Friday, August 31, 2012

Fermented Friday: Grilled Mango-Basil Pizza

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

Before the summer's over, you have to try grilling pizza.  I'm not sure how this summer escaped without a pizza on my grill.  Many of you have heard of my grilled pizza incident from several years back and are likely smiling (or groaning) at the thought, but that's another story.  Ask me about it sometime when you're in need of a good laugh.

I've been wanting to make a mango-basil pizza forever and finally got around to it.  It was too hot for the oven, so onto the grill it went.  The combination was superb, but I understand if you're a little hesitant.  Regardless of the toppings you choose, you don't want to miss out on the experience of a grilled pizza.  If you don't have time to make your own dough feel free to pick some up at the store.  The dough recipe I used here needs a little tweaking, so I'll just show you the basics and get you started.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Random Tidbits

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

I do a lot of thinking while I'm out walking.  My thoughts flow more freely when I'm outside walking with nowhere in particular to go.  The post from last Thursday was based on thoughts that popped into my head during a long walk. The fresh air and sunshine is a great stress relief, as is the walking and thinking. Unfortunately, I've been too busy for a long walk this week and haven't had time to collect my thoughts.  In short, this post is just random tidbits of information.

1. Did you see the moon last night? I will always love looking at the moon, especially a full moon.  The stars are great too, but not as obvious in the city.  I wish I took more time to pause and look up at the night sky.

2. Sometimes I get so caught up in my list of things to do that I overlook what's really important.  People are unpredictable, situations change and plans need to be flexible.  Tasks need to be set aside to make time for what really matters.

3. A good conversation goes a long way in brightening your day.

4. The leaves are starting to change colors here and some are already falling.  Where did August go?

5. Never mind, it's supposed to be in the upper 90's and humid today.  That sounds like a typical August to me.

6.  Why is it always easier to clean or organize someone else's things than you own? I was thinking in terms of physical objects, but this could also apply to gossip.  People are much more willing to talk about others' issues than their own.

7. I hate it went people stand around gossiping, it always makes me wonder what they say about me when I'm not there.  Even if I don't contribute to the gossip, I am often a silent participant by not speaking up on behalf of the other person.  I can try to change the subject, but I wish I had the confidence and courage to just say something more direct.

8. Like I said above, it's supposed to be pretty hot out today, but at the moment there's a fairly cool breeze coming in the window.  That means it's time to get off the computer and enjoy some fresh air before it disappears.

Food for Thought: "Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down." -Proverbs 26:20

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Indian Eggplant Dip

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

I've tried eggplant a few times, but I never really know what to do with it.  By the time I get around to using it, it's past its prime, bitter and has a spongy texture.  When someone gave me several eggplant last week, I was determined to put them to use.  I roasted some and made baba ganoush.  (A dip similar to hummus but with eggplant instead of chickpeas.) Then I started slicing, grilling and layering eggplant and zucchini for a casserole.  Even after making these, I had eggplant left to use.  As my recipe search continued I came across several weird recipes featuring eggplant.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Trip Tidbits

I'm back from a 4-day road trip and thought I'd fill you in for today's post.

1. Friday night we arrived at Six Flags planning to use a "bring a friend for free" coupon that expired that day.  Of all the Friday's this summer, we happened to arrive on the night they closed the park early and got there 10 minutes after the park closed.  Really?  Since when do amusement parks close at 7 on a summer Friday?

2. Instead of the park we headed to an outlet mall.  By the time we cleared the traffic jam exiting the park and made it to the mall, we had about 40 minutes to shop.

3. Movie and BLUE popcorn.  Yep, my friend found microwave popcorn in the clearance section that pops blue.  It's pretty much just blue food coloring in the butter.  Or something like that, I don't really want to know.

4. Saturday morning we slept in, and then 3 of us went for a run around a pond where we saw turtles, ducks and a heron.

5.  Breakfast and then a second attempt at the amusement park.  Unfortunately our free coupons were no longer valid. We started out at the water park then moved to the rides.  Roller coasters, yes please!

