Thursday, September 24, 2009

Over-groomed poodles

These over-groomed poodles really made my day.

Poor poodles :-(

Happy MetaMommy :-D

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Around the Internet: Food

National Punctuation Day Baking Contest - Fun contest!! Not this year, but MetaBoy and I might enjoy participating in future years.

Restaurants Look Beyond Chicken Fingers - After seeing a dip in restaurant visits of groups with kids, some restaurants are changing their approach by offering healthier kids' meals, and making them free. Personally, I'm very excited at the thought of healthier kids' meals because I'm tired of seeing pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and nuggets. That said, I'm cautious with a healthier option, too, because I'm not sure that restaurants take kids' meals as seriously as they take those of adults. We went to La Grande Orange in Santa Monica, and I was sorely disappointed in the quality of MetaBoy's food: cold fries, mushy berries, and bland fish. Needless to say, he didn't finish it, which speaks volumes, let me tell you.

On that note, if your kid isn't eating his food in a restaurant, give it a taste to make sure it's edible!

Farmers markets fear Los Angeles' fees - Unrealistically high fees for farmers' markets in Los Angeles have historically been waived, but possibly not for much longer. While this will not impact markets held in parks, private property, and outside of LA (e.g., Santa Monica and Culver City), it could force affected markets to move or close. If fees are going to be assessed on these markets, the city should make them fair, which they are not.
"Rodgers called the monthly bill, which would total $80,508 a year, 'infuriating,' and 'an arbitrary number,' adding, 'No one has given any indication what this is really for.' If the market had to pay that and received no relief, she said, it would have to close or find another space."
Is it OK to replace unsalted (sweet cream) butter with salted butter if you reduce the total amount of salt in the recipe? - If you can't log in, here's what it says. You should not use salted butter in recipes because:
  • The amount of salt varies from brand to brand
  • Salt masks flavor nuances found in butter
  • Salted butter almost always contains more water than unsalted butter.
What I took away from it is that I can use salted butter, but I will have more control over the flavor and texture (due to water content) of the end product if I use an unsalted butter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recipe: Fash Black Bean Enchilada

This recipe is from a book called "Whole Grains for Busy People," hence the whole-wheat tortillas. But you don't taste the heft of the tortilla because it's slathered in a tasty salsa. You also have black beans, corn, and lots of other good stuff, which makes it an oxymoron: a healthy & tasty dinner. The less cheese you use, the healthier. But it's a nice addition as a small amount makes everything congeal nicely.

Another thing I like is that I can get most of the pre-made ingredients at Trader Joe's. Specifically, I use their organic black beans, fire-roasted red bell pepper, shredded cheese (though I sometimes buy my preferred cheese and shred as needed), frozen corn, chunky fire-roasted salsa, and hand made whole-wheat tortillas.

I should note that I find this recipe isn't very enchilada-like in terms of flavor since it doesn't use enchilada sauce. The recipe notes that you can use it, but watch for sugar content as enchilada sauces tend to be very sweet.

It's piping hot after 3 minutes in the microwave, but it cools down in a few minutes if you cut it up into small pieces, which is a must for kids. If you don't cut it up, it takes a long time to cool down.

Black Bean Enchiladas
From Whole Grains for Busy People by Lorna Sass

1 ripe, firm Hass avocado, diced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup diced roasted red bell pepper, preferably fire-roasted
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/4 cups chunky salsa, preferably fire-roasted, plus more to pass at the table
1 medium size tomato (optional - see * below)
4 large whole-wheat tortillas, about 10 inches in diameter
Shredded romaine lettuce and lime wedges, for serving

Toss the avocado in lime juice and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.

To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine the beans, roasted red pepper, 1/2 cup of the cheese, corn, onion, cilantro, and 1/4 cup of the salsa (see below for non-spicy alternative). Add salt to taste.

Distribute 1/2 cup of filling across the middle of each tortilla. Roll up. Set 2 enchiladas, seam side down, on a microwavable dinner plate. Pour a strip of salsa (or tomato puree*) along the length of each tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat to make 2 more enchiladas. Cover lightly with waxed paper to catch splatters. Microwave until heated throughout, about 3 minutes for both of them together.

Alternatively, before sprinkling on the cheese, heat the enchiladas on a nonstick pan, in an oven preheated to 375F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the cheese and continue heating until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the enchiladas are piping hot.

To serve, tuck some shredded lettuce under and around the enchiladas. Set some diced avocado to one side and a lime wedge to the other side. Accompany the enchiladas with a bowl of the remaining cup of salsa.

