Saturday, December 17, 2011

Handmade Christmas

This year I wanted to do something special for our Christmas decoration. When I was a kid, crafts were always part of the holidays. We made ornaments out of clay, crocheted snowflakes, and made angels to put on top of the tree. This year I decided to continue this tradition and make as many decorations as I could. With a little inspiration from HGTV and I completed three projects.

Christmas Ball Wreath
I found a large wreath form in the back of the storage room that is under our stairs that must have been left behind by the previous owners. So, I thought, instead of buying a wreath for over the fireplace, I should make one. I purchased inexpensive plastic ornaments from Target and wired each into place. The end result is lovely.

Book Trees and Glitter Deer
Inspired by a Martha Stewart project I found on Pinterest, I made some glitter deer. I found some great vintage plastic deer on Etsy and covered them in bronze glitter (Martha Stewart glitter of course).

My little glitter deer needed a habitat, so I made them some pine trees. Inspired by a Christmas special I saw on HGTV, I made the trees from old books I picked up at the thrift store and Styrofoam cones from the craft store.

Together with the glitter deer, the book trees make a lovely vignette for the top for the wood burning stove.

Winter Diorama Centerpiece   
The blog The Tortoise and the Hare originally inspired this project (I found this on Pinterest too), but I really wanted to do something more with it. So, I created a diorama in a glass cake stand I never use. I purchased small sisal Christmas trees and bleached them to create a vintage effect. Then I covered them in flocking and iridescent glitter. I placed them in a winter landscape I created with white glitter craft felt, fake snow (the kind used in the little Christmas villages) and more glitter. The finishing touch was tiny glitter deer. I found these tiny little deer on Etsy too and I covered them in a silvery teal glitter.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegas: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…and the Beautiful

Charley and I recently returned from what’s becoming our annual Vegas mini vacation. Charley typically has a show in November at Coda Gallery in Palm Desert, California. For the last three years we’ve stop in Las Vegas for a few days on the way home from California. Here are the details of this year’s trip.

The Bad and the Ugly

On the first evening of our trip Charley and I had the most memorable meal of our lives…and not in a good way. This meal was easily the worst meal either of us have ever been served.

We arrive in Vegas pretty late and we were too tired to get all cleaned up to go to a nice restaurant.  We thought about room service but thought it might take too long for the food to get to our room…we were starving. Charley had been to a Mexican/Cuban restaurant that was just a short walk from our hotel several times and had liked it. It was casual and quick, so we decided to give it a try…big mistake!

I had eaten Cuban food several times when I lived in New York and loved it. So, I ordered off of the Cuban menu and Charley followed my lead (he’d only order from the Mexican menu in the past)

I also order a margarita and this is where the meal started to go bad. We really should have walked out after I tasted that horrible margarita. It was truly disgusting. It was made from a syrupy mix instead of real juice, but that’s not what was so bad about it. It tasted less like a margarita and more like was comes up after you’re had a few too many margaritas. I’m not kidding. It was that bad.

Then our food came and thing went from bad to worst. My food was bland and mostly tasted like old Crisco. Charley’s food was the worst. He had some kind of tamale thing that tasted to me like bile (vomit was a taste theme with this meal). He thought it tasted like chemicals and burnt hair. It definitely didn’t taste like food.  We decided someone must have been given a very bad perm in the kitchen which resulted in contamination of our food…or the kitchen staff was trying to poison us…I don’t know what we ever did to them.

The Good

After that meal things got much better and we even had some great meals. We eat at the Bellagio’s famed gourmet buffet, where I eat two heaping platefuls of delicious pasta, cheese, meat, and seafood (including sushi) and finish my meal with a third plate of desserts. The desserts where amazing and between the two of us, we eat nine.

We also eat breakfast at Hash House A Go Go twice where we consumed various forms of eggs Benedict piled eight inches high…so yummy!

Number 3 favorite activity from this trip: The Shark Reef aquarium at Mandalay Bay, which was small but fabulous. My favorite part was the jellyfish. They were so beautiful and graceful. Here a little video I took with my phone:

Number 2 favorite activity:  Neon Boneyard. The Neon Boneyard is part of the Neon Museum and is where many of old Vegas’ sign now reside. Starting next year the Boneyard will be open to the public, but now you have to make a reservation for one of the few tours they offer. I’ve wanted to see the Boneyard for years (I can’t resist the kitsch), so this was a very exciting opportunity. Here some of the photo I shot of this very cool place:

The Beautiful

Number 1 favorite activity: Cirque du Soleil LOVE. LOVE, which is based on Beatles music, was absolutely extraordinary. The dance, acrobatics, costumes, and lighting came together with the music to create something that was truly beautiful to the eye and moving to the soul. You must see this show if you ever have the opportunity. It was stunning. I wanted to see it again immediately after it was over…I literal would have gone right back in to the theater to see it again if I could have.

