Wednesday, February 27, 2008


It's not a word I use often in the springtime: hopeful. In fact, spring is downright miserable for me most years, with the hay fever a nearly constant presence in my life. When I'm not sniffling and sneezing and grumping around, I'm passed out in a Benadryl coma.

But yesterday I went to visit an allergy specialist and for the first time in my life, I'm hopeful that I might actually be able to spend a spring season conscious and enjoying it. I got a couple of new medications to try (Astelin, an antihistamine nasal spray, and Singular, for both the allergies and the hay fever-related asthma I'm suffering through), but what's really got me jazzed is the sinus rinse.

What you do, basically, is you put warm salty water in the bottle and then squeeze the solution into one nostril and let it drain out the other one. Gross, I know. In fact, really really gross, and I won't let Mr Wonderful watch me do it, because...ewww. But the way I feel afterwards is heavenly. My sinuses feel clear and clean and completely free of any mucus or swelling. If you've ever seen me in the springtime, you'd know that this is nothing short of miraculous. I did it three times yesterday while in the middle of a massive allergy attack and it made me feel immensely better, immediately. It takes a few tries to get the hang of it though, and I wasn't doing a very good job yesterday, so it certainly didn't clear me up totally. But I did it again this morning and managed to use all of the saline solution to clear out my sinuses. And I can BREATHE. In the SPRINGTIME.

I feel like a whole new person.

Monday, February 25, 2008

25 things

I could write a wrap-up of the Stitches West conference I went to on Saturday, but I can sum it up in one word: Malabrigo. Malabrigo Silky (half silk, half merino, in lustrous Burgundy), Malabrigo Merino Worsted (a sweater's worth in Olive!), Malabrigo Lace (lovely cobwebby baby-soft dark blue/green Vaa), and best of all, a FREE skein of Malabrigo Sock yarn, not yet released for public purchase (or even mentioned on their official website!), in the most amazing blue/green/purple colorway. I am so drooling over this stuff, y'all. I went to the Malabrigo booth and asked the vendor when the sock yarn was going to be released, and when I mentioned that I was a member of the Malabrigo Junkies group on Ravelry, he pulled out a FREE skein, all for me! Big enough for a pair of socks! Superwash merino! The colorway doesn't even have a name yet, it's just called "Test Sample" but ooooooh, all the glorious jade, turquoise, sapphire, and amethyst colors....

Anyhoo, that's not what I wanted to write about. What I really wanted to write about is a meme I saw on Keckler's blog, The Grub Report, which is really just a list: 25 things I never get tired of.

So, without further ado, here's my 25, in no particular order:
  1. Spring bulbs, pushing up through the cold gray days
  2. The smell of the earth when it rains for the first time after a long dry spell
  3. Fresh salty sea breeze on my face
  4. Cowgirl Creamery cheese
  5. Mr Wonderful's whistling. He is a master whistler. He whistles along with songs, or just when he's walking or driving or whatever, and can do these amazing Disney-animated-bird trilling noises.
  6. Throwing a bunch of stuff together randomly and coming up with a great new meal that everyone in the family enjoys
  7. The smell of lilacs
  8. Rugrat, falling asleep while leaning up against me, going all boneless and limp, and drooling just a little bit
  9. The "aha!" moment, when a puzzling programming issue at work suddenly becomes clear
  10. A buttery, melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon from Ruth's Chris Steak House
  11. That moment when you just finish a wonderful book
  12. The smell of a wood fire, especially when you're camping
  13. Right after the cleaning ladies leave, when the house is perfectly clean (before the kids get here and mess it all up again...)
  14. Hot buttered popcorn at the movie theater; I can't seem to watch a movie in the theater without it
  15. Climbing into bed every night with Mr Wonderful
  16. Exploring a new city, especially if it's somewhere that requires the use of a passport
  17. Walking through the redwoods
  18. Finishing a knitting project
  19. Heirloom tomatoes, still warm from the sun, with fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper
  20. Road trip!
  21. Dancing with friends at a club until we're exhausted and dripping sweat
  22. Hearing a great new song on the radio
  23. Sleeping until I wake up naturally, without an alarm clock
  24. Getting a pedicure: it's a fairly cheap indulgence, and it lasts for a month!
  25. Kisses

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Knitting fun!

This weekend I get to go to Stitches West, which is like a super-conference for knitters. I may attend one of the little one-hour classes (depending on what's still open when I go), but my main reason for wanting to go is the yarn...all the fabulous, wonderful yarn that will be on sale in the Market. It's like the vendor's hall at a regular conference. Only, instead of selling software or whatever, they're selling YARN. Glorious, fabulous, luxurious yarn. There will be Malabrigo Silky there, I just know it! I've been looking around for this yarn for a while. It's on a limited release, so you can't just pick it up anywhere. It's a blend of merino and silk, and let me tell you, that Malabrigo merino is the softest damn wool I've ever laid my hands on.


