Monday, October 19, 2009

Martha Stewart I'm Not

The other day I found myself on the blog, Bake It Pretty, gazing longingly at the perfect autumn recipe:  Ginger Tea Bread

It was a lazy Sunday morning, so thought I would give this recipe a whirl.  Let me tell you, I was feeling a little Martha Stewart-ish when I discovered that I had NOT ONLY all of the necessary spices, but also a full, unopened jar of molasses.  Molasses! Who keeps that just lying around?  I considered myself a kitchen goddess for all of ten seconds, because that's when I noted the best by date on the jar:   February 2007.   How embarrassing.  Oh, well.  On to the spice cabinet. Ginger - check!  Allspice - check! Cloves - check!  Cinnamon - check! 

 All expired?  Check!  Good grief.  The ginger was so old it didn't even have a Best By date on it.  Fear not.  Apparently, I used to have OCD and had written the purchase date on the bottom of the jar.

Does that say 2002 or 2007?  Oh, surely I haven't had that in the cabinet for seven years.  I did a quick search on the internet for "the shelf life of spices" which led me to the McCormick's website (duh) where I found a handy dandy spice-o-meter.  If your spice jar doesn't have a Best By date, you just enter the code on the bottom of the jar and the city of manufacture.  I did that, and this was the result I got:

Yep.  2002.  Expired.  And don't call me Shirley.

Undaunted by the fact that the main ingredient was seven years old, I proceeded to make the recipe anyway.    That's when - using a knife to break the seal on the molasses jar - the knife slipped and cut my thumb.  

Good grief.   It hurt worse than it looks and it was bleeding!  It still hurts today, but don't you worry about me.  I washed it up and put on a Band Aid.   The remainder of the recipe went without incident.  However, can I say I hate loaf pan recipes?  I had way too much batter for that one pan.  Fortunately, I had some mini pans.  Even though I doubt Martha would use aluminum disposable pans, I poured the extra batter in them.   The two little loaves cooked up perfectly in about 23 minutes, but it took the regular sized pan about 15 minutes longer than the recipe called for.  As a result, the edges were a lot darker than I would have liked.   

The mini loaf popped out of its pan easily and was absolute perfection.  Considering the fact that half of my ingredients were expired, it tasted pretty darn good.  My Martha Mojo resurfaced a little at this point, and I got a little cocky. Trying to take the cake out of the pan before it completely cools is not a good idea.

This is Exhibit A after I tried to smush it all back together:

 Amanda from Bake It Pretty, suggests wrapping the cake in plastic and serving it the next day.  Excellent idea.  The flavor gets stronger and the hard edges I was worried about softened.  I took it to work where it disappeared quickly.  I've noted before my co-workers may not be the best gage of good eats as they remind me of the hyenas in The Lion King.

Unless, of course, they're raving about my quasi Martha Stewart-type offerings.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm Just Wild About Harry

If you read this, you already know I love Harry Connick, Jr.  I think he's talented, funny and handsome.  Simply put:  the total package.  Imagine my excitement when his new CD was released last week. 

Your Songs is a collection of standards - old and new - done in Harry's signature big band style. I made the mistake of reading a review of the CD first, which said:

"There's a little too much of a lounge lizard 
creeping into this collection of pop standards and 70s faves."  

I bought it anyway.  Fortunately, my memory is crap these days, and had forgotten all about the review by the time I got to listen to the CD.   It wasn't awful, but there was something not quite right, something I couldn't quite put my finger on.  What was it...?  And then the words LOUNGE LIZARD popped into my head.  I'm so sorry, Harry, but that's the God's honest truth.  I wanted to like it, I really did.  I wanted to like it because you sang the most understated, respectful version of the National Anthem on September 11:  

I wanted to like it, even after visiting your website a couple of weeks ago and found the O in Connick looked like this on the website banner:
I won't lie.  My bowels seized up a little when I saw that.  But I'll listen to the CD again. Did I mention I truly want to like it? Besides, I resigned myself long ago to the fact that if I discounted entertainers solely on the basis of their politics, I'd be stuck watching Chuck Norris and Kelsey Grammer in a remake of the Odd Couple at The Buck Creek Playhouse.  

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

DON'T PANIC: There will be no dirty dancing in this post, but that was the only Havana tie-in I could come up with. Stick around, though, we'll be talking about food!! For those of you not in the Indy area, I apologize. This post won't mean much to you (not that any of my posts really do).

Charlie, our host for the evening.