It was a great trip…minus the Cuban food. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Vegas trip.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Charley's Latest Show

Charley currently has a show at Coda Gallery in Palm Desert, California. I flew down there last weekend for the opening and then the two of us drove back through Las Vegas, where we had a mini vacations (more stories to come).The opening was successful and so far eight paintings have sold…I’m so proud of my talented husband!

Here are some photos I took at the opening:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are the End Times Near?

I’m not a religious person, nor have I ever read the bible, but lately I noticed some things I find very disturbing…could they be signs of the imminent apocalypse? (I’m only kidding, of course.)

Sign #1 – Forever Lazy

Have you seen this new product? Its name says it all…a clear sign that the human race is going in the wrong direction. Are we really so lazy that simple tasks like operating a thermostat (or blanket) or pulling down your pants to use the restroom are too complicated? Are there really people out there that are thinking, “Oh man, I wish I didn’t have to work so hard to keep myself covered with this blanket”?

If we can’t be bothered with using a blanket, can being too lazy to eat be far off? At the very less, if this product catches on, birth rates will plummet…nothing says, “Let’s get it on,” like a brightly colored, oversized, fleece onesie.  My favorite scene in this ridiculous infomercial is the couple sharing a romantic moment on the deck…I’m pretty sure that date isn’t ending in the bedroom.

Sign #2 – Pajama Jeans (and the wearing of regular pajamas in public)

Again, are we really that lazy? I just have two things to say about pajama jeans (and the general trend to wear pajama pants in public):
  1. If I managed to put on pants this morning, so can you, and
  2. If your jeans are really that uncomfortable and hard to put on, try buying the next size up.

Sign #3 – The existence of these:

Enough said.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Work of Andy Goldworthy

Recently, Charley introduced me to the work of an amazing artist – sculptor, photographer and naturalist, Andy Goldworthy. His work is so moving, so breathtaking, I had to share it with you.

Andy Goldworhty uses natural, found objects, like leaves, flowers, sticks, rocks, and even ice to create large scale sculptural installations in nature. His work is made from nature and becomes part of the natural environment, where is subject to nature’s forces and often only lasts in the photographs he take of it. The end result is magical and, for me, very emotional. This is what he says about his work and process: "I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and ‘found’ tools--a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn."

Charley and I watched an amazing documentary about him and his work called “Rivers and Tides.” It is available for streaming from Netflix, and I highly recommend you watch it. Here’s the trailer: 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Journey from Consumer to Producer Begins...

Step one: Sewing Classes

I've made an early New Year's resolution. I'd like to produce more and less of a consumer , but first I need to acquire skills to allow me to do that. So for the next year I will learn skills like sewing and food preservation.

Three weeks ago I started my first sewing class and last week I finish my first project! I made an apron! Now I'm working on pajama pants. Next I'll make a simple tote bag.  The best part of my sewing class...the school is called the Finishing School...I'm finally getting finished. 

I will post more sewing projects soon and I'll keep you posted my journey from consumer to producer over the next 12 months.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ballet West's Dracula

Last week I attend the opening night of Ballet West’s production of Dracula. Originally staged by Ben Stevenson and the Houston Ballet, the production had a lot of buzz around it, and I was extremely excited to see what was sure to be a fantastic spectacle…and what a perfect way to get in the Halloween spirit.  

Sadly, I was a little disappointed. This was my third time see seeing Ballet West perform. My first impression was not good. I saw Swan Lake back in 1994 and I hated it. I thought the dancers were mediocre at best. My second impression was much better…it was quite good in fact.  Last year I saw their tribute to the Ballet Russes and I loved it. I thought my first impression must have been result of my youthful ballet snobbery. But Dracula did not impress me overall. Don’t get me wrong, some things were great…but some things were really bad. Here’s my review:

The Story: B
The story was a little thin…but most classical ballets have a flimsy plot. So you can’t really fault it there.

