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Archive for June, 2010

Absentee Blogger

Under normal circumstances, I would be inclined to feel exceptionally guilty about my absence from the blog for the last week. Especially after having a highly visible conversation with myself here about how I would do much, much better at not being an absentee blogger. But you know what? I’ve had a lot go down in the last week that has caused an obscene amount of celebration that involved food I did not cook myself. No cooking = no good recipes to share.

Why was a celebrating?

I’ll tell you why. I was celebrating because June was a spectacular month for me this year. June brought the following to me:

1. A promotion at work that involves a title change, increased job duties, and supervisory responsibility. Yeah, it was a pretty awesome change. With said promotion came a raise. I’ll find out more about how that translates to take home pay when I receive my check on Wednesday. Cross your fingers it’s a good thing because I need some extra moolah. See, I’m starting a big, fat savings account because….

2. I am engaged. Shannon popped the question on Tuesday, and I, of course, said yes. After we “slow danced” to Faith No More’s cover of “This Guy’s in Love with You” in the middle of our dining room while I was wearing my gym clothes. It went down just like that…with a little help from Zac Effron. Or his likeness. We went out together on Tuesday night to enjoy a newly engaged couple’s meal at our favorite local Irish pub. I ate copious amounts of their hand-breaded fried mushrooms dipped in their sinful horseradish sauce. I imbibed in my favorite beer of the moment. We topped it off with a jaunt to a local ice cream landmark. Celebrating, you see? It happened all week. Not only for the engagement, but also because…

3. I turned 30 yesterday. The big three-oh. And you know what? It was wonderful. I was surrounded by wonderful friends and amazing family who made my day beautiful and filled with love. My backyard was transformed, through the hard work of my babiest sister T and Shannon, into a beautiful multicolored light and lantern birthday venue. Gorgeous. It was absolutely lovely even with the scorching 90+ degree weather. I couldn’t have asked for a better day to enter into my third decade.

So, I hope you will forgive me (and I will forgive myself) for being an absentee blogger. It’s just that so much happened. I felt as if I should take some time to live it all up and enjoy the moments as they happened. I wanted to be able to reflect on them without analyzing them too close to the time that they happened. And I did. I am glad for that.

Now we’ll be back to business as usual. Although, I’ll probably be focusing on a lot of healthy recipes for a while. Don’t get me wrong,, I’ll still throw up a shout out to a whoopie pie or a delectable cookie more often than once a month. However, I have to buckle down on this Weight Watchers road. I have 35 pounds to lose to be at my goal weight. My new goal? To be at goal for my wedding on May 20, 2011. I have less than a year to get cracking. This is me lighting a fire under my own tush.

Flame on!

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I’m actually cooking up a storm this weekend, so I should have plenty of fun recipes (and photos) to share next week. It’s my parents’ 30th Anniversary on Sunday. I’m making them dinner. It’s going to be lovely.

However, since it’s Friday and I have yet to post any recipes, I thought I’d take you on a tour of my garden. My wee, city garden. Without further adieu, here is the garden.

Here you will see bell pepper plants. Bell peppers that refuse, despite my best efforts, to even attempt to grow big and strong. I’m not giving up on them, though. They’re going to produce delicious, green bell peppers by the end of summer. I can feel it.

These here are my string bean plants. I’ve already picked a smattering of beans off the stalks. They’re in the freezer. I’m going to keep adding to the bag in the freezer until I have enough green beans to make a giant pot of green beans and potatoes. Cook those all day long with a bit of bacon and you’re talking dynamite for dinner. Really.

These are my brussels sprouts. I’m so excited to watch them grow. Sometimes I just sit and stare at them. I think they’re such awkward plants. I mean that in the best way possible.

Hot banana peppers. These babies are already producing in mass quantities. And the peppers? Smokin’ hot. I put some in a salad the other day, and Shannon asked me what was so dang spicy after about bite number two. I’m going to pickle some of these. I can’t wait.

Out of control tomato plants. Really, really out of control tomato plants. I had to use multiple bamboo stakes to hold some of these bad boys in upright positions. They’re monsters. They keep on growing and widening and attempting to recreate the Amazon rainforest within their depths. I actually had a tiny field mouse stare me from under their giant leaves¬†while I was pruning them the other day. He scared the hoohah out of me. Luckily, he was cute enough that I got over it before I grabbed the hose.

Things are growing just fine and dandy. Plus we’ve had some good rain the last few days which means I haven’t had to water. This is good because Conner likes to play with the water coming from the hose. In fact, he likes to try to bite it. Watering a garden is difficult when one is trying to keep said Scottish Terrier from destroying the fence or attacking the plants while chasing the stream of water.

My dog is special. Oh so special.

