Monday, April 30, 2012

Mindful Monday: Tangled Noodles

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here. Oh and just a fair warning, I jump around a lot in my mind.  It may seem random, but that's just how my mind works.

What's on my mind today? Everything. And nothing.  Do you ever wish your mind had a switch and you could just turn it off and on?  Maybe guys are better at this than girls, I don't know.  Since this analogy is food related I'll go ahead and share it with you.  I once heard a speaker say that the female mind is like a plate of spaghetti, complicated but worth unraveling (his words, not mine).  All the thoughts are tangled and connected like noodles.  He then compared the male mind to a waffle.  Thoughts are compartmentalized into individual little boxes like the grid on a waffle.  Males move from box to box and think about one thing at a time while females are constantly thinking one long tangled thought.  Apparently guys even have boxes that are empty with no thoughts whatsoever.  So when a guy says "nothing" in response to "what are you thinking?", they really do mean nothing.  Some days I wish my brain was like that. It's not. At all. Not even close. As evidenced by my wordy posts and the fact that I'm now going to switch topics. (guys, that was your cue that we are about to move to another box)  No wait, I do have a little more connected to this noodle.  The first thought being that this paragraph might fit better under "Thursday's Thoughts". (And the second being that I often use parentheses to share side thoughts so I don't get super off track.) (Oh, and this chart pretty much sums it all up, a picture worth waaay more than a thousand words.)

When there's so much on my mind that I can't untangle it I need to take a step back.  When I don't want to think at all it is often the case that I'm avoiding a certain topic that I really should just work out and be done with.  Over the past few months my mind often goes back to "what's the next step? God, what do I do next and how do I know it's what you want and not just what I want?".  I know from experience that it's better to do it God's way the first time.  As much as I want to do it my own way, that's just not going to work.  I can't see the whole picture and He can.  Doing things my way instead of His just makes everything so much harder.  But how do I know the difference?  How do I tell if it's God telling me to do something or just my own jumbled thoughts?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fermented Friday- Dark Chocolate Merlot Cookies

Fermented Friday: recipes featuring yeast, wine, beer or some form of fermentation

Chocolate. Cookies. Wine.

Or we could just combine all three into one recipe.

I've been waiting to try this recipe for quite a while and I finally gave in.  I have to admit I was a little disappointed.  Don't get me wrong, these are great chocolate cookies.  The wine flavor just doesn't come through.  I even tried refrigerating the dough overnight hoping the flavors would improve. They didn't. Next time I would just use dark coffee and call it good.

Speaking of coffee, I've also been dying to try stirring coffee beans into a batch of cookies. That's right, coffee beans.  I saw another recipe for chocolate cookies that used whole coffee beans instead of chocolate chips.  When the wine flavor didn't come through I decided to add slightly crushed coffee beans to the other half of the dough.  The beans added a nice crunch to the dough. (Yes, I ate raw cookie dough.  That's real life. But I can't tell you to do that.)  In fact, they were a bit too crunchy, especially if you weren't expecting it.  I was worried they would be too hard in the cookies so I let the dough sit overnight thinking the beans would soften. I enjoyed the added coffee flavor, but the beans were still too tough.  If you're like me and you just have to try this, warn the people eating the cookies that they contain coffee beans.

These cookies are really dark, almost black, due to the dutch cocoa.  Even dark chocolate chips look light brown when baked.  To test this out for yourself, be sure to bite into a cookie while its still warm and the chips are all melted and gooey.

Share  these with a friend and see if you can pick up on the wine flavor.  Then decide you can't taste the Merlot and have another just to make sure.  Annnnnd you might need a glass of Merlot with another cookie to triple check, but that's up to you.   

Dark Chocolate Merlot Cookies
slightly adapted from Simply Scratch

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed baking cocoa (also called dark cocoa)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Merlot
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I was out of chips so I used a guesstimated amount of a chopped up Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate bar)
*optional: 2-4 Tbsp whole coffee beans, slightly crushed (I put 2 Tbsp in half the recipe, see comments above)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
* Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and soda. Set aside.
* In a large bowl, cream together sugar, brown sugar and butter.  Beat in egg, vanilla and Merlot.
* Add flour mixture and stir to combine.  Stir in chocolate chips (and coffee beans if desired).
* Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto greased cookie sheets leaving 2 inches between cookies. (Because I found the batter to be very wet and was hoping for more flavor to develop I put the dough in the fridge to chill overnight.  Using chilled dough also helped the cookies spread less.  If  you can't wait,  just go for it, but your cookies will be thinner.)
* Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing to wire racks to cool completely.  (but you should really try one before they cool... while they're still warm and the chocolate is all melty)

Food for Thought:
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."- Albert Einstein  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts- Expectations for Success

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

Continuing on the topic of expectations I wrote about Monday, let's talk about expectations for success.  It seems fairly obvious that success is expected and promoted, but what exactly is success?

