Saturday, January 29, 2011

Moving Day!

My amazing, flower-giving, wine bottle-opening, take-the-dog-out-of-my-space-so-mama-can-breath-for-a-minute man did something even more thoughtful than all of that this weekend.  Yeah, I know.  How can that be possible?!  Well, I assure you, it is.

What wonderful thing did he do?  He bought me a website!  He paid for a full year of registration and web hosting out of his own fun money; just because he thought I’d like it.  I woke up last Sunday to find that I had my very own URL.  Now, go ahead.  Gush.  I did.

We’d been talking about doing this, but we hadn’t really moved forward on it.  Blogger likes to keep from actually publishing my morning posts about once a week.  It’s terribly frustrating.  I really like my little blog here, and I’d like to see it grow.  That just doesn’t seem entirely likely here. 

So, with my husband’s mad computer skills (cuz Lord knows mine are extremely limited) and a year’s worth of paid-for service, Second Chance Happiness is moving.  Stop by and visit me, please.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Food in Review

I may have played it a bit safe this week, considering last week’s epic failure.  I still think we had some nice dinners though.  I did one thing different this week.  I went to Sprouts.  I hardly EVER go there.  My first experience was… putting.  Now that I know what to expect, my second trip was fantastic.  I actually plan to go back this weekend.

Saturday:  I like to make meals that my husband would consider a treat when I feel like maybe I haven’t been the best at being a wife.  Enter burgers.  Real beef burgers.  Wait, correction, real ORGANIC beef STUFFED burgers!  (Organic ground beef was on special at Sprouts.)  Stuffed with what?  Oh, just local, organic white cheddar!   I mixed the beef with half a can of diced green chili peppers then made four very thin patties.  Shredded cheese topped two of the patties.  Then the remaining patties topped the cheese.  I pressed the edges to seal the burgers, but they managed to ooze nonetheless.  Who cares?!  It’s a cheese-filled burger?!  Topped with avocado and served with sweet potato fries.  He was in burger heaven.  

Sunday:  I wanted chicken and dumplings again before the weather grew too warm to eat it!  I made it exactly the same as last time, except I had 2% milk instead of whole.  It was sort of a fail.  The difference in milk made the texture and consistency of this pot less appealing than my chicken and dumplings of last month.  Still, it was totally edible and we went through two bowlfuls each.  I believe that’s where the issue in texture comes in.  Last time we each only ate one bowl.  

Monday:  I found chicken bratwurst and Sprouts, and I had to try them!  I love brats.  The traditional pork ones are great.  And I’ve had turkeys, which are an okay, healthier substitute.  So, I was intrigued by the chicken ones, and from a real meat counter no less.  Per the butcher’s suggestion, I broiled them in the over on a rack for 30 minutes at 350.  To finish them, I simply seared the skins in a very hot skillet.  While the brats were in the oven, I glazed baby organic carrots in butter and brown sugar and simmered sauerkraut until nearly dry.  The mustard was a bit odd.  I had a waning container of Dijon and brown mustards.  Not enough in either, and both were entirely stuck to the sides of the jars!  Enter a little water and a sauce pan!  I rinsed and shook each container into the pan, set it to simmer, and added brown mustard seeds, pepper, and a little extra horseradish to the mix.  Then I just whisked it occasionally until it thickened back up.  It made and excellent dipper.  And the chicken brats?  They were perfection!  Juicy and bursting with flavor.  Delish!

Tuesday:  I had about 1/3 pound of ground beef left from the burgers that I’d reserved for taco night!   I browned the beef, drained it, and added all the usual “taco” spices: garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, chili powder, cumin, and salt.  I don’t like seasoning packets for this.  I want to control the level of each spice.  Just add water and let it simmer till thickened.  I added the same spices to a jar of refried black beans and nuked them till warm.  The refried beans and seasoned ground beef were stuffed inside La Tortilla Factory wheat corn tortillas topped with a pinch of shredded jack and sliced avocado.  One the side, I pan-fried some sweet potatoes that I’d diced and roasted when the brats were in the oven the day before.  Might as well multi-task right??  I’d coated the potatoes with sunflower oil when roasting them, and since the pan was non-stick, they didn’t require any additional oil to pan-fry.  Tacos are comfort food for me!  I just loved the combo on these.  I sprinkled chili powder and cayenne on the pan-fried sweet potatoes.  They were sweet and spicy, crispy and gooey all at once.  Perfection.   