The Music: A++
The music, composed by Franz Liszt, was wonderful and the orchestra was fantastic. That may have been the best part of the evening.

The Choreography: C-
The ballet was choreographed by Ben Stevenson (former Artistic Director at the Houston Ballet). For the most part I found the choreography to be an interesting mix of classical and contemporary ballet and I found it refreshing. But…and this a big but…some of it was awkward and just plain awful.  

In the third act, Flora, Dracula’s head wife had a solo and it was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen on a stage (and I’ve seen some weird things including bad performance art). It reminded me of a combination of bad interpretive dance and the Mad TV character Stuart..."Look what I can do!” I actually cringed on several occasions.

The Costumes: A+
The costumes were wonderful. I especially enjoyed the gowns worn by Dracula’s wives and how the flowing skirts were incorporated in the choreography.

The Special Effect: A-
This is one of the elements I was most excited about. This ballet incorporates a lot of aerial work…Dracula and his wives can fly! And it was very cool, but the rope work was at times a bit jerky. The lighting and dry ice were dreadfully creepy…great!

The Dancing: B-
I have two thought about the dancing. First, I think the dancers might have been struggling a little with the unusual choreography. And second, I think they needed more rehearsal. The Corps de Ballet seemed to be out of sync with each other on several occasions and a few of them even seem to forget the steps…really not good. There were also several noticeable stumbles.   

That being said, a few of the dancers really stood out in a positive way. Katherine Lawrence danced the role of Svetlana, and she was lovely. Aidan DeYoung dance the role of Renfield and I think he stole the show.

Overall Grade: B

Now that I’ve expressed my opinion I have to ask you to take it all with a grain of salt. As an ex-ballerina I may have some snobbery left in me. And my background may have skewed my opinion of the performance. Growing up in a major metropolitan area I had the opportunity to see, take class with, and even perform with the worlds most talented dancers. And for a short time, I was privileged enough to train at one of the worlds best (and most famous) ballet schools (The Bolshoi in Moscow). So, my expectations are always high…maybe too high.

All-in-all it was a good night and I had a great time. I will definitely attend more Ballet West performances. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Etsy Shop

I haven't posted lately because I've been busy getting my new Etsy shop up and running.I'm selling handmade (by me) and up-cycled jewelry made from deconstructed vintage jewelry and other vintage artifacts...and I have hopes of expanding to handmade knitwear and resin jewelry soon.

Please check it out:

You can also find me on Facebook:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hot Dog Pilgrimage

I’ve always had a weakness for junk-food, and hot dogs are a particular favorite. So, when I heard about a popular hot dog joint in Provo, my interest was piqued. Could a hot dog really be worth the 40 minute drive into the heart of Happy Valley? In the 18 or so years I’ve lived in Utah I’ve only been to Provo a few times, and it’s always seemed to be a strange and foreign place to me...a place where everyone is blond, where everyone is friendly, and where there are dress codes for nightclubs. And with all the construction on the I-15, could a hot dog be worth the trip? Yesterday I decided I had to find out.

J Dawgs has been a fixture in Provo since it open in 2004 in a tiny little shack adjacent to the BYU campus. Since then they’ve had to move into a larger location (just across the parking lot) to accommodate their growing crowd of customers.

As a hot dog lover, I had to know what all the fuss was about, so yesterday, I met my friend Denise (who live in Provo) for lunch......and it was worth the trek. It may have been the most delicious hot dog I’ve every had. At J Dawgs they keep it simple. None of those gourmet dogs with fancy toppings. Just a choice between a polish dog and an all beef dog, and your basic toppings. But these dogs are so good, they speak for themselves...even with no toppings. Look at the beautiful meat...

This place is good...real good. (There was a line out the door the whole time we were there.) I would definitely recommend it. My only complaint was the special sauce, which was basically just a sweet BBQ sauce. It was delicious, but not on the dog.

P.S. It turns out Provo is a pretty nice town. I like it there.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Festivities

This year June was filled with festivities, family, friends, and fun. Earlier in the month the Snow family gathered in Moab to celebrate Rachel’s (Charley’s sister) wedding. Rachel and her husband Kevin actually got married last August in civil ceremony, but do some unfortunate circumstances could not celebrate with us until this month.

