Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Huge Changes!

Wow. So much has been going on over here!!

First, my really nice camera was stolen. Out of our car, right in front of our apartment. I did accidentally leave it in the car but we were shocked that it was snatched that quickly, which shows you that someone is prowling around the parking lot looking for things to steal. We reported the incident & gave them the serial number in case it shows up at a pawn shop, and the cop said there have been a lot of thefts from cars here lately. (It's general a nice, quiet area where you feel safe.)

This was about a week or two after our video camera & computer printer mysteriously died, and we generally had a growing list of things that needed to be replaced with little hope of having the money to do so. I think the camera thing would have sent me over the edge but then....

Justin got a new job! He's been looking for months but there just weren't a lot of high school science spots opening up. Once we got further into the summer he'd pretty much accepted the fact that he'd be at his school another year. Then we got a call out of the blue for from our top choice school district and within two days he interviewed & was told he had the job. It's for Physics, his specialty (he's been teaching all four sciences) and a *huge* pay increase.

The next week he was out of town for a science workshop while Orson & I stayed with his mom (so we wouldn't be alone & car-less for a week). Terrible timing, but we both spent the time searching online for a new place to live. At first we were looking at apartments & I had a running list of about 70 & had called about a dozen to ask about openings. The longer we looked the higher our price range got, and the selection was still pretty sad (we've been spoiled here!). But with the new higher price range we started looking for houses and the options were *so* much better.

Unfortunately almost every rental house I called either didn't allow pets or was already rented. (I think a lot of the sites have pulled the info from other sites & don't update it when they are off the market.) We were able to get appointments at 2 houses for Saturday. Saw the 1st one & loved it but the 2nd one called before we got there & asked about pets so it got cancelled. (I never knew one de-clawed & neutered cat could cause so much trouble) We found a few other options online but decided to just go with the one we'd seen.

So, we move in 2 weeks (on Orson's b-day!) and the new place is 1.5 hour away! Last night we started packing.  Time-wise we are not too worried the packing, the hardest part will be finding enough boxes and dealing with all of the little details (utilities, internet, address changes, etc.). It's going to be a crazy few weeks!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dinners for the Week

We have been eating well lately! We had a lot of luck with the new recipes last week & I even snapped some pictures of one meal.

Chawan mushi, 1

Chawan mushi - Ok, I’ll admit it. I partially wanted to try this because it can be so pretty with every arranged in the little ramekins! I mostly followed the above recipe but with a few additions from others I’d marked. I definitely wanted some shrimp at the top, peaking through, so I ditched the crab & added two shrimp per ramekin. I also added chopped up two baby spinach leaves to each dish.

So I arranged the chicken, mushroom, and spinach on the bottom, a couple of shrimp on top, then poured in the egg custard mixture & steamed until set. The egg is mixed with a little soy sauce, salt, & dashi (broth) so it is nice & savory with the texture of a soft boiled egg.

Chawan mushi, 2

Unfortunately there was a lot of watery liquid floating around with the egg & I think using frozen & thawed chicken & shrimp was my mistake. I also think my ramekins were a little small because there was little room for the egg & I ended up only using about half of the mixture. (I poured that in the the ramekins later & steam the mixture by itself & had no issues with it setting. Very tasty!)

Walnut & Miso Dressing - On the side I made some roasted green beans with this Walnut-Miso Dressing which turned out incredible. Ground walnuts with miso, mirin, soy sauce, and some other seasonings - it really packed a ton of flavor in every little bite. This would be great on chicken or other veggies - we only ended up using half of it & I scooped up the rest with veggie crisps for a snack later on.

For the green beans I just tossed them with a little olive oil, spread them out on a cookie sheet & baked at 425 F for 10 minutes. Then you give the pan a little shake to turn them & cook 5 minutes more. I forgot to toast the walnuts before grinding them for the dressing, but it was already so packed with flavor I don’t think I was missing anything. I probably won’t bother to do it in the future either!

Walnut & Miso Green Beans

The sauce does look a little pale & odd on its own though, similar to a hummus.

Walnut & Miso Sauce

Bulgogi - This is a Korean dish with beef served over rice & what turned out to basically be a teriyaki sauce with lots of sesame seeds & green onions. But it is a really good sauce - I had a little left over that I mixed in with some noodles for lunch and it was so tasty I had to make a 2nd batch for future lunches. The only thing I changed was using a little less green onion. It was a little too salty so next time I would drop 1/4 cup soy sauce.

Crispy Edamame - I have to agree with a lot of the reviews that said this ended up being more chewy than crispy, but it wasn’t a bad texture. The taste was a little bland but better with a squirt of lemon juice. It was a nice change from just heating up the beans with a little salt & so I will probably try something similar again, but I wasn’t particularly in love with this recipe.

