm more financially solvent.

In other news, I've been on a quest to track down a source for raw dairy. At the beach Doggie made some waffles with raw milk, butter and cottage cheese that were amazing. I haven't been able to stop thinking of them, so I emailed around and found a couple sources for raw milk and cheese (alas, no butter or cottage cheese yet, but one farm said they may start making yogurt soon). E-dawg and I are making a little road trip out to Le-Ara Holsteins/Wilson Farms tomorrow to pick up some milk. And, then she and Kara and I are making the waffles tomorrow. I'm getting some strawberries and ricotta cheese (the raw cultured cottage cheese was sorta like ricotta) and maple syrup, and Ellen's brining some of her friend Richard's country honey and some raspberries. Kara is going to make "something complimentary", and I can't wait to see what that is because she's an insanely good cook. Now, that is what a Sunday morning is all about!

Oh, and the kombucha. I finished one batch on Sunday (took about a week and a half to get to the acidity that tasted good to me), and started two more. I bottled what I'd made, and have been drinking it up (made about a gallon). It's not as effervescent as the stuff you get in the store (I'm thinking that's probably because it's mixed with fruit puree which gives it something to eat and build up pressure), but it's delicious and I feel good when I drink it. The two mothers that will come from the batches I'm making now are spoken for, and one of the ones from the batch after that, but if you're interested in making your own, just let me know and I'll put you on The Mother List.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

a mid-week holiday equals an extra "monday"

I know it's ungrateful to complain about a day off, but still. It feels like a second Monday today. I was emailing with E-dawg about it this morning, and we were both feeling cranky. I freakin' hate waking up by an alarm. It makes me want to throw a temper tantrum, even though I'm not normally prone to temper tantrums.

But. But! I had a great day yesterday! I got up early and headed down to Morgantown and met up with Nowlze and B-dub for breakfast, then had a brief visit with Nowlzie's family.
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Then headed out to Cooper's Rock to meet up with my family. My mom, step-dad, brother and niece all drove up to meet me for a picnic/hike/hang-out. Good times. Here we are!
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I made some picnic treats to take. A pesto pasta salad with the pesto I made on Monday. Just used some pasta, toasted pine nuts, yellow bell pepper, feta and grape tomatoes with the pesto. Yum.
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And, a beet salad. Here's a recipe I winged. It was good, but I also made some notes for next time, following:

8 small-medium beets, peeled and sliced into rounds
3 small carrots, grated
1 small red onion, frenched
1 handful of cilantro and parsley
1-2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
2 T. olive oil

Cook the beets, just covered with water, the vinegar, salt and sugar until tender (like, 20 minutes). Toss with the other ingredients, and chill.

-use a mild white onion instead of red
-maybe dill instead of cilantro
-double the amount of carrot
-make a vinaigrette with the beet water, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, shallots and pomegranate molasses? honey? fresh horseradish?

This picture is right after I made it. The next morning it was all beet-colored. Both are pretty, but I loved all the bright colors when I first mixed it:
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I also sorta made up a recipe for a strawberry tart after looking at recipes from a bunch of people. The crust is based on the Pastry Sucree Crust from Anna Thomas. It was very, very tasty, but I'd still change a few things for next time.

1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c. butter (oops! i meant this to be 1/4 c.!)
1/2 c. macadamia nuts
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg + 2 egg yolks
pinch of salt

Cut the flour, butter and macadamia nuts together until it resembles a coarse meal. Separately mix the sugar, salt and eggs. Then combine together, and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Then pat into buttered pan, and poke holes for steam to escape. Bake at 400 degrees for about 5-10 minutes.

8 oz cream cheese (I only had Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, so used that, and it was good, but I'd probably use cream cheese or marscapone next time)
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. almond extract (couldn't really taste this, so either omit or add 1/2 t. instead)
zest of 1 orange
1 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 large basket of strawberries (and I used a small basket of cherries to make two individual tarts)

Cream first five ingredients together and chill for about an hour. Then, spread into the cooled crust and bake for about 40 minutes (put foil around edges of pan so the edges of the crust don't get too browned).

Now, in this version I actually placed the fruit and glaze onto the pie before baking, but next time I'm going to put the fruit and glaze on afterwords so the berries stay beautiful.

