Thursday, July 8, 2010

A year gone by...

I've officially been here one full year. It's been a crazy year at that but I can absolutely say that I've survived all four seasons!

Last year at this time...

*Secret Agent Man was still packing up our house with tons of help from his parents and a few friends. Who knew we had so much STUFF?

*I just completed my dissertation and hoped and prayed they wouldn't take my diploma away.

*I said good-bye to family and friends on the west to start anew on the east.

*I met my new co-workers who invited me over for dinner and welcomed me like only a small town would.

*I learned to live without air-conditioning in humid weather (again).

*I learned that you can't buy beer or liquor from just anywhere. Not even vodka for homemade vanilla extract or wine to cook with. Forget about my gin and tonics or gimlets.

*I learned that even though the entire town is only about 6 sq. miles, everyone has to get to the otherside like NOW. Crazy drivers.

*I learned that we can survive a move across the country!

Thanks to everyone for their support!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The BEST salad dressing ever!

Well, the best you can buy. I've been suffering for a year without my favorite salad dressing. I won't lie to you but I first tried this dressing because of the low calorie count and the fact that sugar wasn't the first ingredient. But after one bite, I was sold forever. Saved me when I was doing Weight Watchers. I've been searching all the local stores for this dressing but it really was only sold on the west coast in specialty stores like Wholefoods and sometimes (if you're lucky) in certain Ralph's or Albertson's grocery stores.

I don't know what made me look for it today--maybe it was all the greens delivered this week or my fast sprouting garden--but I looked online to see if I could get it shipped and right at the top of their website, an update that Weis markets agreed to start carrying the dressing in PA. Whoo hoo! So after work, I dragged Secret Agent Man to check it out but both of us had the same thought: PA usually means Philadelphia or Pittsburg not middle of nowhere town. So with baited breath we went up and down the dressing aisle. No mas. Then I checked their refrigerator section. I swear, I started jumping up and down (as much as a 5 month pregnant woman can)! So here is the famed salad dressing:

They have four flavors and each and every one is yummy. These two are my favorites: Caesar and Miso. Don't let the miso turn you off, it's not a heavy flavor and in fact, the caesar doesn't taste like miso at all to me. The Caesar is tangy and savory and refreshing all at the same time. The Miso flavor is on the sweeter side and I like to alternate between the two. Not only are they low cal (14 calories for 2 Tbsp!), no MSG, AND you'll recognize and be able to pronounce everything in their ingredient list--there's nothing surprising or unusual.
LOVE this stuff. Definitely try it out if you happen to see it at the store. Oh, and it's made in Newport Beach. Yum.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stawberry Freezer Jam

Even with all the eating out of hand and two pies, I still had enough strawberries to make jam. I can have fresh strawberry flavor all year long!

So I cleaned and sliced up a few pounds of strawberries.

You'll need a packet of pectin which can be found at any grocery store near their canning supplies. Look specifically for the low or no-sugar freezer jam packet and buy two. You can follow the directions on the back of the packet which calls for a ton of sugar. I only used 1 cup of sugar and 1 packet of pectin. Mix well.

The packet calls for 4 cups of mashed strawberries. I, of course, used 8 cups. Again, if your strawberries aren't really sweet, you'll probably want to use more sugar. Mash the strawberries really well but don't use a blender or food processor. It just doesn't set right.

Yum. Let it set up for 30 minutes. If it is still not "jammy" enough for you, then sprinkle some of the pectin from the second packet and stir it in well. Of course, you have to taste the product.

The rest of the jam can be spooned into sterilized jars or freezable plastic containers. It'll keep about 3 weeks in the refrigerator or a year in the freezer (often times, it'll last longer but that's what it says on the packet).

Now, I just have to decide whether I should be greedy and pick more strawberries this weekend (last chance for this season's crop!) or just hold out until the following week for Cherry Season!!
Loving summer,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

So what to do with all the lovely strawberries we gathered for my birthday?

I hate super sugary strawberry pies but I sure do love pie. I saw some rhubarb at the farmers' market and thought that it would go beautifully with fresh, sweet, strawberries. So, pie it is!

Start by washing the rhubarb.

Slice the rhubarb diagonally in half inch pieces to expose the most surface area.

Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, and 1/4 cup cornstarch (or 1/2 cup tapioca starch). You can add up to another 1/2 cup of sugar if your strawberries aren't as sweet or you just prefer it sweeter. Stir.

I was lazy for this round and used store-bought refrigerator pie dough. I suggest the pillsbury brand dough (you'll need two boxes). I tried a different brand and the dough was on the soggy side-probably because it used all shortening instead of some butter. Pat into a rimmed baking sheet. I believe this is a 9" x 12" sheet.

