March 22, 2010

Birthdays, prostitutes, and a stand mixer. Spring is ON.

In case you were at all unaware, IT'S SPRING! :D It's been pretty beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest. It was rather rainy yesterday, but overall it's been spectacular. Today's agenda involves shipping some baked goods to the fam and perhaps bonding with John Waters via Cry-Baby. Because it's amazing. There might be some Sailor Moon involved as well, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Some snapshots of my life lately: (Also, I totally typed that as "snapshorts" Go me!)

Justin got me a birthday cake modeled after the Cakewrecks "Winter" cake that made me laugh until I cried. Ignore the bits of garlic peel just beyond the cutting board. I'm not a total filthy person, I swear. Those little bastards just get EVERYWHERE. So yes, I heralded in my 25th year with a cake wreck and I feel pretty good about that.

And my sister and mom, who both love me very, very much got me a KitchenAid stand mixer. So, a little story about this stand mixer (which has gotten a TON of use already. I'm pretty much mixing anything I can think of these days.)

Tammy (that would be my sister) ordered this beautiful piece of machinery off of It was posted via FedEx. Now, even though I had already COMPLETELY updated my address book, attached an address to my wishlist, and did all that stuff before Christmas. Being that my birthday is March 10, I figured that three months of full updated information would have been adequate. Apparently, FedEx disagreed and shipped it to my FORMER address, where I haven't lived for well over a year.

So, of course, it wasn't delivered. And it wasn't delivered. And it was the day before my birthday and it still hadn't actually come. So, I made a couple of phone calls to FedEx and got it held at the receiving warehouse so that we could pick it up early on the 10th.

We headed out nice and early and immediately went down the wrong road, therefore going a good few miles out of the way. We tried to turn around, only to find a dead end. So we turned COMPLETELY around only to find that we couldn't get onto the correct road from the road we were on, so we had to go a little bit MORE out of our way to get onto the right street. We did that and we were heading to FedEx and everything seemed on the up and up. And then we hit train tracks. And there was a train on those tracks. A very long train. This train meant business (mostly likely freight business, given that it was a train.) It achingly slowly crossed our path and then sat there. We were looking at the caboose. A guy got on the caboose and the train achingly slowly backed up. And then sat there. We were looking at the car immediately behind the engine. At this point, we'd been looking at this stupid train for half an hour and the FedEx building was precisely .5 miles away. We could have walked to the building, picked up the package, and walked back before this stupid train was out of way. Finally, the train backed up enough to let traffic through and we made it.

Now, keep in mind that I had NO idea what was in this package. I saw on the FedEx website that was 26 pounds, and I couldn't think of what on EARTH my sister could have gotten for me that would weigh 26 pounds. So, I just stopped wondering. It never even crossed my mind for half a second that it could possibly have been a stand mixer. They're too expensive. My family couldn't possibly know just how passionately I wanted one. My sister constantly makes fun of my cooking hobby. They're WAY too expensive! So when I saw the KitchenAid box sitting on the counter, my really immediate thought was, "why did they package it in a stand mixer box?" This thought was not a very hearty one, in my defense. It pretty much immediately clicked that they got me a stand mixer. I yelled "HOLY CRAP!" and started crying in the middle of the lobby of the FedEx receiving warehouse.

I then cried for about another half hour.

The rest of my birthday was totally amazing as well. The weather was beautiful--it was a mild sunny day. Justin took me to U-District and got us delicious falafel and a visit to the Burke Museum of Natural History. Then, we headed over to Fremont and had the most beautiful pork sandwich in the WORLD from Paseo Seattle. It changed my life. I have had pork made by two different Cuban abuelas and each time, I thought that pork was the epitome of how pig should be made. This, however, blew them out of the water. There are no words. Suffice it to say the Cuban Roast actively made me not want to eat for the rest of the day, since to eat would mean washing that beautiful pork flavor out of my mouth and that would be a travesty.

However, cake called. I can't let cake ring to voicemail. I am only human.

I got other wonderful gifts from Justin and his family (a jar of marmite and a Good Eats collection from Justin and Back to Basics from his family which is a book about how to build a homestead in the wilderness, basically. It's a damn addictive read) and had and altogether amazing day. I am surrounded by the best people ever--even if many of them are 3,000 miles away.