3 T. orange marmalade
1 T. freshly squeezed orange juice

Before baking:
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After baking (still pretty, but would be so good with the unbaked berries--actually, probably would still bake the cherries, but not the strawberries):
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My mom brought her famous butternut pound cake (my favorite!), deviled eggs and a bunch of stuff from KFC. I took some cake and eggs home with me. Here was my leftovers plate.
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I'm actually having more beet salad and pasta today for lunch. Right now. Right as I'm typing this. Like magic!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

p.s. big news

I can't believe I forgot to write about this in my earlier post. It's big news.

I had my last therapy appointment last night! I was discharged for being suitably sane enough to make my way in the world!

Actually, this came about because my therapist is moving to Portland. When she told me a couple months ago, we both decided that I'm ready to be discharged. So, we talked about lots of stuff, and about strategies for coping in various situations that may/will come up in the future. She's fantastic. The best therapist I've ever seen.

I started seeing her last year after my dad died and I was really depressed and struggling with anger at my mom, huge regrets, hating myself, issues with food, and all sorts of other ugliness. But, since November I've made some pretty remarkable progress, if I do say so myself, and much of it is due to my therapist being so freaking awesome.

I hate that seeking professional help for emotional problems still has so much negative stigma associated with it, and that people are scared, for a host of different reasons, to seek out help. So, if you've thought about entering therapy but are scared or unsure of what to expect, I'd be happy to talk with you about my experience with it. I'm not saying it's easy. It isn't. It's hard work, and there were many times that I did not want to go to my appointments, but I was always glad I did.

I was telling her last night about the analogy that I like to think about when I'm trying to do the right thing and grow as a person and it hurts. It's like when you're a kid and get growing pains. The pain is breathtaking at times, and it sucks in the moment, but ultimately it's a wonderful thing that you're growing and changing, and it makes the pain worthwhile. I think it works the same way mentally. Growth hurts. But, it's good.

I think it's time to dust off my personal mantra: opting for personal growth. Because it is a choice. It's a choice that each of us makes every day, multiple times a day. We often choose to stick with what's comfortable--whether it be right or wrong or whether it hurts us in the long run--because the unknown is scary. But, if I preface every choice I make--even the small ones--by asking myself, honestly, if I'm opting for personal growth, it makes the path a bit clearer.

Thank you, Lynn, for being an incredible listener, guide, mentor and friend!

hey! i'm ridin' around, ridin' around on it, hey!

The title of today's blog is from a song that a Hurd put on a mix for me last year about a girl that inherits a bike and, well, rides around it, rides around on it. I keep hearing it in my head because...

Yay! Guess what! I have a bike! My pal Marsha hooked me up with a free bike! And panniers! And, Maggie is lending me her bike rack! And, I'm picking it up today! Hooray! I'm so excited! You better believe that pictures will follow! Woo hoo!

I'm meeting my parents, brother and niece in WV tomorrow, and Drew (my brother) suggested we meet at Cooper's Rock. I love it. It's a great park right outside of Morgantown. I'm going to take my bike, and my little niece Savanah (4, almost 5) is going to bring her's, too. I talked to her on the phone last night, and she said, "I done got me some Barbie band-aids for my only self, but you can use them if you get hurt, too." Can you tell she's from WV? I hope I don't need the Barbie band-aids, but I appreciate the offer. In related news, I just heard that I will be getting a new niece or nephew in March/April!

In other unrelated news, I'm still sick. I'm not really sure what's going on. I've been getting nauseous and throwing up randomly for a couple months now, and then have had this cold and flu thing for a couple weeks. The doctors don't seem to have any clue either. They gave me medicine for acid reflux (which is weird since I've only had heartburn twice in my life), allergies (for the continued sore throat and ears) and an anti-nausea pill. And, I'm supposed to go in for blood work and an abdominal ultrasound this week. And, they kept asking if there was any chance I could be pregnant. So, my theory is that I have a petrified baby, or the next coming of the messiah, stuck somewhere all up in there. We'll see. But, really, I'd be satisfied to just stop having to throw up all the time.

