Discovery of the day: Avocado love

I think I'm kind of going overboard on the avocado. It's gotten to the point where I'm eating half a small avocado most every day.

Yes, it's a vegetable. Yes, it's pretty high in fat.

I probably should try to wean myself down to a couple times week. It doesn't help that my boyfriend grew up in avocado country and, given a chance, would eat them three times a day.

Also, I probably need to evaluate my peanut butter consumption. But that's a task for another day.


Project Weeknight: Refried Bean Soup

One of the standard meals I feed my son is 'Taco Del Mom'; refried beans, rice, guacamole, and a cheese quesadilla. I was looking to switch it up a little last night so I tried the Smoky Refried Bean Soup from one of my go-to blogs, FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

(I know, I'm neither fat-free nor vegan, but she does have some nice, quick recipes.)

It was a success all around. I had all the ingredients on hand, it was on the table in time, and my son gave it '99%'. He said it couldn't be 100% because the little bit of spiciness stung his cold sore. But I don't think that's the recipe's fault. :)

I made a few minor mods. I hate green bell pepper so I used a cup of chopped frozen yellow & red pepper strips. I used low-sodium chicken stock instead of veg stock and oil instead of cooking spray. I didn't have a can of black beans so I added a can of regular pintos. I didn't have chipotle powder -- cue the chili powder. And, as is the case with most recipes I find online, I pretty much had to double the seasonings.

We put some chopped avocado on top and it was mighty fine. Next time I may add more corn. Certainly not necessary, but I like corn. And I'll be sure to have black beans on hand.

Another score for Project Weeknight!



Discovery of the day: Meh.

We're closed today due to a wicked bad attitude attack. We'll be open tomorrow at our regularly scheduled time.



Discovery of the day: Might Be Quinoa Veggie Stew

For yesterday's dinner I took another run at the Quinoa Veggie Stew I wrote about here and here. It definitely is not a Project Weeknight dish -- it requires a lengthy simmer to do it right. I made a few tweaks along the way and ended up with something most satisfactory.

Might Be Quinoa Veggie Stew
(Adapted from this recipe, which cites 'Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home')

1.5 to 2 cups cooked quinoa, brown rice, or other grain/starch of choice
2 med. onions, chopped (~1 cup)
2+ cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 Tblsp oil
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 red/orange/yellow bell pepper, chopped (~1 cup)
2 cups of some combination of diced zucchini, summer squash and/or eggplant
1 - 14.5 oz can tomatoes with liquid
1 - 15 oz can cannellini beans (or your bean of choice)
1/4 c red wine (or water)
1 cup chicken stock (or water/veg stock)
1 Tblsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried (mexican oregano if available)
Cayenne pepper to taste (opt.)

For the table: grated cheese, Cheddar or Monterey Jack.

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic for a good 5-10 minutes until you see some caramelization on the bottom of the pan.

Add carrots, celery, and about 1/4 tsp salt. Cook an additional 5+ minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegs soften.

Add cumin, chili powder, coriander, and cayenne. Stir for a minute or so until fragrant.

Add wine, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Let wine cook down for a minute or so.

Add bell pepper, squashes, tomatoes, oregano, stock, and another 1/4 tsp salt if needed. Bring to simmer, reduce heat, and continue to simmer for a good 30+ minutes or until it reaches a thick, stew-like consistency.

Check seasoning, add salt if needed.

Here you can either stir in the quinoa (or cooked grain of your choice) and stir until heated through, or ladle the stew on top of individual servings of grains or potatoes. Top with cheese, if desired.

Yield: 6 or more 1.5 - 2 cup servings, depending on how you manage the starch component.

  • I used zucchini and summer squash. I wanted to add eggplant but the grocery store didn't have small ones.

  • I think this would be smashing on top of (or under) mashed potatoes.

So there you have it. I stirred in the cooked quinoa but may try rice or potatoes next time.

Acceptability was high. My son ate a masterful portion. Now I know lots of vegetarian/vegan food bloggers have kids that enjoy their food, but my son only eats this style of food when he's with me -- he eats a more traditional omnivore menu at his dad's house. So any time he eats one of my flexitarian meals without balking, I'm a happy girl.

Just wanted to clarify that.