I wanted to tell you about the dinner I had at a little family-owned and operated place called The Havana Cafe. My friend and co-worker, Jenni (but you can call her Jenelope), discovered this little gem and is all about bringing them new business. It's located in the Honeycreek Shopping Center at  West 38th Street and Moller Road. The family history is far-flung and includes Columbia, El Salvador, and Cuba. There's even some German tossed in, just to keep things interesting. This means the menu is not the standard Hispanic fare of tacos and burritos. Our super-friendly waiter, Charlie, brought out some samples to help us make our selection. Jenni ordered the Picadillo a la Criolla:  ground beef creole, which came with rice, black beans and plantains.

Jenni está muy feliz de tener un compañero de cena deliciosa.

I took a chance on the Masitas de Puerco fritas:  fried pork chunks which came with yellow rice and plantains.  Charlie's mom, Flor, was the chef that evening and she did not disappoint. My pork was delightfully crispy on the outside and incredibly tender on the inside. The plantains were tasty as well. I think Charlie said (if you're reading this, Charlie, correct me if I'm wrong) they soak the plantains in wine before cooking them.


We shared a rice pudding for dessert, which was the absolute perfect, not-too-sweet ending to the meal. The price was fairly reasonable: plentiful dinner, can of soda and dessert - $13. Oh, I almost forgot. We got a couple of complimentary empanadas to take home - mmmmm! The only negative would be that they don't have a walk-in freezer, so they don't keep a large supply of food on hand. They had sold out of what I originally requested off the menu. On the upside, that means they get deliveries more frequently so their food is really fresh! Also, I will grant you that 38th Street can be a little dicey (their hours are 9a-10p - I probably won't be doing any late night dining there), but I admire this family's entrepreneurial spirit. There are some other different ethnic restaurants in this area which I plan on visiting, so I hope they are successful in making this area productive again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tasks Eleven thru Nineteen Completed!

Wow!  I have been a total slacker on the blog this summer. I don't know what the problem is. 

Anyhoo, I was going over my 101 Things to Do in 1001 Days list.  I have accomplished several more tasks, all of which I did completely forgetting they were even on the list.  Here we go:

Buy something at a thrift store:  I bought this supercute sundress at the Goodwill back in May.  It's from American Eagle and still had the tags on it:  $48.  Gah.  I wouldn't pay $48 for it, but I would pay $5.  What I DID pay was $2.50 as it was half-price day.  What a deal!!  Sadly, I'm too fat to fit into it, but maybe it will serve as motivation.  More likely, it will hang in my closet and serve as a reminder of my lost youth.

Reconnect with an old friend:  My friend, Jana, hosted a ladies' night at her house.  It was especially great because she invited Chris, who I have not seen in several years.   Jana, Chris and I all worked at Wishard together 20 years ago.  We hung out in the hot tub and chatted until the wee hours of the morning.  Lots of fun.  I didn't have my camera, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say we looked exactly like this:

Attend work related class or seminar:  Nothing exciting or humorous to report on this one, but I did a Fundamentals of Supervision class through IUPUI Human Resources.

Grow my own tomatoes:  I did a little experiment here.  I grew one plant in the Topsy Turvy fashion, only mine was the homemade version.  The other plant I stuck in a planter. The tomatoes in the planter did better, but I got quite a few off of each plant.  That was very exciting for me, and I'm doing more next year.  

New carpet in family room:  FINALLY.  Yee gads.  That carpet looked so bad I was embarrassed to even have the carpet guys see it.   Here's the new stuff:

Re-do my blog so IE users can see it:  I actually did this a long time ago.  For whatever reason, Internet Explorer was throwing a monkey wrench into people accessing the blog.   I don't know what the problem was, but just decided to make a new blog and imported the old posts.  So far, no complaints.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Buy a t-shirt from  I don't know how I found the Natalie Dee website, but she is flippin' hysterical.  She can also be vulgar, so if you're easily offended, don't go there.  I was going to buy myself a t-shirt, but ended up getting one for Robin and Lily as well.  Mine is What's Up, Pudding Cup?  Lily's is Anxiety Girl and Robin's is I'm Awesome.  If you know these girls, the shirts make perfect sense.  If you don't know them, the shirts should tell you everything.

Get home wireless mess figured out:  I still don't really know what was wrong with it, but I do know a 17-year-kid who is always hanging out at my house fixed it for me and finally earned his keep.  We now have wireless throughout the entire house, and not just one little corner of one room.  Big shout out to Farmer - YAY, FARMER!!  This even involved him being on the phone with the Linksys customer service help line for a realllly long time.  My hero. 

Play fantasy football:  I have no idea what I'm doing.  We're not playing for money so if I bomb, I guess that's okay.

 That's another $45 in the account which brings the grand total to $95.  Hot damn alakazam!

Okay, if I'm going to brag about my accomplishments, I need to confess to a couple of failures.