While I was at the doctor's I asked for them to check my weight history and when the last time I was under 200 pounds. It was March 2002. Come on, girl! I want to break that line! I've still been hovering between 208 and 213. I'm so ready to move down. Of course, that means that I need to re-give up ice cream. Ouch. But, the bike will help, I hope!

I made some pesto last night for dinner. I thought about trying Heidi's instructions for How To Make Pesto Like An Italian Grandmother, but I was hungry and didn't have time for all the chopping. Instead, I did a quick food processor version. All amounts are approximate. Vary based on your tastes:

2 c. basil (like, smashed down into the cup)
1/4 c. mint leaves
1-2 cloves garlic (I used one because it was pretty big)
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. olive oil
1/3 c. freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano (I went with the romano because it's less expensive)
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts
sea salt and pepper

I made some fresh pasta that I got at Penn Mac on Saturday, but I can't remember what flavor I got. I'm thinking it might have been a basil-lemon? (do you remember, e-dawg? i remember that you got rosemary, but what did i get??). Anyway, yeah, I had it with pasta, and sprinkled on some more toasted pine nuts and some of the baked shittakes. Yum. That is some fantastic freshness.
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And, I still have about 1/2 c. left. I'm having visions of pizzas and sandwiches and eating it with a spoon. I love pesto!

Monday, July 2, 2007

why do mondays always come so quick?

Okay. I have realized that this blog is turning into a 10% celebration of weekends and a 90% bitchfest about the weekdays. I would like to say that this will stop, but I cannot. Weekends are where it's at and way too short, and it makes me wanna squeeze someone's face in anger when they're over. I just read on Wikipedia that Mondayitis is a real disease! Well, something like that:

Many people claim that the "condition" is in fact a diagnosable illness based on the human circadian rhythm being incompatible with a 40-hour work week. However, the medical credibility of the condition is a matter of debate.

Anyway. Yeah. Boo for Monday.

But, the weekend was freakin' lovely, wasn't it? Friday evening I was finishing up dog-sitting with Zeke. I got off work early to go pick up my car (now with all four windows functional!), and shopped at the co-op--which took forever because I was on the phone with the Hurd, and her scintillating conversation was distracting. And, then went to the Citiparks farmers market and got some cherries, a slice of raspberry pie (dear lord. delicious. Sand Hill Berry Farms.), some basil, and potatoes. Then, I got Zeke, and we met Sandra and her little doggie-gal Talulah in the park for a nice little stroll and dogstravaganza. Good times. Then, I went home and watched Music and Lyrics. Whoa. Real bad. My uterus has horrible taste in films. But, a lazy night in with some bean-n-cheese-n-avocado soft tacos was a good time (and, I like a good time).

Saturday morning Ellen and I walked over to the Strip to hit up the Firehouse Farmers Market, Reyna, Penn Mac and La Prima. Now, that is totally my idea of a good time! At the farmers market I got some mushrooms (1/4 lb. of shittakes and 1 lb of criminis), some mint and cilantro, and some fresh horseradish. Those fluffy, beautiful flour tortillas and some mango salsa from Reyna. Some Breemster cheese, saffron, fresh pasta and dried fava beans from Penn Mac. A latte from La Prima.

I did the same baking of the mushrooms that I did last week, but this time I had what Ellen called a "mushroom off". I wanted to see if I could use other (less expensive) mushrooms and still achieve the deliciousness that the shittakes gave me. So, I went with 1/4 lb. of shittakes and 1/2 lb. of criminis. Brushed off any dirt, removed and discarded the stems, sliced them thinly, tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and ready, set, go'ed them at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes (flipping/shaking after ten minutes, then every 3-5 minutes after that) and tasting along the way, as per Doggie's instructions.

before (criminis on the left, shittakes on the right):
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I declare the winner to be....shittakes! Yes, they were just smokier, saltier, crispier and just had more depth of flavor. However, that said, the criminis were good, too. Just not as good.

