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Monthly Archives: August 2012

August Foodie Pen Pal

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It’s back!!!!  Yes, I again participated in the Foodie Pen Pals!  I received the BEST box from Anna Tesch.  She’s from the Seattle area and sent me a box full of yummy deliciousness.

Pen Pal box

I got: some delicious tea (it’s in the ziplock bag), pad thai noodles, trio granola bars, some delicious chocolates, the MOST DELICIOUS cookies ever!  (really!  they are egg free even!), and this sauce made of tahini.  It’s smooth with a bit of heat at the back end.  I’ve been putting it on everything.  I’ve been using it as part of a salad dressing, on some roasted veggies, and just dipping veggies in it.  I also got the current issue of Cooking Light magazine and this really nice CD of local music.  It’s super relaxing for the ride home.

Here are the rules for participating (which you should totally do!):

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

The Lean Green Bean

Salsa

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Salsa

I love salsa.  I try to put it on everything.  It’s pretty perfect.  It can be a bit spicy, usually has some nice chunks of real veggies (and fruits sometimes), and is all in all a great condiment.  I prefer it on burgers, salads (taco salad is amazing), and baked potatoes.  So with the plethora of tomatoes at the farmer’s market (as my garden has rejected growing any large tomatoes), I decided to use some to create my own salsa.  As I’m still new to preserving, I’ve been following advice/recipes from Marisa McClellan’s Food In Jars.  I honestly can’t recommend this book enough.  It’s a great introductions to preserving foods.  She discusses the basics of canning, plus gives tips for newbies or if you want to try some freezer preserving.  I highly recommend it!  This recipe makes four pints of salsa, which is a nice small batch.

Basic Tomato Salsa

  • 6 cups chopped tomatoes (roma work best)

  • 1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 medium bell peppers, chopped
  • 1.75 cups cider vinegar
  • 0.25 cups sugar
  • 4 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 TBSP bottled lime juice (or fresh)
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 2 TBSP dried

If you plan on canning the salsa, get the water bath going and get the lids in hot water.

Chopped tomatoes

Add all the ingredients except the cilantro (if using fresh) to a pot and bring to a simmer over medium low heat.

All in!

If using fresh cilantro, add in to the mixture after about 10 minutes.  Simmer for a few more minutes and then taste the mixture.  Add more jalapeno, salt, or lime juice if needed.

Cooking down

When the mixture isn’t so watery looking, add the salsa to the prepared jars for canning (or to freezer/fridge stable jars if that’s the route you want to go).  Leave a half inch head space and process the jars for 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and take the pot off the burner.  Keep the jars submerged for another 5 minutes before pulling them out.

Delicious Salsa

Note: Next time I would use more jalapenos.  This recipe makes a pretty mild salsa and I like mine on the medium spectrum.  I’d use maybe a slightly spicier pepper or use a few more jalapenos.

Spicy Peach Jam

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Chopped peaches

It is the height of the summer bounty, and I am reveling in it.  I think I’ve eaten my weight in tomatoes, zucchini, peaches/plums, and a variety of eggplant as well.  The farmer’s market has been overflowing with all these items, and I fully intend to take advantage of it.  So, I went and got some seconds from a stand.  If you’ve never gotten seconds, you’d be surprised at the quality you can get.  A lot of times the seconds are fruits that need to be eaten right away.  So, that just means you need to find a use for them right away.  I suggest either eating them right away, making a pie, or canning them for later.  I decided to do the latter.

Spicy Peach Jam

  • 3.5 pounds of peaches (about 8-10)

  • 3 cups of sugar (I used a combo of white and brown)
  • 1.5 TBSP lemon juice
  • Hot peppers (2-4 should work)
  • 1 package pectin

Jam cooking

The first step is to peel and chop the peaches.  There’s a great article about peeling peaches on About.com.  Just be careful not to burn yourself when taking the peaches out of the boiling water.  When the peaches are peeled and chopped add them to a wide bottom pot.  Turn the heat to medium high.  Add the sugar and chop up about two of the peppers.  I deseeded the peppers to make my life easier later and not have to strain them out later. I also added a third pepper to the mix, but just cut slits into the sides of the pepper to steep it in the mixture.  Lastly, add in the lemon juice and the pectin.  Allow the mixture to heat to simmer for 10 more minutes.  If you get lots of foam, you can skim that off.

Pectin (liquid!)

