Friday, September 30, 2011

The Taker

The TakerThe Taker by Alma Katsu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the writing, but I didn't love the story, however it was definitely interesting enough to keep reading. I felt like the ending was too abrupt.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mushroom Soup

I've made this twice now. The second time I added quinoa for added protein--I definitely recommend this. The second time I also use the food processor to chop the mushrooms prior to cooking. I found the mushrooms of my second batch chewy and I'm not sure if it's because I chopped them prior to cooking. Regardless, this soup was quite delicious!

Recipe from Crepes of Wrath

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced - 1 tsp freeze dried shallots
1/4 cup white wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced thinly (save a few for a garnish) - about 8-10 ounces
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (reconstituted in 2 cups boiling water)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme - 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup crème fraiche (I used sour cream since I had it in my fridge)

1. First, you need to “rehydrate” your dried porcini mushrooms. Place the mushrooms in a medium sized bowl. In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms. Cover and allow them to sit for 1-2 hours. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid, but reserve the liquid to add to your soup later. Strain the liquid to remove any dirt that may have been lingering on the mushrooms.

2. Now, you’re ready to cook. Heat the butter over medium heat in a medium sized pot. Saute the shallots until they are translucent, about 5 minutes, then add in the white wine and cook until it is reduced by half. Add in the garlic and stir, for a minute, until fragrant. Add in the fresh mushrooms, the reconstituted mushrooms, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to become browned. Add another pad of butter, should you be so inclined.

3. Add in the porcini mushroom broth and the vegetable broth. Turn the heat up to high, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to medium or medium-high, depending on your burner, and cook for 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Remove the soup from the heat, and using either a food processor, a blender, or an immersion blender, puree your soup in batches. Don’t worry if it isn’t completely smooth – a few bits of mushroom in the soup adds a nice texture. Just puree it enough for it to resemble a soup and not a stew.

4. Return the pureed soup to the pot and turn the heat to medium-low to keep warm. Place the 1/4 cup of crème fraiche (sour cream in my case) in a small bowl, and add about 1/2 cup of the soup to it. Whisk to combine. This will temper the crème fraiche, so that when you add it, it goes in smoothly and doesn’t form clumps. Add the tempered crème fraiche to the soup and stir to combine. Taste, and add salt or pepper if needed. Serve into 3 or 4 bowls, depending on if you are eating it as a meal or as a side, garnish with some of the fresh sliced mushrooms you set aside earlier, and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Winston's Anger

Like most puppies, Winston isn't a big fan of being left alone. When we're going to be gone, we leave a pee pad in the kitchen. Well, he sometimes take it upon himself to shred it to pieces. Case in point. And then, as I tried to sweep up the cotton, he was biting the broom. To have his energy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Today was a beautiful day outside. I'm on call to answer parents' questions. As Winston and I were sitting outside today, I had a call to answer, so I tied him up and left him outside to enjoy the weather. Ten minutes later, I found this! I can't help but think he's a cutie, despite having my flowers dug up and needing to give him a bath.

Went to Mass

For the past couple of Sunday's that I've had off, I've been telling myself I need to go to Mass. Today I finally found the motivation to do so. I think the best way to describe my experience today is "comfortable." Faith takes work. I know I don't believe in all of the Catholic Church's actions and beliefs, but right now, it's where I'm comfortable. It's the religion of my childhood.

A passage from the second reading resonates with me:
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.
Phillipians 2:3

Faith takes work. I'm hoping I continue to find the motivation to work on mine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chocolate Mudslide Cookies

One of my favorite mixed drinks is a mudslide, yet I haven't had one for over a year now. When I saw the title of these cookies, I immediately thought about the alcoholic mudslides. Unfortunately, these cookies aren't really similar to the mudslide drink. Personally, I thought the cookies were too rich, but my friends devoured them at our gathering, so I think it depends on one's taste buds.

Recipe from Crepes of Wrath

The Jacques Torres Chocolate Mudslide Cookies
from Chocolate with Jacques Torres

Total Prep and Baking Time: 30-45 minutes to prep, about 15 minutes per batch to bake
Yield: 40-50 cookies

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar - 15.75 ounces, pluse 1 tablespoon
5 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped (I used almonds)
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling
*parchment paper, for lining the baking sheets (parchment paper with a little non-stick spray worked best for these)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F if you are using a convection setting, but if you don’t have one, like me, then preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Melt together the 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and the 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a medium sauce pot over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a bit.

2. Beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until it has the texture of wet sand. Add in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the flour mixture, and mix until just moistened, then beat in the melted chocolate, until just combined. The dough will seem very wet at this point, but don’t worry! It’ll come together.