And laceweight yarn! There will be lots of laceweight yarn. (I have a special lace project in mind but I'm keeping it under wraps for now.)

And sock yarn. (I don't need more sock yarn, I have enough to make four pairs of socks and I haven't even started a single pair yet!)

Ooooh, and SeaSilk! Yes, I want some of that too.

Um...yeah. So, I will be leaving my credit card at home just in case I am overly tempted. I have a bad habit of showing very little self-restraint in the face of beautiful yarn.

Corn & Black Bean Salad

A fresh, light vegetarian dish that works well as either a side dish or as a healthier alternative to guacamole. Scoop it up with chips, add it to your tacos, spoon it over an enchilada...the possibilities are endless. This veggie-filled dish is a natural for Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup.

Corn & Black Bean Salad
1/2 red onion, diced
1 can sweet corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 basket grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 c chopped cilantro
2 avocados, cut into 1/2" dice
3 limes
1/4 c EVOO
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chile powder
1 tsp sugar
6-10 shakes Tabasco, any flavor (optional)
salt & pepper

Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the juice from the limes, the olive oil, the cumin, chile powder, sugar and Tabasco sauce, if using (I'd use the Chipotle flavor...mmmm...). Whisk vigorously until very well combined and the dressing begins to emulsify. Add the diced avocado to the dressing, and turn gently to coat all the sides (this will prevent the avocado from browning). Pour over the veggies, then salt & pepper the salad liberally and stir thoroughly but gently, to avoid crushing the avocado. Allow the salad to stand at room temperature for at least a half hour so the flavors can blend.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Herbed Chicken with Asparagus and Bowties

I had some chicken cutlets and asparagus that really needed to be used up, so I threw together this quick and healthy pasta dish for Mr Wonderful and I. It's super-simple but quite tasty. If you can't find pencil-thin asparagus, you can use thicker stalks, but add them earlier in the cooking process, or steam them for a few minutes before adding to the pan.

Herbed Chicken with Bowties
3 Tbsp EVOO, divided
1/2 onion, diced
2 thin-sliced chicken breasts (cutlets), sliced into 1" strips
1 1/2 Tbsp mixed herb rub (the one I used came via my wine club; it's a mix of dries garlic, onion, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, pepper...and probably some other stuff too)
1/2 bunch very thin asparagus spears, tough ends removed, sliced into 2" pieces
1/2 lb (half a box) bowtie pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions for about 5-6 minutes, until they've softened and become translucent. Add the chicken strips and season with the herb rub (or any mix of herbs & spices that sounds good to you - be sure to use salt & pepper if your mix doesn't contain it already). Once the chicken is no longer showing any pink (it will still be slightly undercooked), throw in the asparagus spears and cover the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, until the asparagus is tender but still has a little "bite." Toss the cooked pasta into the skillet and stir everything together with the last Tbsp of olive oil. Top with the parsley and serve immediately, to rave reviews. You don't need to tell everyone that it only took you about 10 minutes to make. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spicy Indian Roast Chicken

I've done roast chicken before, but this one has a bit of a twist: I coated the chicken with a spicy mustard sauce before popping it in the oven. I'm submitting this one for Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup.

Spicy Indian Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds, giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry
1 onion
1 lemon
4 carrots
3-4 medium white potatoes
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp Sriracha (garlic-chili sauce)
1/4 c EVOO
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut the lemon in half and then one of the halves into quarters. Slice ends off the onion, and then slice it in half lengthwise. Cut the onion halves in wedges (6-8 total). Peel the carrots and slice them into 1 - 1 1/2" long pieces, and slice or dice the potatoes into about 3/4" pieces. Season the interior of the chicken with salt and pepper, then stuff it with the lemon quarters (reserving the lemon half) and a couple of the onion wedges. Tie up the legs with kitchen twine and tuck the wings underneath the breast. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and surround the chicken with the carrots, potatoes, and remaining onion wedges.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, juice from the reserved half lemon, the olive oil, curry powder, and Sriracha. Whisk the ingredients together until they are well mixed and make a fairly thin sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add more olive oil. Spread the sauce over the chicken with a basting brush, and then toss the remaining sauce with the vegetables. Season the chicken and vegetables well with salt & pepper, and roast in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, until the chicken measures between 165 and 170 degrees. Be sure to let the chicken rest for ten minutes before carving, to allow the juices to redistribute in the meat.