For Justin's birthday, we did the Seattle Underground Tour which was fascinating and wonderful and full of whores. Well, the tour ITSELF wasn't necessarily full of whores, but the subject matter sure was. Yay logging/mining town! Apparently, for four years of this city's history, a $10 monthly tax on prostitution provided Seattle with 87% of its gross "manufacturing" revenue. Yeah.

And, in other news here's a dog "driving" a car and a questionable screen cap from an episode of Transformers:
You're welcome.

March 07, 2010

A sample of what I've been up to:

I haven't properly updated in a while, so here's a general run down of what I've been up to, along with some impromptu book reviews at the end.
Making kimono for my Sims:

Burning Paris Hilton and Nicky Whatsherface in effigy:

Taking pictures of the insanely beautiful, insanely EARLY spring we've been enjoying since January:

Man, UW Cherry Blossoms... Why you gotta be so pretty? It's indecent. You know that. You MUST know that.

Also, work, which has been sadly slow since Christmas. This means that I have been reading a whole lot. Books I have read since my last update way back in December, in no particular order (mainly the order at which I've remembered them):

...That's a lot of Robin McKinley. I have to say, I had definitely been aware of the theme, but I love her so I couldn't stop. Also, that Tom Holt book up there was pretty depressing. I'd read Paint Your Dragon and Open Sesame and they'd had kind of happily-ever-after endings. Twisted, in many ways, but generally happy nevertheless. This one was a huge downer. I also must get a copy of Witches Abroad. As I was reading Lords and Ladies I just kept thinking of Witches Abroad

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is quite good. The guy who wrote it is the guy who wrote Wicked which is freaking AMAZING. Confessions... is the story of Cinderella's step-sister and how she got to be that and how she's really not all that bad. The first time I'd read it, I felt like he was kind of trying a little too hard to make the traditionally "good" character into one that was inherently unpleasant. I think that I was projecting a little too much Wicked onto this book. On the second read-through, it didn't feel like that at all. The characters and their motivations made a lot of sense and, really, everything ended up pretty much okay at the end.

The two non-fiction books up there; The Big Burn and It's Our Day were both really good. Timothy Egan is a writer I was familiar with from The Worst Hard Time, a book about the Great Depression. He seems to enjoy writing about horrendous events in American history. I like that. He started both books off with almost character profiles, getting the reading acquainted with important people and major historical events immediately preceding the catastrophe that inevitably caused the event to BE a catastrophe rather that just a Very Bad Thing, Indeed. So the reader gets really rather attached to all of these people and their lives and then BAM! Awful thing! In The Big Burn it was this absolutely horrific forest fire that covered an area in the Northwest roughly the size of Connecticut.

A digression: Did you know that "Connecticut" has a "c" in the middle. Check it out: ConneCticut. I did not know this. Here I am, nearly twenty five years old, anal retentive as an aging school marm about my spelling and I didn't know that Connecticut has a random-ass "c" just hanging out in there. There is so much wrong with New England.

Anyhow, so the forest catches on fire in a big way and a lot of people really needlessly and pathetically die across three states, and those that don't die are left kind of miserable and broken as human beings. It's really quite moving. And horrible. And it's a fantastic book. If you, like me, have random fascinations with terrible events in history, check out Timothy Egan. He's your man.

It's Our Day was NOT written by Timothy Egan. It's a book about the American wedding industry and it made me feel really conflicted. See, blog, I have a confession to make: I like pretty dresses. I do! I like looking at them and thinking about them and when I was twelve, my friend Monica and I used to design wedding dresses together. They were hugely skirted and corseted and covered in beads. I'm good at beads. But when I think about how I want to get married, I just don't see myself in one of those dresses. I just don't want the princess wedding. I don't want the white dress and the veil. Some kind of skirted garment would be nice, yes, and I DO want a nice cake, but that's about it. It's more important to me to have the people I love with me celebrating the future I'm making with my new spouse. I always thought I was a little weird, really. I mean, EVERYONE wants the princess wedding, right? We're told, as little girls, that our wedding is THE day. Barbies are devoted to it, there are major portions of the film industry focused on it, there is a huge wad of advertising revenue funneled into it; how could I NOT want it?

Well, turns out I'm perfectly normal. The standard middle class American wedding as we know it has actually only even been AROUND since the 1940's. It became wound up in department stores and used as a symbol of patriotism: Girls who wanted to do right by their country married young, married a soldier, and got right down to the baby-making. Stores at the time capitalized on this marrying frenzy by taking advantage of a young woman's desire to make her wedding a special day, and they did this by REALLY pushing the wedding gown idea. From the gown, everything else kind of took off. It's astonishing, but the idea of the white wedding with the big dress and the big cake and the REALLY big bill is only about 70 years old. Huh.