Place the pie sheet in the refrigerator if it's quite warm out and make sure your oven is preheated to 375 degrees. When ready, pour the filling into the shell and try not to mound it too high.

Use an egg wash around the edges of the dough and top with another layer of dough. You can get fancy and make a lattice top but here, I just covered it the best I could, crimped the edges well and rolled it inward to keep juices from flowing off the pan and burning in the over. Slice some vents in the top.

I also brushed the top with egg wash and sprinkled it with some sugar. Feel free to use white, brown, or turbinado sugar.

Forty to fifty minutes later, you get this:

IMPORTANT: Do not slice into this pie until completely cool. This may take up to 24 hours.

I had extra filling so I made a 9 inch round pie too. If you have a crowd to feed or you especially like a higher ratio of crust to filling, the slab pie is the way to go. If you like more filling, go with the round pie.

I topped this round pie with vanilla pudding filling but cool whip would work well too.

Take a bite! Rhubarb really brings out a true strawberry flavor.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

First CSA delivery!

The first CSA delivery of the season came today!

Lots of greens in this delivery-including some garlic scapes.

Can't wait to see what this season brings.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I Love Strawberries! I can't get enough of these jewels when they are in season. I could easily eat a pound or two in one sitting. So, we went to a local farm to get some fresh berries. We could buy a quart of strawberries for $4.50 OR we could pick our own for $1.50 a pound. Considering that I would eat that quart in two seconds flat, we went out into the fields. Here's our yield!

I went for the small ruby red berries and Secret Agent Man was really good at finding the really big berries. All together we pulled in nearly 8 lbs! I'm so excited that I can't decide how I want to make use of these gems. So I started simple: Fresh Strawberry Topping (or otherwise known as Macerated Berries).

You'll need to wash and quarter about a pint of strawberries.

Sprinkle on a tablespoon of sugar--add more if your strawberries are somewhat weak in flavor or unripened.

If you are feeling particularly naughty, add a splash of vanilla extract or grand marnier or chambord. Then stir it up and let it sit in the refrigerator for about 20minutes.

In the mean time, to make a pretty garnish for various strawberry desserts, take one pretty strawberry.

Make a slice about 3/4 ways from the bottom to the top but do not cut all the way through the stem area.

Make a series of parallel slices being careful not to slice through the stem.

Then carefully, fan it out slightly.

Ta dah! Simple but effective. Especially when paired with a mint leaf on vanilla ice cream in my favorite mug.

Ahhh, but remember, I can't get enough strawberries! So out comes my macerated berries! As you stir it around, you'll notice the syrup it made and how much the strawberry flavor comes out.

Then, pour as much of the strawberries over ice cream, pound cake, shortcake, pancakes, custard, vanilla pudding, chocolate mousse, or spoon directly into your mouth as much as your heart desires. I won't tell.

This is also a quick and easy dessert to make for guests. Just macerate a bunch of different berries or peaches or plums. Add a few sprigs of mint and top with some fresh whipped cream and you've got yourself a classy summer dessert with no fuss.

Stay tuned for more strawberry desserts (I do have another 7.5 pounds to go!).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Update: Secret Agent Man

This is the image I saw one day coming home from work:

Don't worry, he was just starting it up and not actually riding it but it was a funny sight seeing Secret Agent Man on a motorcycle with a back brace. He's doing really well and almost fully recovered from the accident. All of his bones have healed 100% and he's back to normal everyday living. His only restrictions are to keep using his backbrace and not to lift anything really heavy. Sometimes it is still somewhat painful but since he's started physical therapy, it has been getting easier and better with each day. So thanks to everyone for all of your well-wishes and support! We couldn't have done it without you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blasted Rabbit and First Harvest!

Finally, summer is upon us and the volatile spring weather has gone. So we got to planting our vegetable garden!

Without fail, within 24 hours of planting our vegetables, this happened:

Blasted rabbit. I spotted a wild rabbit or two when we first moved in but thought nothing of it when we planted our garden--except that we shouldn't plant strawberries since it'll be a waste of time since the rabbits or the birds would get to the fruit before we could.

So, to solve our rabbit problem we had to cage in our vegetables.

It worked so well, that within three weeks, we got our first harvest! Mostly lettuce and arugala. When I would try to grow this in California, it would bolt in a blink of an eye and become really bitter. These are quite tender and sweet.

Dressed with a light vinegrette, it makes for a lovely lunch.

Here's to a bountiful harvest this season!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Burrito Bowls

So, I know we're limited in our ethnic food choices here in our small town. I came here with my eyes wide open to that possibility but I didn't expect to miss Mexican food sooooo much. I'm talking simple stuff like rice & beans, tacos, salsa.

