Noche de Tostadas!

Tostada night

Last night’s community dinner was potluck due to my crazy work week. I have a giant fundraiser tomorrow night and have been a bit overwhelmed this week. I still needed my dose of Thursday night community dinner, and when I suggested potluck, everyone was sweet and agreed.

tostada night!!

We had chicken tostadas, spinach salad, quesadillas, guacamole and a yummy bean dip that I am craving again this morning — all with some fabulous wine Amanda brought that I hadn’t ever heard of before. Tostadas are my very favorite Mexican food. I could eat them every day. Chicken, black bean and guacamole is my favorite combination.

tostada night!!
my favorite side -- green chilies

And of course there was dessert. I made chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Morag made a wonderful margarita fruit salad.

oatmeal chocolate chip for dessert
margarita fruit salad

I realize this blog is heavy on the food lately. With a roommate I simply don’t have the same room to craft. And with this work project, I haven’t had the time to work around the space issue. Thankfully next week is clear and my CAOK project list is ready for some attention.

Now, off to find some eggs for a tostada breakfast…

Nudu Nation

nudu cap, gray, #3

Guess what I finished yesterday? Yep, the latest Nudu cap order. This one was requested in gray and is being sent off to Illinois later today.

gray nudu cap

These really do take me about two months. By the time I get the yarn, knit the cap and then knit and sew the nubs — I am happy to see it mailed off. I am even happier to receive payment. I’m splurging a bit and buying a new pair of Spring Birkenstocks. Going with yesterday’s theme — I am not buying 10 pair of Payless sandals, as I have in the past. Instead, one great pair I’ll have for years. Last year I bought these and have lived in them. I love this style and they are kind to this runner’s arches.

morning squishy face, nudu

Also, I wasn’t clear yesterday. My school loan isn’t yet paid off. I’ve got another six months to go, maybe less if the Tax gods are kind this year. Fingers crossed.


Liquid Gold

fresh lemons year round

Remember those lemons I “borrowed” from my neighbor John? This weekend while working on my pie I noticed a few annoying black bugs flying around. I took out the trash and recycling, emptied the garbage disposal, ran the dishwasher and still, bzzz… the tiny gnats continued to annoy me. Then I looked at the basket and realized I had way over-estimated my lemon needs. The bottom layer of lemons hidden from sight looked like a scene from Marie Curie’s laboratory gone awry.
I washed those that weren’t moldy, threw the basket liner in the washing machine and pulled out my hand-juicer and cutting board. (What I should have done was make a lemon pie.) Twenty minutes later, I’ve got fresh lemon juice for the rest of the year’s recipes. Voila.

What to do when the lemons start attracting bugs

Adam sent me this link today about consumerism in the United States and how everything is a bit out of whack. We are spending way more than we can afford — like the obese at a dessert buffet, we continue stuffing ourselves when we should have long since gone to bed.

I find that when I am eating sensibly, I’m also spending wisely. It’s all or nothing — or as my mother so aptly puts it, “Honey, you have two shades: black or white.” Thankfully right now I’m in a disciplined mood and am saving money like I’m saving my calories — for the good stuff, like filet and Malbec.

With rising gas prices, I’ve started carpooling more and am cutting coupons when I actually need the product. I’m even considering writing all of my spending down for a month, as suggested by this month’s Real Simple, to take a closer look at where the foolishness is occurring. (Coffee shop stops, more than likely.) I also like talking to my grandparents about budgeting. They not only survived The Great Depression, but they did so on farms — in Pennsylvania and England. Rural life was not kind, and as a result my grandmothers are tough hens who know how to make food budgets feed all of those coming to dinner, regardless of the number. I have a lot to learn from them.

Hence the drive to juice the lemons, rather than just pitch the basket. Just like with being healthy — it isn’t the occasional splurge that kills you. It’s the daily little things that accumulate. By cutting back on both, I hope to become less of a mindless consumer.

And if you hear of a Phoenix girl arrested for doing cartwheels down the street? It will be me the day my last grad school loan is finito. I have bigger and better things to be paying for — my own little plot of land somewhere in Colorado where I’ll have that huge vegetable garden, my dogs, my adopted kids from Africa, my own non-profit, my family nearby, my little condo in Tempe where we’ll all retreat for winters with our Arizona friends. Soon enough and in the meantime, I’ll be sipping my lemonade and smiling at the sweet future in store.


Flop Flop Flopperoo

The pie wasn’t good. The crust, while it looked chocolaty and yummy, was in fact dry and pretty gross.

pie and Oscars

My friends were still good sports about it, thankfully.

happy camper

I know they love me because they didn’t wince, laugh or roll their eyes when I announced mid-dessert, “I need to blog this. Will anyone mind if I take photos?” Not to mention, they ate the pie. Bless their hearts.


Sunday Dessert

I’m not a huge fan of bananas, cream pies or spending $20 on fancy ingredients for one recipe, but when I saw the photos of this banana cream pie with a whole wheat chocolate crust in the February issue of Bon Appetite, I knew I’d soon be putting my dislikes aside. Too many new techniques to learn to pass this recipe by.

Sunday Evening Dessert
Sunday Evening Dessert
Sunday Evening Dessert
Sunday Evening Dessert
Sunday Evening Dessert
Sunday Evening Dessert
Sunday Evening Dessert
Sunday Evening Dessert

Something tells me this will receive five out of five bananas, absoloodle.
Reviews manana. Off to dine with Tarzan. Okay, not really, but the thought made me laugh.


