Thursday, January 29, 2009

iowa finds

This past weekend, while I was in my hometown in Iowa, I found time to get to my favorite vintage store, Mohair Pear. I picked up several cute items, including a pair of new black back-seam pantyhose, which I had wanted for some time.

fancy golden gloves, $6

red/blue checked scarf, $3

navy/white polyester dress, $16

My friend Kelly also bought the most adorable "Audrey" style little black dress, which makes me very happy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

highly recommended

A few weeks ago, Matt and I met with our friend, Mary for dinner at Cafe Montmarte in Madison. Everything was delicious. The goat cheese nachos were what drew us into the restaurant, so we had to start with those. The nachos consisted of crispy fresh chips drizzled with creamy goat cheese and topped with cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. The red and green salsas on the side were also very nice. We were so hungry and they were so good, they were gone before we could get a picture.

The three of us also shared a lamb sausage pizza with pesto and pine nuts on a thin crackery crust. The crust was tasty as were the toppings. (Yes, it was as dark there as it seems in the photo.)

The sandwich that we shared was also excellent. Perfectly cooked, tender steak was layered with bleu cheese and tomatoes. Try this place if you get a chance.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thai spicy chicken with basil

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger (jarred ginger works too)
4 small red chili peppers, halved and seeded*
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 lb. skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used chicken breast)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
6 scallions, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
steamed jasmine rice, for serving

*I had a hard time deciding just which peppers I wanted. I'm sure any of the dried Mexican varieties of red peppers would work, but I used 2 fresh jalapenos instead. Adjust to your taste and preferences.

Warm vegetable and sesame oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and chili peppers and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Raise heat to high, add bell pepper and chicken and stir-fry until chicken is golden. Stir in soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. Reduce heat to medium and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and scallions. Spoon into bowls and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Matt and I headed to Chicago last Thursday night to see Jason dj at Sonotheque (and luckily we had two days off of work because of the cold weather). The show was fun, and it was great to see Jason and our friend Jamie.

The highlight of the trip was probably our lunch on Friday. We ate at Cemitas Puebla, a Mexican restaurant that specializes in tasty sandwiches called cemitas. Everything was absolutely delicious.

Matt's cemita carne enchilada was a spicy butterflied porkchop marinated in guajillo chilies on a sesame bun, layered with Oaxacan cheese, avacado, and adobo chipotles made in-house daily.

I ordered two chicken tacos on corn tortillas with chopped cilantro and onions, your typical taqueria fare. The chicken was excellent, not laden with grease like some spiced chicken. Jamie actually called it "fluffy".

Even better were the chalupas that Matt and I split. There were 5 corn tortillas, each covered in one of their yummy fresh salsas: a smoky, spicy red tomato-based sauce and a milder, tangy green tomatillo and cilantro sauce. Then the tortillas were topped with more of that "fluffy" chicken, more Oaxacan cheese, and some cilantro.

All of these authentic Poblano dishes were very reasonably priced, and were worth every penny. If you live in Chicago or happen to be nearby, I highly recommend you try this place.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Now I am usually not the type of person who wishes they were in a tropical climate whenever it's cold outside. A few times during this week of 30 to 40 below windchills, however, I could have sworn I smelled Hawaii's sweet, fresh air. A year ago at this time we were getting ready to head for Maui.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Tijuana kitchen rice

You can find the recipe here. Guy Fieri may not be the most gourmet of chefs, but he knows how to make a mean Mexican-style rice. It used up all the queso fresco I had left and it's really pretty easy too. We had it with a couple of queso fresco quesadillas.

Friday, January 9, 2009

"cat sound"

I want Liz Lemon's wardrobe...

and Jenna's too...

but this is what I have for now.
belted dress, Target
cardigan, H&M

whistle necklace, eBay
shoes and tights, Target

Sorry for the crappy stills.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

new specs/more talk

glasses, Persol
scarf, thrifted

I thought I should also add a few things to my post from yesterday:

1. I'm certainly not perfect. I still eat conventionally-raised meat, but I try to keep pushing myself closer to my goals.

2. I respect vegetarians and vegans and their right to hold their own beliefs about what's right for animals and for their own health. We're all just trying to do our best.