According to success is defined as:

the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
a successful  performance or achievement: The play was an instant success.
Wow, really? Look at number 2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors or the like.  No wonder the world's definition of success leaves us feeling so inadequate.  Do you feel the pressure/expectation from society to succeed? The pressure to achieve more, do more, have the most, be the best, look the best, work the hardest, get everything right the first time, etc.  The world measures success in terms of money, appearance and social status.  But in reality not everyone can be on top.  That leaves many of us feeling unsuccessful and inadequate.  There is this promise or expectation that if you achieve this so called success you will be happy, satisfied and complete.  How sad and twisted, not to mention invalid.

A lot of times, I fall for this lie and I'm sure you do too.  I think that if I can just be good enough everything will work out perfectly.  That drive for perfection is something I've always struggled with.  I spent most of my time in school working extra hard to get good grades.  And do you know what it got me? A great G.P.A. and an awesome resume, (but no job yet).  All that hard work crammed into a few little numbers on my resume and a piece of paper known as a diploma. In the world's eyes I met the expectation for success at school yet am still unsuccessful since I don't have a high-paying job using that diploma.  But the world's definition of success is so very, very wrong.  Stick with me on this, I have a long winding thought process and I am going somewhere useful despite my wordiness.

First of all let's look at idea of getting good grades.  Sure the numbers that make up my G.P.A. look amazing, but what they don't tell you is that if I could go back and do it all over, I would do everything differently.  Those numbers may look like success, but they are just that, numbers.  Don't let a number define you.   In my mind they actually represent time wasted pursuing achievements instead of investing in people and relationships, but that's another story.

Anyway, where I was originally going with this post was to say that lately I've been feeling down because I have bought into the lie that not having a job and not knowing what I want to do with my life means I am not successful.  Thankfully I can see that this is not the case.  So how do I define success?  And how do I figure out what to do with my life?  For those answers I must turn to God.  I keep asking Him what's next for me. Questions something like:  What does He want me to do?  Where am I supposed to go? What do I do with my life right now? Why don't I have a job yet? Why am I here?...

He's answered me with that strong still voice that you can feel inside you if you listen closely.  But its not the answer I wanted to hear.  He's telling me to wait, to be patient, to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 37:7, Psalm 46:10), to trust Him even when I don't understand (Proverbs 3:5-6), to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:12).  My worth is not dependent on achievements like grades or jobs, only He can satisfy and complete me.  There are moments when I feel peaceful and patient, trusting His plan for me is perfect.  And there are plenty of times where I am restless and impatient, constantly wanting to know the who, what, where, when, why and how of His plan.  But through the restlessness and deep searching God is reminding me to turn to Him for answers.  The world has plenty of answers, just not the right ones.    

*Side note: For more on the topic of success check out Angela's post over at Oh She Glows.  I could especially relate to this part (and a lot of her other points too)
.....I completely agree that success without fulfillment is pointless. However, it’s often necessary for many of us to go through periods of time when we don’t feel fulfilled in order to grow and figure out where we should be. A lack of fulfillment has a definite purpose in our lives, so it’s important not to get down on ourselves if we feel lost. There can be a lot of pressure to always have our life and career figured out, but it’s totally normal not to. Moments of discomfort will propel you to figure out what it is that will make you happy. Sometimes it just takes longer than we expect.....   -Angela Liddon 
To keep reading click here and scroll down to the part on Tony's speech, its real life stuff that's worth your time.  (come on, I know a few of you are trying to avoid studying for finals anyway and this really is more beneficial in the long run)

Food for Thought: "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Coffee Chili and Orange Cardamom Rye Muffins

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

If you know me you know I love to try recipes that just sound weird.  I like weird. Whether its a unique flavor combination or an unusual technique sometimes you just have to try it out and taste it for yourself.  Often times that means the food turns out, well, weird.  This week is a perfect example.

