Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oddball search terms

1 words to the wise

This weekend I was asked how people found my blog or where my readers come from. Every once in awhile I look at my blog’s traffic keyword search terms. They always provide a laugh. Where 90% of the traffic is from food specific, restaurants, recipe or cooking method searches, I always get quite a few puzzling ones. I thought I’d share some of the recent oddballs for your enjoyment. My responses are in parenthesis.

what do you eat for lunch ( I got several variations of this one: She, me, I)
frittata keeps for (until it gets that slimy milky stuff on it)
laker girl turbo jam (glad I’m not the only one annoyed by her)
marmalade gumdrops find the light (I just have no response to this one except to say maybe they were SAVED?)
why the birds sing (Aw I can’t wait to go skydiving again)
flutterby italian jewelry (must be a store name)
hair peases (I have to assume this is a misspelling, but they must have though WTF when my site popped up haha)
happy burned toast (burned toast is never happy)
hanna on the hours (hmmm)
illiterate style writing (I’ll try not to take this personally)
marmalade gumdrops durham (seriously, what is up with all the marmalade gumdrop searches?)
peanut butter happy (now we’re talking)
plant with a happy name (A GLADiola?)
tabbouleh gone bad in fridge (when it’s growing hair)
totino's pizza rolls + preheat (these things are as easy as it comes, I can’t fathom searching any info out on them)
trick out my camry (Why would you do that, just WHY??????)
what do indians typically have for lunch (I honestly don’t know, but there’s a person in my office that eats curry at least twice a week and it stinks up the entire floor)

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Crispy Thai tilapia

6 words to the wise

My aim last night was to make a healthy meal. I thawed out some frozen tilapia filets and searched my pantry for inspiration. This is what I came up with. The flavor is subtle, but I enjoyed it alongside some stirfried garlicky broccoli and sticky jasmine rice.
Crispy Thai Tilapia
2 servings
2 thawed tilapia filets
1 egg
1/2 tsp sriracha hot sauce
1 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

If you are unfamiliar with Sriracha, familiarize yourself. This is the best tasting, non-vinegary hot sauce around (in my opinion). It's incredibly versatile. You've probably seen it in the asian section of your grocery or you could find it in an asian grocery.It's not usually this dark of a red. Mine is really old (expired 2006!) but I still used it last night and I'm not dead yet...Back to the recipe.

Preheat oven to 400. Rinse tilapia and pat dry. Salt and pepper both sides of the fish and set aside. In a large shallow dish, beat egg with sriracha and milk. In another dish, combine breadcrumbs, garlic powder and ginger powder. Stir well.

One at a time, dip tilapia in egg wash and then into the breadcrumbs. Turn and press breading into the filet to coat evenly. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and spray each side of the fish with canola cooking spray. Repeat with other filet. Bake for 10 minutes, flip and bake 10 minutes more.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Durham Performing Arts Center Grand Opening announced...

2 words to the wise

Monday, December 8, the city of Durham is hosting the grand opening of the Durham Performing Arts Center. From the city's website, "All Durham residents and the news media are invited to enjoy live entertainment, food, and a tour of the new center."

I'm personally looking forward to more stuff going on downtown. I'm really curious about what it's like inside too!

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Being neighborly

6 words to the wise

We live in a very animal friendly neighborhood. One that even has it's own dog park. I love animals, well most of them (just kidding). As I tell you this story, keep in mind that we have no pets. We'd like to have a dog (someday), once our child is older. We're both definitely dog people. Neither of us are particularly fond of cats.

That being said, for the past 3 months or so a long haired tortoise shell cat has been hanging out on our street. This cat has taken to hanging out in our yard, relieving itself in our yard and new garden beds and most recently, leaving it's indigestion on our front porch.

With the amount of money and hard work we've put into our gardening and yard maintenance, this is more then a nuisance. It's one thing to have burned out spots in our grass and random plants from our own pets, but when it's someone else's? Well that really torques my jaw (as my husband would say). I've posted a message on my neighborhood listserve hoping someone claims their cat, but if I get no response, we're going to catch this thing and call animal control.