Doing a 5k was on the list, and I did sign up for one.  Unfortunately, the race was scheduled for the day after my birthday celebration.  Ever heard of Lemon Drop shots?  Let's just say I didn't feel so hot that morning, so I bailed on the race.  

Also, there was my grand plan to not shop at Walmart for an entire month.  HA!  I couldn't even go a week.  I did the grocery shopping at Kroger once, and it almost killed me. As much as I hate Walmart and its hillbilly clientele, it is definitely easier on ye olde chequebook.  Well...that, and  I have a little crush on one of the greeters:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Sigh...I don't even know where to start with this post.  You might want to go to the bathroom first (make sure you wash your hands) and grab a snack.  It's gonna be a long one...

One week ago I was on Cloud 9.  I had just gotten home from the Indiana State Fair where I got to see my lover boy, Keith Urban, in concert. 

 It goes without saying - but I'll say it anyway - he put on one heck of a show.  Not only that, he came down into the audience during the final song of the show and strolled over right to where we were seated.  Okay, not exactly where we were, but we were only a short stampede away where I snapped the following:

Oh, I do love him so.

As if that wasn't enough to make my month, Tom's friend - the Infamous Tara from Minneapolis - was visiting.  We pretty much love Tara and want her and Tom to become a real couple.

We were going to spend the day having fun on the boat on Sunday with those two and their friends Josh and Lindsay.  We were finally going to go out on Cagles Mill Lake, which had not been accessible all of last year due to flooding.   It WAS a fun day until tragedy struck.  After a wild and crazy tubing experience, I was attempting to get back in the boat.  STUPIDLY, I stepped onto the diving platform with my left foot and while trying to maintain my balance, the tube went out from under my right foot.  This resulted in me doing the splits, something I have NEVER done in my 46 years on this planet.  I felt a pop in my leg, and that's when my life went straight to hell in a handbasket.  I somehow managed to get up the ladder and haul myself onto the boat.  It hurt but wasn't unbearable at that point, so we stayed out on the lake for another hour.  By the time we made the hour-long trip home, the pain was unbearable.  I was shuffling up the sidewalk into the house, and the six-inch porch step was what did me in.  When I made that step, it felt like someone had rammed an electric cattle prod in my leg.  At this point, I started crying.  I couldn't get back to the car, and I couldn't get in the house.  I had to lay across Tom's back and he carried me into the house and deposited me on the couch.   We determined a trip to the ER was in order, but the big problem was how to get me out to the car.  I was immobilized by pain every time I moved my leg.  Lily suggested we call an ambulance, but John poo-poo'd that idea because "ambulance rides are expensive".  After listening to him and Tom come up with all sorts of convoluted means of transport (i.e. me laying on a blanket and four people grabbing a corner, OR me holding onto the blanket and he and Tom dragging it to the car - I kid you not), Lily stood up and proclaimed SHE was calling an ambulance.  Go Lily.  I may have been crying again at this point, because John went over and made the call.  He told the dispatch operator that it was NOT an emergency but that we did need transport to the ER.  She assured him help would arrive silently and inconspicuously.  Right.  Apparently, some self-centered a-holes had the nerve to have an emergency right before mine, and the ambulance from the station nearest our home was already out on a run.  Therefore, they sent this with about five firefighters:

Very inconspicuous.

I'd like to mention here that when Robin learned there would be paramedics coming to the house, she ran and changed clothes.  

They came in and did a quick physical assessment while we waited for the northside station ambulance to show up.   Understandably, my blood pressure was through the roof, but just having PROFESSIONALS show up to assist me made me feel much better.   Well, that and Tara running around snapping pictures.  I'm fairly certain the paramedics thought we were crazy.

We went to Clarian West ER, where the nurses, Jenn and Sam, were super duper nice.  Dr. Brummett didn't look old enough to buy alcohol much less dispense narcotics, but I didn't let that stop me from accepting her delightful cocktail of Fentanyl and Toradol.  There wasn't much they could do for me after that.  Once my blood pressure was back to normal, they wrapped my leg, gave me a couple of scripts, crutches, a referral to an ortho doc, and sent me on my way.

On Thursday, I was able to see Dr. Ripley P. Worman (say this in your best Thurston P. Howell voice).  He was confident this was a hamstring strain with no significant damage and recommended I start physical therapy as soon as possible, which luckily was on Friday.  I was given a series of exercises to do and a deep tissue massage on the back of my right thigh.  After I did my exercises at home Friday evening, I asked John, the nurse, to do the massage for me.  John, the nurse, freaked out when he saw the bruising on my inner thigh.   I really want to show you the bruise, but I couldn't quite crop the picture enough to show you the extent of the damage and still maintain some dignity.  Just know this:  it's ugly.