3. Chop your walnuts and additional 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, and fold them into the batter. At this point, I found it easier to scoop the dough onto the baking sheets after refrigerating the dough for 15-30 minutes, but it’s not necessary if you just can’t wait! I did about half without refrigerating because I didn’t think of it. I do highly recommend using parchment paper to line your baking sheets, though, or at least using a lot of butter or non-stick spray, as they can be a little tricky coming up if you made large cookies, as I did.

4. Use a a 2-tablespoon sized ice cream scoop or two spoons to drop the dough onto the baking sheets (it will be too wet to actually handle with your hands), then sprinkle with a bit of fleur de sel or sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees F on the convection setting for 10 minutes or so, or at 325 degrees F on a regular setting for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from the sheets.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Balsamic Potatoes

I rarely try new sides since I'm the only one who eats them and they don't freeze as well. However, when I had my family over for dinner I knew I wanted to give these a try. Honestly, I was disappointed. I thought the vinegar was too overpowering. Hubby didn't like them either, but dad took several helpings.

Recipe discovered on Proceed With Caution, who adapted it from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
8 garlic cloves, smashed
5 sprigs of thyme ( I used 1.5-2 tablespoons of dried thyme)
coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking dish, combine potatoes, broth, vinegar, garlic, thyme; season with salt and pepper. Bake until potatoes are tender and liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 1 1/4 hours, tossing twice.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Curried Quinoa with Mango and Cucumber

I've hopped on the quinoa bandwagon and I'm quite glad I did. I'm not going to lie, it's quite yummy.

Recipe adapted from Moderate Oven Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone Five Days in the Life of Curried Quinoa Salad

This salad can be made in advance and keeps very well, but you should dress it at the time the quinoa is cooked. The grains take in more of the flavor from the vinaigrette when warm and slightly moist. If you want to prepare this dish with leftover, already cooked quinoa, simply steam the grains to refresh.

½ teaspoon salt
1 ⅓ cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
2 garlic cloves, pressed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup plain yogurt
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala (can sub an extra teaspoon of curry powder)
the juice of one lemon
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped mint (recipe calls for cilantro)
2-3 teaspoons red wine vinegar, optional
2 large mangoes, peeled and diced - (1 16 oz bag of frozen mango)
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
2 small or 1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced (1/2 jalapeno) - I could leave it out all together, honestly
1/2 tsp chives 5 scallions, including 1 inch of the greens, thinly sliced
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained - a must!

To cook the quinoa, bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan then add the salt and rinsed quinoa. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the quinoa is tender. There will be excess water in this method of cooking. Drain the quinoa well.

While the quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, salt, yogurt, curry powder, and lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil and let the dressing sit for 15 minutes to develop the flavors. Stir in the cilantro and taste. If not tart enough, add the optional white wine vinegar. Salt and pepper as needed.

In a large bowl, toss the still-warm quinoa with the mango, cucumber, jalapeno, scallions, and chickpeas. Add the dressing and fold gently until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ramdom Ramblings on Bills

One of my stress relievers is shopping. I know of other less expensive stress relievers, but shopping seems to be my go-to. I need to stop this and get back to using working out as my stress reliever. I even need to cut back on the baking/recipes as my stress relievers. One of the realities of adulthood is paying bills. As I look at my credit card statement, I realize I just spend too much. While $100 really isn't much for a stress-relieving shopping spree, it's still more than I need to spend. While Joe and I both need new socks, I really don't need a new pair of tennis shoes (well, maybe I do). I definitely don't need the colorful cloth napkins I bought for my food photos. When I look at my credit card statement, that's when I realize how all of these small things add up. I charge almost everything so I can see what I spend and get reward points. I have a rule that I can only charge if I know I can pay off the bill at at the end of the month. I still can, but a couple of months I've had to dip into my savings to pay off that bill. This needs to stop. This means I also need to stop trying as many new recipes, probably. A lot of times I go out and buy ingredients. This is fine when I'm going to eat everything that I'm making, but I don't need to spend $10 making something, taste it, and then take the rest into work. While my coworkers might enjoy that, my budget doesn't. I know we can eat good food on a budget, and I just need to accept my meals might be a little more boring for a while (so Joe will eat it, picky man). I have a ton of books waiting to be read and several cross stitch projects I need to finish. Now I just have to fight the urge to try a delicious looking new recipe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Alice Forgot

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book. One of the characters has a miscarriage early in the book and with my recent loss I didn't know if I could continue reading, but I'm glad I did (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler). Moriarty did a great job of incorporating real life into this work of fiction, along with some humor thrown in. It wasn't the genre I generally read, but I'm so glad I picked it up, even if I didn't finish it in time for book club.
View all my reviews

Monday, September 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Trifle

I'm not going to lie, the recipe sounded a lot better than it tasted. Don't get me wrong, this was yummy, but I high much higher expectations for this trifle. If you're going to make this, please make sure you buy the correct size vanilla pudding, that was part of my snafoo. Also, I recommend making it day off and only if you think almost all is going to be eaten--the brownies get soggy.