*If you'd like a milder version (e.g., kid-friendly), cut a tomato in half and grate the pulp of both halves into a bowl. Use this instead of 1/4 cup of the salsa. To make a single mild serving, put 1/2 cup of filling in a small bowl, add a tablespoon of the tomato puree, mix to combine.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tea Collection: Stylish Girls' Clothes

The Tea Collection has the cutest clothes for girls!! I'm not crazy about the boys clothes, but there are a few nice things. But the girls clothes...if they came in bigger sizes, I'm might be doing my own shopping there. Even better, they have a section of dresses under $30, which is very reasonable for cute, stylish clothes. And if you're lucky, you might find a promotional code with Google.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

$25 Vouchers for $1 via (with a catch)

I know I sound like an ad, but I'm not. I just love a good deal!!

MetaDaddy cringes when I start obsessing about coupons. He stops talking to me if I suggest that he use one. Is this a guy thing? Or a MetaDaddy thing? I don't think I know any guys who like using coupons. Just like I don't know any guys who like carrying coins. I firmly believe that the reason tip jars are everywhere is because guys just kept saying "keep the change." All those Starbucks baristas just knew how to take advantage of a theme.

So I was meandering around the internet, minding my own business, when I noticed that is having a sale that they claim ends tonight. The coupon code NINETY will get you 90% off of your purchase. For example, I purchased a $25 gift certificate for $1 (the catch: minimum purchase of $35), which usually costs $10. So when I use it, I'll end up having paid $11 for a $35 purchase. Once you purchase the "gift certificate," you receive the voucher via email, so you can print and use it right away.

Not every restaurant participates, but I figure it's a nice way test a new place I've been meaning to try out. I've used these vouchers before, and had no problem. I printed one out for a friend to use, and she had no problem. So I'm looking forward to trying some new places!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Recipe: Quinoa Banana Pudding with Dried Mango

I made this recipe from Whole Grains from Busy People by Lorna Sass when we had friends over. One person commented that she's tried making quinoa desserts, but the quinoa flavor always seems to overpower the dish. We decided there are enough bold flavors in this recipe to balance out the quinoa nicely. The coconut milk, banana, and ginger all stand up well to the quinoa, while the mango provides bursts of sweetness. I omitted the nuts, but they would surely provide an interesting layer of texture.

I chose to substitute honey for the sugar, but I only used 1/8 cup because it is sweeter than sugar. Also, if you intend to share this with kids, keep in mind that the ginger infuses a little kick at the end. If you think that might be a problem, consider reducing the ginger, though don't eliminate it; it's a lovely, fragrant addition to the dessert.

Quinoa Banana Pudding with Dried Mango

1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried mango slices, snipped into 1/2-inch bits
1 packed teaspoon grated fresh ginger, plus more to taste
2 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Coconut flakes for topping

Rinse the quinoa well to eliminate the bitter taste when cooked.

Bring the quinoa and 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the water has been absorbed, 12-15 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, sugar, and salt. Boil gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the mango and ginger. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency and the mango is soft but still chewy, about 3 minutes.

Slice half a banana and set aside. Mash the remaining 1 ½ bananas and, off the heat, stir into the pudding. Add more sugar, if needed, and then stir in the walnuts.

To serve, garnish with banana slices and coconut flakes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Recipe: Drop Biscuits

I've been craving biscuits for the past few days, and out of nowhere, America's Test Kitchen decides to show me how to make drop biscuits. That is, biscuits without the hassle of rolling and cutting. Mix the dry, mix the wet, add the wet to the dry, scoop and drop onto baking sheet. Bake. Cool. Eat.

It was so easy. Too easy. This could be a problem.

Biscuits are essentially savory scones, so a little tweaking could result in super easy sweet scones. The possibilities are endless.

In the meantime, I'm gonna go get some butter for my biscuit.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bento Box as Art

Do not attempt this at home!

A truly inspiring bento box. I mean, this is art. It must have taken forever to do, and regardless of how much time I had, I could never do it. Ever. But I just love looking at it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Recipe: Passion Fruit Chocolate Cloud Cake

I've made this cake more times than I can count. It's my go-to cake when I need something delicious, reliable, and pleasing to all. The cake is rich, fudgy and dense; you really can't eat more than a small serving. But as a result, it really feels like a treat. It's become more standard since finding out that a friend has Celiac disease, which means that she can't eat gluten (wheat, pasta, rye, barley). Even small amounts are a problem, so she had to purchase a separate toaster at home for her gluten-free toasting needs. It's been a huge lifestyle change for her and her family. So when we have them over for dinner, I like making a few different things with as many gluten-free options as possible. It's not that hard as long as you think about it beforehand, but it does take some thought and research. For example, soy sauce is not necessarily gluten-free. I didn't see that one coming.