So, ladies, if you want the big elaborate white wedding, then more luck to you. I hope your days is as dreamy and incredible as you've always wished it to be. But if you don't want that princess wedding, it's ok.

The last on this list is Dave Barry. Just... Read everything he's ever written. He's hilarious and I love him.

I've also been writing a book of general magical information for the world in my head. It sort of started when I was caregiving and the woman I was caring for has a very particular spiritual/magical philosophy that I find cumbersome, impractical, and unreasonable, to say the least. So I basically set about creating the opposite. I like it. It makes sense. The pieces fit together rather nicely. I think I'm a bit unfair to the wizards, but hey... Not everyone can be a winner, right? I have a little notebook that I've been writing it down in and I'm about halfway through the available pages. I'm hoping to hit the end of the notebook. That's my goal! After that, who knows?

I also think I've finally figured out this whole crochet thing. Took me damn well long enough... Once I actually make something, I'll take a picture of it and update this thing. I keep meaning to update it more, but "reloading the forums and reading pointless posts about nothing actually relating to me" just isn't all that interesting.

December 24, 2009

Woah! I've not been doing much lately!

I haven't really been making much in the way of food that's very exciting. Mostly, I've been working and making much of the same old, same old. I kind of wish I'd thought to pay attention to tonight's meal, but I'll do my best to at least give a recipe:

Lemon Pepper Chicken with Creamy Pasta
1 chicken breast
1/2 sweet onion (I went with Mayan as usual!)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 pound thin spaghetti
1 large lemon
2 cups peas
1 package Neufchatel cheese (any farmer's cheese or cream cheese will work)
3 T of pesto
a small handful of mixed Italian cheese
olive oil
butter (totally optional)
bit of stock
liberal amounts of pepper

First, thinly slice half an onion. Get those slices as thin as possible! Then, mince your garlic.
Get some oil in a pan on medium heat. When the oil's hot, add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir it around so that the onions and garlic get all caramelized and delicious, but not actually burned in any way. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the optional butter or just let it kind of hang out as is, your choice.
Salt and pepper the chicken breast and when the onions/garlic are cooked and golden soft and delicious, take them out of the pan.
Add another shot of oil and get the chicken going. While the chicken is browning, zest and juice one large lemon. When the chicken is well browned on both sides, add about 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and 1/2 of the zest, along with a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice. Let this go at medium heat until the chicken is totally cooked through, moist, and perfect.
Set the chicken aside when it's done, add more stock to the pan for any additional deglazing and set this liquid aside as well.
Sprinkle a bit of lemon zest onto each side of the chicken and spoon some lemon juice on top. Add a final shot of pepper and let it hang out.

Meanwhile, get a bowl out, and into it add your pesto, Neufchatel, onions, garlic, and Italian cheese. Just go hog wild into that thing. Add some salt and pepper while you're at it. Excess is NEVER too much! Mix it all together and thin it out with the stock and deliciousness mixture from the chicken pan. You won't need more than a couple of tablespoons at the most of the cooking liquid. Add the rest of the lemon zest and maybe a couple of spoonfuls of lemon juice--just taste it as you go and decide what it needs. Make sure you have a little bit of lemon juice at the end, since you might want to add a little bit at the end.

Break the spaghetti strands into thirds, cook them as usual, and add the peas at the end to cook briefly. Drain the peas and pasta and add the cheese sauce. Get it really well stirred and taste to see what you have to add. At this point in the game, I needed a little more lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Your mileage may vary.

Get some peas/pasta into a bowl, add a chicken breast to the top of it, and spoon a little bit of the chicken cooking liquid into the chicken once it's served. Your tastebuds will love you. This is a pretty darn delicious dish!

But mostly, I've been working and coming home and cooking boring food, as I mentioned up above. I'm working at a visiting, temporary museum exhibition which involves seeing a lot of people looking at other people, except those other people are dead and have no skin. Frequently, they also have various fewer internal organs than your average alive person. We've had some fainters, at least one girl who left in tears, and a number of people who, overwhelmed, had to step out for some fresh air before tackling the finish. I think it's kind of funny, really. I mean, they're dead. It's not like they're going to complain at you or something. At this job, I spend an awful lot of time telling people where the bathrooms are (LEARN TO READ SIGNS, PEOPLE, OH MY GOD) and how to use audio guides.