But, the criminis still had a chance to redeem themselves, and they did! I'd been wanting to bake something since the weather had cooled down to a manageable temperature for having the oven on. I wanted to do some kind of savory tart. So, I dug around through some recipes, and found a recipe for Onion Tarte Lyonnaise with pastry brisee crust in The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas, the old skool edition. I added potatoes and mushrooms and forgot the cheese (d'oh!), cut down the amount of cream and increased the milk, but otherwise stuck closely to the original. It was simple and rustic and freakin' delicious (even without the cheese). It made enough for a 9" pie pan and two individual tarts in small ramekins. So, here's what I did:

2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced
butter and olive oil
4 eggs
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. milk
nutmeg, salt, pepper

pastry brisee:
2 c. flour
2/3 c. butter
1 T. sugar

Okay. So, first I made the pastry crust. She describes it as the "shortest of the short crusts", and it is. It's very flaky and crumbly. I put everything in the food processor and cut it until it resembled a coarse meal. She suggested forming it into a ball and chilling in the fridge for about an hour, but I just pressed it into the pans, poked it with a fork, then chilled it in the pans for about a half-hour. It's too crumbly to roll out, you just have to work it with your fingers to press it into your pans. Easy, peasy.

For the tart filling, I sauteed the onions until translucent with a little butter and olive oil and s+p, then added the potatoes, and cooked on low with a cover for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I sauteed the mushrooms in a separate pan with a little butter and olive oil and s+p for about 5 minutes. Then tossed them all together, and spread them out over the bottom of the crust (it filled most of the pan). While they'd been cooking down, I combined the eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg (maybe 1/2 t.?), salt and pepper. After the potato/onion/mushroom mixture was in the crust, then I poured the egg mixture over them to fill them up. Sprinkled with a little more nutmeg and s+p. Anna also had called for some grated gruyere (3 oz?) in with the eggs. I had planned to add an equal amount of chevre in little dollops, but just spaced it. Luckily, it was still tasty without.

Next time I think I will cook the potatoes a little longer over higher heat to get them a little crispy, and add the cheese, of course.

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Saturday night I went to Cattivo. Someone (I think it was Lisa Campbell) put an idea out on the queer events mailing list to have a meet-up there for "The List", so I had to go, right? It ended up being a heck of a good time! Tons of ladies there! I'm bad with guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar, but maybe 150? maybe more? I don't know. Lots. And, I wore my fancy new dress that I'd gotten at the beach and was unsure if I'd ever wear. I liked it. This is how cool I looked. So cool that I had to pose with my sunglasses on.
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Sunday I slept in, then got a call from Ellen for a coffee quest. We tried to hit up Beleza and Amani, but both were closed. And, right after we'd been talking about how righteous it is to have two coffeehouses in the North Side! Dang.

Actually, it ended up being a-okay. We went over to La Prima again in the Strip (and Ellen suggested that we pick a place each weekend to make it our hangout, and hang out there a lot, but only for that weekend. This was La Prima's big chance!). We ran into another local lesbian and had some coffee and chatted and eased gently into our Sundays. Good times. Then I went by Bobcat's new digs (super cute!) briefly to drop off some tart for her moving-in sustenance, then on to the Quiet Storm to meet up with my pal The Gooch for a Scrabble Smackdown. Unfortunately, I was the one smacked down. D'oh! But, it was still relatively respectable. 307 (The Gooch) to 301 (The Me). Still, dang. I was even wearing a Scrabble-themed outfit to inspire fear and intimidation. I was imagining myself to be some exotically plumed bird of paradise and was planning to freak her freak with my mere Scrabble-esque presence. So much for that. Then I was just left being a nerd. Ah well.

Then I got a call from The Hurd who suggested that I come over and join she and Ellen for yardening (sans yardening). Now, Hurd recently posed a question in the comments asking why our joint adventures rarely show up in the blog. And, the answer was that our shared adventures are seldom fit to print. This is not an exception, but here goes. We had a little wine, smoked cigarettes on the deck (I have to start the freakin' Chantix and quit again), had a kitchen dance party, smoked more, had an upstairs dance party to "Dick In A Box", may have engaged in some borderline illegal activities, then wrapped it up with a trip to Giant Eagle for Ben & Jerry's ice cream. We both wanted Willie Nelson's peach pie thingy, and there were two pints left. However, one of those pints was shoved all the way to the back. Hurd's solution? Have me climb into the freezer case with a package or Pringles to use as a reaching aid. Classy. (You like that Hurd?)