I found a recipe for black bean chili using coffee as the liquid.  It also uses dark cocoa powder and cinnamon along with your typical spices like cumin and chili powder.  Now I've seen plenty of chili recipes using cocoa, but the coffee was the part that got me.

So how did it taste? Weird. And not the "whoa weird!" exciting kind of weird.  The "that's different" kind of weird, if you know what I mean. The chili was very dark in color from the dutch cocoa making it look like your typical black bean soup. It smelled more like cinnamon than chili, but not in a bad way.  The chocolate and coffee flavors were much too strong and completely overpowered any tomato flavor.  The heat from the spices was still there but personally, if I'm eating chili, I prefer that tomato flavor over notes of chocolate and cinnamon.  I was also left with a bitter aftertaste from the coffee.   I'm not even going to post the recipe.  Some poor curious person like me will try it out. If you really want to try it, there are still leftovers in my fridge.    

Don't worry, I won't leave you without a recipe.  I also tired a new muffin recipe this week, one that's worth sharing.  For some reason or another there is a large bag of rye flour in our fridge.  We also have an abundance of oranges.  Combine that with the fact that my mom's favorite spice is cardamom and I couldn't resist trying out these Orange Cardamom Rye Muffins.  The rye flour added a little extra texture, in a really good way. Fresh orange zest and freshly ground cardamom pods were complimented by dried cranberries.  The original recipe called for 1 cup of seasonal fruit.  I went for sweetened dried cranberries because they were in the cupboard screaming to be used.  The original recipe also called for real maple syrup which I'm sure would have made these extra delicious.  I used butter-flavored pancake syrup.  I know, terrible.  Please don't hate me. That's just what I had on hand in real life.  If you have real maple syrup use it.  Since my mom is such a fan of cardamom we always buy the whole pods and crush them just before using.  A coffee grinder works great for this.  Be sure to stop and breath in deeply, ahhhh cardamom.  (that was for you, mom).

Orange Cardamom Rye Muffins
makes 12 large muffins, adapted from Naturally Ella

1 1/2 cups rye flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt, optional
3/4 cup fat-free milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2/3 cup maple syrup (or pancake syrup if you have to)
1/2 tsp cardamom pods, finely crushed
zest from one orange
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray 12 large muffin cups with non-stick cooking spay and set aside.
* In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 
* In a separate bowl combine milk, eggs, melted butter, maple syrup, cardamom and orange zest.  
* Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture.  Stir just until combined.  Gently fold in dried cranberries.  
* Evenly portion batter into prepared muffin cups. This recipe makes large muffins so be generous with the batter.  
* Bake for 15-18 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  

Food for Thought: Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tofu Tuesday: Garlic Curry Tofu Spread

Tofu Tuesday: a quest for tasty tofu recipes

Tofu is one of those foods that doesn't exactly make you think "oh yum".  I've tried plenty of not so great recipes using tofu, but I've also found a few really good ones.  I'm on a quest for more recipes using tofu that actually taste good.  Don't be scared, I'm the one trying them out and eating them, I won't make you eat any of it unless you want to.  Let's give it a chance though, this is not "Tune out Tuesday".  Everyone deserves another chance, no judgments.  That being said, if this gets really boring and we just can't  seem to make tofu tasty then I'll pick another topic.  You can't say you don't like it until you try it, so let's just try.

Before we get too far, there's a few things we should learn about tofu.  Tofu is made from soybeans/soy milk kind of like cheese is made from cow's milk.  See, its not that scary, its all about your perspective.  There are several types of tofu but let's just start with the two types you're most likely to run into: silken and water-packed.

Water-packed tofu comes in those little white tubs in the refrigerator section.  Its a block of tofu packed in (wait for it.... ) water.  It comes in varying degrees of firmness, usually labeled firm or extra-firm.  An Asian grocery store I frequent also has medium firm and soft/silken in the water-pack packaging which still confuses me.  I would buy them and try them all side-by-side to solve this problem, but that's a lot of open tofu at once.

The other variety of tofu is called silken.  It often comes in vacuum-packed shelf-stable cardboard boxes.  But the grocery stores usually put it in the refrigerated section anyway so you don't freak out.  Silken tofu has a creamy custard-like texture.  It  also comes in firm and extra-firm varieties.  In my mind silken should be soft not firm or extra-firm, but I guess I still have a lot to learn about tofu.