3. Though we eat meat, Matt and I do try to eat "low on the food chain", or eat more plants and grains than meat. To do that, we stretch meat into several meals (1 lb. ground meat usually makes 2 meals, we add TVP to meals like tacos). I also try to make meat a special treat in a meal, or a small component, instead of the main event at the dinner table. In addition, I aim for 25-50% of our meals each week to be completely vegetarian. And we eat our leftovers--we don't throw meat away!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (by way of The Omnivore's Dilemma)

This quote really struck me and has encouraged me, not to become a vegetarian or vegan as one might think, but to continue working to find local, humane sources for meat. As I read in The Compassionate Carnivore (Oxymoron? I don't think so.), if I remove myself from the "table" of discussion about meat production and processing by ceasing to eat meat, I am taking away one more advocate for the humane treatment of animals. By patronizing local, sustainable, and humane animal raisers, I am clearly voting for happy meat and animals.

This quote also underlines for me the way many people, including myself for a long time, have tried to ignore the truth about the origins of their meat. I think I need to do the opposite. Acknowledge an animal's life and death as I eat. Feel a sense of gratitude and awe for the process and for the farmer and the animal that made my meal. That's why this spring I would love to visit one of the farms we buy meat from--I want to put a face on my meat.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

a winter meal

After a few recent unsuccessful meals, I was glad to have made something tonight that we both liked. The chicken was very good, baked with paprika, salt, and pepper, and topped with a sauce of dried cherries, red onion, capers, cumin, honey, and hot peppers. It sounds unusual, but the combination of sweet and spicy, sour and salty was actually quite tasty. The gratin, covered in lots of gruyere cheese, was not so well received by Matt, but I loved the rich, creamy texture and slight licorice flavor from the fennel. Both recipes are from my favorite cookbook, Simply Organic (by Jesse Ziff Cool), a fantastic collection organized by seasonal ingredients.

cherry, chili, and caper chicken
potato & fennel gratin

Matt had a microwaved smore for dessert. Ollie got a marshmallow too, which he chewed on just long enough to swallow it mostly whole.

Monday, January 5, 2009

oops...i forgot

I like the old-fashioned look of this parsnip packaging.

Oh, and I need to add Air France to my year-end favorites list. I liked their ep, "No Way Down", quite a bit.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

a productive weekend...

I finally took care of a project that had been waiting around for a few months. I took several of our old t-shirts that didn't fit or that we just don't wear and made them into reusable sacks. They're great because they crumple up to fit in a purse or glovebox, so now we'll always have one on hand when we stop for groceries. Here's how to make them:

Cut the sleeves off the shirt and trim around the collar to make thinnish straps and a deeper hole for the top of the bag.

Turn the shirt inside-out. Line up the seams along the bottom of the shirt and put in a few straight pins. Sew along the bottom, following the existing seam. I used a zig zag stitch for extra durability.

Be sure to backstitch over the ends to make sure they're secure. I also trimmed each corner at an angle like so.

If you like your bag to have square corners, turn it right-side-out and you're done!

I left the corners square on the smaller bags, but for the larger shirts, I preferred to add diagonal corners. If you'd like to do that, just stitch across the bottom corner at an angle you like, backstitching at the beginning and end. Then trim off the extra fabric.

Once I trimmed the first edge, I lined up the two corners and pinned the 2nd edge to match the angle on the 1st edge. Then I stitched and trimmed it in the same way.'s what you get!

Besides making about 10 bags, I also watched "Blade Runner" and discovered a movie I hadn't yet seen starring my favorite mid-century singer/dancer, Gene Kelly.

He's such an athletic and talented dancer. I mean, when the guy's tap dancing in roller skates, how can you help but smile?

I wrapped up my weekend by making some yummy burgers for lunch today: ground bison with red onion, garlic, and rosemary, topped with feta and caramelized shallots. Waffle fries and my favorite, peppermint iced tea, on the side.

Back to work tomorrow...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

happy new year

One of my goals this year, an ongoing goal really, is to make some more art. Maybe stitch something like this, that I made in 2006 (I think?). I have lots of ideas floating around.