Wednesday:  Dinner started with a gigantic glass of wine.  For me, not for the dinner.  To say I had a hard day wouldn’t cover it.  So, dinner was desperately simple: jarred sauce, frozen ravioli, garlic bread.  The jarred sauce was left over from last week’s eggplant pizza: Mezzetta’s Artichoke Parmesan Marinara.  This sauce is fantastic.  So thick, more the consistency of a pesto than a marinara.  The frozen ravis were my favorite: Central Market’s organic ricotta and goat cheese.  I boiled the ravioli, laid them on a bed of spinach, heated the sauce in the pasta pot, and spooned it on top.  Totally lazy right?  Yes, but also totally delicious.  I made garlic bread on the side out of Nature’s Pride potato bread.  Num.  

Thursday:  This is a "clean out the fridge" meal.  I soaked wheat berries over night then cooked in broth.  To the side, I sauteed onion, red bell pepper, garlic, and quartered frozen sprouts.  Once things looked lovely and caramelized, I added pinches of flour until the veggies were lightly coated. Then I poured the wheat berries into the veggies, broth and all.  The two cooked together until a nice, thick sauce formed.  Finally, I added a can of Starkist Roasted Garlic marinated yellowfin tuna.  The tuna was too strong for me.  Don't think I'll be using it again....but we ate it for dinner anyhow.  Live and learn?  Everything else was so good together.  So, either leave out the tuna and have a veggie meal or perhaps chicken would be better. 

Riley has been a BEAST this week.  She's decided I don't matter, so she's not minding me.  I certainly hope that she's better next week.

Yeah, you puppy!  Cuteness does not make up for being bad!

I hope you have a great weekend!  I have exciting news tomorrow!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The good stuff

My husband came home with flowers.

He told me to draw a bath and pour a glass of wine.

He put Pandora on the Maroon 5 channel.

Then he took the dog for a long walk.  


I don't know how I deserve him.

Prescription for a daydream

What would change about my life if I didn’t have to go to work:
  • I’d workout.  No, not more.  Just workout.  I pretty much never do anymore.
  • I’d play with the dog WAY more.  As it stands, she gets about 10-20 minutes out of me in the morning and again in the evening, then I have more pressing things to do.
  • I’d cook more thoughtful meals for us.  Instead of simply QUICK meals with very little variety or creativity….because those things take time and are reserved for the weekend!
  • This blog would be WAY better.  More content, more photos, more life.  I don’t think any of you really want to hear about my day-to-day as an accountant, right?  
  • I’d have a clean house.  It’s currently covered in dog hair and puppy footprints.
  • I wouldn’t stress as much about work environment.  No, instead I’d stress about lack of funds….because apparently I require X amount of stress in my life in order to function.  I’m kind of ridiculous like that. 
  • We’d be on a MUCH tighter budget.   I’m already a cheapskate, so you can imagine!  Organic what?!  No, no, no.
  • I’d never be considering buying a new car while the Element was still running.  I’m kind of amazed I’m considering it anyhow!  It’s so not like my cheap self.  But there is a plan and sound reasoning in place.  
  • My Etsy shop would likely have merchandise in it.  Whoopsie!  Totally let that one fall by the wayside, didn’t I?

Don’t worry.  Nothing is changing.  I’m still going to work every day.  This was just a little exercise in daydreaming.  It was prescribed to me by my optometrist.  She told me that the best thing for my eye strain issues was simply to stop staring at the computer screen and let my eyes go out of focus a couple times a day.  This is the result of one of those unfocused moments. 

