Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Howl-oween!


So, my jack-o-latern got all mushy and grew gray-black hair on the inside that hung down from the top. Too bad, because I wanted to show you the spiffy creepy castle I carved in it. I didn't want to risk moving it more than once lest I end up with rotting pumpkin all over the place, so I moved it directly into the trash. Oh well.

I dressed the dogs up and embarrassed them by taking pictures this afternoon on the lawn. They were not cooperating and I ended up with just this one picture of them together in their costumes, so this is what you get. Mac is a king: his robe is purple and the lining is gold. I think his expression is perfect in the picture too... very regal. I'm pretending Ayla is a fireman, if only I had one of those plastic children's fire helmets that I had so many of as a kid. Judging by her look, she's a reluctant fireman, so I hope we don't have any fires around here.

I hope everyone is having fun trick-or-treating, or what have you. We don't get any kids at our door since we live in a gated complex. And its drizzling. We do buy candy every year, just in case. We just make sure to buy candy that we like. :)

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Excellence and Weirdos


Thank you Michelle for passing on this blog award. I'm all warm and fuzzy inside that you think my little blog is excellent. :) I met Michelle through Liz and have enjoyed both her blog and her cooking blog. So go on over and check her out! I'm passing this award on to:

Liz - you don't post nearly enough, but that's understandable :)
Mari - your girls are incredibly cute and I love reading about your adventures
Ricki - another person who shares a love for her dogs and for cooking
Chocolatechic - for your great pictures and delectable food

Liz tagged me for weird facts about myself, so here goes nothing:

1. I drink dill pickle juice - yup, straight from the jar. I love it and used to sneak it, but Chris caught me red-handed once so now I don't try to hide it. Since I'm the only one who eats pickles in this household the pickle juice is mine, all mine!

2. The finger tip joints on both of my ring fingers do not work. Look at your fingers and notice that you have little wrinkles at all the joints? The joints closest to the nail on my ring fingers are completely smooth, and the finger is somewhat curved.

3. I have a false front tooth. I knocked it out going over a bike jump on a scooter when I was ten or so. It wasn't until I was in college that I was able to get the final fake implanted, and the surgeon had to build up the bone area with cadaver bone. The implant itself is titanium. Creepy and cool.

4. I have a freckle in my eye. In the lower part of my right iris is a darker pinpoint that looks just like a freckle. Oh, and if the light hits my eyes just right they look orange. If I wear green near my face, they look greenish. Yeah for hazel eyes!

5. I'm a terrible sleeper. The slightest thing wakes me up, and I have a hard time sleeping when there's noise or light (though I find Mac's snoring comforting now that I'm accustomed to it). When Ayla gets up in the night I almost always wake up, settle her in bed again or put her blanket back over her (yes, my dog has a blankie), and then go back to sleep. I can't remember the last time I didn't at least wake up, if not get up, in the night. I occasionally have bouts of insomnia too, which are very frustrating. And I used to sleep walk - I even got in the shower in my sleep when I was a kid. I do have very vivid and entertaining dreams though. I also usually sleep on six or seven hours a night and do just fine.

6. I'm allergic to Pepto Bismol. It turns my tongue black/green. When I was a teen my mom took me to the doctor because my tongue turned strange colors. He had to "consult his books" and my mom teased me about turning into an alien from the inside out. He didn't know what it was, but prescribed something for me anyway. The pharmacist filling the script asked if I had taken Pepto recently and identified that as the cause of my Martian tongue. I haven't taken Pepto since. A black/green tongue is seriously disconcerting!

That was an interesting exercise, and kind of fun. I'm not tagging anyone in particular to do this, but if you do, leave a comment to let me know so I can find out more about the other weirdos out there. :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pot Pies and Polkas


This week's Barefoot Bloggers recipe was Vegetable Pot Pie, chosen by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen. I made a few changes: I halved the recipe, I used vegetable stock, I used white wine instead of Pernod (and doubled the amount), I omitted the frozen onions and used frozen peas, and instead of making the dough I used a Pillsbury pre-made. I also didn't make the pot pies in bowls as the directions state, but made double-crust pies in small pie tins so they were more like the pot pies I used to eat in college.