Anyone have any suggestions on how to snare a feline?

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Final Farmer's Market Feast

5 words to the wise

Last night as I was driving home, I stopped by the Durham Farmer's Market. It turns out that last night was the last Wednesday this year they'll be open so I was glad I stopped. I bought some fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, filet beans and a sweet italian pepper.
Once I got home I decided to try to use all of my ingredients, along with some marinating chicken thighs, in one meal as a tribute to the final Wednesday of the season. I started with a tomato salad. Tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh basil from my herb garden. I made green beans with lemon, goat cheese and garlic. I also roasted the fingerlings with fresh rosemary from the garden. I just sauteed the chicken thighs. Recipes below.
Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes
Makes 4 side servings
1/2 lb of fingerling potatoes, washed and sliced in half lengthwise
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste (1/2 tsp or so)
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 400. Pour oil in a large bag and add potatoes. Secure close and shake to coat evenly. Add salt, pepper and rosemary and shake to coat again. Roast potatoes for 20-25 minutes.

Filet Beans (Haricots Vert) with Chevre and Lemon
Makes 4 side servings
1/2 lb filet beans, washed with stems removed
1 sweet yellow pepper julienned (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon (1-2 tsp)
zest of 1 lemon (optional)
2 oz chevre/soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add beans and saute, stirring occasionally for 4 minutes. Add salt and garlic and saute for 2 minutes more. Add lemon juice, stirring and scraping bottom of pan to deglaze. Remove from heat. Toss beans with lemon zest and crumbled cheese before serving. This would be great with some slivered almonds, but I didn't have any :(
The tangy green beans were well balanced by the sweetness of the tomatoes and the earthy sweetness of the potatoes. I'll enjoy the leftovers for lunch today!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thanks Foodbuzz!

1 words to the wise

Last night after a long day at work, a lengthy walk around Duke's Campus and dinner with a friend, I came home to a large envelope stuffed in my mailbox. Enclosed was a very nice quality chef's apron and spatula from my friends at Foodbuzz. I loved it so much, I had to try it on, start dreaming up my next recipe and snap a photo to share! Thanks Foodbuzz. If you haven't checked out the foodie community at Foodbuzz yet, you're missing out. Tons of great people, photos, recipes and restaurant reviews to be had. Swing by when you get a chance!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Food Bible Rule #20

3 words to the wise

Any calories from food that you share should be deducted from what you actually consume.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Cream of vegetable soup

6 words to the wise

This weekend was much cooler then recent weeks with high temperatures remaining in the 70's and lows in the 50's. I was inspired by the cool air to cook up warm things. This started with a cream of vegetable soup on Saturday. Soup is usually made of whatever I have on hand and I think it's a great way to clean out frozen and fresh veggies. Now we have easy lunches for this week! I will warn you that I use no cream in my cream soups because I like to keep them pretty guiltless, but they're still packed with flavor and I never miss that cream. I doubt you will either.

Cream of vegetable soup
Makes 6 large bowls
16 oz frozen corn
1 head broccoli washed and cut in florets
4 medium potatoes cubed
1 medium yellow onion diced
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
2 tbsp flour
32 oz chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp dried crushed thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (for kick)
2 tbsp minced garlic (could use powder instead)
handful of chopped parsley (for color, optional)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes over high heat until tender, drain and reserve. In a large pot, saute onions in oil over medium-high heat until translucent. Add minced garlic, thyme, basil, red pepper, 1/2 tsp salt and saute one minute more. Add in flour and stir well. Stirring and scraping bottom of pan, continue cooking another minute or so.

Slowly add milk about 1/4 cup at a time and continue stirring until you have a thick gravy. Slowly add chicken stock so that the thick liquid is slowly diluted. If you add too much liquid at any point, the creaminess will completely separate. Slow is key.

Add in cooked potatoes and blend with an immersion blender to break them up and add body to the soup. Leave some chunks for texture. Add broccoli, corn, parsley and cheese, reduce to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a crusty bread.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Taking candy from strangers

8 words to the wise

We're taught at an early age never to accept candy from strangers. Halloween excluded, I think I've adhered to that.