Discovery of the day: Triangles of crunchy brown rice-y goodness

I went to the fancy-pants grocery at lunchtime today. In honor of my Summer of Frugality I have been successfully limiting myself to one trip per week, and there have even been a couple of weeks I haven't gone at all because I didn't have anything specific to buy.

But today is Friday and I was at loose ends for lunch so I decided I needed some soba noodles. Actually, I guessed I might need some soba noodles, since I may well have a package at home. But let's not argue over details.

One cannot go to the fancy-pants grocery to buy just one item. I found my preferred brand of soba and decided to look for dashi soup mix. Found that. Wandering by the bulk foods, I realized we were just about out of quinoa. Got that. Walking by the card aisle I remembered I needed to buy a wedding card and decided to get a 'test card' for my daughter, who just moved. I want to mail her a box but want to be sure the address she gave me actually works first. (Don't laugh -- it's happened.)

Then I remembered I wanted to get some pesto from the deli. I procured that, and as I turned around, I spied the chip aisle. Apropos of nothing, it popped into my head that what I really wanted was a bag of brown rice chips. They're like tortilla chips made from brown rice. Don't make that face -- they're really good! It took some searching but I finally added a bag of sesame seaweed flavor chips to my basket.

Tore them open at the stoplight on the way back to work and managed to limit myself to one at a time, maybe 3 in all before the light changed. Back at my desk, I checked the serving size and meticulously counted them out. It took longer to count them than to eat them. The rest of the bag is sitting in my purse, daring me to leave it unmolested for the rest of the day.

Only 2 hours and 53 minutes to go....



Discovery of the day: Mmmm....

Shredded wheat for dinner last night. Yeah, it looks like I'll run 3 miles for shredded wheat. Is that so wrong?

I could learn to like this running thing, you know.


Project Weeknight: White Bean Chili

I wanted to make a white chicken chili sans chicken; basically white beans in a white-chili-style sauce. I checked out a bunch of vegetarian, vegan, and traditional recipes. I quickly realized that all I had to do was leave out the chicken and maybe up the bean content. Score!

As you might expect, most of the recipes were very similar. Many called for mass quantities of dairy (cheese, sour cream, half & half) to be stirred in right before service. I really wanted to avoid that. Some called for a lb or two of tomatillos. Although that sounded lovely, I knew the odds of finding them on the way home from work would be low.

When all was said and done, the most promising recipe was a White Turkey Chili from Cooking Light Magazine. The winning features were a reasonable ingredients list (most of which I already had) and simple prep that seemed to fall within Project Weeknight guidelines.

So here's what I ended up with:
White Bean Chili
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 to 2 Tblsp butter and/or oil
1½ cups onion, chopped (~1 good-sized one)
½ cup chopped celery (~3 small ribs, or 2 large)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 Tblsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp oregano (opt.) (Mexican, if available.)
4 cans cannellini beans or other white beans, drained, divided in half.
24-32 oz low-sodium chicken broth (cutting back on the broth will reduce the simmer time.)
1 - 4 oz can chopped green chiles
black pepper

For the table:

  • Shredded cheese (we like Monterey Jack)
  • Avocado, chopped or guacamole
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, hot sauce, or heat source of your choice.

  • Melt butter/heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, bell peppers, garlic, and corn and sauté 5 minutes or so until you see caramelization on the bottom of the pan. Add cumin and chili powder, sauté a minute or so until fragrant.

    Add a cup or two the broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Add the oregano, half the beans, remaining broth, chopped chiles, 1/2 t salt, and black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes or so.

    Mash remaining beans well and add to mixture. Simmer approx. 15 minutes or until mixture is the desired consistency, stirring frequently. Add more salt if desired.

    Put 1/4 cup cheese in the bottom of each bowl, ladle chili on top. Stir. Top with avocado/guacamole.

    Yield: Approx. ~11 cups, Serving size: 1-2 cups

    • Stirring some of the hot cooking liquid into the mashed beans before adding to the pot will loosen them up and make them easier to incorporate.

    • If you have more time, use the whole 32 oz of broth (or more), partially cover the pot during the first simmer and keep it at a bare simmer for 30 mins or more. The second simmer should be uncovered and will take as long as it takes to reduce down to where you want it.