6. After some crazy fun rides we headed to Sweet Tomatoes  for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a buffet loaded with fresh, healthy choices full of flavor.  Every few weeks the theme of the menu changes for a fun twist.  The last time my friend went the theme was strawberries (think strawberry-spinach salad, strawberry muffins, strawberry short cake, etc).  This time around was an Asian theme featuring dishes such as Fresh Herb Thai Slaw, Mandarin Shells with Almonds, Indian Lentil Stew and Thai Chicken and Peanut Focaccia.  I would definitely stop there again!

7. Dinner was followed by a quick trip to another mall and then back to the apartment for a movie.

9.  Sunday we packed 5 people and a dog into the front 4 seats of a van while the back half (and any other available inch of space) was loaded with everything needed for a college apartment.  We made it through 2 hours of driving, then unloaded belongings and helped unpack.  After dinner out and a run to the store we were back on the road.  While the drive back to the apartment was less crowded, it was a little more intense with hard rain all through Chicago.  We were all ready for bed by the time we made it back.

10. Another morning of sleeping in and a late breakfast.  A quick stop (literally 5 minutes) at the Jelly Belly factory for some clearance candy and we hit the road for home.  Good conversation made the 5-6 hour trip seem much faster.  Thanks to the G's for including me in your family trip this weekend!

Food for Thought: "A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." -William Shakespeare 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fermented Friday: Rosemary Rum Raisin Biscotti

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

By the time you read this, I will likely be on the road for an extended four day weekend trip. I'll be back sometime Monday so there may or may not be a Monday post.  Fortunately for you, I squeezed in some time to bake cookies before I left.

Rather than our ususal beer, yeast or wine recipe, this week's featured fermented ingredient is spiced rum.  Rum is produced by fermenting and distilling sugar byproducts such as molasses.  While rum is often aged for a year or more, you don't have to wait that long to crunch away at these enticing biscotti.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Specifically Vague

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

As I was pondering life yesterday, some specifically vague insights popped into my head.  Wait, stop right there. Specifically vague can happen but how about vaguely specific?  Never mind, we've got better things to ponder.  Like vague things you can apply to specific situations and use to solve all your problems. Or something like that. I'll let you decide.

Appearances can be deceiving, but feelings aren't always accurate indicators either.
Sometimes things aren't as simple (or complex) as they initially seem.

If that's the case, how on earth do we figure out life?

Let's break that question down. Figure out life.  Ha. Do we ever really figure out life?  I don't think so, at least not on this earth.  The phrase, "how on earth?" is a common enough figure of speech, but a more literal interpretation may be the key here. Maybe, but no promises. I'm just thinking out loud here, annnnnd I'm super tired, so who knows where this will go....

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Whipped Porridge

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

It's interesting to explore traditional foods from other countries. Dishes or ingredients commonly used for a certain meal or dish in one country may have an entirely different use in another country. What's considered non-traditional in one place may be be tradition in another.

Vispipuuro is a whipped porridge often served for dessert in Finland.  When I think of porridge I think of a gluey oatmeal served for breakfast.  In this dish porridge consists of an ingredient that goes by several names.  Some call it semolina and others use the term farina.  In the U.S. it's more commonly know as Cream of Wheat.  I've always considered Cream of Wheat to be a breakfast food and was intrigued by the idea of using it in a dessert.  The thought of whipping it to a mousse-like consistency was just too much for my curiosity to handle.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Spiraled Zucchini-Carrot Rolls

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

After seeing pictures of vegetable tarts like this, I knew the concept had a lot of potential.  I wanted to try it out, but didn't want to make another vegetable tart like everyone else.  I came up with several ideas to put my own spin on it and finally settled on this one.  Other ideas may surface here in the near future depending on how much zucchini appears on my counter.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mindful Monday: A Trip to the Fair

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

Wait, it's Monday already?  Where did the weekend go?  Come to think of it, where did the summer go?  School supplies are understandable, but let's just ignore the Halloween candy already in the stores. The weather's been cooler this week and it's getting dark out earlier.  It's starting to feel like fall.  For many people, the end of the summer includes a trip to the fair.  This weekend we drove to a nearby county fair for a little entertainment.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fermented Friday: Spicy Beer Cocktail

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

Sooooo, I tried a beer recipe that falls more under Weird Recipe Wednesday.  I like the components separately and was intrigued by a recipe that mixed them into beer.  I figured this was the perfect opportunity to test it out.........annnnnnd it wasn't even drinkable.  Fail.  I even had my brother try some in case it was just me.  Still a no-go.  I snapped a picture, but I'm not going to post the recipe.  It's definitely not worth repeating, and I didn't want to waste another beer trying to tweak it.  I will not be stirring lime, sriracha and Worcestershire into my beer anytime soon.