You could easily make a lovely sauce with the pan drippings, a little flour, and some chicken stock (maybe throw in a little parsley or cilantro for extra color and flavor), and serve the whole thing over rice, but I opted to just serve it as-is. The way the chicken smelled while it was cooking was heavenly, and I couldn't wait another minute to dig in.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Yes we can!

I am convinced that Barack Obama is the only candidate who can inspire enough people to bring about a meaningful change in our country. If you haven't watched this video yet, please take a look.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chicken Mexi-Casserole

This is another one of those simple casseroles with a generic base of noodles and chicken and canned soup. Mr Wonderful loves these, and the kids don't complain about it too much, so I generally consider it a success. ;-) This casserole would also be good with rice instead of pasta. And if our super-picky kids weren't eating it, I would have thrown in a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes for a bit more color & flavor.

Chicken Mexi-Casserole
2 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 lb chicken breast cutlets, sliced into strips about 1" wide
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 lb pasta (I used tri-color rotini), cooked according to package directions
1 can sweet corn
1 small can sliced olives
1 c shredded cheese (I used Mexican mix, but plain Jack or Cheddar would work too)
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions until translucent (maybe 5 minutes). Add the chicken strips and season with cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt & pepper. Cook just until there's no more pink showing (the chicken will still be undercooked inside). Add the soups, the cooked & drained pasta, the corn, olives and about 3/4 of the cheese. Mix well. Transfer to a large casserole dish (spray with non-stick spray for easy cleanup) and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the casserole is bubbly. You can broil it for a few minutes to make the casserole golden brown on top, if you like.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pan-fried Veal Cutlets with Pinot-Mushroom Reduction Sauce

Whew, sounds complicated, right? Well, not really. And the sauce REALLY turned out well. In fact, it was the very best part of the meal.

Pan-fried Veal Cutlets with Pinot-Mushroom Reduction Sauce
EVOO (lots)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 c sliced cremini (baby portobella) mushrooms
1/2 c Pinot Noir wine (I used Blackstone, it was on sale)
1/2 c chicken stock4 veal cutlets
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 c breadcrumbs (Italian season flavor, if you've got it, otherwise throw in some Mrs Dash or whatever with the plain breadcrumbs)
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan
salt & pepper

Turn on oven to the lowest setting.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil. When the butter is all melted and beginning to bubble, add the diced onion and mushrooms. Saute for about 6-7 minutes, until the veggies are soft and begin to caramelize slightly. Season with salt and pepper, saute for a minute more, and then remove the veggies from the pan and add a little more olive oil.

In the meantime, mix up the breadcrumbs and parmesan in a large shallow bowl. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper, then dip them first in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the breadcrumbs into the meat so that they adhere better. Saute the cutlets in batches, adding more olive oil as needed to ensure that they don't stick, and being sure not to crowd the pan (you can probably fit two at a time in a 12" pan). Cook the meat for about 2-3 minutes per side, until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside. Transfer the cutlets to a baking sheet and put them in the oven to stay warm.

When all the cutlets have been cooked, return the mushrooms and onions to the pan and add the wine, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to cook out for a minute, then add the chicken stock, and turn up the heat to medium-high. Boil vigorously for a few minutes, until the sauce is reduced by at least half.

Serve the cutlets immediately, topped with the sauce. This would go great with buttered noodles, but I made garlic mashed potatoes this time.


I finished my first Mmmmalabrigo Dashing fingerless glove yesterday. W00t! I am really loving it. The color is so rich, the yarn is SO soft, and it's super-fantastically cozy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Veg-tastic Spaghetti

Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
I had a bag of mushrooms and a red bell pepper that really needed to get used up before we went to Monterey for the weekend, so I threw together a sweet, spicy, smokey spaghetti sauce (how's that for alliteration?) the other night. It's got some unusual ingredients, but it all blended well together, and Mr Wonderful gave this two thumbs up. The high veggie content makes this a natural choice for Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup.

Veg-tastic Spaghetti
2 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 onion, diced
2 c chopped mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (35 oz/2 lb) whole, peeled tomatoes - I chopped them up fairly small but you could puree it in the food processor or just crush them with your wooden spoon; however you like the consistency of your spaghetti sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp dried or fresh thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 lb spaghetti or angel hair pasta (half a box)
salt & pepper
parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Throw in the onion, mushrooms, and bell pepper and saute until veggies are soft and mushrooms begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute for just a minute more; don't let the garlic burn! Season with salt & pepper, then add the tomatoes and any juice from the can. Add all the herbs and spices, and let the sauce simmer for at least fifteen minutes, until all the flavors blend together.

Boil the pasta according to the package directions, drain, and serve with the spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan cheese on top, if you like.