I really liked these pot pies. The sauce is thick, creamy (despite having only a little cream), and tastes great. It would be very easy to switch up the vegetables to use whatever you have on hand. And since I only made two pot pies, I have a lot of leftover filling. I think I'll put some more pot pies together with the remaining filling and freeze them for more easy meals.

I also made some Portabello Steaks from Diet Dessert & Dogs. I marinated the mushrooms most of the day, so they were very flavorful. I think I'd prefer to cook these on the grill rather than with my cast iron grill pan. Still, they were very good and the juices mixed nicely with the pot pie sauce.

Mmmm... comfort food

* * * * *

So, yesterday's performance was a lot fun. I sat in with the San Mateo Elks Club Band to play for the residents at the Masons House in Union City. The house is basically a retirement community for former members of (or widows of) the Masons. It turns out my tenor-playing friend is a Mason and a Shriner - now I better understand his incredible generosity.

I got a tour of the facilities - its like a really nice hotel and they provide everything for the 200 or so residents; quite impressive. We ate in the cafeteria with the residents and then headed down to the hall to play. The band was about 25 people strong (and there was one other woman this time!), and they decked me out in red suspenders and a green German cap to match everyone else. We played polkas and waltzes for about an hour, for an audience of about 50 people. They were not able to dance, but they cheered for the song announcements that they recognized and seemed to have fun. I had a great time playing the music, and kept remembering dancing the polka with my grandfather - I think my feet hardly ever touched the ground when I danced with him.


* * * * *

That's a big pumpkin!

Today I ran a few errands in the morning. Then I carved my pumpkin (but I'll hold off on posting the picture of the carved pumpkin until Halloween).

Cable-Down Raglan

I finished the body of my Cable-Down Raglan. I think I could have started the waist cables a little lower and made it longer, but it might block out so we'll see. Now I just have to do the sleeves (3/4-length, or full?). I've really learned a lot about cable construction and have enjoyed it. The sleeves should go a lot faster, which will be nice.

I hope you're as relaxed as Mac.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Postponing and Developments

Hey Barefoot Bloggers - I'll post Thursday's entry this weekend. I've had a busy week and I'm getting used to a new schedule, so I wasn't able to get the ingredients in time. However, if everything goes according to plan - and when does it ever? - I should have something pretty cool to share.

* * * * *

So, remember when I said I was breaking out the old saxophone again? After about a month of practice on my own, I have indeed joined the Pleasanton Community Concert Band! I've been with them for three weeks now, and have three performances coming up: November 2 we're playing at a Veteran's Day Ceremony, marches and military music. November 16 we're playing at a family night geared for children, so it will be Peter and the Wolf (with the story narrated), a few other pieces, and Star Wars. And we have a Christmas concert in December.

I sit near a tenor player named Ken who has brought me into another band (and lent me a soprano sax to play around with!). In addition to the PCCB I also play with the USS Hornet Swing Band on Wednesday afternoons at a senior center. This week was my first time with them and it was fantastic. Its literally a bunch of old men and me, and I sit front and center. They're really nice guys, and the entire afternoon I heard:

"You're the best looking sax player we have."
"You probably bring the average age of the group down to about 60."
"What do you think about playing with a bunch of old guys?"
(this from a senior in the audience)

And since my name is Misty, we had to play the song (unfortunately it wasn't a very good arrangement, but I was happy nonetheless). While I'm at it, check out Ella Fitzgerald singing Misty here. That woman is amazing; I could listen to her forever. Anywho, I had a great time playing jazz and Latin standards with the band and watching the senior citizens dance. And they paid us at the end, a whopping $2! I felt bad taking it, but everyone else took the proffered money so I couldn't refuse. I suppose it buys a 2/3 gallon of gas. Chris says I should save it up to by a new sax. At $2 a week, it would only take about 19 years.