Secret Agent Man and I decided to try a Mexican restaurant in town--it's a chain that will remain nameless. The food itself was pretty good as haole Mexican can get but the experience here has everything to do with the college kids working there.

We have to show our IDs at the door (as you can imagine, lots of drinking gets done here) and get seated at a booth. We take a look at the menu and Secret Agent Man asks the waiter, "is there something here like Chile Verde?" The waiter is a bit stunned for a second and asks "what exactly is Chile Verde?" Of course, I start laughing and Secret Agent Man has to stutter out "green sauce" with a straight face. We're in a Mexican restaurant that hasn't ever heard of Chile Verde. Hmm...not a good sign. But we chose a carnitas enchilada and told them to make it with their tomatillo sauce so we got something pretty close to Chile Verde.

To make matters worse, another group comes in and is seated next to us. We were having an early dinner so it really was only us and that other group. The other group consisted of adult Korean nationals and when the waiters asks them if they had any questions or if they wanted to order, one of them asks for a "Burrito Bowl." Of course, that waiter was all confused. Now, in California, they wouldn't blink an eye at this request since many people like to eliminate the tortilla to reduce carbs or for whatever reason. Secret Agent Man was thinking--"this isn't Beef Bowl!"

I know what the waiters were thinking---"What's up with these Asians!" At least we were asking for something Mexican....

I was THAT person

You know when you're sitting on a plane waiting for take off and that harried passenger runs up on the plane within two minutes of take off? And all you can think is "man, that person should get it together!" Yeah, that was me...

I arrived at the airport TEN MINUTES before take off. Who does that?? We underestimated how long it would take to get to the airport from home--it seems like it's only 10 minutes but ended up taking a good 30 minutes. Of course I had a bag to check. BUT get this, the airport is small enough that I could run up to the window next to the boarding area, wave at an agent, and get her to come out and check me in. Again, WHO DOES THAT?? Not only did she check my bag, but she took care of everything and told me to run to the gate and she didn't give me one ounce of attitude. LOVE HER.

Granted, running to the gate means going through security and taking 5 steps to the doorway to the tarmac. But since it's such a small airport, it took me 30 seconds to go through security, even with them performing their duties to the fullest. And everyone was super nice even at 6 in the morning. I just can't believe how nice and lucky I was. There's no way you could get onto the airplane arriving 10 minutes prior to take off at any other airport. I love flying out of our local airport. =)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring Pictures!

Just wanted to share some of the spring growth in these parts...let me tell you, it was a welcome sight to see!

Daffodils are now my favorite flower, it's the first to greet Spring! It was my mom's favorite flower and now I see why. It's just so bright and sunny and happy.

Here's a tulip growing. I can't wait to see what this one looks like. These are my sister's favorite flowers.

All these young buds:

Here are some fabulous wild daffodils in the alley way along with a flowering bush:

Even weeds are a happy sight!

I love the gold colors and how green the lawns are again.

Apparently so does Taylor.

Actually, she's loving all the new birds in the neighborhood. She tries her best to catch them but she's a little too clumsy.

By the time I finished taking all the pictures, the second daffodil bloomed.

Daffodils and tulips aren't the only things growing around here (hee hee).

Finally, here's my two broken footed boys. I don't know how Radar managed to hurt his left foot just like Secret Agent Man but it is somewhat funny to see the two of them limping around.

Happy Spring!

Spring= Trauma Season

So, apparently I'm not the only one to get excited about the first sunny day over 50 degrees. The day after I wrote how I was so excited about temperatures reaching into the 60s, Secret Agent Man decided he couldn't wait any longer and went for a bike ride. Now, most of you who read this blog probably know all the details of this fateful day already but here's a few more details for fun.

1. Secret Agent Man was riding on the side of the road and was hit from behind by a pick-up truck going 50+ miles per hour.

2. The last thought in Secret Agent Man's mind was "Damn, that was an awesome ride!" referring to the 20+ miles he just rode through the mountain where he was so worried about getting shot by hunters that he wore a fluorescent orange jersey. Apparently, that color keeps you from getting shot but doesn't keep you from getting runned over.

3. Here was our conversation when I first saw him at the hospital in the emergency room:
Me: Hi, honey, how are you?
SAM: What happened?
Me: You were hit by a car.
SAM: Bastards...Did they get away or what?
Me: I don't think it was a hit and run.
SAM: Where Am I?
Me:At the hospital.
SAM: How did I get here?
Me: Helicopter.
SAM: Bloody......What happened?

