Friday, November 28, 2008

Ta Da!

My Masterpiece! Check out the ridges. It's a thing of beauty. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Strange Food of the Week - Kale, part 2

Kale Update

So I tried kale for the first time. It was pretty good. I prepared it by sauteing it with olive oil and garlic. I think I like swiss chard better but I would definitely eat kale again. A definite plus is it's ability to hold up. It was forgotten in the refrigerator for a week. Most leafy veggies, especially those purchased in October, would be slimy and limp. However the kale looked great, in fact it was very pretty. It has dark green, slightly glossy leaves with a really nice, course texture that remains even after cooking.

Roll Update

Attempt number two at rolls turned out better than attempt number one but still not satisfactory. They taste good but they are short as if they didn't really rise. They were also a little too crusty around the edges. The recipe calls for greasing the muffin tins. I think this contributed to the crispy edges. Since my muffin tins are non-stick, I won't grease them next time (and yes, there WILL be a next time!) I also think I should have let them rise a little longer. I used instant yeast when the recipe calls for active yeast so it's possible that contributed to the less than stellar rising although it really shouldn't have made that much difference.

Hamburger Buns

Today I decided to make hamburger buns, just to see if I could. Again, less than stellar rising. They taste good but are flat. I could use two of them to make up the two halves of a bun. This recipe even calls for instant yest. I just put in the second batch and they're looking a little flat as well. On the way home from work earlier, I stopped at the store and bought more yeast. I'm hoping that the problem lies with the yeast (wouldn't that be nice) and not something else. This is so frustrating!


I did have one success in the kitchen today. Attempt number 3 of jellied cranberry sauce worked! After chilling in the can for several hours, I took it out, ran a knife around the edge, coaxed it out and viola! it stands up on end! I can also slice it. The two most important features of jellied cranberry sauce are it's ability to stand on end when removed from the can and it's slice-ability. Mine has both! It also has an amazing pink color and tastes fantastic - bonus!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Strange Food of the Week - Kale

Strange Foods

As part of my transition to a pod-person, I’ve been trying new foods or working with foods I’ve ate before but never worked with myself. The list of foods I’ve tried for the first time or worked with for the first time this year includes;

Buckwheat Grouts
Swiss Chard
Spaghetti Squash
Butternut Squash

Tomorrow I will be trying kale, assuming it hasn’t gone bad. I keep forgetting it’s in the refrigerator. I’ve always thought it seemed weird to eat a decorative plant, but hey, the new and improved pod-person me is willing to broaden her horizons and try strange, new foods.

Some Other Recent Culinary Experiences

For whatever reason, I purchased “The Joy of Cooking” last weekend. Once I got home I actually sat down and started reading it like a book. It’s pretty cool to see how easy it is to make things that I would previously have purchased at the store. Ever since then I’ve been feeling the need to bake and cook from scratch.

Earlier this week I made butternut squash ravioli. The butternut squash was fresh and so was the pasta. I learned that pasta dough is a lot easier to work with than pie dough. It doesn’t stick or rip. It holds together easily and in general is very easy to work with. The only thing I need to work on is getting the pasta rolled out thin enough for the ravioli. I did pretty well but it could have been thinner. It was also a little tough because I couldn’t bring myself to remove the ravioli from the boiling water after just 1.5 minutes. It was just too weird. I’m so used to dry pasta. Next time I’ll know better.

I’ve also been trying to make jellied cranberry sauce just like from the can. My father and I love cranberry sauce that comes out of the can in a solid tube in the shape of the can. I thought it would be funny to make my own and then mold it using a jellied cranberry can. I purchased the can of jellied cranberries as well as a bag of fresh cranberries. I slid the cranberry jelly out of the can and cleaned it to use for my own. I’m on attempt number two to try and get the cranberries to actually gel up enough to hold the shape of the can once it’s been removed. I’m going to try again tomorrow. In the meantime I have an excess of cranberry sauce. I still have part of the original sauce from the can, plus I have my first attempt from two nights ago, which is a little tart but still very good. Finally I have the batch from tonight that is really good but just a little too runny. It did gel up a bit but not as much as I would like. Hopefully third will be the charm.