We also ended up with some last minute additions ~

Hot Bacon & Swiss Dip - Made this one night we had some friends coming over and it was amazing. No changes except that I didn’t have quite enough mayo. We tried it with Ritz & tortilla chips & preferred the 2nd.

For some reason this dip seemed very light, even though its loaded with cheese & dairy, which I can only assume is because the cream cheese is warmed. There also did not seem to be a lot of it (we could have probably eaten a double batch!), even though I know there was plenty - based on the measurements it makes a little more than the chicken & cream cheese dip I talked about last week, which we would have struggled to finish. Perhaps the ‘light’ taste tricks you into thinking you haven’t eaten much!

► Popsicles! - I’ve made several batches of these lately, experimenting with pudding & Jell-o, and have many more planned. These are definitely going to get their own post soon!


This meals for this week are ~

Perfect Paella - (pictured above, makes 2 dinners) I’ve never had Paella elsewhere to compare this to, but this recipe I adapted from a vintage recipe card is insanely good! It does take several meats to make, but bone-in chicken thighs are usually cheap, and we always use the other ½ lb. shrimp and 1/2 lb. kielbasa for two other meals. 3 meats for 4 meals is not bad at all!

► Pan fried kielbasa with squash, zucchini, and onion with some rice on the side. (To use up that sausage!)

Chicken Taquitos - Made these pretty recently but we couldn’t resist when we realized we already had every ingredient except for the tortillas!

Chicken Cobber Casserole - Love this recipe, but we do change the amounts around a bit, so I’ll need to type of a new version of this soon. (Basically we double the bread, 1.5 x the stuff you toss with it, and replace half of the white wine with chicken broth)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Translated Recipe - Pork & cabbage udon with miso & milk

Found this Japanese recipe here. Translation below ~

Creamy, miso with milk! Pork & cabbage udon.
Great for cold weather! An inexpensive & simple udon.

Ingredients ~ Serves 2
Udon - 2 servings
Dashi - 400cc (1 3/4 cups) could substitute chicken or vegetable broth
Milk - 300cc (1 1/4 cups)
Pork - 100g (3.5 oz.)
Cabbage - about 1/4 head
Thinly sliced green onion for garnish

Seasoning ingredients ~
Garlic - about 2cm
Miso - 1 Tbsp.
Soy sauce - 1 tsp.
Sake - 1 Tbsp.
Mirin - 1 Tbsp.
"Crazy salt" or salt & pepper - to taste

1. Cut the pork & cabbage into large bite sized pieces.

2. Bring the dashi to a boil in a pot. Add the pork and cabbage add lower the heat.

3. Cook until the cabbage is soft, then add milk. (Be careful not to boil the milk)

4. Add the seasoning ingredients & adjust to taste. The soup is ready!

5. Bring the udon to a boil and add to the soup, topping with the sliced onions.

Tips ~
Miso & milk go together very well.
Carrots, onions, or other vegetables are also delicious in this soup!
Recommended for a cold day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Polish - Tinsel Town & Twisted

Here is a newer polish I got called "Tinsel Town" from the China Glaze winter collection. I bookmarked a few polishes that had a 'stone' look to them & picked this as my favorite. (one of them was Orly's "Rock Solid", but I can't remember the third) It's a mix of silver glitters & very pretty in person (better than the pics), but I think it's a little too busy to stamp on so it's best enjoyed on its own.

China Glaze - Tinsel Town

To make it look a little more like stone I tried adding a matte coat. It looks great both ways!

China Glaze - Tinsel Town, matte

I was so surprised I was able to get my hands on the next bottle for cheap!!

Finger Paints "Twisted" is a top coat full of color changing flakes, very pretty & unusual. I marked it as good cheap substitute for a *very* rare & well loved polish called "Unicorn Puke", not really checking the price online (I even prefer this one, since the base coat is clear). Apparently "Twisted" came out in a limited collection earlier this year and was already sold out everywhere & selling for over $50 online! Oh well - file it away under 'never going to happen'.

But then I thought - the only place I've seen selling Finger Paints brand is Sally's Beauty Supply. What are the chances that our Sally's would still have some for $5? I figured it was impossible but worth a shot. A few weeks later I was running errands & dropped by. I scanned the Finger Paints rack... no luck. Moved on to the shelf where they display the new collections, and there sat this little bottle all by itself. The other 4 from that collection look the same in the bottle, so I nervously picked it up to read the name on the bottom, and there it was!

Finger Paints - Twisted, 1

For the brightest color you'll want to layer it over black or another dark color, but you can also wear this over something light for more of an opal effect. Head on you can see traces of dark blue & lots of red, yellow, & green. As you tilt your nails back they shift colors a bit, all turning green at the most extreme angle. Once again - prettier in person!

