Wednesday, June 16, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Stuffing colorful peppers

If you know me, you know that I find colorful bell peppers irresistible, except for green ones. But red, yellow, orange? Who knew such bright "angry" colors made an OK vegetable exceptional? Well, I've known for a while. And I find that no other recipe honors such exceptional yumminess more than stuffed peppers. Not only is the resulting meal colorful and healthy, you can remake this dish depending on your tastes just by switching out the sauce, spices and (if you're adventurous) the meat. Not in the mood for Mexican? No problem. Go Italian with pasta sauce, oregano and Italian sausage. Or try Moroccan with turmeric, ground lamb and couscous instead of rice. You could even sub feta cheese and add some tzatziki to get a Greek flair. Go crazy with the filling and this recipe will become a tried and true favorite.

Mexican stuffed peppers

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms (optional - I just wanted to use up old mushrooms)
1 cup rice
6 bell peppers
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 8 oz. can of Rotel diced tomatoes with habanero chili peppers, drained (this kicks the spice up a lot, so sub out with something milder if you don't like spicy).
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup plus 1 handful of shredded cheese, separated
5-6 crackers, crushed (can sub 2 tbsp breadcrumbs if you have them)
4 tsp. butter

1. Begin cooking the rice.
2. In a hot saucepan, begin sauteing mushrooms and onions. As those are cooking, cut the top off of your peppers and clean the seeds and white part out of the middle. If you are having trouble getting at the rind, you can opt for pepper boats. The rind can be bitter so be thorough.
3. When the onions and mushrooms are almost done add the beef.
4. Turn the oven on 400 degrees.
5. Drain the meat. Mix the rice, beef, diced tomatoes, salsa and cheese in a bowl.
Season with salt and pepper, chili and garlic powder and cumin. Stuff the peppers with the mixture until almost full. Place the peppers in a pan and cover with tinfoil.
6. Put the peppers into the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until the pepper has steamed to your preferred crunchiness (I like mine a little crispier because it tastes fresher to me that way). Pull the peppers out and set your oven to broil.
7. Mix the handful of cheese and crackers together. Sprinkle on top of the peppers. Place a tsp of butter on top each pepper (I just cut a pat off a stick and divided it into four). Put peppers back into the oven, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Know your oven! If your broiler cooks quickly, check after 3 minutes. Keep checking until the crumbs have turned a golden brown (the butter aids in getting the right color).
8. Serve with more salsa, sour cream and fresh cilantro.

***As you'll see, I only made four peppers because that's all I had and I am only cooking for two. I ended up with leftover filling so I estimated leftovers would fill about two more peppers. Or you could just make four and make burritos out of the rest. That's what the fiance and I are doing for dinner tomorrow.***

Many traditional stuffed pepper recipes require that you put the meat in raw. That's odd to me for many reasons. One being that the amount of time to cook the meat would likely leave the pepper all but dissolved. Plus, being that it's summer, I really don't want to have the oven on for the 40+ minutes it would take to brown the meat. There's also the added benefit of being able to drain the fat from your meat after browning, again adding to the healthiness of the meal. I recommend cutting the cooking time in half and brown the meat ahead of time. It still comes out super juicy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Organ donors

I actually really want to see this movie. I've read the novel and the trailer seems to have created something that honors it. It doesn't come out until October, but I think I may read the book again in the meantime.

Monday, June 14, 2010

NaBloPoMo: A rough-around-the-edges type of potential

While I've known where I'm getting married for a long time, I haven't really been able to share any of it with you, my dear readers, because every time I visit the dang place I forget to bring a camera. So that was first on my mom's to-do list when she came down to Hampton Roads for wedding planning. So, without further ado, here is the spot I'm getting married at. Keep in mind it's quite rough around the edges, but if you're willing to see the potential than you can just imagine what my wedding could be like.

This is the pond right behind the awning where the ceremony will be.

This is a cute cottage between where the ceremony and reception will be held. It can be used to change clothes.

Here's the awning under which we will get married. That is the pond right behind it.

The reception will be in a greenhouse that has the walls taken out. There are lights already included and lots of places to plug in things if we need it.

This pond is where the planner recommends getting pictures taken at between the ceremony and the reception. It's is really beautiful.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Musical distractions

I must admit that I spend far too much time on the interwebs discovering ridiculously awesome distractions from what I should be doing. For example, you can watch an amazing flute player play the Mario theme song WHILE beat boxing. He might be the most mindboggling musician I have ever seen.
Or, if you have more time on your hands than even the beat boxing flutist can fill, you could create your own music using a french website that lets you mix and match preloaded sounds. From basic hums to crashing symbols, the combinations are quite entertaining. Now, my dear readers, go free and be nonproductive.

Friday, June 11, 2010

NaBloPoMo: TGIF fotos

Nothing is better than being on the edge of a weekend. So here's to Friday's.