In the oven right now are clover leaf rolls that I made from scratch. I figure I can freeze them if they turn out alright and use them for Thanksgiving.

O.k. just checked on the rolls, they didn’t turn out like I expected. They tasted kind of yeasty. After reading through the recipe again I realized that I used 2 ¼ tbsp of yeast rather than 2 ¼ tsp. CRAP! Perhaps I shouldn’t bake when I’m tired since I seem to make mistakes. Duh! 2 ¼ tbsp doesn’t even make sense! 2 ¼ tsp is the equivalent of a packet of yeast. 2 ¼ tbsp is the equivalent of like…3 packets. At least I know what happened and can try it again with (hopefully) better success. Damn, I can’t believe I did that! Oh well, live and learn.

And so continues my adventures in the kitchen. Maybe I’ll be back tomorrow with an update of my third attempt at jellied cranberry sauce, my second attempt at clover leaf rolls and my first ever taste of kale!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is There Anybody Out There?

Forgive me Pink Floyd, but I was just wondering if anyone actually reads my random thoughts? I'll keep babbling no matter what, but I was just curious if anyone was actually listening? Yoo Hoo, is anybody out there?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Book Review: In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan is a very interesting, albeit poorly written book. Pollan gives a different perspective on the whole nutrition and food industry. His premise is that by breaking down foods and focusing on their micronutrients, scientists/nutritionists/doctors have actually lost sight of the big picture. The way various nutrients act together and the way each, individual person reacts to the various nutrients is too complex of a system to treat as a sum of it’s individual parts.

Pollan makes the argument that the various nutrition and health related claims, suggestions, recommendations, etc. haven’t made us healthier, in fact in some cases has made things worse. He gives the example of margarine. It was touted as being healthier than butter because it contained less saturated fat. What people didn’t realize at the time was the trans fat in the margarine was actually worse than the saturated fat.

My brief little blurb here doesn’t do it justice. If you’re interested on a different viewpoint on the food industry and “nutritionism”, I would highly recommend it. You may not agree with what is offered but it should at least give you chance to look at nutrition and health claims from a new angle. My only criticism is that it’s poorly written from a grammar/punctuation standpoint. Pollan must write like he talks which doesn’t work out well especially since I don’t know him and therefore can’t imagine him saying what’s written. There are several run-on sentences and I frequently had to go back and reread a paragraph because I couldn’t follow what was written. If you are a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation, the interesting content won’t be worth the frustration of reading it. Heck, if you’re a stickler for grammar and punctuation, you’ve barely made it through this review!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I need some cheese with my WHINE!

My god I’m in a foul mood! I’m tired, literally tired from staying up and watching the election last night. I’m also sick and tired, sick and tired of the bullshit at work, sick and tired of being in debt. I feel like I’m stuck until I can pay off my credit card debt. I can’t quit my job until my debt is paid off and that’s not going to happen for a couple of years. (Oh, and then there’s my student loan to the tune of $23,000. Except for making the minimum payments each month, I’m choosing to ignore it.)

I’ve lightly tossed around the idea of selling my house, paying off my credit card debt and moving someplace warm, but then reality (fear) sets in. In order to sell my house, I would really need to make some improvements which of course cost money! Then, the chances that I could actually sell my house right now aren’t very good. Then of course, even if I sold my house, I’m not sure I would have enough leftover to completely pay off my credit cards. I feel like I’m in a rut. I’m searching for something more in my life but I’m stuck by prior bad decisions.

I’m also tired from working two jobs. It really sucks getting up at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. The funny thing is, I was thinking about how much faster I could pay off my debt if I got a weekend job as well. I’d REALLY be unbearable with a third job! I’d be a raging bitch most of the time rather than just some of the time.

I need a vacation! Oh wait I’ll be heading to Florida in a mere 57 days! Notice how I’m not quite so impatient to pay off my debt that I give up going on vacation? I have my priorities AND this will serve as a nice example of the new, moneywise Jenny. This will be my first vacation EVAR that has been paid for entirely with cash! It can be viewed (rationalized) that this is an important test case, a chance to prove that I can be fiscally responsible. (Using big words gives the rationalization more … umph!) Obviously, just writing about my vacation has improved my mood.