Tomorrow Ken is taking me with him to perform at what I think is an Octoberfest at a Masonic Temple. I'm guessing we're playing polkas and oom-pah music? They are giving us lunch and beer, so I'll play whatever they want. I'm off to iron my outfit for tomorrow and find my music and sax stands. I think they're in a box under my bed somewhere...

Before I go though, here's tonight's dinner:


Delicata Squash Bisque from Vegan Yum Yum (I used real cream instead of cashew cream), mixed salad with Balsamic vinaigrette, cheesy garlic toast, and since its Steak Friday, I grilled up some skirt steak for Chris in my cast iron pan.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday Fun

Fall colors

I took the dogs swimming at Shadow Cliffs again on Friday.

Mid-shake

Chewing a twig

Squirrel highway

We made friends with a cattle dog.

Let's play!

Let's swim!

Whatcho lookin at?

Sun-filtering leaves

And I made dinner: a rib eye for Chris (it being Steak Friday and all), and grilled marinated tofu for me, with cheddar-cilantro-jalapeno stuffed potatoes and a Greek salad.


Mmmmmm

Not a bad start to the weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Love Breakfast

Unfortunately, Christopher isn't a big breakfast person, especially sweets, so I don't cook breakfasts very often. However, this past weekend I made Ina Garten's Easy Cheese Danish, which Val chose for Barefoot Bloggers. The only change to the recipe I made is halving it. I don't know what I'd do with 8 danish.

By the way, when I last bought eggs the checker asked me if I like the brown ones better than the white ones. I told him that I like the organic, cage-free, vegetarian ones better. Chickens are actually omnivores, they eat insects, but I'd rather they weren't made to eat other chickens so I'll do what I can without having my own coop.

The ingredients

First you cream together the cream cheese and sugar.

Like making cheesecake

Then you add egg yolk, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest (use organic lemons if possible since you're using the outer peel).


And mix well without whipping up the cream cheese.

Smooth, sweet, lemony, and creamy

Roll out a sheet of puff pastry to about 10" x 10". Puff pastry is quite easy to work with and very impressive once its baked up. One day I'll try to make my own.

Approximately square-ish

You cut the sheet in quarters, divide the cheese mixture in the middles of the quarters, fold over opposing sides, and brush it all with an egg wash. Then they go in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.

These puppies are huge

Bake them for 20 minutes, et voilĂ , cheese danish!

Yum!

These are very easy to make. I don't know that I'd make them for myself again, but if I had guests it would be a relatively simple breakfast. I'd add some jam or pie filling on top of the cheese mixture next time too; I'm thinking cherry would be especially good. And I would make them smaller as well - maybe six danish from one sheet of puff pastry instead of four.

I was sitting on the patio eating a danish Sunday morning, with a big cup of coffee and a book, dogs salivating at my feet, when Chris actually joined me with his own danish. His verdict: savory would be better. :)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Little of This, A Little of That

Thinking about what I did this weekend, it seems like a lot now!

Last weekend I got my hair cut, and I suppose I got what I deserved for going to a cheapie hair salon. I'm in the process of growing my hair out since cutting off 11 inches last winter, and its at the awkward stage where it likes to flip up on the ends as it hits my back and shoulders. I asked for something more even, and ended up with tons of layers that looked awful and the front chopped off. It was so awful I had to go buy shoes to feel better. I didn't want to go back for fear she would make it worse and it would be too short to fix again. Chris teased me about my quasi-mullet all week. Seriously, it was that bad! This weekend I called up the fancy salon where I got last winter's cut, and my new stylist was able to fix it, thank goodness. The previous layers were cut all wrong and choppy, but now they look nice. She had to cut off an additional 3 inches, but it should grow out nicely now. Crisis averted!

After my hair appointment I headed to the mall. I like to shop, but rarely find anything I like enough to buy, and I'm cheap when it comes to clothes for myself (though not for Chris... hmm). I ended up with a few cute things for myself this time, and nothing for Chris! It was really busy at the mall for some reason, but I enjoyed myself.

