Saturday, July 23, 2011

Busy Summer Days

For a moment I thought I'd start this post with "Well, things have been pretty boring lately." Until I realized that was completely untrue. Things haven't been boring, I've just been busy, which leaves little time for cooking and other more noteworthy pursuits.
I've been working a lot--which is great. And every day something interesting happens. Like today when I encountered a guest along the bus road (which is supposed to be pedestrian-free) and asked him "Where did you come from?!" Bless his heart, because it took him less than a second to answer me--"Taiwan." Oh boy, sorry, rephrase! "How did you get to this pathway?" And then I just gave up and walked them to the entrance for the bus tour. 
Then there are the events where children run in front of this incredibly large bus. Earlier this week I had a tour bus full of people, and was cruising up the hill to the polar bears. As I went up the hill I could see a group of boys on the sidewalk to my right having a play sword fight. One of the boys suddenly dashed away from the group, straight into the road, about 10 feet in front of my bus. I was going slow, so he wasn't really in any danger of getting hit. But still, his friends saw this giant bus and yelled at him to get back on the sidewalk, and I'm pretty sure a lot of people on my tour saw him run into the road, because there was a collective gasp from somewhere (and I don't think it was me...).

Work is definitely exciting!
My Aunt Carol arrived in San Diego today for a visit, and my mom and sister will be here tomorrow, so we have a full house for the next week. This should be fun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

UnBirthday Lunch

Right now our kitchen looks like it was hit by a tornado. Dishes from cooking, serving, and dining litter the counter and sink as each of my aunts and I take our turns making a little bit of headway in the mess. Perhaps I should work on being a tidier cook... perhaps not. With the luxury of a dishwasher, missing from my life while living in college apartments, the cleanup work after having company happens at such a better speed!

Today we hosted lunch to pre-celebrate Rosalie's birthday. Though I don't eat meat, and have only cooked it once to my memory in the past five years, I took the plunge to find a good chicken dish that would impress this crowd. It just so happens that Pat and Gina Neely of Down Home With the Neelys had exactly what I was looking for--Buttermilk Baked Chicken. I read the recipe thoroughly, then scrolled through many of the reviews for any additional hints or tips. When I went to the grocery store to purchase the meat I ended up on the phone with my mom, wondering "Skin on or skinless?" I chose skinless, then immediately thought I'd ruined the whole recipe when I read the note at the bottom, Cook's Note: Remove the skin to save calories. Ok, phew, crisis averted, this might just work out after all! And it did! I ended up cooking 3 thighs, 3 drumsticks, and 3 breasts, for which I doubled the buttermilk marinade from the recipe.

The chicken was served alongside my amazing lemon pasta, and it got good reviews.

Then for dessert, a wonderful strawberry cobbler! I usually prefer to use less sugar, but the sweet syrup that this recipe creates makes it so yummy! And I did a really poor job of taking photos today--we were having too much fun to worry about such things!

This is my go-to cobbler recipe, I vary the fruit but use the basic guidelines for the crust all the time.
For filling:
6 cups fresh strawberries, halved
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoon flour

For crust:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cubed

Basically, mix the sugar and flour together, then mix with strawberries. Transfer to a greased 11x7 baking dish.
In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter for crust. Cut butter in with a fork, though I quickly move on to using my fingers until the mixture is crumbly. There's so much butter in the recipe that there's usually enough moisture, so you could add 1/2 a cup or more if needed/desired.
Bake in 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until browned and bubbly! In this house, you don't eat cobbler without ice cream, so be sure to add a big scoop!

New Lens

Not much to say... Took my new zoom lens to the Zoo yesterday to see how I like it. Used my super amazing macro lens for the above shot. The shots below were with the new zoom lens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vegetarian Taquitos

Last week I came across a recipe for bean taquitos and though that sounded interesting and tasty, so started planning to make it. Then I came across a recipe for black bean quinoa burgers, and thought adding quinoa to the taquito would be good. When it came down to it, I didn't use any beans. Instead, just quinoa, onion, mushroom, and feta cheese. I diced and cooked one onion until soft and sweet, added two sliced mushrooms, and a clove of chopped garlic. I'd cooked the quinoa the night before, so I just added about a cup of it to the onion mixture when it was done cooking. Then sprinkled in a little feta, and voila! This mix was good enough to eat on its own, but I'd been prepared to make taquitos, so I continued in that quest.

I lack the finesse to tightly roll a corn tortilla without letting it crack, even after softening it by warming it in a skillet first.  That, and I was a bit of a glutton for filling, so there was no way my taquitos would be rolled as small as what you get in a restaurant. I put a couple of tablespoons of filling on the tortilla and tried to roll it as tightly as possible. What I also discovered is that if you take too long rolling a batch, the first one done will start to crack as it waits to be fried! I did, eventually, get all my taquitos in the pan, frying them in just a tablespoon or so of olive oil.