But I digress. This cake is a great flourless chocolate cake. My favorite part is the freshness imparted by the fruity contribution. Nigella's original recipe included 2 tablespoons of Cointreau (an orange liquor) and some orange zest. But I wanted to try something different, so I consulted The Flavor Bible, which has become a great source of inspiration for trying out new flavors. I found that passion fruit goes well with dark chocolate, and it reminded me that my favorite chocolate ever is a passion fruit dark chocolate from Jin Patisserie (absolutely wonderful!!) in Venice, CA. So I substituted 3 tablespoons of passion fruit puree for the Cointreau. I cut the fruit, put the pulp in a sieve, and scraped out, on average, 1 tablespoon from every 2 passion fruits. I thought it was a nice start, but it could have used more; the fruit was too subtle. I'll add at least another tablespoon next time. That said, it was still delicious, and I thought the Cointreau in the cream served to bring out the passion fruit in the cake.

Chocolate Cloud Cake
from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson

250g (9 ounces) dark chocolate
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
7 ounces sugar
3 tablespoons passion fruit puree (from about 6 passion fruits)

Cream topping:
16 ounces double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Cointreau (or other orange liquor)
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave, and then let the butter melt in the warm chocolate.

Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 2 ounces sugar, then gently add the chocolate mixture and the passion fruit.

In another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the 5 ounces of sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff. Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the center is no longer wobbly. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools.

When you are ready to eat, place the still tin-bound cake on a cake stand or plate for serving and carefully remove the cake from its tin. Don't worry about cracks or rough edges; it's the crater look we're going for here. Whip the cream until it's soft and then add the vanilla and Cointreau and continue whisking until the cream is firm but not stiff. Fill the crater on the cake with the whipped cream, easing it out gently towards the edges of the cake, and dust the top lightly with cocoa powder.

Serves 8-12.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A New Dryer?

We have an old clothes dryer. That is, it was here and well-loved when MetaDaddy bought the place over 10 years ago. It's basic, but it works. It doesn't have any bells and whistles; you turn it on for a set amount of time, and it dries the clothes.

I've recently started looking longingly at the bells and whistles on newer dryers, though. I know, blasphemy! But the thought of a dryer that can sense if the clothes require further drying is! No more overdrying clothes, which means savings in terms of energy usage and clothes (clothes that spend less time in the dryer last longer). That's green, right!?! Further amenities that I covet: drying racks that allow a user to dry clothes flat, a low heat setting, a wrinkle reduction cycle.

I was further compelled to research new dryer options when our dryer started to take longer to dry clothes. I always put it on for the same amount of time, but recently, it doesn't always dry the load of clothes, despite a clean lint trap and a hot drum (i.e., the dryer is transmitting heat). I'm starting to wonder how much more life it has in it and whether or not it's worth investing in to repair.

As I started researching, I found a few models that I liked. The problem is that the very few user reviews that I found on Sears and elsewhere weren't generally positive. None of them. And I began to remember a good rule of thumb: the more bells and whistles, the more that can go wrong. If one component doesn't work, either your unable to dry your clothes, or best case, you've just paid for a feature that doesn't work. What do you do? Do you bring someone in to fix or replace it, potentially leaving you without a dryer for a period of time? I do a LOT of laundry with my two messy little monsters; I can't afford to be without a dryer for very long. And I was further discouraged by Dooce's account of her non-working washing machine woes.

Oh, one more thing. A rebate program for appliances is scheduled for the fall, which means our dryer purchase might be subsidized. More details here. Hopefully, Sears will still have some good deals then. Currently, they have deals that end every few days, but start up again the next day.

While the rebate might be an incentive, I'm still on the fence. Do we get rid of old reliable? It's seen us through many, many...many disasters. MetaGirl is a messy eater, but that pales in comparison to the messes MetaBoy challenged his onesies to.

Flashback: Ewwwww.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

August...Gone in a Flash

You need time, motivation, and content to write a post. I've been lacking either the time or motivation part for the past couple of weeks. I have plenty of things to write about, I just never seem to have time to sit down during the day to write more than 140 characters (e.g., Twitter post). If I do have time, I'm so tired I can't muster the energy to pick up the computer.

August was exhausting. We had a single birthday for both kids, which entailed some planning. I thought the birthday work was over, but boy was I wrong. For the subsequent two weeks, we proceeded to have random slices of cake, birthday songs, and gifts, topped off with a trip to Legoland before MetaBoy turned 3 so he could get in free. More on that later...hopefully ;-)

Perhaps now that September is over, we will resume regularly scheduled programming. And by that I'm pretty sure I mean: random, occasional posts. Having two young kids I had no idea how time consuming or exhausting it could be. The older she gets, the more time consuming it is. I'm assuming this levels off after a certain age, but I guess I'll find out in due time.

How do people with more kids manage? Or with twins? Ack!!