Finger Paints - Twisted, 2

I was a little tempted to sell this bottle for a big profit, but now the letters are all falling off so I'm going to tell myself that would ruin it for re-sale & just enjoy it myself! I found two others from this collection at another Sally's which have the blue/green or red/yellow/green shift but not the full range of colors like this one. (I bought them to sell but it looks like they only run $10-15.) Meanwhile you might want to make a covert trip to your local Sally's too, just in case! ;)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dinners for the Week

Earlier this week we needed something cheap & easy for dinners so we went with an old classic ~ grilled cheese sandwiches with Campbell’s soup! Though I will say that if you’ve never added garlic powder to your grilled cheese you must try it.

Chicken Salad Dip

We also made a simple dip for a snack night which involves mixing one large can of chicken, one packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix, and one pack of cream cheese, served with some mini pretzel twists for dipping. It is supposed to be a ‘chicken salad dip’, but it is really more of a cheesy-ranch chicken dip. (I don’t like chicken salad but I love this dip!)

This time we subbed a cup of cooked, shredded chicken for the canned chicken & liked it even better. I like to buy a rotisserie chicken about once every 2 weeks, shred it up, & store that in the freezer for future recipes. It works really well!

Shrimp with Coconut Rice - 3

Here are our plans for the rest of the week, which is looking very Asian! All but the top one are new recipes for us.

Shrimp with Coconut Rice - (pictured above) An old favorite which we haven’t made in a while because shrimp can be so pricey sometimes. You can also make the toasted coconut rice by itself as a side dish.

Chawan mushi - A Japanese savory egg custard with a little chicken & shrimp. Justin is very sceptical that I will like it. I’m mostly using this recipe but am already planning on a few changes based on other versions I’ve seen.

Broccoli with Walnut-Miso Dressing - This will be a side dish for the Chawan mushi, but I’ll be using some roasted green beans instead of the broccoli (since we already had a meal with broccoli for this week).

Bulgogi - A Korean meal with strip of steak in a sauce, served over rice.

Crispy edamame - We will be having edamame on the side with the Bulgogi, so I’ll either be trying this then or as a snack later on in the week.

Soup & Cheesecake - new recipes

We’ve been getting adventurous with some new recipes lately! We finished off last week trying a fancy soup and my first attempt at cheesecake.

Mushroom & Leek Soup with Parsley Dumplings

The fact that this recipe was from Bon Appetit should have warned me that we were in for something complex. The ingredients & directions were simple, but even with two of us working on it, it took forever to make! I was sooo tasty though, I think it was worth the work, but convincing my husband may be difficult.

I do feel like a lot of things could be simplified in this recipe though, like narrowing down the number of pans used! We were able to keep it down to one pot & one pan by removing the contents of the pan to use it for three different steps, and boiling the dumplings in the soup broth. We also made a few ingredient changes, leaving out the dried mushrooms (not by choice), using Sake instead of Sherry, and chicken bouillon instead of vegetable broth.

Next time I would cook the mushrooms & leeks together and see if we could bake the dumplings as one big sheet in the oven and then cut them up into small pieces. I would like smaller bites of them anyway, and if we could get that to work (with my other changes) it would make it so much simpler!

Snickers Cheesecake

I’ve been wanting to try making a cheesecake for a while now, so when a friend recommended a recipe she’d just tried I was eager to test it myself. We made the Snickers variation & it came out very tasty, light & fluffy. I think I may prefer a denser cheesecake, but everyone liked it so much it would be hard to switch to a different recipe.

We did vary from the directions quite a bit for this one. I don’t have a springform pan so we bought some pre-made pie crusts instead. We wanted to make two cheesecakes to bring to a picnic & bought enough ingredients to double the recipe. Luckily my mixer was too small to handle both batches, because as I mixed one we quickly realized that was going to be enough to fill both pie crusts! (At least cream cheese lasts a long time so I can use the extras in future recipes!)

I was a little unsure about baking them in the water bath, so when my friend said she had skipped that part it did not take much to convince me! Without the pie crust or water bath I basically dropped all of step #1.

Cheesecake - cracked

Unfortunately my cakes did end up pretty cracked! All around the edges with a big gash in the center on both. I started reading up on ways to avoid this in the future & found this and this page of helpful tips. One of those tips was using a water bath, go figure, but you can just put a pan of hot water on a lower rack, which sounds better to me.

But I also found out it is not that hard to clean the cracks up if you do get them. Just wet your finger, smooth a little out, and repeat! Not the prettiest thing, but it definitely helped.

Cheesecake - smoothed

Next time I will definitely be following a lot of those tips & doing some things differently. I'd also like to add a nice garnish or glaze on top to help spruce it up a bit.