I have a dilemma folks.

Monday morning when I came into work, there was a large chocolate bar on my keyboard. Throughout the week, I've asked my various coworkers (the ones I know and talk to daily) as to whether or not they had donated this large bar of chocolate to me. Nobody knows where it came from.

I have a large stash of healthy snacks, emergency lunch items, etc. at my desk. This includes a chocolate bar (that I eat one sqaure at a time) and a box of chocolate teddy grahams. I finished off my chocolate bar yesterday. I finished off my teddy grahams today.

So I have this phantom emergency chocolate bar sitting on my desk, which most definitely came from a stranger. When the chocolate craving kicks in, do I:

A. Eat it
B. Eat it
C. Not eat it?

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Piedmont II - Foster Street, Durham

4 words to the wise

For date night last Friday, my husband and I decided on Piedmont. It's only a 5 minute or so drive and we knew being earlybirds that we'd have no problem getting a table. For those who may be unfamiliar with Piedmont, it's one of the many home-grown Durham restaurants that utilizes local and organic ingredients. This appears to not be just a fleeting trend in the area, but one that's caught national attention and here for the long run.

Their menu changes nightly, as you can see in their blog-format webpage, but they usually have staples there for a week or two with only a few items changing nightly. The entrees tend to have a somewhat Italian influence and usually have a homemade pasta or risotto. I've enjoyed all of the meals I've had at Piedmont and Friday's was no exception.

We started by sharing a cheese plate of two NC cheeses (green hill and new moon both of cow's milk). They were served with toasted hazelnuts, local peach jam and a heartly raisin-nut bread. Everything was great. I think I might have enjoyed a more neutral bread that allowed the cheese to be a little more of a star, but we ate every bite nonetheless.

For my entree, I had the risotto with roasted zucchini, tomato confit & fresh mozzarella. This was a large platter filled with tender risotto, perfectly cooked zucchini and onions and gobs and gobs of wonderful mozzarella cheese. I seriously loaded up at least 5 or six cheese only bites on my fork!

My husband had the local pasture raised ribeye with bearnaise sauce & pommes frites. His steak was perfectly seasoned (though a little on the rare side since the waiter never asked how he wanted it) and had a lovely light char taste. The fries were awesome. They were light, potatoey and crispy all at the same time. They were perfectly cooked fries both inside and out (which can be hard to find in my opinion).

We shared a chocolate torte with caramel sauce and a vanilla semifreddo. Translation: Rich, dense dark chocolate cake with caramel sauce and creamy vanilla ice cream. It was heavenly. It was rich, but not too sweet and it was the perfect ending to our meal.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bruschetta chicken panini with orzo salad

2 words to the wise

I must have been on a sandwich kick yesterday. I was craving a panino and though I do not have a panini press, I do have a george foreman grill. I decided to give it a shot. This sandwich was inspired by a recipe I read over at Pam's place. It was a wonderful combination.
Bruschetta Chicken Panini
Makes 2 panini
2 to 4 thinly sliced chicken breast pieces
4 slices of bread (I used a light whole wheat)
4 tbsp prepared basil pesto
4 slices mozzarella (I used the good round stuff)
4 slices tomato
Non-stick cooking spray
salt and pepper

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper and quickly cook them over med-high heat in a non-stick pan (about 2 minutes per side, depending on thickness). Heat that foreman grill, panini press or waffle iron (if you're adventurous).

Spread 1 tbsp of pesto on one side of each of the bread slices. Pesto side facing up, place 2 slices of cheese on the bread (making the base of the sandwich), follow that with 2 slices of tomato, 2 small chicken pieces, 2 more pieces of cheese and top with the remaining slice of pesto coated bread (facing downward this time).

Spray each side of the sandwich lightly with canola oil spray and put on that grill. Grill until cheese is melty. I think mine took about 4 minutes. I also had to flip mine halfway through because the top doesn't seem to heat like the bottom of my george foreman. Regardless, an extra appliance to make panino is definitely NOT required!