    • I decided adding the cheese to each serving worked better for me since I tend to freeze leftovers. You can add 1 to 1½ cups of shredded cheese to the pot instead.

    • I used 2 cans of cannellini beans and 2 cans of great northern. I added the cannellinis whole and mashed the great northerns, since they were mushier anyway. I'm kind of weird about symmetry that way, though.

    • Subbing 1 can of pintos might be fun.

    • I might add 2 cans of chopped chiles next time. I used mild.

    • This recipe is intentionally fairly mild in deference to my son. The adults added a blob of Asian chili garlic sauce at the table. Good stuff!

    Once recipe called for canned tomatillos. If I can find those, I might stock some for next time.

    It was universally accepted. My son gave it two thumbs, two big toes, and a nose up. But he's in a growth spurt right now so just about anything wins raves from him. Hmmm... maybe I could use that to my advantage next week....



    Discovery of the day: Little bales of comfort

    So I'm finally running again, after six years of trying to get back into it. It's going well. I'm up to 3-4 miles at a time, 2-3 times a week. So far, so good.

    On Wednesdays I run with my 5K class after work, at 6:30. I try to plan food carefully Wednesdays because A) I might starve or B) I might puke. I usually bring a slightly-larger-than normal BAS and eat the rest of it after 3 pm. Then I eat a banana or apple on the way home at 5 pm.

    By the time I get home after the run and cooled off enough to think about food it's almost 8 pm. Too late for a proper dinner, and I probably don't really need to eat anything, but heck, I might starve! So Wednesday nights (or any evening I run after work) I treat myself with a big honkin' bowl of shredded wheat and raisins, sometimes even with real milk.

    Don't laugh! I love shredded wheat. There's something about a bowl full of shards of wheat-y goodness in my lap and milk running down my chin that makes me a happy girl.

    It's usually tough for me to get myself out for a run after work on my own. By that time of day I'm ready to just be done. But if I remember I can have shredded wheat for dinner, all of a sudden it's not so hard to get out there after all.



    Discovery of the day: Ugh.



    Mail server issues at work; my responsibility.



    Not much in the way of posting going on today, I'm afraid. Although my boyfriend did make a nice stir fry of zucchini and asparagus last night, served over a brown and wild rice mix. The leftovers were downright tasty on today's BAS.

    Hopefully tomorrow will be a little more inspiring.



    Discovery of the day: Wrap it up

    My boyfriend had a most excellent suggestion for last night's Gallo Pinto rerun: Wrap it!

    We heated up the GP and toasted a few tortillas in a skillet. Added some lettuce, avocado, and tomato, and you know what? It was downright tasty.

    He used a low-carb wrap he had laying around. I burned out on those in my Atkin's days (shudder!) so I used my favorite whole wheat flour tortillas that are made fresh in the fancy-pants grocery store. And both versions were just fine.

    I don't do a lot of wraps since I'm still trying to minimize my intake of pulverized grain products, but those was some carbs well spent.

    Tonight is Blue Box night with my son, so it's a BBBAS for me. Not yet sure what's going to happen this weekend....



    Discovery of the day: Grab and go breakfast

    OK, it's not completely effortless, but it's a heck of a lot easier to eat while driving than a bowl of fruit salad.

    A month or so ago I started getting tired of prepping the fruit for my breakfast fruit salads. The final straw was when the beauteous pineapple I cut into was all brown and nasty inside. It wasn't the first time that had happened. I really hate throwing that huge chunk of fruit into the trash.

    I had to eat something, so I grabbed a banana and an apple. While shoving the banana in my face, I cut the apple in half, scooped out the core, and filled each dent with a blob of peanut butter. And you know what? It was perfect.

    I'd been making these for my son for years and had recently started taking apples to work to fill with peanut-y goodness for my afternoon snacks. I even bought a second melon-baller to keep in my desk although I keep forgetting to actually bring it in.

    So for now, fruit salad is so last month. Now I take it a step further and dip the pb-filled apple halves in the container of ground flaxseed left in the fridge from my fruit salad days.

    Good, and good for you. And you can eat it while driving. Does it get better'n that?


    Project Weeknight: Gallo Pinto

    Whew! I just checked the archives and it appears this edition of Project Weeknight won't be as much of a cheat as I had feared. See, I thought I had already discussed the recipe for Gallo Pinto in my Surviving Costa Rica post, but I didn't. So I will.

    Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica. Apparently everyone makes it and you can get it just about everywhere. And of course everyone's recipe is slightly different. I had it a couple of times during my trip and fell in love. I mean, as an almost-vegetarian, what's not to love about black beans & rice? I could probably eat every day, which apparently is not an uncommon practice in Costa Rica.

    It took some serious web surfing and a couple of false starts but I finally found a recipe that I really liked. Then, of course, I modified it.
    Gallo Pinto
    adapted from Gallo Pinto at The Real Costa Rica Blog

    1.5-2 cups of cooked rice
    1 can of cooked black beans, drained but not rinsed, reserve the bean liquid.
    1 med chopped onion
    1 chopped red pepper (or orange/yellow)
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 Tblsp oil
    ¼ cup chopped cilantro (or parsley)
    1 Tbs. Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire sauce)
    black pepper to taste
    chicken stock or water as needed

    Saute onion, red pepper, garlic and cilantro in the vegetable oil for a couple of minutes until the onion looks cooked.

    Add beans, Salsa Lizano, and black pepper. Add a little (2T) bean liquid and a little (2T) chicken stock or water. Simmer for a few minutes, but don’t let it dry out.

    Add the (cooked) rice. Add a little more stock/bean liquid if needed. Let simmer a few minutes until it looks like the rice is heated through.

    • The key ingredient is the Salsa Lizano. It's a distinctive flavor, kind of like Worcestershire sauce but less salty and more vinegary and somehow 'greener' tasting. I know it can be bought online, and I recently spied it in a Spanish (as in Spain, not Mexican) market near Pike Place Market in Seattle.

    • I have not made this with Worcestershire sauce.

    • The classic version uses white rice but I use the brown basmati that I use for everything.

    • Why the canned bean liquid? If I remember right, the name (spotted rooster) comes from the flecks of the bean liquid on the white rice. With home-cooked beans, you'd just use the cooking water. You can leave it out and just add more stock/water but I think it adds more bean-y goodness.

    • Since bell peppers are outrageously expensive, I've been buying bags of frozen (unseasoned) bell pepper strips. It's a 1 lb bag (I think) of mixed red, yellow, orange, and green pepper strips but I pick out the green ones cause I hates 'em.

    • Traditional toppings include sour cream, eggs (fried or scrambled, and friend plantains.

    If I have cooked brown rice in the freezer (I portion it in 2 cup bags) then this recipe can be done in half an hour, well within the Project Weeknight guidelines. If not, sometimes I can remember to launch the rice cooker before I leave in the morning. And failing that, if I can get the bare minimum batch (1 c rice: 2 c water) going as soon as I walk in the door, I can just make the 45 minute deadline.

    The acceptability factor is way high. My son and boyfriend love it. I usually make a double batch for a rerun dinner later in the week or a couple of lunches. A cup of it is good on a BAS, too.

    See? What's not to love?



    Discovery of the day: Everything and nothing

    Had a variation of my favorite default BAS for dinner last night: quinoa, chickpeas, avocado, salt & pepper. The salt was only because the quinoa didn't get salted during cooking.

    I'm telling you, a bunch of that on 6-7 oz of romaine lettuce? Doesn't get much better than that.

    I went on a veggie bender during my lunchtime shopping trip today and ended up with a one bunch of beets, two artichokes, four beautiful zucchini, and a bundle of asparagus. That's a lot of fresh (read: perishable) vegs when I'm not doing much cooking, but they all looked so good I couldn't help myself.

    I think I'm going to try grating the raw beets for salad. That'll be easy. And my boyfriend grew up in artichoke country so he'll be happy to help me eat those. I'm taking a risk with the zucchini -- often I forget about them and they liquefy in the fridge.

    I am planning on cooking tonight, but it's kind of a cheat. More on that tomorrow.



    Discovery of the day: Weekends

    Old business first: I finished the last of the white bean dip yesterday and you know what? It was downright tasty. I think the basil flavor just was too delicate to come through right away. But after a couple of days it was lovely.

    New business: I read something on WebMD recently that mentioned how weight-loss efforts are often sabotaged on weekends. That certainly seems to be true for me. During the week it's pretty easy to stick to the general plan, but I often reach the 'screw it, we're going out' threshold on weekends.