More time to relax

More time for my baby, Miyagi

More time to drink a beer with friends

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NaBloPoMo: A long time ago, in a bookcase far, far way

Sometimes I am amazed by the cool things I find online. Then I am usually sad that I can never afford such awesome things. Such as this ridiculously awesome Star Wars bookend set. Unfortunately it also costs a cool $59.99. Just teeny but out of my price range.

But hey, I can still dream about having wall to floor bookcases filled with books that are held up by these beauties. That's what daydreaming is for, right?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Fajitas!

During a trip to BJ's I found a bag of colorful peppers for an amazingly low price, so I of course grabbed them despite not really knowing what to make with them. The fiance, of course, knew right away that he wanted fajitas, so I was easily able to come up with a dinner of Chicken and Pepper fajitas. Unfortunately my camera is on the fritz, the fiance's camera had dead batteries and my need to document my cooking for you was no match for the fiance's hunger. In short, I don't have a photo of the finished product. But these fajitas are delicious, if I do say so myself.

For this recipe I decided to marinate the chicken for a bit because pan frying tends to take all of the juice out of chicken. Also, instead of buying fajita seasoning I just turned to my now growing collection of spices for the perfect blend.

Chicken fajitas

3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup Worcester sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
Juice of 2 limes
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Seasoning mix
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 chicken breasts, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced

Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade. Slice the chicken (or whatever meat you prefer) into the desired thickness and length. Add the chicken to the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

Mix the dried spices together and set aside. (The amount of seasoning is exactly what you'll need for this recipe. If you feel the desire, you can double or triple or quadruple the recipe and save it in an airtight container for your next fajita night.)

Heat a pan with olive oil until the oil has started to ripple but is not smoking. Add the onions and peppers. Sprinkle with seasoning. Saute until almost finished. Remove from heat and set aside. Add more oil to the pan. Drain the chicken and sprinkle both sides with the seasoning mix. Once the oil is rippling again, add the chicken. Cook for about 5-7 minutes and then flip. Cook for another minute and then add the pepper/onion mixture. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through. Serve on warm tortillas with your favorite fajita toppings.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Parental distinctions

My parents are very different. This week brings that fact into sharp focus.
As my wedding date nears, my mom has suddenly taken more of an interest in being a part of the planning, which is fine. What is so clarifying for me is that before committing to coming to visit me this weekend I had to assure her several times that there would be stuff to do. In essence, she needed a play-by-play before she decided that she was definitely coming down.
With dad, all he wants to know is that he can see me. What we do is irrelevant, it's the fact that we are spending time together that matters. Don't get me wrong, when dad and I hang out our time is usually jam-packed with activities. But we are much more spontaneous. And he is also content just talking or just sitting.
I sometimes wonder if my mom can handle just being near someone. She constantly needs to "do," despite the fact that she often complains about being too busy. Sometimes I think that she wants to be unhappy on purpose. In any case, I was never good at just scheduling every moment of my day so there would always be something to do; I am more laid-back, like dad. This is likely the reason that mom and I don't get along at all. Our sensibilities are so different that a natural tension develops when we spend time together. This state is exacerbated by the fact that mom can't accept that our ideologies differ. The experience is such that I look towards spending time with my mom with dread, and I search for reasons to avoid the experience.
When people ask me what my parents are like I tend to say my mom is my mom and then move on to describe my dad in more detail. I know him better, despite how little time we've had to spend together. According to mom, I have even developed some of his mannerisms over the years.
It is with this in mind that I know that mom and I will never have the experience that most do when they are planning a wedding. Mom and I approach things so differently that when I told dad that mom wanted to help, he said that I should remember that the day is about me, not mom. And he's right, of course. Dad's contribution to the wedding planning has always been as a sounding board (as he is for so much of my life) and I am grateful to him for reminding me what matters. Mom's contribution will likely be to remind me what I don't want for our big day.
But as I continue to plan my wedding, there is a certain resigned sadness that shadows the process. Not because of the relationship we won't have, but because I am sad that I can't give her the experience she so obviously wants. But this is the way it's been since high school and I don't ever want to compromise myself or my ideals just to make my mom happy. And it's not that I don't love my mother, because I do. But some things need to be accepted for life to move on.

Monday, June 7, 2010

NaBloPoMo: On philosophers and comic strips

Sometimes I wonder how comic artists can continuously come up with new gags and hilarious situations. And then I remember that the world is a funny place. Today I thought I'd share one of my favorite comic strips. Of all the comics printed in the funny pages, this comes in second only to Garfield.

