Friday, January 30, 2009

Dahlias and other delights

Happy Friday, lovebugs!


I hope you all have wonderful plans for the weekend. I intend to sleep late, eat quite a bit, and maybe even get some stuff done. We'll see. I'd also like to buy some flowers that last for more than 3 days. Ahem, farmer's market dahlias from last weekend, I'm talking to you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Onions, caramelized

If you hate caramelized onions, please just stop reading. Also, what is wrong with you?


For caramelized onions, as for so many kitchen related things, I trust to Mark Bittman's method. There is nothing wrong with doing what I had been doing for many years, which is slicing onions and cooking them with olive oil over low heat until they turn brown. But when I saw Bittman's instructions in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I decided to trust him. And it was worth it.


I'm paraphrasing here, but the general instructions are simple. You slice a ton of onions (they cook way, way down, so you might as well do at least 5 onions) and toss them in a heavy bottomed stock pot with a lid. Don't put any olive oil in there yet! Cook them over medium high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and sweating and starting to stick to the pan. Then toss in some olive oil (a tablespoon or two will do) and a few pinches of salt. Take the lid off and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are done to your preference (mine take 30 - 40 minutes). They will be a lovely, melting golden mess when you are finished.

Simple, right? And heavenly. I make a largish batch at a time and then store them in the fridge where they'll keep for a week or two. Toss them in them in a quiche, or on a pizza, or in an omelet, or stir them into lentils. You'll love them any way you decide to try them. They are especially tasty with sundried tomatoes, even if you just spread the mixture on crusty baguette.

P.S. If you have onion haters in your household, this might be the perfect way to convert them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reading, lately

I actually read a lot, even though I don't post about it often. I have a pretty haphazard method of picking out books at the library, which is nice because I can find things I've never heard of before, but it also means I read a lot of books that are just so-so and not worth mentioning. Happily, I've gotten quite a few stand outs over the last few weeks, based on nothing other than dumb luck.

Three Junes by Julia Glass definitely sucked me in. It's a family story, with a couple of different viewpoints. I pretty much always love books with some good family tension. Plus, it's fun to read something with a nice shiny medal on the front, isn't it? If you like Scotland, family secrets and frustrations with a nice healthy dose of sibling love/squabbling, I'd recommend it to you.

The World to Come by Dara Horn was one of those books I picked out just because I liked the cover design and font choice. Uh huh, I am weird like that and I actually do this a lot, with mixed results. But guess what? It turned out to be really good, so I'm vindicated. There's a bit of mystery, some spiritualism, some art and some love. If you like Chabon, I think this is a good bet for you.

The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton was pretty amazing, but it also turns out to be incredibly depressing. I can't decide whether I would recommend it to you, even though the writing is gorgeous. Apparently, Oprah recommends it. I have to admit, I tend to be a little snobby and try not to carry around books with her seal on them. Does anyone else have this issue? It's nothing against Oprah or her book club, really. The edition I checked out from the library had not yet been stamped with her little O so I was safe.

Are you guys on the lookout for stuff to read? I could always do more frequent posts about books. I read a crazy mix of stuff, mostly novels, short stories and murder mysteries, for when I'm feeling too tired to sink my teeth into something meaningful. I end up going through 4 -5 books a week, on average, which sounds a bit insane, but I take public transit everywhere, which gives me lots of time to read. I'm deep in The Zookeeper's Wife right now, which I embarrassingly and mistakenly believed to be a novel until I got an entire chapter through and realized it was non-fiction/history. The title fooled me, but I'm loving it so it's okay.

Are you reading anything right now that I should know about?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chile verde

D's grandma is up for a visit, and we had her over for a late lunch on Sunday. The last time she came over I made something that contained sundried tomato pesto and prosciutto, and although she was very sweet about it, I could tell that my scary gringa food kind of freaked her out.

This time, I played it safe and found a recipe for chile verde.


Chile verde (serves 6 - 8, recipe modified from this one)
  • 4 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 yellow onions
  • 2 green bell peppers, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 jalapenos, seeds removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock

1. Toss the flour, salt and some pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add the pork, seal the bag, and mix it all around until the pieces are coated with flour.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat, and then brown the pork in small batches, transferring it to a plate when you finish one batch. Try not to burn yourself when the oil splatters.