We all gathered in a beautiful (and enormous) cabin in the La Sal Mountains just outside of Moab. The 6 bedroom cabin was fully equipped with a game room, hot tub, 6 full bathrooms, all with soaking tubs, and gorgeous sweeping views of the Southern Utah landscape. (Oh, and did I mention the candy buffet?) In addition to attending a beautiful reception/dinner for Rachel and Kevin, we spent the weekend hiking in Arches Nation Park, playing games, and eating yummy food. It was a lovely weekend and I really enjoyed the quality time with my new family.

Last weekend was my birthday (I turned 28 for the 8th time) and Charley and I celebrated by having a big crowd come over for a BBQ. Charley cooked his famous BBQ ribs and I bake a beautiful coconut lime cake. Fun was had by all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Did I Forget To Turn Off My Invisibility Shield…Or Are You Just an Asshole?

I just want to take a minute to share a story of extreme rudeness I experienced yesterday. Let’s all take this as a reminder that we are not the center of the universe and other people's time, feelings, etc. are just as important as our own. Let’s all share kindness, common courtesy, and empathy with our fellow humans.

Yesterday, after several hours working in the yard, Charley and I decided to take a break to take the dogs to the dog park. On the way to the dog park we stopped at Maggie Moo’s for some ice cream. I ran in while Charley waited in the car with the dogs.

Inside the store, there was only one person behind the counter, and one group of people ahead of me in line a woman with her grandmother and her 3 small children. I waited behind them for a while as the kid behind the counter fixed each of their orders. While I waited another woman came in with her husband and baby. The husband took the baby out to the patio and the woman wondered around the store for a minute or two before stepping in front of me in line. At first I was not concerned. I assumed she was just trying to view all the flavors in the case, and I figured she knew I was there first so we wouldn’t have any issues. But when the kid behind the counter said, “Can I help who was next?” she jumped in a started to order. Um…what?! I don’t think so!!

I said “Excuse me, I was here before you.”

Then she said, “You were? I don’t think so, I’ve been waiting here for a while.”

“No, I saw you come in, I was here first. You walked right by me,” I couldn’t believe her nerve. I even had to move out of her way when she walked by me. There was no way she hadn’t seen me standing there.

Then the kid behind the counter looked at her and said, “You where here first?” I know he knew I was there first, but he was just a teenager and probably didn’t know how to handle the situation.

The woman said, “Yeah, I’ve been waiting right behind them for a while,” pointing the other woman who had been in front of me in line.

The other woman then came to my rescue and said, “No, she was here before you,” pointing to me, “She’s next.”

The line jumper responded with, “Oh…I didn’t see you.”

It wasn’t till later that I realized she hadn’t even apologized for her bad behavior, but on my way out of the store I made sure to thank the women who backed me up.

I realize ice cream shop line jumping may not be as serious as some of our society’s problems, but it just goes to show how you self-centered we’ve become. Small incidences like this are happening all the time and I think we each need to take responsibility in changing that. It can only make the world a better place.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. Thanks for listening.

Oh, and by the way, the pretzel ice cream at Maggie Moo's is magical.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm an Urban Farmer!

Last weekend after weeks of unseasonably cool weather and rain, Charley and I finally got my tomatoes planted. For the last few weeks, between rainstorms, Charley has been working on building me this amazing raised garden bed (he calls it the Taj Johannal):

As you can see, it’s gorgeous…constructed of redwood and complete with surrounding brick patio (which isn’t quite done yet, but it's pretty close). Last weekend I helped him lay some of the bricks and install a drip irrigation system before planting the leggy, gangly tomato plants I’ve been attempting to keep alive indoors. We don’t get very much direct sunlight in our house so it’s been a challenge keeping them healthy…only time will tell if being outside will improve there condition. But there’s always tomato plants at Home Depot, so they’re easily replace, I suppose.

I also planted zucchini, patty pan squash and beet seeds. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the squash plants mature in time to harvest before the first frost.

Friday, May 27, 2011

300 Plates

Last week Charley and I attended a really fun event here in Salt Lake – The 9th annual 300 Plates Fundraiser and Exhibition at the Art Access Gallery. This exhibition is held every year to raise money for Art Access. Art Access is a non-profit organization the works to provide inclusive arts programming for Utahns with disabilities and those with limited access to the arts.

The 300 Plates Fundraiser and Exhibition is a great event and it was lots for fun to attend. This year 102 established and emerging Utah artists participated (including Charley)…some contributed more than one plate. Each artist created work on an 11- by 10-inch recycled metal printer’s plate. The plates were hung in a large grid pattern – the plate in the first square of the grid was priced at $75, and the prices went up in $1 increment from there – the last plate was $375.