Saturday night I cooked up some minestrone soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The weather is definitely cooler now, which means its time for lots of soup! I used the recipe from my Bittman book, with some of the extra butternut squash I chopped and froze from the risotto last week, zucchini and summer squash, and frozen peas and chopped spinach. I usually see pasta in minestrone, and this recipe didn't call for any. I have a ton of soup left over, so I'll toss some pasta in next time.

Comfort food

Today I made a quick run to the store for a few things and spent the rest of the day cooking, knitting, and reading (The Omnivore's Dilemma while cooking and World War Z otherwise). I'm making progress on my Cable-Down Raglan. At first I worried that it would be too small, but now I'm thinking it might turn out too big. I'll just keep going and see what happens. This shot is three balls in, the sleeves are on waste yarn and I'll finish them when I'm done with the body of the sweater, and I've begun the waist cables:

Cable-Down Raglan

For breakfast I made danishes for Barefoot Bloggers, but more on those later this week. For lunch I threw together black bean and cheese taquitos, with my homemade salsa and guacamole as well as store-bought tomatillo salsa, for dipping. I baked these to be a bit healthier, but they'd be great fried.

Mmm... taquitos!

Mac spent most of the day in the kitchen with me. He sleeps on this rug Chris got from his Grammy years and years ago, hoping that I drop something and he can snatch it up before I get to it. This infrequent payoff must be worth it, because I'm always stepping on him or hitting his bum with the fridge door.

I can haz hot dog?

After lunch and some knitting/reading time, I made a bunch of cookies: two dozen of Martha Stewart's Outrageous Chocolate Cookies and three dozen Lemonade Cookies. I had to try out my new cookie scoop I picked up at Macy's, and am in love. It makes perfect, round, same-sized cookies and it much easier than using two spoons. The lemonade cookies are basically sugar cookies with lemonade concentrate added. They are light and fluffy, and the lemon flavor is nice. The chocolate cookies are one of my favorites. I first found the recipe when I had a subscription to Martha's Everyday Food magazine. I loved this magazine, and while the recipes are available online it was always nice to thumb through the pages each month too. I've given this as a gift subscription a few times and really recommend it for someone looking for good basic recipes and wanting to learn more about cooking.

Sugar overload

This evening I took the beasts out to play fetch. If there's only one ball Ayla will grab it and run home. I've found that if I take two balls, and one squeaker ball, I can get the dogs to play fetch and actually bring the ball back to me when I squeak the squeaker ball. Its a lot easier to get them running and burning energy off that way, and a lot more fun for me. Otherwise Mac is always trying to steal Ayla's ball, or they're standing there chewing on the tennis balls but won't drop them for me. We have a really nice lawn area to play on too, overlooking the golf course and by the spa.

Smiley dogs



By the way, my new dish soap is green apple scented. Whenever I wash dishes it makes me think of the dogs' shampoo, which is also green apple. Washing dishes makes me think of washing dogs, a very odd association.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Cat's Fired

I've started a tradition of making some type of beef for Chris on Fridays. Its something to get him through the week at work, and something to make sure I don't lose my meat-cooking skills should I ever need them. We've dubbed it "Steak Fridays".

Today I bought a decent tri-tip from Trader Joe's and covered it with minced garlic, fresh rosemary, sea salt, cracked pepper, and olive oil. I opened the propane valve, depressed the safety button, and had my finger poised on the lighter button when a bit of movement caught my eye on the far side of the BBQ:

Say hello to my little friend

Well, there goes that plan.

Chris was playing video games with his friends. They were all in favor of lighting it up with the mouse inside, as long as I named him Mickey first. I opted to take pictures instead. And they all got a kick out of Chris giving them the play-by-play as I jostled the BBQ around trying to get a better picture of Mickey.

He's probably still out there...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Change of Seasons

I was out walking the dogs tonight when I noticed that the leaves are falling from the trees, rustling in shades of orange and brown along the sides of the paths and in the parking lot. The first rain of fall was sprinkling down from the sky and falling cool on my face and hands. The smell of rain permeated the air, wet asphalt and ozone. I wonder if dogs pay attention to the change of seasons?