Pre-blended peaches

Take out the whole pepper and using an immersion blender, blend most of the peaches.  I prefer a jam with a little bit of texture to it, so I didn’t blend it all.  After the peaches are blended to your liking add the hot pepper back in.  The jam may not look like it’s setting, but it

Post blend

will.  It’s actually better if you end up putting it in the fridge, but you can store the jam for later.  If using pint or half pint  jars, process the product for 10 minutes.

Spicy jam done

Dark Knight Rises

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Let me first say that I think I’ll watch anything by Christopher Nolan.  He has vision and he brings you into his vision in many beautiful and stunning ways.  I have seen seven of the eight full length films he directed.  If you add in his producer credits, you add in another full length film to the list.  I find his work to be absolutely amazing, even if he can be a little obvious about his commentary/thoughts on the world.

Everyone knows The Dark Knight, well, I’m assuming that everyone does.  It was a dark movie with intense action and some really brutal themes.  But Heath Ledger gave the performance of a lifetime.  He took what could have been a cartoony character and gave it depth.  He made The Joker a dark twisted yet theatrical person who was capable of so much horror but brought enough levity to make you not dislike the character.

I also fully enjoy some of his less known works.  One of Ernie’s favorite movies happens to be The Prestige, which Nolan was producer and writer on.  It’s an amazing period piece that includes David Bowie as Tesla!  David Bowie fully seals the deal.  Another favorite happens to be Memento, which is actually surprising to me.  The main character has short-term memory loss, so he tattoos bits of the story on his body.  I dislike disjointed time for the most part, but the story telling is SO amazing, you just can’t help but get involved.  But I digress…

I saw Dark Knight Rises after seeing all the hype and the info about it.  I think the casting was absolutely superb.  Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne is so good as he’s so intense.  I don’t love the voice he does as Batman, but that’s my thing.  I love that Alfred, played by the great Michael Caine, gets fed up with Bruce’s wanton need to self destruct.  He gets fed up with Bruce Wayne and leaves him.  There is also a new love interest for Bruce played by Marion Cotillard.  Another wonderful addition to the cast was Blake, played by Jason Gordon-Levitt.  He embodied all attributes that you HOPE a police officer would have.  His whole being was to protect and serve.  You see so much hope for humanity in him.  The other GREAT casting was Anne Hathaway as Selena Kyle.  LOVED HER!  Again, it’s hard to picture cat woman.  Halle Berry did a terrible job.  I liked Michelle Pfeiffer’s turn at it, but I didn’t see how the story would fit in on this latest story line.  Well, it was accomplished and was done well.  The character was both hilarious and had this depth to her that you understood her pain.  I wished there were more scenes with Serena Kyle. 

On the other hand, I did not love the character Bane.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Tom Hardy did an amazing job.  I think the acting was superb.  But, I think the character Bane was so evil, so unredeeming, that I could in no way ignore his terribleness.  I know the connection that Bane has with the one person he loves in his life (not giving it away!) is supposed to show a bit of humanity.  But I felt like it was too little too late.  I felt completely horrified by Bane’s actions/thought processes that I was turned off from him.  I did not feel this aversion to the Joker.  In Batman Begins I felt nothing towards either the Scarecrow (well, he was scary and funny all at the same time) or Ra’s al Ghul because they were just villains.  They were expected in my mind.  On the other hand, Bane just felt overly evil.  I just didn’t get it.

Sorry this is so long, but to summarize, I actually did really like this movie.  If you’ve seen the first two you HAVE to see this one.  If you haven’t seen the first two, I would suggest doing so.  And then see this one.  I give this movie a 7.5 out of 10.

New Belgium Beer

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It’s Sunday morning and I’ve been up for a long time already.  I woke up to watch the end of the women’s marathon finish.  It was a great race and Shalane and Kara did so well.  Team USA did win gold in the women’s double tennis match.  Serena Williams is amazing!  She wins individual gold, then turns around to win in the doubles with her sister.  I for sure have Olympic fever!

Spiced Rum from Turks and Caicos

As I was up early, I also decided to whip up a batch of the zucchini bread.  I’ve been soaking raisins for 24 hours in spiced rum we got on Grand Turks during the cruise.  I decided to make them muffins this time, and they turned out pretty great!  I might try more raisins next time to really boost the flavor.