The audio guides, in case you haven't been to any museum anywhere at all in the entire world in the last twenty years or so, generally look like this:

This is, of course, a crude MSPaint representation of an audio guide that I drew in about three minutes, but it includes all the major details: The speaker, the buttons, the cord. You know. The stuff. So, the way you use a modern audio guide, is you look at various exhibits in a museum. Some of these exhibits will have numbers next to them--usually in bright bold colors and large friendly font. When you want to learn more about these exhibits, you type those large friendly numbers next to the exhibit into the audio guide and press that green "play" button. Put that speaker part up top next to your ear like a phone and enjoy! If the volume is too low for you, press "9." If the volume is too high for you, press "7." It's not very complicated. At most, it's four buttons at any given location and three of those buttons are numbers 0-9.

Why is it, then, that so many people have this totally glazed expression when you tell them this?

Also, I have been to many a museum. Justin has been to even more, and on multiple continents. Never have I or Justin been to a museum that allows any kind of eating or drinking inside the exhibits. If you have never been to a museum before, let me give you a helpful tip. You can't eat or drink ANYTHING while you're in the galleries. You also cannot touch anything. If the exhibit is NOT permanent, photography will absolutely NOT be allowed. EVER. EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER. So when museum personnel tell you kindly for the ten thousandth time that no, we do not have a cafe in the museum for your convenience, nor can you have a snack because, god forbid, you haven't eaten within the last half hour, don't be so totally butthurt. If you're going to the museum eat and drink ahead of time. Also, no, you can't touch ANYTHING. It's an exhibit. The things inside the exhibit are almost certain to be delicate and/or expensive and the difficulty at repairing those items will range from "hard" to "snowball's chance in hell." So hands off. 

Now, when you go to a standard, permanent, art museum, say, the Seattle Art Museum for example, there will usually be two parts: The permanent exhibit and the visiting exhibit. The visiting exhibit is what you see giant posters and banners for outside the art museum. At virtually all museums, you can take pictures of the permanent exhibit--the stuff that's there all the time. You can almost NEVER take pictures of the visiting exhibits. This is because the museum does not own the visiting exhibits, and so does not have the rights to the images contained within those exhibits and therefore cannot extend any rights to those images to you, the visitor. If a touring exhibit is coming through town and will only be there a short time, just assume that the exhibit is permanently in visiting exhibit status and therefore photography will, by default, not be allowed under any circumstances. It is a very rare touring exhibit that allows photography. So please don't act all butthurt about that, either. It's pretty common policy and if the world weren't so sue happy and if people weren't so careless and stupid, you probably would be able to take pictures. But the world isn't and people aren't, so you can't.

AND TURN YOUR PHONE OFF, DAMMIT. First of all, it's incredibly rude and intrusive to have a ringing phone/phone conversation in a museum. Secondly, if the exhibit you're viewing prohibits photography, the employees in that exhibit are going to be paranoid as all hell that every single person in the world is taking photos. Since everyone and their mom has a camera phone, leave the phone off, put away, and ignored for the ENTIRE duration of your stay. I don't care if you're texting. I don't care if your grandmother is in the hospital. I don't care if you're the goddamn Batman and your cell is the only way the mayor can get in touch with you during the daytime, KEEP YOUR PHONE PUT AWAY. We WILL search your pictures and will ride your ass the entire rest of the time you're in the exhibit to keep you off of your phone. It sucks for us, it sucks for you, just don't do it.

So that's what I do, really. I police the masses and educate on the finer points of museum-visiting etiquette. And then I come home and complain about my poor sore feet, cook dinner, and, after spending way too long on Facebook games, go to bed.

It's what I do all day. Sigh.

But tomorrow is Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day and then Boxing Day, which is when I can box up all the feast leftovers for the servants! Hurray! They'll be so glad!

November 16, 2009


Oh, man, it's that time of year again. Time for me to royally overextend myself and cook enough food to feed about 16 standard-sized armies of super-sized ogres. Luckily, I work with a lot of transplants and I'm inviting them all to my apartment.

My tiny Seattle apartment.

It has one chair.