A small selection of paintings were also place in a silent auction, with bids starting at $500. Charley’s plate was in the silent auction…I’m so proud!

When we arrived at the event we received color coded wristbands (I’ll explain in a minute) and the gallery was open for 1 hour for everyone to view the plates and make a note of which one they might like to purchase.

Then the gallery was only open for three minute intervals – here’s where the colored wristbands come in. So, wristbands were pulled at random from a hat (and actual top hat) and the colors were called out. When your color was called you’d have three minute’s to go through the gallery and place a sticker with you name on it below the plate you wanted…if someone else hadn't gotten to it first. My color was called towards the end, but I was still lucky enough to get one of the plates that both Charley I liked…and great little shadowbox with a robot in it (artist, Derek Mellus, used the plate to form a 3-D box). Charley wasn't so lucky. His color was called dead last and everything he like was sold by then.

There was also live music and food from the Himalayan Kitchen…yum! It was a really fun evening.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Tomatoes Are Taking Over...

This year I decided to grow tomato plants from seed (this is my first attempt at real gardening). I started them back in March and now they're taking over my whole kitchen table. This week Charley is working on building me a raised garden bed in our backyard...and I can't wait to get these babies in the ground. I've got six varieties, including two heirlooms. I will also be planting orange bell peppers, two kinds of summer squash (both heirloom), and beets. I can't wait for the harvest!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bye Bye Gallbladder...

...You won't be missed. Last Monday, after 6 month of sickness, pain and medical tests, I finally had my gallbladder removed. I'm not recommending surgery...but I'm so relieved to have it gone. I started having classic symptoms of gallbladder disease at the end of August, but was originally diagnosed with an ulcer. Then an ultrasound revealed that I had gallstones in December. But apparently my symptoms were not typical enough and my doctor wanted to run many more tests. Which after months of pain and not eating, all lead back to my gallbladder (see my past entries) which is apparently also lazy, meaning it didn't function properly.'s finally gone. And good riddance! The surgery went really well and my surgical team was fantastic (note how they used little hearts to dress my incisions...hilarious!). I came out of anesthesia smoothly and with out nausea (which is not my history with surgery).

The surgery was done laporoscopically, so the pain has been minimal (I just feel a little like I've been in a knife fight) and I was home from the hospital the same evening. The first 24 hours went smoothly, but I ran into trouble on the second night. At about 3:00 am on Wednesday I woke up in terrible pain, nauseous, and feeling like my bladder was going to explode, but not able to urinate (I know, I sound like I'm 80). My wonderful husband rushed me to the ER, where they gave me a chest x-ray and a CT scan to rule out any serious issues like internal bleeding...everything looked fine, so they were able to relieve my bladder (I'll leave the details to your imagination) and send me home feeling MUCH better. Last night we had a similar scare, but by this afternoon I was feeling much better.

All in all, this surgery was worth it (it was really a piece of cake), and I know that before I know it I'll feel my old self again...and I'll even be back to eating my favorite foods again soon...cheese...chocolate milk shakes...pasta...mmmm

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Diagnosis…Sort of

Since my last entry about my health I’ve undergone two more test, a HIDA scan and a hydrogen breath test. And I finally have some answers…kind of.

The HIDA scan is used to map the flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder and from the gallbladder to the small intestines. It shows if there are any leaks or blockages in the bile dusts or if the gallbladder is sluggish or malfunctioning.

I had the HIDA scan on Monday, and it was one of the more unpleasant tests I’ve undergone, but it wasn’t horrible. First I was injected with radioactive tracers into my bloodstream, then I had to lay on a table inside a huge gamma ray camera. As soon as I lay down I could see an image of my liver on the monitor above my head. The image was basically just tiny white dots clustered together on a black screen…my liver looked like a bean shape cluster of stars in the sky.

I had to lie there completely still until the tracers reach my gallbladder, which took an hour. Once my gallbladder show up on the scan the second part of the test began, and that’s where it got uncomfortable. Next I was injected with a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) that makes the gallbladder contract. This triggered the painful symptoms that brought me to doctor in the first place. The purpose of this part of the test is to map how quickly bile moves out of the gallbladder into the small intestines. For me it seemed to go fairly quickly and the test was over in about 30 minutes.