    I stay in more (read: all the time) in the winter so I usually find it easy to plan and execute real meals. This summer, however, I have a lot of home & garden projects that need to be finished and by the time I finish spending 4 or 5 hours cleaning out the garage or sheet mulching the side flower bed, the last thing I want to do is stroll into the kitchen and start cooking. Especially since it's gorgeously warm now and we don't have air conditioning. Over 80 deg, there's not going to be a lot of cooking going on. I'm just sayin' is all. I'll throw together a default BAS if it's just me, but boyfriend and son are usually looking for something else. And one can only eat so many sandwiches.

    So that's why we went out for Thai food last night.

    The other problem on the weekends is that I (with help from my boyfriend) end up in the 'we've been good all week' trap. I know better, but I'm still pretty susceptible when he brings it up.

    I need to come up with some strategies, which may well mean talking with the boyfriend about overcoming the 'weekend as reward' mentality. One dinner out I can handle, but add in a lunch or two and a trip to DQ and I'm losing ground.

    And I probably need to come up another quick, cool dinner besides egg salad pitas. Not that there's anything wrong with that....


    Project Weeknight: White Beans and...

    This isn't a true Project Weeknight entry since I wasn't feeding my son, but it's what you're getting this week so shut up and sit down already.


    I needed something to put on our BAS last night. I often like to use something like hummus (say, maybe... hummus?) because it kind of takes the place of salad dressing. And it tastes good. And it's cheap. And it's easy. 'Nough said.

    But I didn't want to make hummus last night. I'd recently seen some recipes for what I call white bean dips; basically a paste of cannellini beans with lemon and maybe garlic and herbage. Kind of like hummus, no?

    I settled on this recipe from Michael at Herbivoracious. Simple list of ingredients, all of which I had on hand. And it kind of sounded hummus-like. Score!

    It didn't go quite as I'd hoped. The taste just wasn't there, you know? To compensate, I oversalted, so I had to add another can of beans. And more of everything else. Stealing a riff from another recipe, I finally added some garlic powder.

    I gave up and called it done and we went ahead and ate it. It was OK. It occurred to me that what it needed was to sit a spell for the flavors to 'marry'. I think it's one of those dishes that's better the second day. I will be testing that theory soon, as I'm having it for lunch today.

    Also, I lightly mashed the beans as directed and the texture just didn't do it for me, although I can see where the semi-chunky style would work on crostini. Next time I'll puree the crap out of it. Like hummus.

    My other candidate was this recipe from Mark Bittman. I may give that a go next time.



    Discovery of the day: The Change Game

    I'm pretty broke right now, an unfortunate result of a confluence of external events that will probably continue at least through Labor Day or until my daughter gets a j-o-b. I've cut back quite a bit by limiting my lunch-hour shopping trips to the mega-mart and the fancy-pants grocery store to one each per week. Unless I am out of something critical, of course. Also, I have instituted a 'No Amazon.com' policy for the duration. That's been really tough.

    However, I am still hitting Sbux in the afternoon for a hit of my $1.68 drug of choice (tall decaf brewed coffee w/cold soy). I figure it's a small luxury and it makes the afternoons at my desk that much more bearable. However, I'm not carrying much (read: any) cash on me these days and using the debit card for $1.68 strikes me as ridiculous even though people do it all the time and it's not nearly as embarrassing as writing a check for a loaf of bread, which I admit to having done a few times way back in my distant pre-ATM-and-debit-card past. (Yes, I'm that old.) So almost by accident, I've started financing my afternoon delight with the loose change I have laying around.

    So far I've cleaned out my hugastic purse and my car, and I've started working through the change cup on my dresser. I have accumulated a little zip-top baggie (of coins) in my purse that should get me through the rest of this week. I also have a larger loose-change container in the kitchen that may well get me through the rest of the summer. And if I get desperate, I could probably get away with raiding my boyfriend's stash on the top of his dresser.

    Yeah, it's silly, but it's fun. And it gives the baristas at my usual haunt something to giggle about, as I count out $1.70 in mostly dimes and nickels. The extra $0.02 goes in their tip jar. Everyone wins!