3. Meanwhile, take the roughly chopped peppers, onions, garlic and tomatillos and spread them out on a large baking sheet. Roast in the oven (I use my broiler) until they are soft and the peppers are a bit blackened.

4. Pour the chicken broth into a pan and add the roasted veggies, the spices, and the cilantro. Blend it all thoroughly using an immersion blender. (If you don't have an immersion blender, I would recommend putting the roasted veggies into your food processor or blender and adding just a bit of broth and then blending it all together until it's pretty smooth. Then mix it in with the chicken stock.)

5. Add the browned pork to the sauce and simmer over low heat until the pork is very tender, approximately 3 hours.

6. Serve with rice and corn tortillas.

The verdict? It definitely went over better than the pesto. Everyone ate up every bit of their servings and some had seconds, including D's grandma.

The dish barely has any heat but it has lots of good flavor. I like spicy food, so next time I will definitely leave the seeds in at least one of the jalepenos to help remedy this. If you aren't into spicy food, don't be scared of the peppers, just make sure you get the jalepeno seeds thrown away, because the seeds are the spicy part.

Sorry, there are no pictures of the finished dish because I was too nervous about being a hostess to whip out the camera. Having D's mom and grandma over is still a bit nerve wracking, even though I've known them both for years. Why is that?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Weekend + no shopping update (two weeks)

We had a perfect weekend - one rainy day and one sunny day, coffee and croissants at the farmer's market, a bit of cooking, some tentative starts at crafting.

It's officially week two of the shopping hiatus and I'm doing fine. Not to say there hasn't been quite a bit of temptation. I guess I was feeling neutrals last week, based on a look at some of the items I have bookmarked.

1. Clermont boots by Free People.
2. White textured serving bowl from Horne.
3. Smocked silk necklace from Etsy seller tinctory.
4. Lovely winter blankets by Area.
5. Oversized cream bag from Etsy seller moop.
6. Ivory cowl from Phydeaux designs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Clouds and gloom and flannel sheets

I feel quiet today, hence the late post. It is drizzly here, in the most comforting sort of way. I am happy to be ensconced in my cozy office, working on the computer and puttering around in the lab, getting ready for Monday. A good day for coffee.


I'm really looking forward to getting home, changing into sweats and indulging in oodles of TV watching. I am a dork, but I was sooo excited this week, because Flight of the Conchords started up again, along with Big Love. I am completely addicted. I also saved the new episode of Lost. And I might be watching Grey's Anatomy, but don't tell anyone, because it's embarrassing (Izzy has been having an affair with a ghost - not for one episode, but for so many that I have lost count - which I think is an all new low).

Plans for the weekend include lots of cooking, and possibly a bit of furniture refinishing. Possibly. Depending on how lazy I am.

UPDATE: What the hell, Grey's Anatomy? Please tell me you are going to go uphill from here. P.S. Forcing me to watch Private Practice next week is not going to endear me to either of you. Why is that show even still on?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You're cheap

Admit it. And then get yourself over to the iTunes store, because for the next few days you can download 10 of the awesomest Sundance shorts for FREE.

Go here.

Not to be too prejudiced or anything, but I suggest you start with "Instead of Abracadabra."

Picture a Napoleon Dynamite-esque character, as a magician, in Sweden. Yep, it's amazing.

Also keep an eye out for all the great retro wallpaper on the interior shots. Is it just me, or do Europeans do way more with wallpaper than we do?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A week (and a half) of no spending

This no spending thing of Joslyn's is working for me (note that the cake stands featured last week were all purchased before the start of the hiatus). I've found that the most effective strategy is immediately deleting all emails I receive about amazing sales, and resolutely not clicking over when other people post about such sales. Also, not going into stores.

I've found that not shopping frees up time. Monday, all aglow with the imminent prospect of change, I decided to take action in my closet. (It really does feel like the start of an era, doesn't it?)

Okay, I realize the pictures are too small and it doesn't look like the dramatic difference it really is. Will it help if I show you the pile of stuff I have to drop off at Goodwill?


Yep, I had to tie up my clothes in an old curtain, hobo style. Because I don't have giant boxes or bags. (The Christmas tree stand, the sifter and the board game did not come out of my closet.)

I also have a stack of clothes requiring care (hemming, replacing buttons and general alterations) that should keep me busy.