I have a bad habit of trying to save recipe failures.  Hmmm, what can I do with this?  I thought about a spicy beer bread, but I really didn't want a loaf of bread that tasted like this mixed beverage.  Sometimes further fiddling yields amazing results, but there are also times I end up wasting even more ingredients in the process.  Every once in a while I'm wise enough to leave well enough alone and realize it will only get worse.

Just as I was about to dump this concoction down the drain, I decided to turn it into a beer syrup.  I added 1/4 cup sugar and boiled it down until thick and syrupy.  It tasted okay but what do you do with a spicy beer syrup?  Candy coated nuts?  There may be some potential there, but not with these flavors.  At this point I decided to call it quits. Some things just aren't worth saving.

Even when a situation doesn't turn out as you'd hoped, you can learn from it.  What I took away from this failure was a tip about making beer syrup.  The exact time it takes to reduce beer to a syrup depends on the amount of added sugar and the temperature.  However, there is a good visual indicator that your beer syrup had reached the right consistency.  After slowly simmering the solution will suddenly begin to boil vigorously due to the high sugar concentration.  At least it was entertaining and educational, even if it wasn't too tasty.

Food for Thought: "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." -Joseph Chilton Pearce 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Behind

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

Do you ever feel like you have so much to do that you just don't know where to start?  Sometimes it feels like I'm always behind.  Every time I cross a task off my "to do" list, two or three more get added.  It can be overwhelming when there's so much to do all at once.

I sometimes write lists of all the things I want to accomplish in a day only to be discouraged when the list grows faster than it shrinks.  I've found it helps to break my list down into what I want to accomplish and what's actually realistic.  If I pick two or three things I know I can get done, I won't get lost in the details and discouraged that I'm falling behind.  In fact, I may even get more done this way.  The positive energy associated with finishing a task motivates me to fit in a few more.

It's another one of those days with a long list. Rather than sitting here trying to think of something semi-interesting to write about, I'm going to go tackle a few of those tasks and hopefully a few more.

Food for Thought: "In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." -Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Grilled Watermelon Salsa

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

It wouldn't be summer without bright, juicy watermelon and the charred flavors of grilling.  Watermelon hits the grill in this recipe before finding it's way into a summer salsa.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Poppy Chow

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Whether you call it puppy chow, Muddy Buddies, or monkey munch, I'm sure you'll agree this classic treat is addicting.  It's also extremely versatile, so let's give it a twist and run with it.

Traditional puppy chow is made with cereal squares such as Chex or Crispex. This fun twist uses popcorn in place of the cereal. (Get it?  POPpy chow. And no, I did not come up with that, I saw it here a couple of years ago.)  I love popcorn, but why stop there?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mindful Monday: Thankful List

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

It always helps to pause and think of things you're thankful for.  Sometimes I get too overwhelmed by the big picture or too lost in the little details.  Giving thanks for the big and small helps me adjust my perspective.

I'm thankful for:
-chances to practice things I need to improve on
-cool weather
-being outside
-the moon
-the sound of crickets chirping
-sleeping with my window open
-going for long walks
-a good conversation
-a listening ear
-quietness and stillness
-options and choices
-second chances
-hot water
-encouraging examples
-understanding the reason why something turned out the way it did
-a chance to grow and change
-trial and error
-learning from mistakes
-a good night of sleep
-a roof over my head
-the ability to read
-light bulb moments

Food for Thought: "Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It's moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." -Corrie Ten Boom

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fermented Friday: Oatmeal Stout Raisin Cookies

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

The characteristic smoothness of an oatmeal stout comes from the addition of oats to the mash. If you're interested, this article gives a brief overview on the science of brewing oatmeal stout.  While brewers need to understand the gelatinization, viscosity and gum content of oats, you just need a reason to make cookies with beer.

Oatmeal stout seems like a good enough excuse to stir up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.   But how will we infuse beer into our cookies?