    And if you've got a job opening in NYC, either in the theater arts or the hospitality industry, for a beautiful 25 yo woman with an MFA in acting from a prestigious university, please let me know....



    Discovery of the day: Low-energy attack

    I just don't get it. The weather is gorgeous, there's nothing particularly stressful going on, but I just can't get it together this week. And I can't summon up an insight to save my soul.

    Maybe I'm just in slacker mode. It's all I can do to throw together a minimally-acceptable BAS for lunch.

    I got a bit of good news from the scale this a.m.: I'm still about where I have been, maybe up half a lb from the week before. Given my piss-poor attitude, I'll take it.

    I do need to get my head back in the game for the weekend, though. I've already declared Friday night is mac & cheese movie night, but I'll need to produce something reasonable for the guys Sat. night.




    Discovery of the day: Roasted summer veggie love

    We did the zucchini and Japanese eggplant in the oven last night instead of the grill. Sliced them up, tossed them in olive oil, spread them on the baking sheet, sprinkled with salt & pepper, and roasted them at 450 deg for, geez, 10-15 mins. I forgot to time them so that's a guess. I flipped them over at one point, too.

    They were lovely. The leftovers, slightly heated up, were beautiful on my BAS today.

    I suppose I ought to start looking for something for this week's Project Weeknight, eh? It probably won't happen until the weekend, since my son is with his dad during the week over the summer. Not a whole lot of cooking going on, IYKWIM.

    I'll be at my house for the next few nights. The scales are waiting for me tomorrow morning. Cue ominous music: Da-da-duh.....



    Discovery of the day: Could'a been worse

    Well, I only ate one BAS this weekend but other than that we didn't do too badly. Friday's lunch turned out to be some super-great Mexican at the market. We enjoyed the archetypal Midwestern feast of brats, corn, tomatoes, and strawberry shortcake for dinner. Saturday we were out doing errands at lunchtime and a giant tuna salad sandwich fell into my mouth. That night was BAS night. After a full day of gardening on Sunday, cooking was out of the question so we went out for sushi.

    So other than a severe shortage of greenery (and hacking our way through a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream one dish at a time) we didn't do too badly.

    Hopefully tonight the salmon, zucchini, and Japanese eggplant will find their way onto the grill. That would be most satisfactory.

    We bought a lot of produce at the market. Apricots, figs, peaches, strawberries, fresh fava beans, and of course the zucchini and Japanese eggplant. I was going to make something with the figs but have been eating them out of hand instead. Strawberries were the first casualty -- they disappeared Friday night. I made some quick-n-dirty apricot preserves/sauce that was great over last night's ice cream and apparently goes well on a pb sandwich. Peaches are long gone.

    I'm not sure what to do with the fresh fava bans. I've never had them but they seem to be quite the 'thing' these days. Maybe I can find something quick to do with them tonight.

    I've been staying at my boyfriend's house this past week which reduces my access to my scales. It's been nice not having to think about it every morning, but I also think it's dangerous. Kind of like being on vacation. I'll be back at my place later this week and am kind of nervous about what I'll see.



    Discovery of the day: Planning ahead... not

    We're playing it fast and loose this 4th of July, food-wise. It's just the boyfriend and me, so we're taking a 'staycation'. Sounds ever so much more sexy than 'hanging around the house', doesn't it?

    Tomorrow morning we're thinking of taking the ferry into the city to hit the marketplace to get some nice produce and maybe a sacrificial fatted salmon to slay. The goal is to be home before the place goes crazy in the afternoon. Lunch may well turn out to be our market favorites: hand-dipped corndogs and fresh mini-donuts. MmmmMM!!1!!11!

    In the evening, if the weather clears up (sniff), we'll walk down to the waterfront to see if we can see the fireworks across the bay. The Belgian fry house is there, so there's dinner.

    We're hoping to do some kayaking on Saturday. We'll probably grab a sandwich at our favorite shop for a picnic lunch. Dinner's up in the air: might be the fatted salmon if we get back early enough, might be a BAS.

    Sunday hopefully we'll tackle the flowerbeds in the side yard. That will be salmon-and-vegs-on-the-grill night, if we didn't do it Saturday.

    We'll see how close we end up to the plan. Although it's really more a series of suggestions, since we don't generally stick too closely to plans unless other people are involved.