This conversation continued pretty much exactly the same every few minutes for the next 16 hours.

4. Although he wasn't coherent, Secret Agent Man was very aware that he was naked. Although he was covered pretty much the whole time, he was so concerned that he was naked, he told everyone "hey guys, I think I'm naked" and after awhile the nurses and doctors would start messing with him saying things like "guess what, we all are too!" Secret Agent Man wouldn't be phased though, he would just reply with "no peeking, no peeking" or "don't post this on the internet guys" or "what kind of place you guys running here?"

5. Secret Agent Man was not the first that day to be flown in for a trauma. The doctors and nurses in the ICU all commented that it was the start of "Trauma Season." As soon as the sun comes out, the garage doors open up and motocycles and bicycles come out and people become prime targets for really bad accidents. So this was our introduction to "Trauma Season."

UPDATE: Secret Agent Man is doing really well. He's a little (a LOT) frustrated as he is essentially confined to our bedroom and tortured as he watches the temperatures get up into the 80s and see the rare sunshine in these parts and watching all the other bicyclists pass our home from our window. The bruises have essentially disappeared (maybe if he would allow it, I could share some of those pictures), all the swelling has gone down, and he's off pain meds. Now it's just his bones that need to heal which unfortunately still means he has to wear his back brace and stay off his foot, at least until we see what the doctors say a little later this week. Thanks to everyone for their wonderful love and support!

Always wear a helmet.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Just hopping by to wish you all....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

63 degrees

Hallelujah! It was 63 degrees today with beautiful sunshine--not that I was able to enjoy it sitting in my dark office with no windows--but it actually got up into the 60s!! I think the last of the snow finally melted off the ground with just a few splotches here and there.

Sorry there's no pictures to share with you. I'm just too excited about the temperature and I figured I would post about it right away since it's not likely to stick. Rain is in the forecast for tonight and into early next week but the silver lining in that cloud is that it's RAIN and not SNOW. Can it truly mean that Spring is here? I'm so scared to jinx it!

After months of dreaming about the sun and warm beaches, I'm just happy that we just might be moving into spring (even though it's still too cold to wear a dress). =)
Happy day,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday

A year ago today, I was in Sweden. It was actually quite a fortuitous time to have been there because a storm had just passed through and covered the countryside in beautiful snow. Not much unlike here, our current home. However, the real reason it was great to have been in Sweden on Fat Tuesday, or I believe it's more commonly known as Shrove Tuesday there, is because I got to be introduced to their traditional Fat Tuesday fare--you know me and food!

So where New Orleanians have their King Cake and Hawaii Portuguese have their Malasadas, my hosts in Orebro were excited to share their Semla.

Semla is this wonderfully soft yeasty bun flecked with cardamom in the dough. It was a surprising and unusual flavor but mostly because it was difficult to identify at first bite and it was quite faint-not strong or overwhelming at all. Here's the best part:

They scoop out the middle, mix the crumbs with some milk and almond paste, put it back inside the bun, pipe some lovely fresh whipped cream and top it off with the 'cap' of the bun.

Semla is sometimes even served in a bowl of steaming milk. I purchased this second semla at the airport while waiting to board the plane and it was fabulous with a cup of strong, black, Swedish coffee (which by-the-way, is so well protected you cannot import, mail, or ship other coffee to Sweden without permission). I still dream about Semla a year later. In fact, I wanted this post to be about making Semla but my house is too cold to properly rise any yeast dough without extreme effort so you just get to dream with me.

Since we're on the topic of food and Sweden, I was only there for literally 30 hours. So I cannot review Sweden and all it's glory but it doesn't seem to have a strong cultural identity surrounding food. Their fare is rather simple (which I really do like) but there was nothing that really stuck out. This is what I had for dinner one night and this was as close as I could get to Swedish food:

I opted for chopped steak (essentially salisbury steak or hamburger steak) instead of Swedish meatballs since I can get that IKEA (hahahaa....) and the lingonberry sauce was quite good. They seem to like to drink beer with every meal, like any other European country, I suppose, and they serve boiled potatoes as their primary starch.

On the topic of food, some of you might get a kick out of this--look what I found in the middle of the town square:

Weight Watchers in Orebro!

I did get to see the town's castle and take a tour but I won't bore you with all the pictures. It did look lovely covered in snow though.
It was complete with a moat and everything!

The people were very friendly and many could speak enough English to explain to the dumb American girl how to find her hotel, and how much money she was holding, and what would be best to eat at the hotel bar. I would love to go back and visit during summer where the countryside is said to be the most stunning.

Hope you're having a happy Fat Tuesday in your corner of the world!