BUT! My primary concern at the moment is, of course, the food. I make $10 an hour, working about 30 hours a week, give or take, which doesn't leave me with a whole hell of a lot of money for this grand feast I'm planning. Luckily, I'm a pretty decent cook and I'm totally good at working with cheap ass ingredients. I started some of the buying today, since a lot of it could be bought frozen. This post will be my overall cost-tracking post. I know that sounds totally boring--and it really, really is--but some people might have use for money-managing tips? Maybe? So, the prices I have so far are for stuff I've already purchased. Repeat ingredients don't have prices listed. I mean, it's not like I'm using 8 different kinds of butter, you know? It's all Safeway Lucerne unsalted butter. No price at all, anywhere in the post, means it hasn't been purchased as of the latest update (or it's salt and pepper).

So, the menu, its ingredients, and their prices for the next nine days!

turkey ($20 for a TWENTY POUND TURKEY. I am awesome, I know.)
rosemary--purchased previously ($2)
thyme--purchased previously ($2)
butter--always have too much butter on hand ($1.50)
olive oil--can't live without it! ($6/pint)
onion and garlic--I am always surrounded by onion and garlic. All the time! Mayan sweet onion about $1.79/lb, garlic $0.79 a head.
salt --
pepper --
lemon ($0.79)

potatoes ($6/10lbs)
parsnips ($3)
carrots ($2.50 a bag)
onion --

bagged frozen because I'm lazy as sin--($4.49/36 rolls)
butter --

arborio rice--already purchased, don't remember how much it was. It's been a while.
stock--simmering on the stove as I type this
pinch of parmesan --

ravioli (already made and in the freezer)
 -one butternut squash ($1.49/lb)
 -1/2 c marscapone cheese ($2.99/tub)
 -1/4 c parmesan cheese ($3.49/tub)
 -salt, pepper
 -egg yolk
 -round dumpling wrappers (2 packs) ($1.99 each)
butter --
sage --

Yukon Gold potatoes --
butter --
cream cheese ($1.49)
half and half ($1.69)

cranberries ($2)
sugar --

OK, remember how I said, like, a week ago that I was doing stuffing from a box? Well, I'm not. It occurred to me that people who have never eaten my cooking are coming over just to eat my cooking. How I could I serve them stuffing from a box? And my friend from work said he LOVES stuffing and I was like, "nooooooooo!" So I'm making stuffing from scratch. Not the rolls, though I'm sure I'll doctor them up somehow.
baguette ($1.69)
parsley ($1)
rosemary --
thyme --
sage ($2 for a fatty container of it)
chicken stock (homemade)
onion --
celery --
butter --

broccoli ($2.00)
peas with mint
 -peas ($2.00)
 -parsley --
green beans with lemon
 -green beans ($2.00)
 -lemon --
 -olive oil --

SPINACH AND CHEESE CASSEROLE (if we can afford it once everything else is purchased)
ricotta cheese
cheddar cheese

courtesy of Safeway

I haven't decided yet!

So far, the total is up to $12 for today, and slightly less than that for stuff that's already made. Really, the meal shouldn't be too pricey overall, once all is said and done. The big purchase will, of course, be the turkey. I'm thinking we'll shoot for around $20-$25, but I've budgeted up to $30 for it. So far, I've overestimated all of my projected costs, except the rolls, which were 50 cents more than I guessed, so I'm under budget so far. I might be able to squeeze in my mom's world-famous spinach and cheese casserole, if I'm careful to catch sales!

I love the fall and winter holidays. Christmas is my favorite, totally, and I love decorating and getting ready for it. Luckily for me, I'll be in Florida for a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I'll get to spend at least a little bit of time with my family and Justin's! :D Yay! That DOES mean a week of missed work, so I think I'll be a little more skinflinty with the menu than I normally would like. But, it should still be good. As in freaking delicious!

**Almost Thanksgiving update**
So, I put a couple of dashes after everything that I already have, but didn't list the price for. Today, I'm going to assemble my stuffing and my mashed potatoes. I got the turkey, fresh, TWENTY FREAKING POUNDS, for $0.99/lb. It was the last one and I NABBED it. And I'm going to cook the CRAP out of it. OH YEAH.