Oh and the orzo salad? I boiled the water while the chicken was cooking and followed my own recipe. I left out the arugula (I didn't have any) so it was a little quicker since I didn't have to reheat it to wilt the stuff.Easy and yummy dinner was ready in about 25 minutes.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A sandwich made with love

0 words to the wise

Not that anyone will find this interesting, but I needed to brag about my lunch. I absolutely adore anything my husband makes for me to eat (or picks up for me). He's so methodical and selective and sweet.

Case in point:

If I were to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I'd use 1-2 tbsp of peanut butter (the suggested serving size) and probably a tablespoon of jelly. I do this because I can see the calories on the jars and I try to keep those babies under 300 calories.

My sandwich for lunch today, made with love by my love, had about a 1/4 thickness of peanut butter and jelly on it. I sunk my teeth in and savored EVERY bite because it was just that damn good. Not only the thick layers of goodness, but just the thought that went into making something he knew I would absolutely LOVE. I love this man.

And and in case you were wondering, calories don't count when your loved ones are making the food.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Childhood food memories - The power of food

6 words to the wise

My parents divorced when I was around a year old. My mom and I ended up in NC and my dad settled in southwest Colorado. I lived with both throughout my childhood, though I spent most of my time in NC. When I lived in Colorado, we lived close to a small town (pop. around 1000 back then) named Olathe. There wasn't much there, but they were famous for their crop of supersweet corn. The general area along Hwy 550 is dotted with these small towns and everyone looked forward to summers and Olathe corn. It was featured in specials on local menus and I have fond memories of eating it straight off the grill.

A week ago I was in my local Kroger grocery store when I spied a stand of corn on the cob. As I neared it I was able to make out the sign, Olathe Sweet Corn. That was followed by a description of where it was from, etc. because I doubt anyone in Durham has ever even heard of the little town of Olathe. I was so excited I was practically gushing. Mark was in awe of my giddyness over corn. I had to explain. Olathe corn, wow, all the way out here. They even haven an annual corn festival now that brings over 16,000 visitors to the little town. We bought four ears and headed home.

I struggled with how I wanted to prepare the corn and decided on a corn salad so that we could savor it across a few meals. I boiled the corn, scraped it off the cob and tossed it with some olive oil, a little salt, a little red wine vinegar and some garlic powder. The corn was delicious. It wasn't as juicy as I remember it from my childhood, but it did take me back. It's funny how food has that power. Music does too. Anyone else have a childhood food that they have on occasion that takes you back?

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Bull McCabe's - Main Street, Downtown Durham

0 words to the wise

Saturday night, for one of my oldest friends 30th birthday, we celebrated at Bull McCabe's Irish Pub for a few hours. We got there around 7 pm and had no problem finding room and tables to push together to accomodate our party of 7. We ordered the green onion hushpuppies and the deep fried banana pepper rings as appetizers as the pints started flowing.

The hushpuppy order was large for the price ($5.95), about 6-8 golfball sized hushpuppies, packed with chopped green onions and served with a side of some reddish colored aoili. They were great as the waiter suggested, drizzled with some malt vinegar and dunked the aoili.

The pickled banana pepper rings were dredged in what I think was a cornmeal batter and deep fried. They were served with a side of creamy, milky ranch dressing. It was really hard for me to share these with the other end of the table. Despite both appetizers having been deep fried, they were not oily at all and sat well in the tummy.

For my entree, I ordered the Irish burger with avocado. This was a half pound sirloin burger served on a big ciabatta roll (all bread comes from either Pop's or Ninth Street bakery) that was the perfect combination of soft, but crispy on the outside. It came with fresh green leaf lettuce, ripe tomato, a gigantic pickle spear and my choice of side. I opted for the understated fries. The garlicky fries were perfection. They give the Federal's fries serious competition. I ordered my burger well done, much to my own chagrin. I recently learned from my OB, that I am not to have anything cooked under medium-well. The burger was still wonderfully moist and juicy, despite being lean sirloin and cooked past medium. I did get to sample some of the potato salad, which I also really liked. It's a unique pickly flavor in lieu of that traditional, sweet as sugar potato salad.