In fact, here’s a picture to remind me of what I’ll be enjoying in a mere 57 days! Ahhh, Mojitos!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Night Ramblings

Hmmm, it's been awhile since I rambled on so I guess it's time for an update.


My current credit card debt is at $22,971. That's over $3200 paid off or 12%! It's really nice to realize I've paid off 12% in just 8 months. That's significant. I KNOW this but I'm still struggling with how long it's going to take me to pay off the rest of my credit card debt. I used a snowball method debt reduction calculator to get an estimate on how long it will take me to pay off my two credit cards. I will be free of credit card debt in March 2011. YAY/UGH! That's only/over 2 years! AND that's only assuming I can maintain my current payment amount. During the summer, I won't have my second job so I might not be able to make $900/month to my cards.

Perhaps you can tell I'm all over the place here. A year ago, I was using my credit card without a second thought. Now I've gone 8 months without using it at all. I'm doing great but I want it to go faster!


My goal of running the Des Moines marathon came to a screeching halt when I injured my hip and was unable to train for almost a month. Instead, I walked the 5K. It's not nearly as glamorous but it was something. I'm back to running and will hopefully be in good enough shape to run Living History Farms Cross Country Race in three weeks. I'm currently dealing with a sore calf/ankle. I'm so sick of these pissy little injuries that keep cropping up. I thought being more active was supposed to make me healthy but I just seem to be moving from one injury to another. I just want to feel good and enjoy my improved fitness.

Actually I AM enjoying my improved fitness. Now that my hip is doing better, I've been able to resume my weight lifting to the degree I was before I starting putting in a lot of miles training for the marathon. I've really been trying to push myself and I love it. I like seeing how much I can lift. I like being exhausted at the end of the session. My shoulders and back are coming along nicely and my legs are really looking good! My next fitness goal is to be able to do an unassisted pull up. Whenever I do assisted pullups, I crank my music (frequently Lenny Kravitz version of "American Woman") and I picture the most amazing shoulders and back I can think of. I'm making progress. I know this will be a slow process. Being able to do push-ups took me a long time so I'm prepared for pull-ups to take awhile as well.

Granola Girl

I was talking with a coworker who also lost a lot of weight and during our discussion (which was wonderful) he recommended that I read the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about a family who goes a year trying to feed themselves entirely from food that they raised/grew or that was locally grown. It was extremely interesting and really got me thinking. So much of what I eat is grown hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles away. It's covered in pestisides and then has to be trucked across the country or even an ocean. Bananas, citrus fruit, cinnamon, olive oil, pretty much all fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter: they all come from somewhere else. We take our huge selection of food for granted, forgetting that much of it is not native to our region or at least shouldn't be readily available during the winter. Even during the summer, we'll purchase tomatoes at the grocery store, grown in California, rather than support local growers who produce a superior product for less money. We're so oblivious and brainwashed that we mindlessly throw inferior food into our carts and move on. Many people don't even realize that what they're eating is inferior. They've never been exposed to fresh, organic, locally grown foods and therefore are clueless that they're missing out. In all honesty, I really shouldn't write "they", I should write "we". My only saving grace is that we had a garden growing up. I understand how food is grown and how much better fresh vegetables taste. I simply ignored it for several years (and ballooned to 260 lbs in the meantime.)

Anywho, I'm now struggling with the concept of trying to eat more local foods. I think I've realized that I need to do this slowly. First, I need to learn more about what's produced locally an then I need to convince myself to give up some of the foods I take for granted. Bananas, fresh fruit and vegetables during the winter are going to be really hard. I lost 100+ lbs eating more vegetables and I'm not about to risk gaining back any weight by jumping onto the local food wagon before I've had a chance to figure out what works best for me. Even the family in the book had a few items that weren't local such as olive oil from California.


As I write this entry I'm watching Obama win the election. I've been pretty indifferent about this race. I really wasn't for either side and today I voted for the person I thought was the lesser of two evils. However, I must admit, Obama's acceptance speech was very good. He is an excellent public speaker. Whether that means he will be an excellent President remains to be seen but I did enjoy his speech.