What would change about your life if you didn’t have to work? 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Encouraging news

For the first time, I think there might be progress on the ring front.  I went to the jewelry store today, expecting the same blaize brush off I've been getting from the jeweler. 

To my surprise, he was actually pleasant.  He realized he didn't have any info on me in his customer files (after having my ring for five month, I never made it into the system, huh?) and added me.  He even took an email address and promised photos of the mock-up next week for my approval. 

I was floored.  Had I received this sort of reception the other times I'd gone in instead of having him call my husband a smartass, I think I would have been far less frustrated during this whole process! 

All I can say is that I hope this time it's genuine.  It's been five months.  My wedding anniversary is in less than a month.  I would absolutely love having my replacement by then.  I'm not holding my breath, but I am far more hopeful that I've allowed myself to be in quite some time. 

What are you hopeful about right now?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Granola - Attempt #7

I asked my hubby what kind of granola he wanted this week.  He said something with a berry.  Okay, that's doable, but I don't really like dried fruit in my granola.  A little is okay, but I'm not a fan of heavily fruited granolas.

My solution?  Leave the dried fruit out!  There are other ways to incorporate fruit if you don't mind purple-tinged granola.

Blackberry granola

1/4 c brown rice syrup
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c blackberry jam
3 c rolled oats
1/4 c milled flax
1/2 c almonds
1/4 c pepitas
1/4 c sunflower seeds
1/4 t salt

I started out by toasting my nuts and seeds because they are all raw.  10 minutes at 325 was plenty to get just a little color and aroma out of them.

Meanwhile, the first three ingredients were heated slowly over a low heat until well incorporated and very pourable.

The remaining ingredients including the pre-toasted nuts and seeds were combined and the syrup pour over.  Fold until everything is a lovely purple color and evenly coated.

I baked the granola at 325, stirring every 10 minutes till dry.  This batch took 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, the granola isn't nearly as purple as I'd hoped, but the berry taste is still there.  I think next time I'll up the jam a bit but leave everything else the same.

What crazy flavors would you like to see worked into a granola recipe?

Monday, January 24, 2011

First scones

I happen to be head over heels with scones.  I live the biscuit quality they have while incorporating more intriguing flavors like a muffin.
I knew I wanted something with blueberries and the two over-ripe bananas on my cabinet.  I set out in search of a muffin recipe.  Then I was tempted by a scone recipe.  Torn and too tired to make a decision between the two, I went with both, naturally.

Blueberry banana scone
(Inspired by Mama Pea)

2 beyond-ripe bananas
1/4 c plus 1 T milk (I used Good Karma's Whole Grain Unsweetened Rice Milk)
1/2 t apple cider vinegar
1/2 t baking soda
1 t vanilla extract
2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t cream of tartar
1/2 t fine sea salt
1/2 c vegan shortening (I used Earth Balance Shortening Sticks)
1/2 c blueberries

As with Mama Pea's pumpkin version, combine the first 5 ingredients and set aside.  I added the vanilla since I left out all of the pumpkin pie-type spices.

In a larger bowl, add flour through sea salt and stir well.

Then add shortening, cut into small bits.  I used a cheese grater.  WAY easier than trying to cut that slick stuff with a knife!

Add the shortening to the flour mixture and cut it in with two forks (I have a pastry cutter coming in my next
Pampered Chef order!).

Once crumbly, I added the banana and milk mixture to the flour and folded it in.  This is where I discovered that a half cup of milk is just a tad shy.  I needed an extra tablespoon for the mixture to form a ball.

At this point, I added my blueberries and folded them in by hand.  I didn't want to crush the little blue beauties.

This meant I couldn't roll my dough out.  I'd have squashed every single berry.  So, instead, I scooped them out like cookies.'ve seen round scones before, right? the shape is less than typical, but I will say that it made getting them out of the bowl and into the oven way faster and easier.

20 minutes later.....golden tops and soft insides.  The blueberries burst with every bite.  Tender and delicious.  Quite the winner!

Do you have a favorite scone?  Mine is this one the bakery at Scarborough Faire makes with candied ginger!