Loving: Fire King find

I got this cute casserole dish at a garage sale the other day for 50 cents. It’s the Fire King Blue Heaven pattern, one of my favorites.

Changes

I quit my job.

It wasn’t a quick decision. I wasn’t mad at my boss. I didn’t throw chairs or anything.

I just knew it was time to move on. Actually, I’d known that for quite a while, but I needed to feel like I was standing on solid ground when I made that big of a decision, and it took a while.

I want to work for myself. I want to be in charge of my own days. I am an extremely productive person when I’m doing what I love. The past few months I’ve been squeezing what I love into a few hours after my day job, and that’s made me a person I don’t like. I don’t sleep well. I’m cranky. I have headaches all the time.

Now I’ll have time to craft, to learn how to properly market my business. To work for other publications and earn what I deserve. And in a few weeks I will take a training course for Nia, which is an exercise class I’ve been taking for a while now. It takes me back to my dance background a little, which is fun. And most importantly it helps me let go of all the stresses in my life. It’s a wonderful thing. You should try it!

Am I scared? Um, yes. The first few months could be pretty rough. But I have done this before, and I have done this well. I just never looked at it as a full-time career, and now it’s all I can imagine doing. Funny how things work out.

I will miss my co-workers like crazy. I’ll miss the constant stream of new people I’ve met through my reporting job, and the way it pushes me to be more social and ask more questions. But this is the right thing to do. I know that now.

I’ll be at Juice through the end of the month. Then I’ll take a deep breath, walk into my home office, and start over.

Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Red quinoa salad

I read a lot of food blogs. It’s one of my greatest sources of inspiration, and it means I hardly ever have to crack open a cookbook anymore. If you want a recipe, it’s usually out there somewhere, beautifully photographed and spelled out step-by-step.

But there’s one thing I’ve noticed about all the food blogs I read. You almost can’t buy a healthy recipe. There’s so much butter and heavy cream in these recipes you’d think Paula Deen was masquerading as 20 different food bloggers. It has not been good for my butt these last few months.

So I decided that I would make a better effort to seek out healthier recipes, and try to post more of them here. There’s no reason I can’t challenge myself to cook a little lighter, and make those Pioneer Woman recipes a once-in-a-while treat.

So here’s one of my first efforts. It’s similar to a tabbouleh salad, but I used red quinoa instead of bulgur (which is packed full of protein). I found it at our farmers market, so I’m not sure how difficult it will be for you to find. You can always substitute regular quinoa.

This recipe makes a very potent salad, so dial down the garlic if you like it more mellow.

Red Quinoa Salad

1 cup (uncooked) red quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking veggies
Juice of a large lemon
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cucumber, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 scallions, sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Start by rinsing the quinoa. Then boil it, covered, with two cups of water for about 12 minutes, or until the water is evaporated and the little spirals start separating from the grain.

This is optional, but I like to saute the red pepper and green onions in a little olive oil before I toss them in, just to soften them a little.

After those have finished cooking and cooled a little, toss them in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients.

I just grabbed some fresh herbs from the garden – a little basil and thyme. But you can use what you have on hand. Basil and mint is a great combination. Oregano would be good, too.

This tastes even better after it has soaked overnight. Serve it with the hummus I posted yesterday.

Healthy tofu hummus

That probably sounds like something you would never want to make, but I assure you our version of hummus has virtually the same taste and texture as any other hummus. It just uses tofu instead of tahini. Blended up in the food processor you never know the difference.

This is actually Mike’s recipe, and one I only made myself because he was sick in bed the other day. But we eat it so often I felt like I had to post it here.

Healthy tofu hummus

1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 12 oz. package soft tofu, drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (roughly the juice of 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Start by toasting your cumin seeds to bring out the flavor. Just put them in a small skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they start to darken a little. But be careful not to burn them!

After they’ve cooled down a little, grind them up with a mortar and pestle. This step is optional, as you can also toss them in whole.

In a food processor, puree garlic, chickpeas, tofu, cumin seeds, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of oil until smooth.

Season with salt and pulse a few more times to combine.

When you serve the dip, drizzle a little more olive oil on top. It’s great with pita wedges, crackers or cut veggies. Perfect for lunches or afternoon snacks.

Ripple baby blanket

So I took a break from my retro ripple blanket to make a gift for a friend who’s expecting a baby next month. I basically used the same pattern but did four rows each of three different colors (neutral since we didn’t know the sex of the baby). The only thing I would change is that it was much too wide and I ended up with a horizontal blanket instead of a vertical one. I don’t think it matters at all, it just wasn’t how I intended it to look.

Unfortunately I was in such a rush to get out the door I didn’t remember to take a photo of it. Luckily the baby shower host snapped one. She looks happy!

Ode to ripe strawberries

I was so happy to find at last weekend’s farmers market that we’ve entered into that very short period of time when homegrown strawberries are ripe. They’re still a little tart, but the color alone is worth a few oohs and ahhs.

Last year I found a vendor, a berry farm, that sells jam in addition to fresh berries, and they have the most incredible strawberry jam you’ve ever tasted. Just look at how red it is.

I need to be alone with my toast now.

We set a date!

In all my recounting of the Denver trip I guess I sort of skimmed over the fact that we set a date for our wedding. We will be getting married Sept. 18, 2010 in Lutsen, Minnesota. The resort there is just beautiful, and we will be able to have the ceremony right next to the water (weather permitting, of course).

This was the first major decision we’ve had to make for the wedding, so it feels amazing to actually get started planning this thing!

Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake

In foodie circles, Meyer lemons seem to be the nectar of the gods. So of course I can never find them here. But last week there they were in the produce department, and you better believe I bought a whole bag.

They are lemons crossed with an orange, I believe, to create a sweeter, more complex tasting lemon with a lovely bright yellow color.

Martha’s recipe for Meyer lemon coffee cake looked absolutely divine in the photo, so I decided to give it a try.

After reading on another blog that you can’t substitute a regular pan for an angel food cake pan with this recipe, I had to improvise one with a springform pan and a tiny glass jar in the center. I had to cook it about 10 minutes longer, but it actually worked.

The only thing I would change is that I would either invest in a mandoline slicer to get truly paper thin slices of lemon or take off the peel before baking it. The bitter rind flavor was still there for me. And I am very picky about cooked fruit, so I might even eliminate the fruit altogether and just use the zest, which imparts the majority of the flavor and color anyway. Oh, and I didn’t make the glaze because, dear God, this cake has enough sugar already.

You can just grab the recipe from her site, but I thought you might enjoy the photos of the process. It’s a pretty one!

Sadie says …

“In my dreams I get all the squirrels.”

Mini puddin’ pies

This is more of a technique than a recipe, but go ahead and try it anyway. Because everything really is better in miniature, and better for your waistline in a single bitty serving.

OK, just make it so you can have an excuse to buy mini ‘Nilla wafers, which are impossibly cute and yummy.


Mini puddin’ pies

1 package chocolate pudding/pie filling
2 cups milk
6 mini graham cracker crusts
Mini ‘Nilla wafers
Whipped cream (optional)

Mix up your pudding mix and milk and chill in the fridge for a few minutes to an hour, depending on how quickly your mix sets.

Spoon the pudding into each mini crust, smooth it out, and top it with a ‘Nilla wafer design of your choice. Add whipped cream (or whippy-do as we call it in my family), if you like.