Click on the image to see a full-size version.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

NaBloPoMo: On setting a date and invitations

Last week someone asked me when our wedding was and with a sigh of relief I was able to give an actual date. I even have the time set. But more than being able to verbalize this fact, making the decision on a wedding date has meant that it is finally time to get serious about these wedding invitations. As has informed me, wedding invitations should be sent three months before the wedding.
After making the decision to essentially design my invitations and have mom print them, I sort put off the actual work for about two weeks. And now it's becoming imperative that I get these designed because the three month mark is quickly approaching.
The design is fairly simple and is based on a webcomic I read once several years ago. Unfortunately I have no idea which comic that was or where I could find it, but basically it's about a sad turtle who finds love. So a turtle theme was the easy decision. Now I'm left wondering how wedding invitations are worded, what information needs to be on them and how to take care of RSVPs (online? e-mail? phone calls? snail mail?). This is the classic one suggested by
"Bride &
invite you to share and celebrate at their wedding
Day, Month date, year
at time"
Here's an example of more fun and informal wording that would compliment the wedding style:
"Bride &
Invite you to join a round-up of friends and kin
to celebrate the day our new life will begin.

Day, Month date, year
at time

at place

Dinner and fun to follow”
Even more vexing for a designer like me is the font. Right now I'm mixing some of the standard fonts that come equipped in every computer (Trebuchet and Georgia, to name two), but I'm not really impressed by them.
I suppose all the details will fall together, but, for now, do you all have any ideas on any of my vexing design/wording questions?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Baking is science...

One of the best webcomics out there is called Questionable Content, an amazing romp through the lives of indie kids and the problems they have. Oh, and did I mention the cute robots? There is nothing quite like the hilarity of seeing a roomba team up with a cat to attack a beefed up iPod. Hey, it could happen.

In any case I wanted to share some of my absolute favorite merchandise (or soon-to-be merchandise) from the site:

I am super-excited about this one. It will be coming in both t-shirt and apron form. Yay!

Aren't we all?

My love of this one stems from my years working at the CNU library. Oh, the memories.

Anyway, there is lots to love about QC. Go check it out and maybe grab yourself an awesome t-shirt.

Friday, June 4, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Recognition

Yesterday's prompt was quite lame. Today's would take me too long to write about (What is the first thing you think of when you think of your father?). I may return to it at a later time, but until then I wanted to congratulate myself. I found out a few weeks ago that my book review on Powell' was chosen for the Daily Dose contest. Basically the Portland-based indie store offers a Daily Dose e-mail, in which it shares reader reviews of books. When a review is chosen, the writer gets a gift, usually a monetary credit on the site. Well, I was chosen for my review of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall. It was one of the best books I received through Powell's Indiespensable program. I never reviewed it for this blog because it's one of those books that I found hard to describe. It's amazing, but its amazingness is difficult to put into words. Yet, somehow I did well enough for Powell's to choose me.

As a postscript, I wanted to mention that I added another feature to my sidebar. It's called "One night to read a poem" and will feature a new favorite poem whenever I discover one. I have to say that the e.e. cummings poem featured there is my longtime favorite and I may never remove it from its hallowed spot. If you've never looked at my sidebar, here's your chance to see everything from my photography to blogs that I consistently read. Bottom line folks: I put stuff on my sidebar because I want to share it with you, so take a look.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NaBloPoMo: First dance

One summer, the fiance and I headed to different parts of the world. I went to Morocco for three weeks as part of program from the previous summer that brought 20 Algerians and Moroccans to our shores for a cultural exchange. The fiance headed to Costa Rica for a month to help with Loggerhead Turtle conservation efforts. When he returned he made me promise to salsa with him sometime because he had so much fun with the dance down there.

We've thought long and hard about what our first dance will be to. When we touched on the idea of doing a salsa dance I couldn't help but consider a song I hadn't ever thought of before. Most of the songs we mentioned to each other were slow songs that meant something to us as a couple. But this song is different. While it does speak to us, it's not what most people would think of as "us." But we're all about having fun and this song just makes you want to dance. It's not exactly a salsa tune - it's more reggae hip-hop - but the fiance says you can salsa to anything with a beat. And this song has a beat.

So here's what we're thinking of as a first dance song:

"Say Hey (I Love You)" by Michael Franti

This one goes out to you and yours worldwide
I say hey I be gone today
But I be back around the way
Seems like everywhere I go
The more I see
the less I know
But I know one thing
That I love you
I love you (3x)
I’ve been a lot of places all around the way
I’ve seen a lot joy and I’ve seen a lot of pain
but I don’t want to write a love song for the world,
I just want to write a song about a boy and a girl
Junkies on the corner always calling my name
And the kids on the corner playing ghetto games
When I saw you getting down well I hoped it was you
And when I looked into your eyes I knew it was true
I say Hey I be gone today
But I be back around the way
Seems like everywhere I go
The more I see
the less I know
But I know one thing
That I love you
I love you (3x)
Now I’m not a highly metaphysical man
But I know when the stars are aligned
you can bump into person in the middle of the road
look into their eyes and you suddenly know
Rocking in the dance hall moving with you
Dancing in the night in the middle of June
My momma told me don’t lose you
‘cause the best luck I had was you
I said Hey I be gone today
But I be back around the way
Seems like everywhere I go
The more I see the less I know
But I know one thing
That I love you
I love you (3x)
And I said rocking in the dance hall moving with you
I said Hey momma hey momma close to you
Rocking in the dance hall moving with you
I said hey trippa trippa close to you
Rocking in the dance hall moving with you
I said Hey Momma close to you
Rocking in the dance hall I said
hey momma hey momma hey momma hey momma