And I realized that a lot of the things I was throwing out were things I probably shouldn't have bought in the first place. Cheap fabrics, poor fit, almost okay but not quite. I am definitely going to be revamping my shopping habits once I'm allowed to spend money again.

It also pained me to admit that I will never again be as rail thin as I was in college (huge amounts of work/stress and darting all over campus do wonders for your figure), but I am finally letting go.

Me: (holding up a pair of tight black pants) I love these so much, I hate to get rid of them.
D: They're hot, but I don't think I've seen you in them for at least 5 years.
Me: That's because I haven't been able to fit into them in 5 years.
*collective silence while we contemplate this fact*
Me: I'm getting rid of them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy inaguaration day!

Have a cupcake!


Chocolate with cream cheese frosting. Red and blue sugar dusted over the top. I was lamenting the fact that I needed to buy sprinkles when it suddenly occurred to me that I could make my own. Put a little bit of sugar in a ziploc bag, drop in some food coloring, seal the bag and scrunch it all around until it's mixed. Open the bag and let it dry overnight. Voila - homemade colored sugar! I'm sure this is something everyone rational has already thought of, but I had to share anyways.

The cupcake flags were simple. I found a shot of Obama in a Google image search, imported it into Photoshop to make it black and white and up the contrast. I drew up a little flag design in Illustrator and then printed and cut the flags. A quick spritz of spray glue on the back and then I folded them around toothpicks.

I hope everyone is doing something festive!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy time wasting Friday

I get Monday off - yay! However, the nature of my job means that I have twice as much work to do today, hence, no time for a real post.

For those of you with leisurely Fridays, here are a few of my favorite ways to waste time.

Passive aggressive notes

Unnecessary quotation marks

Weird real estate listings

Go Fug Yourself

Stuff White People Like

I hope you have a lovely weekend, filled with fun, rather than, say, mean notes, incorrect grammar, scary apartments and bad fashion choices of your own. Live vicariously in these areas, I beg you.

Completely unrelated to this post - my mom's homemade apricot jam just because it's lovely and I can't stop eating it and have now progressed to photographing it

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Black lentils with caramelized onions

I've introduced you to my favorite red lentils. Well, I also love black lentils. I got addicted to this recipe because Trader Joe's carried dried black lentils at an amazing price and I always had them on hand. Now, of course, they no longer carry them and I am desperately looking for another source. I try to have a zen like attitude towards TJ's whimsical stocking methods (they find amazing foods, keep them in circulation for long enough that you come to rely on them, and then sometimes said foods suddenly and inexplicably disappear, and while they sometimes later reappear, you might never see them again and while I feel like this is probably an apt metaphor for some deep life lesson, I still don't appreciate it) but it can be difficult.

Whew. Rant over. The point is, black lentils hold their shape well, which makes them ideal for this recipe, so if you can get your hands on some, I recommend it.


Black Lentils with Caramelized Onions (adapted from Vegetable Heaven, makes 6ish servings)

Boil in a large pot of water until cooked to your preference (~45 minutes):
2 cups black lentils

Meanwhile, saute over low heat until soft and golden brown:
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced onions

When the lentils are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot. Stir in, along with the cooked onions:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

I like to serve this dish, like most lentil dishes, with fresh naan (another TJs staple I rely on much too heavily - please never let them discontinue their frozen naan) and a dollop of greek yogurt.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And so it continues...

You already know that I have an issue with cake stands. I have those three lovely pressed glass pieces that I picked up at various flea markets. I have a couple sets of highly functional Anchor Hocking glass stacking tiers that I purchased for my sister's wedding buffet (those are boxed up in the attic, because they aren't used often, being practical rather than gorgeous).

But people, I can't stop.


My parents purchased me the diminutive scalloped edge stand for Christmas, and I've been keeping it in the center of our table, as a showcase for little treasures (recently, my antique tea cups).

I found the tall jadite beauty on Ebay and I had to buy it because I'd seen the same one in an antique store and nearly keeled over when I checked the price tag and saw that it was $120. I tracked it down for $50 (including shipping) and decided it would be my Christmas gift to myself.

And then Daily Candy had the audacity to send me an email about a 30% off deal at Layla Grayce last week and I found this ruffled, oversized one that screamed at me and forced me to buy it because it was such a good deal.