...Okay, I'll stop, I promise. But I'm really happy about that turkey! Sure, it meant I had to carry 20 pounds of dead bird all four blocks from the grocery store, but it's so worth it. And it's going to be DELICIOUS. I actually have too much bread for the dish I'll be baking my stuffing in, so I'm going to crush the rest of them into bread crumbs. Goodness knows I could use more of those, since I always forget to buy them. Why bother buying when you can just make? So I have nearly everything. I think I might go ahead and splurge and make up a pan of the spinach and cheese casserole. I've never in my life had a holiday without it, and I don't think I want to start. Oh, and desserts. Have to get some kind of desserts. But that's it! I'll make Justin get the pumpkin pie and probably the stuff for the spinach.

October 05, 2009

Asian Chicken and Noodles

The flavors in this dish are pretty similar to the ones in this recipe, but in somewhat different proportions.


1/2c soy sauce
1 Tablespoon of each:
   rice vinegar (mine is seasoned--pre-sweetened--but unseasoned is fine)
   sesame oil
   Hoisin sauce
   sugar or honey (not pictured. Because I'm lame)
1 teaspoon of each:
   Worcestershire sauce
   freshly-grated ginger
Sesame seeds, toasted
Noodles (I went with a package of Chinese egg noodles, but this would be good with soba or even with thin spaghetti)
1/2 onion (Mayan sweet, in this case. Oh, they're so good...)
2 cloves of garlic
2c frozen broccoli
1 breast of chicken
black pepper to taste

So, start off by mixing your sauce. In a bowl, mix together everything through to the sesame seeds and let it sit.

Here it is, nearly done, getting a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

Cut your chicken into cubes and get them cooked in sesame oil on medium-high heat. Get them browned and delicious! You'll deglaze your pan with your sauce, so don't be shy with heat!

In another pan, on medium heat with sesame oil, soften the garlic which you've minced and the onion which you've sliced into half moons like these:

When the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, get your noodles into some boiling water. These will take about 10 minutes, according to the package. A couple of minutes before the noodles are done, add 2 cups of frozen (or fresh) broccoli to the pasta water and let the broccoli warm up/parboil until the noodles are cooked. Drain them at the same time.

Add the sauce to your chicken and dump the onions and garlic into the pan on top. Get it all stirred around and let the sauce reduce on high heat.

Drain the noodles and broccoli, get them into a bowl, and add the chicken, garlic, and onion on top. Sprinkle it with your toasted sesame seeds and you've got supper!

Add a liberal amount of black pepper and dine happily. Note how there isn't any added salt in this. When you're cooking with soy sauce, the soy sauce IS your salt. I never add any salt to a dish that has soy sauce in it. It makes it nearly impossible to eat, otherwise.

Moroccan spiced Veggies and Quinoa

So Justin and I are poor. And broke. We're both of those things, pretty perpetually. So, we were faced with needing to conjure up supper one night and I was thinking, "I have nothing! Nothing!!" I was poking around online for recipe inspiration and I decided that I wanted to do some kind of casserole type dealie with what little we did have. Well, I had plenty of spices and I was investigating something with a kind of Moroccan flavor profile.

Now, for most Moroccan food, you would want to head for the couscous. Feel free to do just that, in fact. I, however, am in possession of about six tablespoon of uncooked couscous, which is not going to feed two people with any degree of satiety. So, I considered rice. Nope, not enough rice for even one person. What other grains did I have... Quinoa! It's light, it's nutty, it cooks quickly and deliciously, and it's mild enough to be useful for pretty much anything! Problem solved!

Quinoa, rinsed and drained (I tend to buy in bulk and sometimes it's a little soapy tasting. If your quinoa comes in a box, you probably don't need to rinse it) 2 cups of quinoa.

So, here's the cast of characters:
Spice blend:

2 teaspoons each of
   Whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Stick your peppercorns and cumin into a coffer grinder/spice grinder and get it ground pretty finely. Add the paprika, cinnamon, and turmeric and give it a whiz to blend it.

Get your veggies chopped and ready!
1/2 onion, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3c frozen peas
1c frozen broccoli (I like using broccoli cuts instead of just florets since I think the stems are delicious)

Get your raw vegetables sauteed in some olive oil until they're just barely softened. You don't want mushy veggies. Ever! No mush! So just when the onion is starting to look translucent and the carrot has a little bit of give to it in the core.

Now, get yourself about 4 1/2 cups of milk and heat it up on the stove. Medium heat will do. Add your spice mixture and cook it until the milk is warm. Quinoa cooks with 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid, so for 1c uncooked quinoa, you'll need at least 4 cups of milk. I like to have just a little bit of extra liquid, so the veggies can soak a little up and I can reasonably lose some to evaporation in the oven. Get your oven preheated to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, add your UNCOOKED quinoa, your cooked veggies, your frozen veggies, a can of chickpeas, and your milk mixture. Stir it all together really well and add it to a casserole, like so:

Lid it, get it into the oven, and let it cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the lid off and let it cook for another 15 minutes so that the top can get golden brown and luscious.