My momma told me don’t lose you
Cause the best luck I had was you
And I know one thing that I love you
I said I be gone today but I’ll be back around the way
It seems like everywhere I go
The more I see the less I know
But I know one thing for sure
I love you (3x)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Favorite poem

National Blog Posting Month started yesterday. This month's theme is "Now." It is actually a very interesting theme. And this month they've also created writing prompts for the weekdays. Now I've never really had problems coming up with new posts, but when I connect with a prompt I will definitely use it. Yesterday the prompt involved what you wanted to be as a child. As you can see, it's a subject that has been occupying me recently.

Today I am prompted to reveal my favorite poem, or explain why I don't have one. I've always enjoyed poetry, with some of my favorite poets including William Shakespeare, Langston Hughes and Robert Frost. While I love "Sonnet 18" by Shakespeare and "A Dream Deferred" by Hughes, recently I've been discovering some poems by Frost that I hadn't read before. My current favorite is called "A Passing Glimpse," which was published in a collection entitled West-Running Brook. I have always been enamored with how Frost utilizes simple lines to reveal complex truths, and this poem is a prime example of that quality.

A Passing Glimpse
Robert Frost

I often see flowers from a passing car

That are gone before I can tell what they are.

I want to get out of the train and go back

To see what they were beside the track.

I name all the flowers I am sure they weren't;

Not fireweed loving where woods have burnt--

Not bluebells gracing a tunnel mouth--

Not lupine living on sand and drouth.

Was something brushed across my mind

That no one on earth will ever find?

Heaven gives its glimpses only to those

Not in position to look too close.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Navigating the waters of uncertainty

I've been neglecting my blog lately. This isn't an apology; it's more of a fact. I needed a break from writing, and I'm sure you needed a break from reading.
As you know, I've been desperately searching for a job. Any job would do, but I believed my heart was telling me to stay in journalism, if I could. And somehow I found myself being wooed by an actual newspaper. And here I am, working in the field I've always wanted to work in.

Well, that's not exactly true. While I have been on the path to journalism since my junior year of high school, it was not my first love. When I was a child I wanted to work with animals. Like most children I changed my mind about my future profession several times, but it always involved animals. From a horse trainer to a veterinarian, there was always a clear focus on animals in my daydreams. And I still would drop everything if someone told me I could make a living caring for animals without having to go to school or get specialized training. In fact it was the heavy emphasis on math and chemistry in all courses of study at veterinarian schools that eventually kept me from fulfilling that childhood dream. A fleeting obsession in the 10th grade led me to explore the idea of forensic science, but again the math and chemistry requirements were just too much.
There was a turning point at the end of my junior year that led me to where I am today. As I was registering for my electives I was given a chance work for a semester under a professional. I agonized over the choice between a vet's assistant and a reporter position at the local newspaper. As fate would have it, I ended up choosing the newspaper and that was it: I had the bug.
And since then I've never wavered. Newspapers held me under their sway through college and my first real job.
And now here I am, working at my second job in newspapers. I'm living the "dream." Except it doesn't feel like that anymore.

My excuse for ignoring this blog for so long was that all my creative energies had to be directed towards the job search. But a month after landing a job in newspapers (the only one in my group of displaced journalists to do so), I still haven't really returned here to celebrate.
To be honest, the dream I've pursued for 7 years is fizzling for me. Now I no longer obsessively read newspapers, I don't love working at one and I can't even remember why I loved newspapers so much to begin with. Don't get me wrong, I still respect the media. When I reach my first permanent home, I will likely have a subscription to the local newspaper. I don't hate my job, either. I more or less just subsist there. I go to work and I come home. I break that up with trips to the dog park with Miyagi and yoga sessions, but I largely stick to that routine. And I cannot say that I am happy. Or I could, but I'd be lying.

It's truly disconcerting to be so lost. Despite all of the instability and fluidity that has marked my life, I have never felt this unsure about where I am going. It's worse because I feel as though I am regressing. All my friends spent college with no idea where they were headed, while I had it all but intricately mapped out. Now that most of them are finally finding their way, I am suddenly losing mine. And it is actually a scary way to live.