A new season means a change in foods. There will be less grilling and more roasting. There will be fewer light salads and pastas, and more homey and comforting soups and casseroles. And in this change of seasons, I've joined up with the Barefoot Bloggers, where my first dish is Butternut Squash Risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto

I made only a few changes to the original recipe: I omitted the pancetta; I used Imagine Organic No-Chicken Broth, and I used saffron powder rather than threads. I also halved the recipe since there's only the two of us to eat it. We still have leftovers, so I'll find out how the risotto reheats. *** Turns out, it reheats quite well! ***

The ingredients

I watched the episode where Ina Garten makes this dish and noticed that she used what appeared to be an ice cream scoop for the seeds in the butternut squash. I gave that a try, and now I think she might have been using a melon baller instead.

Squash ready to be roasted

I love the rich orange color of butternut squash, before and after roasting. (Check out my new blue wavy dish holding the oranges below. Love it!)

Orange and oranges

I love the smell of shallots or onions cooking in butter.

Buttery goodness

After the shallots are translucent (I might have browned them a little) you add the rice and coat the grains with melted butter.

Toasty

The process of making risotto takes time, and is a good reminder to slow down at times and enjoy the process. You slowly add ladles of stock to the toasted Arborio rice as the rice absorbs the liquid, stirring every few minutes. I'm reminded to be conscious of what is happening in the moment, something easily forgotten.

Relaxation in a pot

After about half an hour the risotto is done. You add in the roasted squash and Parmesan and enjoy. This dish turned out very creamy. The saffron lends a lovely yellow color and slight spiciness to the risotto. The roasted butternut squash was tender and sweet. I think I undercooked the risotto a bit, and the smokiness of the pancetta would be very good. Next time I might try some tofu bacon to add a bit more complexity to the risotto. This will definitely be a repeat meal in my house. As you see, I grilled some skirt steak for Chris to have with his, but this dish can certainly stand on its own as a meal.

Yum!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Wish You Were Here


Stef came to visit me today. I didn't bring my camera (darn it!) but we had a great time. She got to meet Mac, and Ayla was overjoyed to see her as usual. We hopped in the convertible and went to Danville to find a little trouble. We had lunch at The Rising Loafer where we sat on the patio and watched the people and motorcycles go by. Stef had a turkey sandwich on very tasty garlic basil bread, while I had a slice of quiche and cup of cream of green chili soup. The soup was good and very thick. The quiche was way too eggy and the additions were only on the top, not mixed throughout. I think next time I would try a sandwich or salad.

After lunch we walked down to the library where there was an Art Fair on the lawn. There was a nice jazz trio playing and we did well naming the standards they played (Stef got "Satin Doll" in the first few bars - impressive!). We looked at the pottery, jewelry, and wall art. And Stef bought me a pair of really cute earrings with little iridescent butterflies, insisting she had missed my birthday. I love them!

Then we headed over to Corks Wine Store to do some tasting. The store is decorated in warm and dark tones, with great art on the walls and marble tables (even chess tables). Stef had a nice Watts Chardonnay (I think) and I had a fantastic Bacchanalian Cabernet. The woman running the store poured us glasses instead of the tastes we had asked for, but refused to charge us for more than tastes. We also ordered a chocolate fondue with bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and rice crispy treats for dipping. It was so decadent and fun, and the proprietress was really great. She definitely earned our repeat business.

Finally we stopped by my favorite used book store, Bay Books. I picked up a couple more books, despite the growing stack I have already. But I had to get Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire. I read Wicked sometime last year, and this is the sequel. And we just made plans to see the Broadway production of Wicked when it comes back to San Francisco in January. I'm so excited about this - I've been dying to see it since I read the book and found out about the show. Stef, her mom, me, and my mom are going to go together (I just bought the tickets!) and I can't wait!

If I had my camera with me, I would have taken a picture of us at the wine bar with the two empty (comfy) chairs at our table. Liz and Katie, we missed you!