Saturday, January 30, 2010

Public education

Except for nursery school, I have always attended public schools. While I can see how private schools can work for some folks, it's just never been my thing.

I have discovered over the last ten years one of the pluses of public schools -- adult education. I used to always think that adult education was nothing more than folks getting their GED. Silly me. In many communities they also offer what are called community classes. In the past I have taken dance and language classes but there are so many others I'd love to take. And so that's how this morning I found myself in Piedmont.

What can you say about a city for which this is the building that houses their recreation department?

Today's class was tamales -- savory and sweet.

Tamales in progress.

The salad we made while the tamales were steaming. (I got to demonstrate to the rest of the class how to supreme an orange. When I finished the instructor commented, "For once I did not need to demonstrate how to do that.")

The finished products.

It was so much fun that now I'm looking at what to take next. The same instructor will be teaching the class in moles in March. I probably should take it as I am a huge mole addict.

I also learned in the class where to buy epazote -- that ingredient I'm always missing when I make flor de calabaza soup -- and the best place in the East Bay for cooking supplies. I am in desperate need of some decent knives. After I asked about knives, the instructor was kind enough to demonstrate the proper technique for honing knives. Stop looking at me like that. Just because I have been known to say that I'd like to cut a bitch, doesn't mean that I'd actually do it. Perhaps. But this is public education after all and one never knows with what one may be confronted.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

But there was salad

I know, I know. Trying to lose weight and I have something battered and fried. But I've been really good and deserve a treat. And here's the funny thing. While I love baking and all, I rarely eat sweets. So a treat for me is something like this -- beer battered cod. With malt vinegar and a little tartar sauce. Oh, and Newcastle is my preferred beer for the batter.

I think I'll blame the grocery store. It's all their fault for having cod on special this week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Somewhat worthy of a photo

Still working on the weight loss. That's part of why I haven't posted in some time. Over the last couple of weeks I dropped my net calories some more. As a result my meals have consisted of various salads for the most part. Except tonight.

Tonight was Moroccan-Spiced Scallops with Lentils. Except I forgot to pick up the cilantro. No worries. Not like I really measure anyway. But as the scallops were finishing up, I realized that the plate could really use another color. Fortunately I had also cooked up some Swiss chard. I mixed a little in with the lentils and used the rest as a ring around the lentil mixture. Tasty.

And in the meantime, I'm still working away on the various craft projects and planning my next getaway.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coming together

I am back on track with the whole weight loss thing. This past week I have been eating primarily seafood, fruits and veggies. So I was really excited when flipping through the weekly ads to see that mahi mahi was on special.

So of course mahi mahi must be accompanied by a salsa made of avocado, supremed tangelos, red onion and jalapeno. I had all this in mind when I checked in to see what was going on in Cookiecrumb's kitchen. Yep, more supremed citrus.

The salad thing got me thinking. Usually when I make this, I put the salsa on top of the fish. But I always make too much of the salsa and end up tossing the rest with lettuce for a salad. Salads are a daily part of my diet these days. (I realized that I needed to increase the amount of fiber in my diet and salads are an easy way. I now average about 20 grams a day but would love to get it up to 30 grams.) Thing is that I've been in a salad rut. Romaine with the occasional spring mix. Next thing you know, I was remembering Zoomie's mention of butter lettuce. (It was not the main topic of the particular post but that one little mention has stuck with me.) Butter lettuce would make the perfect bed for the salsa.

This was the perfect lunch for a Saturday in which I spent a great deal of time procrastinating about things that really needed to be done -- like mopping and vacuuming. If only I could train the cats to take care of these things for me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Southern comfort

Yes, I am still here. No, I have not finished my craft projects. Soon though.

This past weekend was time for a celebration of sorts for me -- my mother has left the country once more. Also I was feeling a tad hormonal. And it's winter. Add all this up and there were lots of cravings for comfort food. I settled on Paula Deen's recipe for smothered pork chops. They were tasty beyond belief. And yes, I am still doing the weight loss thing. That's why I paired the chop with loads of steamed broccoli.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shaken not stirred

So originally I was going to let Boris select the winner. The idea was that I was going to put each person's name on a piece of paper, ball it up and throw all the wads on the floor. Whichever one Boris went for first would be the winner. But I didn't get up early enough this morning and so instead headed over to RANDOM.ORG to make the selection.