One of our kitchen lights is burnt out right now so photos aren't turning out too well, but these taquitos made a good dinner, and the second batch was good for lunch today! Add a little sour cream on the side and they're super tasty!

I ordered myself a new zoom lens last week and it just arrived! The lens that I've been using is an old one made by Kodak that I've had for about 10 years now, and it isn't the best quality. I'm hoping the new one will be a considerable upgrade and I'll be able to get some good shots of our hummingbirds!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Doin' my happy dance!!

Today's news comes as a very stark contrast to yesterday's news. Anyone who has talked to me on the phone since about 3:00 this afternoon has gotten to experience my very loud, very excited voice. It goes something like this, "I got the job!!! This is so exciting!!!" What job? An AmeriCorps position working with YMCA Earth Service Corps ( that I am so excited about I just can't sit still! I'll be working out of the Bellevue Family Y, and responsible for doing youth work with students from 6 different middle and high schools. Basic duties include supporting the clubs at each of those schools, planning service projects, the annual environmental symposium, environmental education retreats, and leadership training. I called my mom 5 times today, shouting in her ear numerous times "I'm so excited!" Aaaand the job doesn't start until September 16, so I have plenty of time to finish out my summer in San Diego!

I'd also like to share with you my favorite drink right now! It took me months to give in and join, but I am now a huge follower of the Green Monster Movement! I was skeptical at first, not believing in the ability of a blender to disguise spinach in a tasty drink, but I've definitely hopped on the bandwagon now! I've been so busy with work that I've pretty much neglected cooking, and I've hardly been eating any veggies. So adding this simple smoothie to my daily routine gives me a good boost of green.

It's super simple! Put 1 cup of milk, a couple of handfuls of spinach, 1/2 of a frozen banana, 1 tablespoon flax meal, and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter into your blender. Blend! Once you have a beautiful green liquid add 2-3 ice cubes (or more!) and blend until they're incorporated.

I drink these things like they're going out of style! I don't taste the spinach, only peanut butter and banana. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011


July hit San Diego with a vengeance and for the last week we’ve had nothing but hot, sticky weather at the Zoo. Today I skipped putting on my sunscreen, knowing that the 80 degree heat at 10 am and high humidity would do nothing but make me feel slimy all day. Today I gave 5 tours in the 5.5 hours that I worked—each tour takes 45-50 minutes, so you can see I was pretty busy! I need the work right now. It’s a very welcome distraction from thinking about my breakup with Michael on July 3. After a number of long talks, and lots of frustration about the two of us being hundreds of miles apart until some unknown point in the future, we decided to end our relationship. It wasn’t easy, it doesn’t feel good, and I have many moments every day where I can’t quite believe it’s really happened. Right now I’m even having trouble with that “It’s for the best” sentiment.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Zucchini Lemon Cookies

Growing up my parents often planted vegetable in our garden. In fact, there was one summer that I set up a little table in front of our house with my Vegetables For Sale sign. I don't think I did much business, but it was a fun kid thing to do. That sign hung in our garage for years, and my mom had it framed for my graduation from WSU. We grew zucchini in our yard--though I do not remember ever eating it. What I do remember is harvesting zucchini the size of baseball bats and taking them to KinderCare to give to my teachers. I was so proud of how huge they were, and completely unaware how not-useful that was.

At work on Wednesday someone brought in a few zucchini that were past their tender-for-eating size. I snagged one, with this Zucchini Lemon Cookie recipe in mind. Well, it didn't really work out. But I'm still posting this recipe because it was so pretty in the making, and with a few tweaks I think it would work out just fine. The first major problem being I need to pick up some new baking powder. You'll see the photos--these cookies are flat!! The other change I'll make for my next attempt will be to not grease the baking sheets. 1 batch of the 3 was baked on an ungreased sheet, and the cookies that batch yielded are a bit less flat than those that came off of the greased sheets. Another note: the zucchini can contribute a ton of moisture to the cookie dough. Because of this, I added some additional flour so that I actually had a dough--before that I had more of a batter.

Making the dough was very simple: Cream 3/4 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar. Mix in 1 egg. Stir in 2 Tbl lemon zest and 1 cup shredded zucchini. In a separate bowl combine 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and a pinch of coarse salt. Then slowly add the dry mixture to the wet.

The dough looks... odd. In the picture above it looks a little like some sort of chip dip. I had to add some extra flour to thicken everything up so that when I dropped my tablespoons of dough onto my cookie sheets they actually kept their shapes. Bake at 375.

And that's what I got--flat cookies. Not impressive. In the lower photo there are a few cookies that don't look as flat--they came from the ungreased cookie sheet. I still have more than half that zucchini left, so maybe I'll get some fresh baking powder and try again soon.  Any input as to reasons for cookie flatness is appreciated!