So, just for fun, here's a bonus a picture of one of the groups of nosey neighbors who came out to watch the excitement:

I've pretty much been confined to bed this past week because it hurts like a you-know-what whenever I stand up and gravity pulls on my leg.  I've taken a total of one shower, but I have been brushing my teeth (almost daily).  I'm what the kids call a "hot mess"...

I was going to post a video that was making the rounds sometime ago, Why Seniors Shouldn't Go Boating, but after viewing it again, it's not that funny.  My sense of humor must be sitting on the bottom of Cagles Mill Lake.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

MORE Fun with Zucchini

HA! HA! HEE! HEE! HO! HO! (wipes tears of laughter from eyes) Okay, now that I got that out of my system, I made Zucchini Pie the other night. This recipe was given to me by my good friend Bridgie McBridgerton. Last summer Bridgie was kind enough to bring me a slice of her homemade Zucchini Pie, and it was love at first bite. In fact, if I'm remembering correctly, I did the equivalent of drunk dialing in the pie world. I called her with a full mouth and proclaimed to her voicemail, "Bridgie! I looooove yer pie!" She must have loved that creepy message, because she brought me another slice a few weeks ago. It was just as yummy, but honestly, anything less than a whole zucchini pie is not enough, so I had to make one for myself. This is some good stuff, dare I say nirvana? Here's the recipe:

1 cup peeled, cubed, cooked zucchini. (Takes about two cups raw to make one cup cooked)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 T. butter or margarine
2 T. flour, slightly heaped
1 tsp vanilla

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix at high speed until smooth. Pour into an unbaked 9" pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake another 15-20 minutes (until crust is lightly browned and filling is not too jiggly).

Let the pie cool completely, then liberally sprinkle the top with cinnamon and nutmeg. Store leftovers (if any) in the refrigerator.

7/31/09 UPDATE: Per Bridgie, the name of this pie is actually Great Aunt Anne's Zucchini Pie. I brought this into to work today and it was gone within a few minutes. The devouring was followed by several requests for the recipe.

Oh, I almost forgot. John actually tried a bite. While he didn't exactly give it two thumbs up, he did said it tasted a little bit like pumpkin pie. It's more like sugar cream to me, but the fact that he didn't burst into tears and spit it out makes it a WIN!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zucchini Cake

The other day I was checking out The Pioneer Woman's blog where she raved about a certain zucchini cake recipe.  I'd actually never cooked with zucchini and don't really know much about it.  A quick trip to Wikipedia informed me that "Botanically, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower."  Granted, that sounds kind of icky, but I do loves me some cake, so I figured what the heck?  I won't bore you with pictures of every step of making a cake - you all know what flour and sugar look like, right?  If you don't, you can find pictures here along with the recipe.  It's really a very simple recipe with the most "difficult" thing being grating the zucchini.  I've always been leery of graters, afraid I'm going to grate off my knuckles or the tips of my fingers or something, but no casualties today.  My new grater whittled those immature fruits like it was nothing.  The only change I made to the recipe was substituting pecans for coconut in the cake batter.

Also, I did not use the cream cheese frosting recipe that Ree lists.  I found this recipe a few months ago that is my new favorite.  

1 8 oz. package cream cheese (cold, straight from the fridge)
5 T. softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add vanilla.  Add powdered sugar, mixing until completely blended and smooth.  This recipe makes a substantial amount of frosting.  Yes, I used it all.  If you are one of those weirdos who doesn't like frosting, tough titties.  

I frosted the cake as soon as it was cool (okay, it wasn't completely cool but I was getting impatient) and had a small piece.  To be perfectly honest, my initial reaction was, "Meh."  It wasn't bad, but it didn't have me wanting to dance on the rooftops either.   I figured I could just take it to the office on Monday and let the pack of deranged wolves I call co-workers have at it.

Then a funny thing happened.  After dinner I was cutting a few pieces for John to take to his parents and decided to try another piece. 

IT WAS REALLY GOOD.  Because the cream cheese frosting is so soft, I had stored the cake in the refrigerator, and the cold cake was to die for.  Now, I *am* dancing on the rooftops, and because I danced and burned off a few calories - ahem - I had another piece just to make sure it really was that good.
It was.

P.S. - The cake recipe calls for crushed pineapple that has been drained.  I mixed the 8 oz of reserved pineapple juice with the juice from a can of mandarin oranges I found in the pantry earlier today.  To that I added some fresh lime juice and Malibu Rum.  YUM. 

I feel compelled to tell you that I had the 70s on 7 playing on the TV and this song came on.  

More rooftop dancing ensued which caused Lola to run into the bedroom and hide under the loveseat while Ringo stuck his head under a pillow.  I bet you all wish THAT was on YouTube.