Community Dinner, February

French chicken dinner

These dinners really are all about me. They are the perfect excuse to try new recipes from my favorite cooking magazines, spend an afternoon sipping a nice glass of white wine and listening to NPR, wear a apron, get the house cleaned up for company, find a new mixed CD to throw on the radio, etc.

It’s the simple things, really, that make me silly with happiness. Last night I cooked two chickens using the French Chicken in a Pot recipe from Cooks Illustrated. You slow-cook a chicken in its own juices for two hours in a Dutch oven, with a bit of garlic, celery and onion. One of the birds came out looking great, while the other needed another hour before it was ready. Thankfully the guests came in shifts last night and we didn’t play musical chairs or chickens. There was more than enough to go around. I let my roommate borrow my camera yesterday, so I didn’t have it around while I was preparing. These last-minute “let me take a photo of that before you eat it!” shots leave much to be desired.

veggie dinner

I also heard from several folk that last night was the first time they’d had brussel sprouts. As the self-deemed “Veggie Fairy,” I kept passing this dish until they were gone. This recipe is simple and it got great reviews, although it can be a bit expensive if the nuts aren’t on sale.

pistachio brussel sprouts

The cauliflower steaks were the most aesthetically pleasing. From the same section of new vegetable recipes in the latest Bon Appetite, this recipe was simple enough. I added broccoli to the puree to make a great green creamy vegetable mix as a base.


Next week is potluck. My mom is coming into town to help with my fundraiser next weekend and the free time I have, I’ll be spending happily with her. So, why not invite some friends over to feed me in the meantime? See. I told you — it all seems altruistic, but really I’m quite crafty.

Low-fat dessert

Mango and strawberry Jello, anyone?

Cooking Up a New Kitchen

Best cover ever for Country Living

When I saw the March issue of Country Living, I swooned a bit. Silly to do so over a magazine, I know. But look! Turquoise, shabby chic, pretty off whites, bright light, clean living space? Giddyup. This is just my style.

Yes please.

I have a domestic bliss folder where I cut out and save photos of houses. One day I’m going to pull this file folder out in front of an architect and say, “I’d like this. And this. And this. Thank you!”
Ten friends or so coming to tonight’s community dinner. This kitchen nook would come in handy right about now, as I scrounge for chairs and space. Thankfully while we may be playing musical chairs, there will be plenty of food to distract from the lack of elbow room. Tonight’s menu: French chicken in a pot, cauliflower steaks, pistachio Brussels sprouts, corn bread and fruity Jello for a low-cal dessert. I wanted to make cherry apricot cobbler, but I don’t want the left-overs and several of my girlfriends eat like birds. I eat like a bird too, a big food-loving hungry bird.

Off to find a clean apron and a three hole punch for yet another entry in the dream house book,

Winter Wonderland and I Felt Like Alice

Aspens in the winter

Aspens in the winter are nearly as beautiful as they are in full bloom mid-October.


A view of Steamboat from the house where I stayed.

The house from the meadow

Um, that’s the house. No, I didn’t see Robin Leach. It was silly luxurious and I enjoyed every second of it, including the gourmet kitchen and the hot tub. The funny thing is I would have been just as happy in a snowboarder hostel in town.

A new sport to love

Snow shoeing is basically snow hiking. I desperately needed to get outside and do something athletic after tons of traveling. After two miles of hiking around like this, I desperately needed more air. The altitude kicked my ass and I’m pretty sure the hangover didn’t help.

Molly and I head off

Then again, I can’t wait to return. I feel like I’m dating Colorado and we’re finally getting serious. It’s just a matter of time before it is a passionate affair and I’ve moved in and made myself at home. (Not that I’m the clingy type, but you know. I just don’t see Colorado moving into my condo. It’s a matter of practicality really.)


Unconventional Valentine

Sweet Colorado

I spent the last four days in Steamboat Springs. Initially, the trip was planned because my friends from Mozambique would be there to ski, and we were going to meet to plan a trip down the Zambezi River this summer. A generous donor to the nonprofit where I work has a home in Steamboat. His family was coordinating a weekend of revelry to celebrate the African’s visit. It seemed as soon as I hit the “confirm for purchase” button on the airline web site, everyone else in the group canceled. A family emergency kept my African friends in Mozambique. My Phoenix friends had last-minute change in plans. My brother had a conflict of interest with work; my dad was flying in from Texas to help him in Denver with this project and darn it if I wouldn’t be able to see them either.

Mother Nature can't be rivaled

All of a sudden it was me and the donor — a sweet 78-year-old man who I’ve known for years. He called to graciously give me an out. I no longer needed to come if I didn’t want to. Thankfully, I could hear a bit of an edge in his voice and when I reassured him that my ticket was booked, the vacation time approved and I even bought a cute new winter vest at Target, I could hear him sigh with relief. He was so pleased I was still coming, even though to add to this recipe for awkwardness, I was arriving bright and early Valentine’s morning.


S picked me up and gave me a big hug. We quickly caught up on his latest travels (Africa, Brazil) and his plans for the weekend. We would be spending the first day in the city and then going up to Steamboat. I knew his wife had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. I did not know that Valentine’s Day was her birthday. I met B before she became ill and I’ve watched S suffer since. He truly misses his best friend — the woman he married 55 years ago, with whom he had five children.
After lunch we drove to the care facility. I waited in the lobby as he visited with his sweetheart, emerging an hour later with tears in his eyes.


I have never been so certain I was supposed to be exactly where I was as at that moment. He needed my hug and friendship that day as much I needed the reminder of the possibility of such love. A sweet day indeed.