Silken and water-packed are typically not interchangeable in recipes.  This is why some recipes turn out terribly and people decide tofu is gross.  If you use extra-firm water-packed  tofu in a smoothie instead of silken you could end up with a smoothie with chunks of floating tofu, ummm no thank you.  As this tofu quest continues we'll figure out more about what type is best for each recipe.

The first tofu recipe I'm posting is a Garlic Curry Tofu Spread.  At first I was thinking of this as a dip, but after making it I think it would be better spread on crackers or a wrap.  I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients (did I mention I like to try really weird stuff?).  I made a few changes to the original recipe based on what I had on hand.  The original called for natural peanut butter (the kind you stir that has only peanuts and salt) but I used a basic crunchy peanut butter.  Natural peanut butter has a much stronger flavor and would have made this spread better.  I noticed a slight peanut flavor immediately after making the dip, but it was overpowered by garlic the next day.  I always thought granulated garlic was stronger than powdered and couldn't remember the conversion.  I looked it up before hand and found out you should actually use twice as much granulated when substituting for powdered.  I would not suggest that in this recipe.  It had way to much garlic flavor.  When I was laying in bed in the middle of the night trying to sleep, I could still taste the garlic (and yes, I  had brushed my teeth).  I  also cut back on the mayo since all we had was a little condiment packet.  (I've learned the hard way not to sub Miracle Whip for mayo in recipes).

I tasted this right after I made it and again after it sat in the fridge overnight.  At first I got tofu flavor followed by strong curry and then a hint of peanut, that's when I decided it needed to sit a while for the flavors to blend.  The next day the tofu flavor was gone but it was extremely garlicky along with a strong curry flavor.  I tried adding more peanut butter to balance out the flavors and that made a huge difference. This spread is good if you're looking for something to change it up, but it wasn't for me.  If you do decide to make it I would suggest using less garlic and more peanut butter (or natural peanut butter).  Then again, I think just about everything is better with more peanut butter.

Garlic Curry Tofu Spread
slightly adapted from Smucker's

2 Tbsp crunchy peanut butter (see comments above)
2 tsp light mayonnaise (this is the amount in one of those (12.4g) condiment packets that comes with sandwiches)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp granulated garlic (I would suggest starting with half this amount, see comments above)
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup (6oz) firm tofu, drained (I used water-packed)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

* Place peanut butter, mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, curry powder, turmeric and tofu in food processor.
* Process until smooth and creamy.  This may take several minutes.  If the spread still has little white tofu bits then keep processing.
* Transfer spread to a bowl and stir in carrots and red pepper.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Food for Thought: "Be curious, not judgmental." - Walt Whitman 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mindful Monday: Expectations

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here. Oh and just a fair warning, I jump around a lot in my mind.  It may seem random, but that's just how my mind works.

Our would is full of expectations.  Expectations you have for yourself. Expectations others have about you.  Expectations you think others have about you (this difference can be huge).  Expectations from society.  The list goes on.  Our expectations for ourselves and perceived expectations from others play a large role in our actions and thinking.  How much of our time and energy do we spend trying to please others and meet their (supposed and sometimes quite unrealistic) expectations?  What would happen if we didn't meet these expectations?

As I thought about starting this blog I realized I expected it to be perfect.  And that everyone else must also expect perfection. (notice faulty thinking here) That brought me to a stopping point and I hadn't even started.  Perfection is something I have always expected of myself (another topic I'll get into later).  But guess what, humans aren't perfect.  That's just life.  I'm not going to have everything perfectly figured out right now (or ever).  Life is a process, a learning process.  If we wait to have the perfect answer before jumping in we miss too much in the meantime.

Do I know exactly where I want to go with this blog? No. Do I have it perfectly planned out? No. Am I going to start it anyway? Yes.  Are there going to be mistakes? Yes.  I'm sure there will be lots of mistakes.  I will probably cringe when I look back at these first posts.  But making mistakes helps me learn, and I have so much left to learn.

