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Just another day

March 23, 2005

So I guess Roux likes towels. First he christened our towel-rug, and now he’s taken over our towel basket. He curls up in it and sleeps there, and we end up having to wash the towels since they’re covered with Roux hair.

Today I took Justin to the orthopedist, who said he had chipped part of the joint in his thumb (proximal phalanx, Justin says), and that he didn’t think surgery was necessary. Which was good, because honestly I hadn’t even thought that surgery was a possibility–scary! He has a removable splint that he has to wear for three weeks, and then we go back to see if it has healed well. Poor guy. No biking, no X-box, no buttoning his pants alone.

After lunch, I took a walk downtown to the library. Man, I love Austin. On the way I passed by beautiful historic houses, city lofts, a BMX bike course, trendy hair salons, and plenty of squirrels and birds. It only took me about 25 minutes to get there, and I was just strolling. I spent the afternoon finding collections of food writing and flipping through back issues of Saveur magazine. I could seriously get used to not working.

One more random thought for the day: TV is an addictive drug. I am addicted. It’s calling my name. I used to watch an occasional PBS show, or maybe a cooking show or two. Now, I’m loving Everyday Italian and West Wing and Buffy and Project Greenlight and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and random movies on Showtime, Cinemax, HBO or Starz…how do people live their lives around the TV schedule? I guess that’s why they have Tivo. I draw the line at Tivo. We get cable for free (thanks Tim and Todd!), but I sometimes wonder whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s free entertainment, but it’s also like a vacuum, sucking you in, and filling your head with subliminal messages (“I need a new haircut like hers” or “oooh, that looks good, maybe we’ll go for an ice cream later” or “man, I need one of those revolving tupperware organizers”) that encourage you to spend, spend, spend. Then again, without TV, I would never know what people are talking about most of the time (“Hey, did you see that commercial…”).

Aside from TV, I’ve been reading a great book called The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin. It’s all about food and gluttony, my favorite topics. If it’s available at your library, I highly recommend checking it out (or, if you’re an Austinite, BookPeople currently has it on its bargain table for $6.99!!). It’s incredibly funny, and totally focused on the art of eating good food (not healthy food, just good food).

Okay, internet, enough rambling for tonight. Stay tuned…

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No more monkeys jumping on the bed.

March 22, 2005

Justin had never heard this little nursery rhyme:

Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and broke his head
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

He went mountain biking on Sunday on a pretty tough trail, and ended up with the above fractured thumb. (Don’t ask us where the fracture is; we just know it’s fractured.) So tomorrow, bright and early, we’re heading off to a bone and joint specialist to wrap it up. If he gets a cast, I’ll take a picture of it for you guys.

So he’s grounded from mountain biking, and what’s sad is that he can’t even play his X-box (since he can’t use his thumb), and he’s having a hard time doing little things like opening jars of pickles or putting toothpaste on his toothbrush. It’s cute.

For those of you still mountain biking, please remember, the nursery rhyme continues with “nine little monkeys jumping on the bed…” Please, don’t be the next monkey.

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Pasta Alla Norma

March 22, 2005

I made this for dinner last night, and it was so good! I substituted bowtie pasta for the penne, and tried to cut the amounts in half, but we still have tons of leftovers. I would also recommend peeling the eggplant…even though it looks prettier with the skin on, it seemed a bit too tough for my taste. The basil really added a fresh taste to the dish. I thought it tasted great with or without the ricotta cheese, so if you’re iffy about buying a container of ricotta for this, you could easily skip it. I’m left with a lotta ricotta now, although I did use a little for dessert. I adapted a recipe for cannoli cream from Giada’s new book. You basically whip up some fresh cream with a little powdered sugar and cinnamon, fold in some ricotta, and use it as a topping for macerated fruit. I used sliced strawberries tossed with a little sugar and balsamic vinegar…yum!

Pasta Alla Norma

  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain pasta; return to pot.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add eggplant to skillet; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until eggplant begins to release juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes (if bottom of pan browns too much, add a few tablespoons water, and scrape with a spoon).