Here's the thing - I live in an apartment. An apartment that cannot be filled to the brim with cake stands, no matter how beautiful they may be. I can see only one solution. I need to start a dessert business that involves displaying things on cake stands. Then my obsession would be a justifiable business expense. Right?


Until then, I'll just content myself with taking lots of pictures of them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chicken in cashew nut sauce - TRY IT!

I know, I know, my titles aren't usually this bossy, but I can't help myself today because that's how much I love this recipe.

I don't know when my love of Indian food snuck up on me. For many, many years, the mere smell of curry terrified me, despite my parents' best attempts to convince me of its deliciousness. I think I eventually got shamed into eating it when my more worldly friends starting suggesting meet ups at Indian restaurants and I was too embarrassed to admit I didn't like Indian food. Which is just as well, because it turns out I do.

This recipe is one of my favorite things I have made in a while. It's so simple and yet so satisfying. I actually made a double batch of the sauce so I can make it again this week. Even if you aren't sold on Indian food, I would recommend this to you. It isn't even hot spicy, if that's a deal breaker for you, although it has plenty of good flavor.


Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce (from this book, serves 4)

Toss in the food processor and pulse until you have a paste:
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1 1/2 tsp garam masala (if you can't get this locally, this link explains how to make your own)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp plain yogurt (I used the full fat Greek style yogurt)

In a pan, heat:
1 or 2 tbsp of vegetable oil

Toss in and saute for a few minutes over medium heat, until lightly browned:
1 lb of cubed chicken (recipe calls for breasts, I used thighs, and I think you could sub any kind of meat, really)

Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon (leaving the oil behind) and transfer it to your slow cooker. Add to the pan:
6 oz white button mushrooms, chopped in half
Spice/nut paste you prepared in the first step

Gently saute for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir into the mixture in the slow cooker:
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp golden raisins

Cover and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours, stirring halfway through. At the end, the chicken should be tender and the sauce should be fairly thick. Top it off with some chopped cilantro. Serve over rice, or with naan, or both.

The recipe calls for the slow cooker, as I've described above, but I think it would be really easy to do this in a pot on the stove, with very low heat, or even in the oven. Generally, I find recipes that take 3 - 4 hours in the slow cooker annoying because I work for 8 hours a day and I am not around to be stirring things, but this is perfect for an almost hands off weekend supper.

Whatever you do, make this. Don't be intimidated by all the ingredients. It comes together very quickly and it makes the house smell heavenly.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The weekend + one more resolution

I was with my parents out for most of the weekend, which means I got to savor both the garden and a lovely full sized kitchen. Always a delight. Lots of cooking going on here. I'll have a few recipes to post later this week. In the meantime, I am lazy, so you get pictures.

Insanely juicy oranges from the garden

The grape vines are still dressed for fall

In other news, I'm jumping on Joslyn's bandwagon (read her lovely explanation here) and not buying anything new for the next 3 months. Except I'm wimpy and I've decided to take it literally. I will buy nothing new for the next 3 months, which means that my thrift store obsession can continue. After all, I feel like buying used things is slightly different - more of an attached experience, less mindless acquisition. Also cheaper. Or maybe I'm just justifying this to myself. What do you think?

Massive full moon spotted while driving home - much bigger than it looks in the picture

Friday, January 9, 2009

One week in

The new year has been around for a week, and I think I'm doing pretty well. So far I have...

* Given myself a day in bed with plenty of frivolous reading

unmade bed

* Indulged myself with two massages (the first one was so painful - turns out it's not easy working huge knots out of your back - that I needed a second one to recuperate and now I feel awesome)

* Taken a long drive down Mulholland with D, chasing the sunset from east to west and stopping along the way

Driving Mulholland

* Woken up early enough each morning to sit and drink a cup of good tea and read a book before I have to get ready for work

How are you guys doing with your resolutions?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More adopted furniture

I'm supposed to be writing about furniture today, but first I have to tell you how amazingly awesome the concert was last night. Watching Gillian Welch and David Rawlings together, in a tiny concert hall that used to be a movie theater, was magical. Goosebumps and lump in my throat magical. If you ever get a chance to see them, you must.