Not to worry, I've come up with a recipe, you just need enough patience and self-control for a decent portion of dough to make it to the oven. I've got less than zero advice in that area.  Unless you need an example of what not to do?  Ummm, let's just get to the recipe.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Real Life

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

I love it when scripture comes alive.  Reading and believing are great, but a certain depth of understanding comes from personal, real life experiences. These instances have occurred several times over the past week. The verses applied word for word to a specific circumstance as if they were written just for me.  This has happened numerous times in the past, but it never ceases to amaze me. I'm excited to see what's next!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all you ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. -Proverbs 3:5-6

Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans. -Proverbs 16:3

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. -Proverbs 21:5

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. -Matthew 7:7-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. -James 1:5

Food for Thought: "At the end of the day you can focus on what's tearing you apart, or what's holding you together." -unknown

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Spicy Cucumber-Cantaloupe Salad

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

A year ago I never would have believed jalapenos would frequent my kitchen.  I was a wimp for spicy foods and and considered even mild salsa too hot.  Somewhere along the way I ventured past my Minnesota roots and started trying recipes with jalapenos and other spicy ingredients.  This opened a whole new realm of possibilities to excite my palate.  Fortunately for me, my family isn't too sold on the idea, so I had this flavor-packed salad all to myself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Waffled French Toast

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

 Forget stirring up drippy batter and watching it ooze out your waffle iron.  Waffles without the work collide with the flavors of French toast in this simple twist.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mindful Monday: A Few Thoughts

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.

1. Check out Angela's challenge for August in this post.  Be sure to read the quotes at the end too.  What a great idea! 

2. A few weeks ago my friend and I decorated coffee mugs by writing quotes on them.  The quote I chose was, "Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity."

3. A couple of Thursday's ago I wrote about curiosity in life.  As I write this, Curiosity is about an hour and a half from landing on Mars.  I've always found space exploration fascinating and wanted to be an astronaut at one point in life.  There's just so much unknown out there to discover!

4. Slowing down for the simple things is really important.  I haven't done so great at that the past few weeks.  I finally got out for a walk this weekend and was reminded of the beauty all around me.  My mood is so much better when I pause to give thanks and enjoy the little things in life.  

5. Prayer changes things.  I recently asked a friend to pray for me about a certain situation.  I didn't give her many details but simply asked for some prayer support in that area.  She emailed me a prayer so beautiful and moving I was speechless.  Her prayer addressed specific details and concerns I hadn't even told her about.  God gives us just what we need at the right time. 

6. Within an hour of reading her prayer, I picked up a devotional book I've been going through.  The devotion for that day wasn't directly related to the situation at hand, but the 2 selected verses were exactly what I needed to hear.  I prayed for wisdom about a situation and God provided clear guidance and insight through these verses.  It's so reassuring to know He has it all under control.

Food for Thought: "Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans." -Proverbs 16:3

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fermented Friday: Honey Beer Bread with Blue Cheese and Thyme

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

 A drizzle of golden honey over a crumble of creamy blue cheese will do wonders for skeptical taste buds.  The sharp, earthy flavors of blue cheese are toned down with sweet honey for the perfect sweet-savory balance.  While this pairing is often perched atop crackers, I decided to present it to you in an even milder form by incorporating it in beer bread.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Forever Constant

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

The past week or so has been loaded with new things.  My mind has been going a million directions all at once adapting to the changes.  It's easy for me to get overwhelmed with unexpected or unknown situations.  A head cold and lack of sleep didn't exactly help matters any.  Yet in the midst of all the emotions and unpredictable change, God remains constant.  He never changes!

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. -Isaiah 26:3-4

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. -Hebrews 13:8

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. -Isaiah 40:28-29

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.  -Isaiah 54:10

The plans of the Lord stand firm forever. -Psalm 33:11

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. -Psalm 118:29

Food for Thought: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. -James 3:17

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate Basil Zucchini Muffins

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

Chocolate and basil?  Yep, you know me, I just had to try it.

Calling these muffins is a bit of a stretch, but they don't have butter, eggs or oil, so they're not quite cupcakes either.  Regardless of what we call them, the point here is the intriguing combination of chocolate and basil.