Everyone ordered a variety from the menu, shepards pie, BLT, veggie burger and reuben. Everything looked really really good and all was eaten. The waiter even made me his special cocktail for pregnant ladies! There were lots of beers on tap and bottled. The service was friendly and we enjoyed sitting at the table in the back room, at the nice big wooden bar and at the tables outside. There's plenty of seating. The only thing I think I would have enjoyed more about the place was if they played a little more Irish music. We heard a good amount of reggae ;)

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sushi Love II - Erwin Terrace, Durham

0 words to the wise

Last night I returned to Sushi Love for the third time with a very old friend. Due to her later work schedule, we dined much later then I am used to eating out. I arrived around 8pm and Sushi Love was packed with people. All the tables were filled and it was pretty noisy. I will say that there were no noticibly loud and out-of-control children this time. Perhaps that was due to the later hour? My friend had already grabbed us a table and some spring rolls. Sushi Love is a mixture of chinese, thai and japanese, best described maybe as Asian fusion.

We both ordered sushi for our dinners. I ordered 2 of the crunchy roll (since all the rolls are buy one get one free). The crunchy roll has a tempura batter and spicy mayo inside and is topped with cooked shrimp and imitation crabmeat. I order it with sesame seeds instead of roe and I am always pleased. Last night the rolls were a little light on the spicy mayo (non-existant in one roll) but that wasn't an issue because the waiter brought a side of it at my request. She ordered the Crazy Roll and another roll that was a combo of jalapeno, cream cheese and tempura. She seemed pleased with her rolls. The service was good, the atmosphere was a little loud, but had died down to a nice lull maybe an hour or so later as the crowd thinned out.

Because I've been to Shiki Sushi a ton of times, I do miss the longer list of specialty rolls. I think part of this may be due to my limited options right now though (only being able to eat cooked sushi). However I love having Sushi Love in my neck of the woods!

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Today - A bit of a ramble

3 words to the wise

I suppose it's pretty hard for today not to stand out in American's minds. I suppose the terrorists got what they wanted in that regard. I'm taking a moment this morning to reflect on where I was and what I was doing 7 years ago today. It's not every day that I do that, but this one is very clear in my memory.

I was working in a high stress environment for a power-hungry, intimidated-by-my-age boss. Someone who liked to mother me. I had purchased a house a year prior and was living in a town 30 minutes from here, making a dreaded 45 minute commute each way daily. I was in a dysfunctional marriage of two years.

I thought I had life figured out and I was wrong. What a difference a few years makes.

And what about what actually happened that day? I remember mass confusion, the internet literally creeping to a near halt. Not being able to pull up cnn.com (except once) and trying desperately to find out what was going on, minute by minute. The phone lines were packed. Calls couldn't go through. The entire country was seemingly under attack and whoever it was, I'm sad to say they were getting it done. I remember going home that night, watching with the sick curiousity that one looks at horrible car crashes, and watching over and over again on television the unimaginable crash of the planes into the world trade center over and over again. I remember all the patriotism that followed. Much of that dissipated over the following months and seeing flags everywhere has now returned back to being uncommon.

I just want to say thank you to the men and women over in Afghanistan and Iraq, all the enlisted and all the veterans, that were willing to give their lives to protect so many. On this day I always think of you. I believe in you and I wish I had your courage.

So how about the rest of you? Do you remember where you were and what you were doing?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Durham - America's Foodiest Small Town

0 words to the wise

I have to start post with saying I read about it over at Bull City Rising. Thanks Kevin! Bon Appetit has named Durham-Chapel Hill America's Foodiest Small Town in it's October issue. Check the article out here.

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Workout video rant

4 words to the wise

So that I may eat massive quantities of food and remain under 500 pounds, I workout on a fairly regular basis. My routine these days alternates weekdays between a pregnancy workout (mostly strength training and yoga) and Turbo Jam (cardio). I've had the Turbo Jam dvd for about a year now. I bought it on amazon because I didn't want to have to subscribe to the beachbody.com thing so this is actually an older version of turbo jam.

Ladies, I'm sure many of you have seen this infomercial. The workout is good, it's fun, the time goes by fast and you definitely work up a sweat. The music isn't bad either. The personality of the host is bubbly and she's surrounded with an ethnically diverse group of varying fitness levels. Though the biggest gal is only probably 130 pounds so that kind of ticks me off...Sorry, rambling...

Anyways on to Chalene. She's a good motivator, she gives good cues so you always know what you should be doing and she's not overly obnoxious like some. Take Denise Austin for example, I have one of her videos that I have done exactly one time. I didn't even make it all the way through because she annoyed me sooooo much I nearly kicked my beautiful television. So considering I've been able to do the turbo jam video close to 200 times, that says a lot about Chalene.

But nobody is the perfect workout video host. The little quirky things they do that might not annoy you the first 7 or 8 times you do the video really start to grate on the nerves. Chalene – Why, oh why must you try to emulate snoop dogg when you say "yeah yeah baaaaaaybeeee" or "c'mon c'mon" and the grunts and "wamp" instead of "one". It's just not genuine and it makes me want to upper cut your face.
And then there's this move that she calls the "Howza Bro". She describes this as a move like the hawaiians do, why must you say this like a stoner surfer, over and over and over "Howza Braaaaa, Howza Braaaaa"?
Why does the former "Laker Girl" who's supposed to dance things up and get groovy with the moves only ever just look lost and bored? Why do you include your little skinny sister who annoys the crap out of me? Not only is she constantly smiling, full of energy, and skinny with hard abs like you, but she shakes her huge boobs at me instead of doing what you're having all the rest of us do for some of the video. What's that about?

Is all of this to motivate me to kick and punch harder? If so, I think it might be actually working.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Barefoot bathroom trips

5 words to the wise

Everyone remembers my post about the kitchen at work right? So you might be able to devise that both my fellow employees and our sanitation crew don't have the highest standards when it comes to things like, say, FILTH.

Yesterday I was entering the ladies room on my floor when I saw something incredibly disturbing. Let me preface this with some background. You've seen photos of the kitchen. The bathroom is no better. Actually, it has the nice odor to add to the actual visible dirt. There's always pools of water all over the counter and floor (despite our possessed automatic paper towel dispenser).

There was a lady exiting the bathroom barefoot. We're not talking socks here, I'm talking plain old naked feet. For my coworkers that read my blog, NO it was not Hula Hoop Girl. This was one of the few I considered might be normal here. We all like to take our shoes off at our desks, well at least I do. Never in a million years would I leave my office barefoot. You'd have to drag me kicking and screaming to enter the bathroom without shoes.

Now at home, I never wear shoes, I don't like em, but in a public BATHROOM???? Am I the only one that thinks this completely bizarre?

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Cornmeal crusted tilapia and crashed potatoes

5 words to the wise

Last night's dinner was a very healthy one. With all of my fellow food bloggers trying out Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes (actually she got them from someone else, so I'm not sure if I should attribute them to her or them, alas I'm lazy), I decided to finally give them a try. I think I definitely should have boiled them longer and baked them at an even higher heat (450). When I went to smash them, they didn't smash easy, but instead slid around on the greased pan and just mashed a little. I made an ungraceful mess and it's only fair to share that with you. Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes (my adaptation)
medium red potatoes (I used 6)

olive oil

kosher salt

black pepper

chopped fresh rosemary and parsley

Preheat the oven to 400. Boil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes or until fork tender (I ended up having to boil for like 20 minutes). Place on a seasoned cooking. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and with a potato masher, gently smash each potato. Drizzle with olive oil, chopped rosemary and parsley, kosher salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. These would have been great topped off with a little bacon and some cheese too. I ate with a dollop of sour cream and it was sooooooo good, despite my mess in the kitchen! Big thanks go to Pam for her endeavor and her adaptation (which I based mine off of).
We ate these with mixed greens (straight out of the can, but heated) and cornmeal crusted tilapia. Despite it not being fried, it was actually very crispy and wonderfully spiced.