Recipe from Pampered Chef

21 oz pkg brownie mix
1 pkg. (5.9 oz) Vanilla Instant Pudding - the large box!
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup whipping cream, whipped and divided
10 oz pkg peanut butter chips
3 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
24 regular (2 inch dia) peanut butter cups, divided

*Line a 13 by 9 inch pan with aluminum foil, extend foil by 2 inches over side. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Add peanut butter chips. Bake in foil lined pan for length of time required by package. Cool completely. Lift foil out of pan. Invert on cutting board. Remove foil. Cut into 3/4 inch pieces, using sharp knife.
*Coarsely chop 20 peanut butter cups; saving 4 for garnish.
*Combine pudding mix and milk in large bowl. Beat at low speed for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add peanut butter and vanilla; beat until smooth. Gently fold in half of whipped cream.
*Place half of brownies in bottom of trifle bowl; top with 1/2 of chopped candy and half of pudding. Repeat layers. Top with remaining whipped cream, spooned or piped on. Slice leftover candy in four long pieces. Arrange them vertically on top of cream.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Like almost all of you, I know I will never forget September 11, 2001. However, I will also never forget my father-in-law. Last year was the first football season Joe didn't have his dad to watch the games with, talk about the plays, etc. He started the tradition of stopping by his grave and listening to some pre-game radio before each game. With the start of football season this year, he picked up the tradition. Winston and I tagged along. At first I felt weird taking a dog to the graveyard, but I realized Mr. Joe would love him, so I got over it. I took this picture today, I wish I could describe it better, or give it a fancy title, but I can't. Sometimes a picture is enough and words are just too much. I love you, Mr. Joe!

P.S. Did you see those Ravens annihilate those Steelers, Mr Joe?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mushroom Spinach Pesto Pizza

When I first found out I was pregnant, and before I knew the pregnancy wasn't meant to be, I was on a spinach kick. I put it in everything. I wanted to give myself the most folate possible, originally prompting my interest in this pizza. You don't have to be pregnant to enjoy this pizza, however. I've since made it several more times and enjoyed it just as much! Plus, I think it's a great use for pesto.

This recipe was inspired by Clean Eating Magazine, June 2011 Issue, p21.

1/2 pound mushrooms - I used baby bella
1.5-2 cups packed spinach
1/2 cup pesto
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 spring fresh oregano (optional)
4 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 precooked multigrain pizza crust - I tried Trader Joe's wheat pizza dough, and it definitely wasn't as yummy.

1. Saute the mushrooms, spinach, salt, pepper with the olive oil (about 5 minutes)
2. Spread pizza crust with pesto
3. Top with sauted ingredients, top with spoonfuls of ricotta, sprinkle with oregano - I once left off the oregano, bad idea!
4. Bake 10-12 minutes
5. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


$1600, that's approximately how much it cost me to have two ultrasounds and a D&C for a baby I never had the opportunity to meet. I received the first bill two weeks ago, and that was rough. I had seen my insurance claims online and knew the bill was coming, but I never realized how heart wrenching it was going to be to write the check for the ultrasound that confirmed no growth. Needless to say, two weeks ago was a horrible week all around. I did a little jig on the day I checked the mail and didn't have a bill. Last week I received the bill for the D&C and have been putting off paying that one (finances and emotions). Well, I just wrote that check and I'll put it in the mail tomorrow. I'm hoping this is the last check I'll ever have to write for an experience such as this. That thought made it a little easier to write the check.

I am beyond grateful we have insurance, but that "20%" still adds up.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Expected One

The Expected One (Magdalene Line Trilogy, #1)The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book brought out a fair number of thoughts/emotions in me. Briefly, the story is about Mary Magdalene and her place in Christianity. The book is written has fiction, but the author notes the main character reflects experiences the author has had. However, the McGowan wrote the story as fiction to protect her sources.

The idea of Mary Magdalene as wife of Jesus and mother of Jesus's children has been a hot topic for a few years now. Personally, this concept does not disturb me. The message McGowan portrayed through her book and Mary's roll in Christianity was very uplifting for me. I would love for this message and account to be factual. I think it would actually bring me closer to finding my faith again.

I've turned this review into a personal reflection, but that's what this book is about. I enjoyed the writing and was curious to see how the characters developed. I have the next book on audio and look forward to listening to it soon.
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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I Don't Like ER

I'm on two weeks of ER right now, and it's definitely not my cup of tea. It's not the medicine I don't like, it's the shift work. I don't have set day or night shifts and my body is not used it. I went from an 8a-4p shift to a 1p-3a work day the following day. It's only 4 days into this rotation and I'm exhausted. I slept 8 hours last night, but I feel like I could go back to sleep--I think I have to play catch up. In fact, I'm going back to bed for a little since I work 6p-2a tonight and I can.
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