The winner is David. So I guess what that really means is that Maddie is soon to be the recipient of a new shaker.

I have spent most of these week planning out trips for later this year. Y'all know what that means. Yep. There will be more giveaways in the future.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Taking one for the team *

If you have been reading my stuff over the last couple of months, then you know that I have had a cacophony of thoughts colliding in my head -- because yes, my thoughts are quite loud. At least to me.

I awoke this morning and read the lovely item that Zoomie shared. And this collided with a something I heard during the "House" marathon yesterday. Thirteen was giving a patient a hard time. The woman responded with something along the line of, "We can aspire to many things but that doesn't mean that we get them." And for me that went hand-in-hand with the article that Zoomie shared. Sometimes we delay things because it's just not perfect yet.

Often I mention to friends things that I would like to do. But it doesn't fit into their schedule right at that moment. Next thing you know years have gone by because you're waiting for the planets to align for someone else. No more of that.

That's how I found myself heading over to Alameda today. I have sampled the fine goods from Hangar One in local bars but had somehow never made it to the distillery -- which is something like a 15 to 20 minute drive from home for me. Unforgivable.

The distillery sits on the old Alameda naval base and these are the views from the parking lot.

I timed my visit so that not only could I do the tasting but I could also go on the distillery tour as well. The tour was entertaining and informative -- and free. I went for their premium tasting -- 14 alcohols including absinthe. I now have several favorites including their Buddha's Hand vodka as well as their Kaffir Lime vodka. Both need no mixer whatsoever. But yeah, 14 alcohols and no food? Kind of rough.

But don't think that I forgot y'all. That's right. Another giveaway. Leave a comment here with your email address -- if I don't already have it -- and you are entered to win this lovely shaker set I picked up. The drawing will close at midnight on Friday. If you're a night owl like myself that means in the middle of what most folks would consider Thursday night. Or I'll just keep it for myself.

As for me? I'm going to see about putting some food in my stomach. And figuring out when I will be returning.

When I set out earlier today, I had titled this post something entirely different. Then after tasting the brandies, vodkas, liqueurs and absinthe, I knew that title was entirely wrong.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Let's try this again

A year ago I hoped that 2009 would be better than 2008. And it was in many ways. Thing is that when I said that, I meant no more relatives dying. Lesson learned? The universe needs clear, concise directions. So let me be clear this time. No more death. I'd like to continue climbing out of this hole that I have been in over the last couple of years and move on with living.

I am the child of superstitious Southerners. Some of those superstitions I hold close to my heart. They are a part of my core of being. One of these states that whatever you are doing on New Year's Day will set the tone for the rest of your year. Over the last few years I have chosen to interpret this as that I should be doing things that I enjoy -- reading, cooking, relaxing. Therefore, I go through great pains in the week leading up to New Year's to ensure that my home is clean so that I will not feel obligated to do anything other than the dishes. And nothing says relaxation like a nice bubble bath.

The final tradition has to do with food. I am a Southerner at heart and so must have pork, black eyed peas and some sort of greens to start off my New Year. (This past week I came across this article on various lucky foods around the world.)

My parents are truly traditionalists. Pork means pig's feet, ears, tails, chitterlings and/or neckbones. (The only one those that I will consume is neckbones.) And my mother feels that black eyed peas must be accompanied by rice. Thing is I don't really like rice. Never have. Although I do like brown rice.

So each year I make sure that I have those three foods. And each year I move a bit further away from the traditional preparation of them. This year I had thought of making the stuffed pork chops once more but then I came across this pork loin roast and bells went off. For many years I have done pork loin roast with a stuffing of sauteed onions, bread crumbs and fresh herbs. Why couldn't I just butterfly the roast and instead stuff it with a mixture of blue cheese and pecans? And the drippings could make the base of a lovely sauce. But then I realized that it really needed something sweet to counter the bite of the blue cheese. Answer? A pear apple chutney. Finishing off the plate is a mixture of black eyed peas with mustard greens and chard. That's right. I combined them. Because this dish alone makes a lovely vegetarian entree. It may not be pretty but it was damn tasty. And I also know that I have done everything in my power to make sure this year will be OK.

But I still worry. Now that I've done it all right, will universe understand me this year?