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1/4 cup water to skillet; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Toss sauce and basil with pasta; gently reheat if necessary. Top each serving with a spoonful of ricotta, and garnish with more basil.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Ha! I made half the amount and it made 4 to 6 servings.)

Source: Everyday Food, September 2003

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Mixed Grill

March 21, 2005

Sunday evening we drove up to Round Rock to spend some time with Leti and her parents, Sophia and Robert. We were treated to a lavish supper of grilled salmon, chicken, deer sausage, shrimp, portobellos (which Leti used for fajitas), asparagus, bruschetta, and cucumber-tomato salad, plus grapes with yogurt, cinnamon, and walnuts for dessert. It was scrumptious. We had a great time helping out at the grill (and saturating ourselves with smoke in the process), and Justin even got to pet the neighborhood donkey.

I have to say that the bruschetta were amazing, and so simple. After toasting slices of baguette on the grill, we rubbed a garlic clove on each slice, then topped them with chopped tomato mixed with sliced basil. Rubbing the garlic on the bread gave it such a great flavor.

It had been so long since we’ve really participated in a cookout. Leave it to Leti to pull out all the stops and show us how to make grilling fun, vegetarian-friendly, and healthy to boot.

Portobello Fajitas

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups (1/2-inch thick slices) portobello mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1 cup (1/4-inch thick) green bell pepper strips
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 12 (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco
  • 3/4 cup salsa verde

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; saute 5 minutes or until almost tender. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 4 minutes or until bell pepper is crisp-tender, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, lime juice, salt, black pepper, and chile.

Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 1/4 cup mushroom mixture down center of each tortilla; top each tortilla with 4 teaspoons cheese and 1 tablespoon salsa. Roll up.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2005

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My name is Crystal, and I’m a recipe-aholic.

March 20, 2005

Recipes are my life. I’ve stopped counting my cookbooks. I have several years worth of recipes clipped from Gourmet, Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, and Martha Stewart Living, plus Everyday Food and the occasional Vegetarian Times. I have photocopies of recipes I’ve found at the library, and slips of paper with handwritten recipes from friends, doctor’s offices, or television shows. I have printouts of recipes from the Food Network, and word documents with hundreds of recipes pulled from websites, bulletin boards, and emails.

I have tried organizing my recipes many times. I have a huge 3-ring binder filled with neatly-typed favorite recipes placed into plastic sleeves and organized by recipe type (main dish, sides, salads…). I have computerized files with lists of recipes I’ve tried and old menus I’ve put together. I have little post-it notes sticking out of cookbooks and magazines reminding me of recipes to try.

Unfortunately, none of these organization systems seem to stick, and I end up sitting on the couch every weekend, surrounded by open cookbooks and magazines, clipped recipes and printouts, trying to pick the perfect seven recipes to make for dinners that week. I get out one of my notebooks (my notebook collection is another blog topic in itself), and dream up menus and lunches and breakfasts and snacks and “projects” (homemade bread, cookies, food gifts), then narrow them down to the fabulous seven for that week. I then begin the process of making…the Grocery List. The Grocery List is a highly specialized tool that brings together all the needed ingredients and toiletries in a very useful manner…I organize the Grocery List according to location in the grocery store. Yes, I am aware that I have issues.

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you my newest form of organization. I was lucky enough to receive Giada de Laurentis’s new cookbook as an early birthday present (thank you, Leti!), and quickly tore off the hideous book cover (I never keep those covers on…books are so much prettier without them!) and scarfed down the recipes, logging them somewhere in my cranial rolodex. I realized that there were a few of her recipes I liked from the Food Network website that did not appear in the book, and I was a little upset that I would have her recipes spread out throughout my home, in various forms. So, I printed out 4 x 6-inch recipe cards for the online recipes, and attached a little cardstock pocket at the front of the book to hold them. Voila! All of Giada’s recipes in one spot.

The real question is: Will I remember where these recipes are during my menu planning madness next weekend? Probably not.

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