Besides mistakes what else can you expect on this blog?  Well, you can probably expect a lot of change at first.   I'm not good with change.  I like to have everything figured out and set in stone, before I start. In the past this has often meant I don't start at all because I can't reach the perfect decision and don't want to end up just changing it later.   But I'm realizing I can't figure out what exactly I  do want until I try it out.  If I don't like it, I can change it.

So I'm going to try out a few things here.  For example, what style of writing do I want to come through on this blog?  I know I need to have a consistent voice, but what type of voice fits best? Do I make it professional? Conversational? How do I get my weird sense of humor across? I tend to be pretty sarcastic in real life, so how does that translate when you can't hear my tone of voice? For starters I reflected on all the blogs I enjoy reading. Most of them are down-to-earth and have a real life, conversational feel.  On days where I'm sharing my thoughts it will be just that, my thoughts.  My thoughts don't come in perfectly formulated sentences. They just are.  No one is grading this on cohesion and sentence flow.  So let's just be real, okay? I'm terrible at using commas correctly and hyphens and semicolons have never been my forte either.  Don't even get me started on spelling. (or how I always overuse parentheses).  For now, I'm just  going to go with it.  We'll see what happens later. But seriously, if you do have helpful grammar tips or see glaring mistakes please point them out. Because I like to learn from those mistakes, remember?

What about recipes?  I haven't decided yet.  Typically a "company" will have a style guide to go by when writing recipes.  If I'm writing recipes for someone else, I go by their style guide.  For example, you can use tsp. or teaspoon, c. or cup.  Directions can be lumped together or separated with numbers.  There is no right or wrong answer, just be consistent.  I'm still in the process of creating my style guide and it will take some time to decide on the format I like best.

Yikes, I just realized how long this is and how much I've been rambling. Did I mention I tend to be overly wordy?  Like I said, that's how my mind works.  I'll stop for now and hopefully have shorter posts in the future, but no promises on that.  Come back  tomorrow for a recipe.

Food for thought: "Decide. Now. Make a decision. It doesn't have to be the perfect answer, but an answer is better than a lingering question. People spend decades in limbo because they can't make a decision. Decide to be different. Make a decision and follow it through." Source

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just try it.

I've been talking about starting a blog forever.  But the perfectionist in me was freaking out and telling me if that I couldn't blog unless it was perfect. I mean, what if I start a blog and then fail?

Well, guess what? This blog isn't going to be perfect and if I decide I don't like blogging then I'll just stop. But at least I can say I tried it out.  Failing would be not trying at all.

First I had to decide what type of  blog I wanted to write.  Of course, my first instinct was a food blog.  But lately I've had so much on my mind that I just need to get out.  So this is going to be a mix of food and what I'm learning and thinking about right now.  Because, really, there is so much more to life than food.

Once I figured that piece out I couldn't decide on a title.  I made lists of all sorts of clever titles and subtitles.  Once again, trying to find the perfect description.  Then I realized I could spend forever looking for the perfect title and never get anywhere.  Besides, how many people are actually going to read this anyway? And, if I do decide to take the blog in another direction I can a) change the title or b) start another blog.  Eventually I settled on "Tried in Blue".  I always seem to be wearing something blue, and if I'm not my eyes are still blue.  Everything posted will have been tried in blue in some way or another.  That could mean I stirred up the recipe in my vintage blue pyrex, was wearing a blue apron, used a blue whisk, ate it off a blue plate, or maybe I just had a blue shirt on when I thought of the idea.  Anyway, that's how the title came to be.

Now that I've got a title and general idea for the blog, how about a few goals for where I want to go with this.  Because I just do better with goals.  I'm the kind of person who needs something to aim at.  So here are some of my goals and ideas for future posts.

1.  Mindful Monday: thoughts to start the week, aka: whatever's been on my mind lately
2. Tofu Tuesday: a quest for tasty tofu uses (yeah, not sure how long this will last)
3. Weird Recipe Wednesday: because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them :)
4. Thursday's Thoughts: things to think about/ food for thought
5. Fermented Friday: a recipes using yeast, wine, beer or some other fermented ingredient
6. Photo Friday: snapshots of life when I don't feel like writing or doing a fermented friday post

In reality I will probably just post about what I want to when I want to, but hey its worth a shot.  I'd also like to end each post with a quote I've found helpful or have been pondering.  So, on that note, I'll leave the one or two of you still reading with this:

"To live a creative life we must loose our fear of being wrong." -Joseph Chilton Pearce