While I was waiting for results of the HIDA scan I went in for a hydrogen breath test. The hydrogen breath test is used to test for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is an overgrowth of the good bacteria, which is supposed to live in our large intestines, in your small intestines – it is not good to have it in the wrong part of your digestive tract and can cause many of the symptoms I’ve been experiencing. I was actually excited for this test and hopeful I would be positive for SIBO. SIBO is curable with antibiotics and I found a study linking it to Rosacea, which I also have. In that study, 47% of subjects with Rosacea tested positive for SIBO, compared to 4% of the control population. Of those with SIBO, 95% experienced remission of their Rosasea symptoms with the eradication of the SIBO. Hooray! Maybe I could cure two health problems that have plagued me for years with one ten day course of antibiotics.

And I did indeed test positive for SIBO…I’ve never been so happy to receive a diagnosis in my life. But that’s not the end of the story. Yesterday I receive a call from a nurse in the GI clinic. He told me my doctor had reviewed the results of my HIDA scan and she has referred me to a surgeon. Apparently, my gallbladder is not functioning properly and I my need surgery after all. But here’s the catch, I still haven’t been able to speak with my doctor, so I don’t know exactly what the results of the HIDA scan where or what might be wrong with my gallbladder. When I tried to get a hold of her again today, a different nurse told me I would have to wait to speak with the surgeon. Someone is supposed to call me to set up an appointment with a surgeon on Monday…hopefully I’ll be able to get in soon to see him. This has dragged on long enough.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Back in the Studio

Charley spend the first part of the winter setting up two new studios in Salt Lake. He’s renting space for acrylics, were he starts all his work. And he built a studio in half of our garage for when he’s working in oil. He had to frame it out, insulate it, update the electric and added power, and added a ventilation system. It was a big job that took longer than I expected. But now it’s done and he's been back to painting since February.

Last week I visited him at his acrylics studio where he’s got about ten new paintings in the works. Here are some pictures:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon…Worth all the Effort?

Last weekend, feeling inspired by one of my favorite movies, Julie & Julia, I decided to channel my inner Julia Child. I made Boeuf Bourguignon using Julia’s original recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It turned out to be no simple task.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking was intended to make French cooking more accessible to American home cooks, but this recipe was definitely the one most complicated recipe I’ve ever tackled, with many individual steps…and a big mess to clean up after a full afternoon of cooking.

First, cook the bacon and set aside, then brown the beef and set aside. Cook the vegetables, then add beef back in and place in the oven. Cook the mushrooms separately. Cook the pearl onions separately…and so on. (Full recipe)

Was it worth all the effort? I’m not sure. Charley thought it was delicious, but I didn’t think it was that great…maybe it was too soon after my gastric empting test for me to be eating what is essential beef stew again, so I didn’t get to fully appreciate it’s flavor.

But I did have a lot of fun cooking it, and I gained a lot of confidence in my cooking abilities (it’s an intimidating recipe to try), so I think it was worth it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Supper - Lasagna!!

It's Saturday, but I'm not planning anything special for dinner tonight. I'm tired and we have so many, I'm taking the night off. Tomorrow I'll tackle Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. I'll let you know how it goes.

Last Saturday I made my first every lasagna and I came out beautifully. I don't have a recipe to share, because I don't use one. I just used my instincts and the knowledge of Italian cooking I've acquired over the year...but I'm not going to share my secrets either. Ok, maybe just one...the most important one: Ricotta. The secret to a great lasagna is good ricotta cheese. Some of you out there might think lasagna is made with cottage cheese, but that sacrilege. You must use ricotta, and a really good ricotta at that. I got my ricotta at local Italian grocer and deli, Granato's, where they make it fresh. It's smooth and creamy with a hint of sweetness...delicious! It really made my lasagna great.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Goat Cheese Brownies

A while back I was watching Food Network when Throwdown with Bobby Flay came on. Bobby’s assignment was brownies and he was up against Shawna Lidsky of the Vermont Brownie Company. Shawna made (and won) dark chocolate goat cheese brownies…oh momma! They looked good!!

Ever since then I’ve want to eat goat cheese brownies and last night an opportunity arose to make them…I had some girl friends coming over for a chocolate themed dinner. After a brief internet search I found several recipes, but my time was limited and didn’t want to mess with making them from scratch. So, here’s what I came up with on the fly:

1 box of Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix (or brownie mix of your choice)
4 ounces chevre, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
1 large egg
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 (or whatever the brownie mix package says). Mix the brownie batter as directed on the box and pour into a lightly greased 8x8 baking dish. Then, using electric mixer, beat chevre and butter in medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add honey and beat until well blended. Beat in egg. Mix in flour. Pour the cheese mixture over the brownie batter and swirl with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 minutes (or as directed on the brownie mix box).