Cornmeal crusted tilapia

Serves 2

1 egg

4 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

dash of cayenne

1/2 tsp salt
2 tilapia fillets or loins

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with canola oil cooking spray.
Combine the cornmeal and spices on a plate. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Dip the tilapia fillets in the egg and then in the cornmeal mixture, turn and press breading into the fish to coat all sides. Place on the baking sheet and spray both sides of fish lightly with canola oil. Bake about 20 minutes.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Mez II - Page Road, Durham

0 words to the wise

Friday night we visited Mez again with a couple of friends. Despite the rain, Mez was bustling at 7pm. There was mexican music playing softly in the background and the lighting was nice and dim, but not too dim. We sat near an indoor water feature which was also a nice addition to the ambiance. I was thrilled to learn from our informative waitress that all the cheese at Mez is pasteurized WOO HOO!!!

The four of us shared chips and guacamole (actually I ate most of the chips and guacamole) and the queso flameado. This appetizer is described as: Melted Chihuahua cheese, goat cheese, roasted poblano peppers, tomatillo salsa and a side of warm flour tortilla. After making numerous jokes regarding chihuahuas and their unlikelihood of producing cheese, I decided that, (a) I do not like tomatillos but (b) if you throw enough cheese at anything and it's absolutely edible!

For my entree, I ordered the spinach enchiladas. There were 3 corn tortillas stuffed full of creamed spinach, cheese and onions. They were topped with a poblano cream sauce and served with a side of really tasty black beans and a less traditional mexican rice. I was thrilled with my entree. I traded an enchilada with my husband, who had ordered the special smoked pork enchiladas. While his was good, filled with moist smoky pork, it was too smoky for my liking.

It seems like they've worked out some kinks since we first went and improved upon the menu as well. I have to admit that paying for chips and salsa still irks me (not that we paid this time, thanks Mel and Jed), but the food is adventurous and the vibe is nice.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Photo of the Day - Northgate pond

2 words to the wise

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Photo Study - 4 hours post Hanna

7 words to the wise

Our house and yard actually fared extremely well in the storm. We took a walk this morning and found not everyone to be so lucky. Ellerbee creek is finally a rushing (make that raging) creek and Northgate park was more like, well, Northgate pond (at least at the south end). When I returned an hour later with my camera to capture images, more then half of the water that had flooded the park had receeded, but what was left was still pretty amazing.

The north end of the park is the higher end so it just had a little excess water and was beautifully green as always.

The south end wasn't as fortunate. As earlier mentioned, when we attempted to walk through this end an hour prior to this photo, there was no path and the water was about 6 inches deep and looked a lot like a pond.

The street and sidewalks were littered with these little guys forced down early by the rain and winds.

Ellerbee Creek was filled to the brim and looked like the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

About that peanut butter

4 words to the wise

I purchased and devirginized that Skippy natural peanut butter (Minna's recommendation) last night. It's the best natural-esque peanut butter I've had thus far. It doesn't separate into an oily mess, doesn't require refrigeration, oh and it TASTES GOOD!!! It does have a smidgen of sugar, but no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils and no preservatives. Thanks Minna. I'll never buy another peanut butter again.

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Appetizers for dinner

2 words to the wise

Last night was the season kick-off for NFL and the Giants were playing. With the husband being a huge Giants fan, I decided to try to make up for being the slacker wife in recent weeks. I prepared an all appetizer dinner consisting of: piglets-in-blankets, totino's pizza rolls, a plate of carrots, spinach dip, spicy hummus and homemade whole wheat pita chips, and tabbouleh. In all fairness, the pita chips, spinach dip and hummus were made over the weekend and I only baked the pizza rolls. The pigs in a blanket are super easy, fast, a crowd pleaser and actually really tasty.
Piglets in a blanket
Makes 32 piglets

1 package of lil' smokies smoked sausages
1 package of refrigerated croissant dough (I used the pillsbury reduced fat)

Preheat the oven to 325. Unroll dough and lay one triangle out on cutting board. Cut the triangle into 4 narrow triangles. Take a little sausage and lay on short flat side of triangle. Roll it up so that the point of the triangle is left overlapping the dough. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat this with the remaining three triangles. Repeat the entire process with dough and sausages. You'll probably have about 10 of those little sausages left over and if you sneak a couple, I won't tell. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Serve em with mustard, ketchup or barbeque sauce.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Burnt toast in RTP?

