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!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day of firsts

 Today, I bought my very first LaraBar.  Yes, I realize I am WAY behind the times.  I also realized I started making something similar at home before I tried the real thing.  And let me say that I am very glad about that last fact, because I never would have started to make them at home if I'd tried this first.  I am hoping I just selected a bad flavor, because I did not care for this at all.  I ate enough bites to steady my blood sugar and discarded the rest. 

 It was also Riley's very first day at Doggy Daycare!  I took her Canine Courtyard in Flower Mound.

 This is how she looked when I got her back.  

She was struggling so hard to keep her eyes open on the way home!  She finally gave in and collapsed on my hand, half falling off the front seat.

Immediately upon coming home, she did this.

Then relocated for this.

Which resulted in lots of this.

She perked up for about an hour in the evening while I was cooking, but then she curled into so tight a little ball that I decided to cover her up.

And this was the result after she's realized it was cozy and warm.

I'm very pleased with the daycare!  She never exhibited any fear while I was there.  The lady at the counters said that she and her husband run it together, and you can tell she loves dogs and knows how to handle them.  They put Riley in a separate run where she could "sniff out" the doggy she'd be playing with later and acclimatize herself to the area.  They match the dogs by size first.  So, she told me Riley was paired with a pit bull.  Hey, she's THAT big now.  Anyhow, the pit proved to be a bit too aggressive.  She said that as soon as Riley showed that she was scared (usually it's her tail that will let us know), she was put with a group of smaller, extremely hyper dogs.  She fit right in there!  When I returned, I got to see Riley and her playmates in an indoor play area via closed circuit cam.  She was playing happily and even sprawled out on the floor to rest at one point.  Her tail was wagging nearly nonstop.  She was happy, happy.  YAY!  Our half day trial was free, and you can bet we'll be back soon.  It's totally affordable, and having a calm dog all evening was well worth the cost!  As a bonus, they board.  So hopefully, we've found a kennel as well as a solution for very busy weekends.  

Have you ever taken your doggy to daycare?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Through the looking glasses?

That whole business of doing scary things is moving forward. 

Last week, the scary thing was the brisket.  While that didn't turn out ideally, the chopped beef creations were delicious.  I will be trying it again, and I feel confident that I can do a much better job the second time around. 

The fear to be faced this week is, again, two-fold.  It will require money and just doing something I have grown to hate.  What is that, you ask?  Wearing glasses.  I know, silly, right?

(Me going to the 8th grade homecoming dance in 1992)

For some background, I've worn glasses off and on my entire life.  I had a weak eye as a child, which crossed severely.  So, at two or three, I had coke bottle lenses in order to correct my wayward eye.  I stayed in glasses until high school.  It totally worked.  My right eye only crosses when I'm very tired (or drunk). 

As an adult, I had prescription reading glasses off and on, mostly when I could afford to get them.  They were meant to be worn whenever I was at a computer.  I'm on a computer all day at work.  In case you don't know, computer monitors are hell on the eyes!  My last pair was misplaced when I was going through a divorce (truthfully, I think they got thrown out in the chaos), and I was in no position to replace them. 

It has now become overwhelmingly apparent that I need glasses again.  I'm getting frequent headaches with black spots in my field of vision and have had an ongoing twitch in my "good" eye for the last three weeks.  Oh, and I really should have failed my vision test at the DMV in February when I changed my name.  She let me try it like six times.  Thank God I have a memory because I just kept track of what I'd said and went through all the options of what those fuzzy shapes could possibly be! 

So, the bullet has been bitten.  Glasses are being ordered.  I am not happy about spending the money ( $160 a month health insurance doesn't have vision coverage!) or about being chained to glasses again.  But I can't handle the headaches or the spasms any longer. 

Oh....and the husband says he finds girls in glasses sexy.  That's a perk, right??

Friday, January 21, 2011

Food in Review

Okay, so you all know of my tragic brisket on Sunday.  Thankfully, one bad meal did not define the week's meals as a whole.

Sunday:  I used the recipe described here.  The flavor was great.  The cooking time should probably be adjusted, or the temp, as I have been informed by someone I trust that I did not cook it long enough.  The sweet potato was amazing...cooked for over an hour in the stove with the brisket.


Monday: We test drove cars, so we did the $1 pulled pork sandwich deal at Dickey's.  Delicious.

Tuesday:  I had chopped brisket on the mind.  I thought it was the only way to save a tough brisket, which was backed by others.  I chopped most of the remaining brisket and simmered it in the remainder of a dwindling jar of salsa.  Meanwhile, I played with something new!  I've eaten plantains in Brazilian restaurants before, but never cooked with them.  I decided to go with baked plantain chips.  I tossed the sliced plantain in sunflower oil, salt, pepper, and hot smoked paprika then baked at 375 for about 18 minutes, turning once.  The result was might crisp and filling.  I do believe another good glug of oil would have been good though.  They were a bit dry.  I served the chopped beef in La Tortilla Factory half wheat/half corn whole grain tortillas.  Oh man, those tortillas were killer.  If you find them (these were at my local Kroger and very affordable), try them.  Great texture and flavor.  No compromise needed for going healthy on these. 

Wednesday:  I wanted stuffed acorn squash.  I know, typical.  About every third week, I crave roasted squash.  This one was very similar to all my others.  I baked the squash at 400 for almost an hour and cooked up some kamut the night before.  So, when it came dinner Wednesday, I just reheated the squash and made the filling.  This filling started with sauteed garlic and onions.  I added these amazing chicken sausages I found at Central Market.  They were orange cranberry walnut with actual segments of orange, whole cranberries, and chunks of walnut.  Oh my goodness.  Must have more.  I went with the citrus theme and added the juice of an entire lemon and two teaspoon of tahini with some veggie stock to flavor the kamut.  I threw in a little kale for something green and let it simmer till all of the stock was gone.  This was heaven.  

Thursday:  Pizza time.  Pizza Melanzana!  Okay, I made that up.  But I bet the Italians like eggplant on pizza....wouldn't you think?  I used the same crust as last time the night before.  When I got home, I peeled and roasted an eggplant at 350 with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flake till gooey.  I topped my pizza with a sauce I found on sale that looked great....Artichoke Parmesan Marinara by Mezzetta who make the giardiniera that I love.  The whole thing was covered in shredded jack and parm then baked till GBD (sorry, channeled my inner Alton there...that's Golden Brown and Delicious).  The crust was SPOT ON this time, just the right amount of chewiness, fluffy, and light.  The eggplant melted into the pizza.  I cannot wait to eat this again! 

And a little view from my evening on the floor with Ri. 

Happy Friday!