    The only other thing I want to do is watch 'Independence Day', the Will Smith movie. I just love watching that around the 4th. Like waaay back when I was a kid when we used to watch 'Wizard of Oz' around Thanksgiving. Back in the pre-cable-dvd-vcr-tivo days it showed up on network TV that one time every year.

    (I am so dating myself, aren't I?)

    Happy 4th, my fellow Americans! I'll be back next week, with a shiny coat from all that holiday food.



    Discovery of the day: Surviving Starbuck's

    I can't help it. I love Starbuck's. I've tried espresso stands, local shops, and other chains but I keep heading back to Big Green. I'm not far from Seattle so that's saying something; we are riddled with coffee places. Reminds me of when I lived in a small town in Wisconsin in the late 70s. There was a 'corner bar' on practically every street corner, even in residential areas. And I am not even kidding.

    Some people think Sbux is 'evil corporate coffee' and that it's over-roasted or too strong but to me it is simply sweet nectar from the gods handed to me by angels in green aprons. OK, maybe that's overstating it a bit. But not much.

    However, one trip per workday (sometimes two if I forget my morning travel cup from home) can add up, both in terms of cash and calories. Here's how I ensure maximum coffee goodness with minimal impact to my budget and butt.

    A tall (12 oz) brewed coffee with an ounce or two of soy milk (around here they use Vanilla Silk) costs about $1.70 and, as far as I can figure, has way less than 50 calories. This time of year I get it iced, although they don't have iced decaf so I have to go full-lead. (awww, darn...) I use Splenda so no calories there.

    To compare, a tall caffè latte with 2% would be 150 calories, without any fancy flavoring syrups. And a grande mocha frappuccino (my former favorite summer treat) is almost 400 calories! Not sure how much those cost but I'm pretty sure the tall latte is around $3.50. The grande frappuccino is surely in excess of $4.00.

    So on average I probably spend about $10/week. Caloric impact: Minimal. I almost always bring my lunch so I figure $10 toward my mental well-being is money well spent.



    Discovery of the day: Peanut noodles redux

    I had that modified peanut sauce left from last week and I was itching to make the peanut noodle thing work. Last night I gave it a go.

    I used whole wheat angelhair pasta (big improvement!) although I overcooked them a little. I added a little chili garlic paste to the sauce, which helped a lot, then dressed the noddles. I sautéed up carrot and zucchini slices with a little garlic and nuked some asparagus pieces to the point of barely done. Threw the asparagus and leftover tofu in with the vegs to finish heating through. Noodles went in a bowl, vegs & tofu went on top with some peanuts and some extra sauce, and it was done.

    We were eating about half an hour after I got home, but only because my boyfriend had put the water on to boil ahead of time and I was using leftover tofu.

    Next time I may use a different peanut butter for the sauce. I used the 'grind your own' from the fancy pants grocery and I don't think it had enough oil. Or I could just add a little oil to the sauce. I also forgot to hold back some pasta water to loosen up the pasta after dressing.

    I like the sautéed vegs better than the steamed vegs I've used in the past. And nuking the asparagus saved some time.

    All in all, I'll mark that as a keeper. Here's my modified peanut sauce:
    Peanut Sauce
    (Modified from 101 Cookbooks and Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)

    3/4 cup peanut butter
    1/4 cup rice vinegar
    1 Tblsp agave nectar or honey
    1-2 tsp Asian chili-garlic paste (or to taste)
    1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional)
    soy sauce to taste (start with 1 or 2 tsp)
    drizzle of toasted sesame oil
    1/4-1/2 cup hot water

    Combine all ingredients except water in a medium bowl. Whisk together, adding hot water a tablespoon or two at a time, until sauce reaches a pourable, thick, batter-like consistency. Adjust saltiness (soy sauce), heat (chili paste), and garlicky-ness to your liking.
    • Peanut butter is weird; when you whisk liquid into it, it seems to get thicker before it thins out. The amount of water you'll need will depend on your style of peanut butter.

    • If your peanut butter is dry -- doesn't have a lot of oil in it -- try adding a teaspoon or two of canola, peanut, or other veg oil.

    • You could use coconut milk (or lite coconut milk) instead of water.
    Damn, writing up this recipe has made me hungry again.