And now back to the furniture. Living in a neighborhood full of apartments means that the dumpsters frequently have furniture piled up next to them. Sometimes it is just what you would expect - broken Ikea bookshelves and sketchy couches with exposed springs - but every once in a while I find a sad, neglected piece of furniture that desperately needs a home.

Like this guy ... I'm not even sure I'll be able to figure out how to rescue him, but isn't the shape cute?


When I picked him up I was horrified because it looks like someone glued sand all over him. And then I had a friend over and he said "Oh yeah, they used that sand spray paint." Sand spray paint? I googled it and apparently such a thing does exist. And it looks exactly like you would expect. I'm not sure why one would want a table to look like a sand sculpture, but I guess someone thought it was a good idea.


How do I go about this? I think my first plan of attack will be to try to strip and gently buff the textured paint off, to get back to the wood finish. If it fails, I will do a thin coat of stucco to cover the texture and top it off with some glossy paint. Do any of you talented readers know anything about refinishing furniture?


Of course, if I ever get it finished, then I have to figure out where to fit it in my apartment. I'm thinking for now it could be a little foot of the bed bench.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Me, in blogland

Today I'm featured over at Lynne's amazing blog Tea for Joy, as part of a new project she is doing. Lynne always has the best style finds and inspiration, and now she is doing a series of posts on 2009 style resolutions. The questions are insightful and really get you thinking, so you should head over and see what it's all about.

As a bit of belated holiday cheer, Nesting blog has posted their top five finalists in their gingerbread house contest...and I'm one of them! That's right - you can go check out my gingerbread creation right here. D and I collaborated on it and it is very (very) loosely based on the floor plan of Case Study 22, one of my favorite Los Angeles houses.

And in real life, D surprised me with tickets to see Gillian Welch and David Rawlings tonight! Her voice makes me shiver and his guitar playing is insanely good. If you aren't already in love with them, I highly recommend this CD to start.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cozy cornbread

Is it still cold and drizzly where you are? Or at least cold enough for a cozy winter dinner of cornbread and soup? I may be prejudiced, but I swear that my mom has the best cornbread recipe. It's a little rustic, not really sweet at all (allowing me to drizzle honey on top with impunity) and dead simple.


Mom's cornbread recipe

Sift together:
1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Stir into:
1 cup cornmeal

Cut into flour mixture (using a food processor or a pastry knife):
1/3 cup soft butter

Beat together:
1 egg
1 cup milk

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just blended and pour into a well greased 8 inch square pan. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The dirtier the better

when it comes to flea markets, that is. Nothing makes me happier than stumbling upon a random, slightly run down one, preferably staffed by people that look like they might possibly be on the run from the law. I think the deals are better and the sense of excitement is exponentially greater.

I picked up these darling vintage Wedgewood tea cups this weekend. I have dreams of a collection of mismatched tea cups and saucers. I might have been able to bargain down from $5 per cup, but I was too intimidated (the only downside to sketchy flea markets).


Whenever I buy vintage kitchenware, I bring it home and bleach it, just to be sure I'm not getting any weird germs. Take it from a scientist - a 30 minute soak in a 10% bleach solution will kill absolutely everything, so you'll have nothing to worry about.

If you'd prefer your tea cups shiny and new, check out these beauties from Anthropologie. At $18 for a cup and saucer, they aren't exactly a steal, but I'll admit that they tempt me.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Quiet thoughts


If any of you are actually able to read, through your champagne induced headaches, here are my resolution-ish things for the new year.

Slow down. I love this stage of my life with D, I love our apartment and our neighborhood and our friends and I want to bask in that for a while without thinking too much about the future.

Indulge myself a little more. I have no problem buying things for other people, but I tend to get embarrassingly cheap when it comes to little things for myself ($5 for a box of Tazo tea? I usually pass). This year I will buy myself little luxuries that make my days more rich. It's cheap in the long run.

Be a little selfish with my time. I tend to get overbooked and overextended and I feel guilty saying no to anything. I'm going to start making sure I get a little bit of time, even just 15 solid minutes a day, to sit quietly and think.

You'll notice I don't really have any concrete goals, which I'm sure is the way you are supposed to do this. Also, all my goals are a little selfish. I guess that makes this the year of being selfish, but in a good way. Hopefully.

I hope you're all on your way to starting a lovely new year!