I also wanted to write about two AMAZING beers I had last night.  The first one was one I’ve had before in cans, but not on tap.  I went out with Ernie and my co-workers to celebrate the leaving of one of them.  We went to this restaurant called Sticky Rice.  It is known for it’s great tots, sushi, and noodle dishes.  I have to say, the tots were good.  I got two of the vegan rolls, which were supposed to be spicy.  I was pretty underwhelmed in the spiciness of the dishes.  So, if you go, please don’t expect that the “Gardens on Fire” made with vegan mayo is going to be super spicy.  But it was pretty good :).   What I had to drink was the EXCELLENT Fat Tire by New Belgium Brewing Company on draftNew Belgium Brewing Company.  It was amazing.  It’s one of those beers that you can drink and appreciate its taste, but not be overwhelmed by any aspect of it.  It’s not overly hoppy (I do NOT like hoppy beer), it’s not too malty, it’s not too sweet, it’s not sour at all, and it doesn’t taste boozey.  It actually is “only” 5.2% ABV.  It is honestly one of my favorite “drinking” beers.  If you want to try a beer and haven’t found one that you liked, try this one.

After we were done dinner, I was still game for chilling, so Ernie and I went to Max’s Taphouse in Fells’ Point.  They have 91 beers on tap, three of which are cask conditioned and two of the 91 are nitro pours.  This is a beer lover’s paradise.  I immediately wanted to try a bunch of the beers, but decided on one that sounded especially interesting.  I chose New Belgium’s Cocoa Mole Ale.  O. M. G.  This may have been one of the best beers I’ve ever had.  It is definitely more boozey than the Fat Tire, as it’s at 9% ABV.  But you don’t taste the alcohol.  You do taste chocolate.  It’s like a liquid dark chocolate accented with cinnamon (though they don’t list cinnamon as one of the ingredients) and this sort of tingling on your tongue that is a definite chili presence.  Now, the beer isn’t spicy at all, in that it’s not like eating a jalapeno.  It just has that tingle that you get when you are eating things that have a lot of spice to them.  I urge anyone that likes beer at all to try this.  Cocoa Mole Ale

If you can’t tell, I’ve also changed up the look of the blog a bit.  Let me know what you think!  I do want to know!

One For The Money

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I realized I haven’t written a movie review in awhile, so I figured I owed it to everyone to write about this movie.  I unfortunately hurt my back on Sunday morning when cleaning cat litter (teaches me to get a cat/clean litter….).  But it did give me time to watch a movie.  Let me just say I’ve read all the Stephanie Plum series of Janet Evanovich‘s books. The nice things about her books are that you don’t actually have to read them in order.  Yes, the story line does continue on to some degree, but the first chapter is always more of a summary rather than new information.  The books are not serious, let’s be honest.  But they are entertaining and great beach reads.  I do recommend them, though some of the books do feel a bit more formulaic than others.

The basic plot of One For The Money is about Stephanie Plum, a divorced out of work female, who tries her luck at becoming a bond enforcement agent (bounty hunter).  Her first major case is her ex-boyfriend Joe Morelli, a cop.  She does track him down, but she’s so inexperienced, that he is able to get away from her.  Stephanie gets some pointers from a mysterious and hot bounty hunter named Ranger, but mostly she just relies on her knowledge of the ‘Burg and shear luck.  Morelli convinces Stephanie he is innocent, so she helps him solve his case to collect his bond.  There may also be a car that blows up, Stephanie gets handcuffed naked to the shower rod, and a sassy ‘ho named Lula (FYI, I love Lula).

This is not Jersey

That’s all I can really tell you about this movie.  Again, having read the book, I had ideas in my head about the characters.  First off, there is NO WAY that Katherine Heigl looks like a 30 year old slightly pudgy Jersey girl.  Her accent is TERRIBLE. Not Jersey at all.  I may also have a slight prejudice in that I don’t think that Katherine Heigl is a good actress.  I did like her in Grey’s Anatomy.  But then she left because her ego was bigger than her talent (or so I think….).  My next qubble is with who they

picked to be Morelli.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love Jason O’Mara.  He’s quite attractive.  But, I don’t see him as Italian Jersey.  His acting is fine, so I’m not critisizing him per se.  I’m criticizing the use of him as Morelli.

I guess my biggest issue is that I felt nothing for the characters.  I wasn’t empathetic to Stephanie for her divorce.  I wasn’t laughing along with Grandma Mazur.

The awesome Debbie Reynolds

I wasn’t getting the full Lula, attitude and all.  I wasn’t picking up on the sexual tension between Stephanie and Ranger.  I was digging Ranger.  I think they made a GREAT choice in Daniel Sunjata.  He is HOT.  And he was AMAZING on Rescue Me.

Yum!

All in all, I’d probably give the movie a 5 out of 10.