3 words to the wise

I know I have some readers that either live or work in Research Triangle Park. I have been working here for over a year and occasionally some mornings, as soon as I exit the Durham Freeway, I smell burned toast. It's not my car. I can smell it when I get out at work. Anyone know what's up with the burnt toast in RTP? It's been particularly strong a couple of days this week. And yes I smelled this prior to having a spidey-sense of smell :)

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Tex-Mex Casserole

7 words to the wise

I am officially back to cooking it seems. Though I've been starting out slowly. Last night I tried to recall a casserole from my early college years that one of my friend's mom's (I miss you Judy) taught me to make. I didn't quite nail it last night, but it was still very good. I think I should have used another can of corn and full fat cheese. The recipe below reflects those changes. This literally takes 15-20 minutes to get to the table (plus the cooking rice time) and it's very hearty.
Tex Mex Casserole

Makes 4-6 entree servings
3 cups cooked rice (I used brown)
7 oz can green chiles
16 0z can chili beans with sauce
2 cans corn drained
1/2-3/4 cup sliced black olives
2 green onions chopped
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes drained
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp chili powder
8 oz grated cheese (I recommend chedder or jack, I used light cheddar and it just doesn't melt up too well)
1 1/2 cups crushed tortilla chips
handful of parsley chopped (optional)
1 cup grilled chicken (also optional, I just had some leftover I needed to use)

Preheat oven to 400. Stir all ingredients in a large bowl, adding spices last (except cheese and chips) until mixed well.
Empty contents into a 9x13 casserole and sprinkle with tortilla chips and cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and heated through.
Finish under the broiler if you like your cheese brown and crispy. Garnish with sour cream if desired.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Your favorite quick/simple dinner?

8 words to the wise

I'm not sure if it's my favorite, but last night we had veggie burgers (the morningstar farms grillers), tator tots (the onion ones), a simple salad and some bush's baked beans. Dinner took no time to make, just the 18 minutes to wait for those tots to bake. What's your go-to or preferred quick and easy dinner?

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Spicy Marinara

3 words to the wise

Every cook should have their own marinara sauce. I use jarred on occasion when I don't have any of my own in the freezer, but as a general rule, I make mine. We like a non-acidic, slightly spicy, garlicky marinara. I made some this weekend and wrote along my ingredients as I went so that I could share with you.

Jeni's Spicy Marinara
Makes about 40 ounces (12 or so servings)

35 oz can San Marzano (or other italian whole peeled or crushed tomatoes)
6 oz can tomato paste
5 oz chopped button or crimini mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 chopped large onion
5 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (2 sprigs)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tsp crushed dried basil
1/2 tsp crushed dried oregano
3 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp sugar

Heat oil in a large saute pan or pot (3 quart or higher) over medium heat. Add in onions, mushrooms, 1 tsp of the salt, bay leaf and all herbs (not garlic) and saute until onions are translucent.
This looks intense doesn't it? I learned this from an old friend. Adding dried herbs at this stage helps release their flavor and then impart those flavors into the veggies. While the veggies are sauteing, puree the whole tomatoes, along with their juices, in a large bowl with an immersion blender. Or if you don't have one, use a regular blender or food processor.
Add garlic to the pan, stir well and saute 1 minute more before slowly adding the tomato puree. Add the remaining salt, cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Add sugar, tomato paste and water and stir well to smooth out the paste.
Cover and simmer another hour–hour and a half. Uncover and salt to taste (I didn't need any more salt). Serve atop your favorite pasta. I sauteed some leftover grilled chicken breast and spinach, mixed in the sauce and we had it over angel hair. We had this with a light cucumber salad and fresh homemade garlic rosemary bread!

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