Mmm mmm mmm! This is creamy and nutty and delicately spiced and delightful. I like to leave my casseroles ungreased for the most part because I like the crunchy brown stuff at the bottom. So good!

Pasta with Meaty Pork Tomato Sauce

So it appears that pork is the new beef in our household. We can get SUPER cheap pig at Metropolitan Market and I like that it's so versatile. This particular meal is a pretty usual one. I'm going to show my usual meat mixture that I use for meatballs and sauces first, since that's really the bulk of this. So, for your pig, you'll need:

2 pounds of ground pork
1/2 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons of pesto (or other fresh herbs)
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
2 tsp each of
   cumin (I usually use whole--cut it down to 1 tsp if you're using ground)
   basil (I like sweet basil, but use whatever kind you want to)
1 tsp of the following
   Italian seasoning blend (mine has some rosemary and sage)
   chili powder
a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste (go a little easy on the salt, since you've got the cheese)

Get it all mixed up thoroughly! Don't be afraid to use your hands and really get in there--clean hands are a cook's best tools. I usually use a pound at a time for most things, so when I mix it fresh, I pack half of it into a quart-size plastic baggie and press it flat so there's no (or at least very little) air in the bag. Then, I stick it flat in the freezer. It takes up very, very little space and it's quick defrosting since it's spread so thinly.

Get it into a stainless steel pan with a bit of olive oil  that's been preheated on medium/medium-high heat. Remember, I'm a "fiddler" so I tend to babysit my cooking. Use whatever stove setting you usually use for getting things golden brown and delicious. I almost never use nonstick for cooking meats, since I want all those little brown bits on the bottom for added flavor. And let it cook so that it does get nice and brown. I didn't shape the meat this time.

Oh, yeah... Mmmm... See that little beautifully-browned chunk of pork at the bottom, there? That is your friend. Your delicious, delicious friend. When your meat is fully browned, add a little bit of stock to the pan to deglaze (red wine also works for this particular meal, but I think I just used chicken stock or something equally boring and delicious.)

Now, for your sauce! You can go ahead and used a jarred sauce if you like. I find that those are often too salty and the chunks of tomato give me really gnarly heartburn, so I get a can of tomato sauce ($1) and add stuff until it's delicious.

I don't have any lovely ingredient photos for you, but here's how it went down:

1 24-oz can of tomato sauce (again, $1. One freaking dollar! How great is THAT?!)
3 T pesto
3 T awesome sauce (details kind of in the middle of this post)
1/2 sweet onion, diced (I like using the Mayan sweet onions. All the time. In everything. I think I want to marry them.)
1/2 sweet onion sliced (half moons, please, sliced VERY thinly)
3-4 cloves of garlic, diced very finely
some kind of Italian cheese for added flavor

Soften the onions and garlic in the pot on medium heat with olive oil before adding the tomato sauce. Let the tomato sauce come to a simmer before adding all the other stuff. Do not skimp on flavoring! I like to have a piece of bread torn into small pieces on hand to get an idea of how the sauce tastes ON something. A sip from a spoon is good policy, but can seem overpowering, so it's nice to get an idea of how it tastes otherwise. So yeah, just add bits and pieces of everything, stirring frequently, until everything is combined and warmed through.

Add half of the sauce to the meat mixture once the pork is fully cooked and the pan is deglazed. Save the other half of your sauce for another delicious, delicious meal. This is a LOT of sauce. Stir the sauce and meat together well, set the heat to low, and let everything hang out and become good buddies.

Get your pasta boiling. I break my pasta in half before adding it to the pot since I don't own anything that's a good size for cooking pasta. Someday I'll have a stock/pasta pot! I believe in ME! :D

I used fettuccine noodles, but use whatever rocks your boat. I like thicker pastas (no thinner than spaghetti!) for meat sauces. The heartiness of the noodles stands up well to the heartiness of the meat. For a meat-free sauce, I'll usually just use spaghetti.

Add sauce and meat to pasta and profit!

Yum! I wish I could eat pasta with tomato sauce every single day, but my esophagus would never forgive me. Alas...