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Herbs

For longer than I care to admit, I’ve been lamenting the cost of fresh herbs. Every time I find myself standing in front of the grocery case with the herbs, I start muttering under my breath about how expensive everything seems to be. From time to time, I shake my fist at the unassuming herbs in their shiny plastic packaging. I must look like a crabby 90-year-old instead of the sunshiny almost-30-year-old that I am.

This year, I decided to do something about it. Instead of spending $3 on a bunch of basil that will unexpectedly go bad two days after I bought it, I spent $2.50 and bought myself some herbs. Nestled in their planters in my backyard, I am looking forward to a summer filled with fresh herbs when I need them.

Hello, Rosemary. You look just lovely. I shall put you atop some homemade focaccia. I will serve you sprinkled on potatoes slathered with butter and cooked in foil on my BBQ grill.

Sage. You make me happy. I don’t know why as I don’t often use you. I will find a way to use you more this summer. And not in sausage. See, I don’t make sausage from scratch, so I can’t use you in it. Something. I’ll find something.

Oh, cilantro. I put you in a turkey burger last night. You were delicious. You’ll also be the crowing glory of my guacamole and pico¬†de gallo all summer. You’re quite pleased with yourself. I can tell. I’d be more pleased with you if you didn’t look so floppy. Let’s work on this.

Basil. We have a relationship, basil. I put you in pasta. I toss you in roasted tomato and green bean salad. You help me make a wicked caprese salad. I find you to be delightful in all forms. I heart you.

In fact, I heart all my herbs. We’re going to make beautiful food together. It’s been determined.

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Congratulations, Grad

My youngest sister, Tori, graduated from college in mid-May. We had her graduation party last weekend due to her competing in the softball national championship with her team which came in first in their region. I made cupcakes. Go figure, right?

Graduate cupcakes no less. I highly recommend What’s New, Cupcake by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson. Such adorable ideas, and when they say “for every occasion,” they’re not kidding. You’ve got a little bit of it all in this book. For instance, I already know which cupcakes I plan on making myself for my 30th birthday in two weeks. And for next Christmas. And Halloween. And Thanksgiving. I even picked up a pretty ingenious idea for my sister’s wedding cupcakes. So, what I’m saying is get yourself a copy. You’ll be all the better for it.

And you’ll have yummy heads to eat.

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Wearing the Apron

I thought I should post a quick picture of me styling the Star Wars apron that Amanda & Sofie got me for my birthday. Isn’t it fantastic? I love it. So does Conner. Obviously. He’s never this attentive unless I have treats in my hand. This time? No treats. He’s just waiting for me to take the apron off so he can wear it next. Too bad he can’t tie the straps – no opposable thumbs.

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Lemonade

Yesterday, Shannon and I spent our entire afternoon in the yard. We weeded the garden, we pruned the overgrown strawberry plant, we (finally) planted the herbs in their respective planters, and we hung my bird feeders. In short, we did some serious upgrading to the yard. You know what that calls for? Lemonade. Homemade lemonade.

Lemonade
adapted ever so slightly from Food Network Magazine

10 medium lemons
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt

Remove 2 – 3 large strips of lemon zest with a vegetable peeler, careful not to remove the pith.

In a large saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cup granulate sugar and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and whisk until all sugar is dissolved. Congrats, you’ve just made simple syrup. Allow the simple syrup to cool. Remove the lemon zest.

In the meantime, juice your lemons until you have a full 2 cups of lemon juice. It took me nine lemons to make 2 cups of lemon juice. Slice the remaining lemon into slices. Make sure to remove the seeds.

In a large pitcher filled with ice, place the lemon slices. Add the simple syrup, 2 cups of lemon juice, 2 cups of water, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine.

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Um, hello. My name is Jess. I am a not-so-closeted Star Wars fan. I may or may not own action figures (that are boxed up, thank you). I also may or may not own a Darth Vader helmet with voice changing capabilities and heavy breathing simulation. I may wear it occasionally to make crank phone calls.

I’m kidding.

About the crank calls.

Given what we’ll from here on out refer to as my “condition,” it should come as no surprise that I was almost salivating when I saw the Star Wars Cookie Cutters from Williams- Sonoma on Bakerella’s blog a few weeks ago. I mean, salivating. I even did a little dance when I saw that she was giving away a few sets.

I cried (just a little) when I did not win one.

But you know why that doesn’t matter anymore? It doesn’t matter because my awesome from Amanda and her darling baby Sofie gifted me with my very own set as an early birthday present. And you know what else? They even found a Star Wars apron to go with it! An apron! Holy Tonton!

Yes, the above is an obscure reference to a fictional creature that was ridden by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back. So sue me.

I’m absolutely making myself, and Shannon, some Boba Fett cookies this weekend. Boba. Fett. Cookies. If you say it to yourself enough, you’ll begin to understand the magic. Or maybe you won’t. If you don’t, though, that means more cookies for me!

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