I got the recipe for the toping from Pink Apron blog. You can get the full recipe including the brownie batter from scratch here:
Enjoy! They are delicious!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Medical Woes and Adventures with Radioactive Food

Yesterday I spent the morning in the hospital getting what I hope will be the last in the long line of medical test I’ve undergone since November. I've been having stomach pain and difficulty digesting since August and have had many tests to get to the bottom of it, with no real answers yet. So far, they're ruled out Lupus, Scleroderma, Diabetes, ulcers, and acid reflux. An ultrasound revealed gallstones, but no sign of swelling or infection of my gallbladder, so the doctors don't think that is the culprit. A scope of my stomach showed signs of gastroparesis – that's what the test yesterday was for. It will show how fast (or slow) my stomach empties after I eat. I’m also waiting on results on tests for giardia, Celiac Disease, and bowel infection, and bowel inflammation. Hopefully yesterday’s test, a gastric emptying study, will be illuminating. So, yesterday, I started my day (at 7:00 am) eating radioactive beef stew and orange juice. Yes, that’s right, they made me eat beef stew at 7:00 in the morning. Yucky, canned beef stew…bad in the evening, ten times worse in the morning. It may have been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to choke down. I definitely won’t be eating beef stew again any time soon. After eating what may have been the worst meal of my life, they started scans of me abdomen every thirty minutes, each lasting 1 minute. The whole process took about two and half hours, which was mostly spent in a tiny little waiting – that was well stocked with magazines from 2007. Thankfully, I had Harry Potter book 4 with me (and my magical ability to fall a sleep anywhere). I’m so tired of being poked, prodded, scoped and x-rayed (so far I’ve given 15 or so vials of blood). But most of all I’m tired of not feeling well and not being able to eat normally. It would all be worth it if that radioactive beef stew had somehow given me superpowers…but there are no signs of x-ray vision or superhuman strength. An even better outcome would be some kind of a diagnosis and treatment plan. Hopefully, I’ll hear something today.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Saturday Supper…on Sunday: Pernil

Last Sunday I decided to make a special dinner for Charley. We had both been really sick and he had been taking such good care of me to spite his own illness. So, I thought he deserved a reward. I wanted to do something new and really special, so I looked to one of my favorite chefs and cookbook authors, Mark Bittman.

For many years Mark Bittman has had a regular column in the New York Time called the Minimalist that ended last week. His last Minimalist column listed his 25 favorite recipes from the column. One of them was Pernil, a Puerto Rican recipe for pork shoulder slow roasted for hours.

I thought, “pork shoulder, perfect, you can’t go wrong with pork!” But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be…

First lesson – There is more than one cut called “shoulder.” Apparently there are two kinds of pork shoulders, picnic shoulder, which is the lower part of the shoulder and the top of the leg, and the “Boston Butt,” which is the top of the shoulder and back. And each of these areas can be cut several different ways – steaks, roasts, bone in, bone out…it was all very confusing. I stood at the meat counter for several minutes looking at all the things labeled pork shoulder (they all looked radically different from each other) and had no idea which one to buy. I finally ask one of the butchers for help, but he didn’t speak English very well. By then I had it narrowed down to two and he keep pointing at them and saying “This ones the butt shoulder and this one is the front shoulder.” Ummm…the butt shoulder??

I ended up purchasing the one that look the most like the picture, which the butcher call the “butt shoulder.” Now I know it was probably a Boston Butt roast (which is not from the butt at all), and a picnic shoulder roast might have been better for this recipe.

Second lesson – If your going to do a slow roasted pork shoulder, make sure you start it early enough in the day to roast it sufficiently. I started the roast at 3:00 and it wasn’t ready until almost 9:00, and I think it would have been tastier if I could have left it in another 45 minutes or so.

Third lesson – Pork shoulder has a lot of fat on it! It’s very tasty, but it’s very rich. When making pork shoulder, plan light side dishes.

All and all, it came out pretty well. The Pernil rub was delicious. I think I would make it again. Here is Mark Bittman’s column about it including a link to the recipe and video: