Sunday, February 28, 2010

Now Chile

While myself, and the rest of the world, is still in shock by and saddened with the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that occured on January 12th, 2010 in Haiti, Chile is rocked.  February 28th, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake (100 times stronger than the earthquake in Haiti), rocked Chile.  Although the devastation in Chile is not as profound as in Haiti, the death toll is continuing to rise, and it is devastating nonetheless. 

While my prayers conintue for Haiti, my prayers are the same for Chile:
  • Strength, endurance, and guidance for the relief volunteers
  • Volunteers from around the world continue to pour into both countries
  • God's presence and peace for the citizens
  • Hope and recovery to those who have lost so much
  • A giving heart for those throughout the world to help in any way they can
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

- John 16:33

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oohhhhh Caaanadaaaaa!

My friend Cheryl and I have been friends since we were 2.  No joke!  My parents moved the family to Othello, WA when I was 2 and we immediately started attending the Othello Assembly of God Church...where Cheryl's family was already attending.  February 25th, Cheryl turned 27 and we celebrated in Vancouver Canada taking in all we could of the 2010 Winter Olympics in one day.  This was a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants trip, and for two "plan-aheaders", I'd say we did pretty well!  When else are we going to have an opportunity like this, with the Olympics being so close?  Maybe Seattle will get Summer Olympics one day...

We stayed the night with our friend Shalaney in Ferndale, so the drive in the morning would be shorter, giving us a longer day in Canada...we were parked and walking around in Vancouver by 9:30 a.m! 
We first visited the visitors center to see if there was any chance we could get tickets to an event.  There were two events to choose from that had tickets still available for that day, hockey and curling.  Hmmm....tough decision.  Our first choice was definitely hockey, but those tickets were starting at $300.00 and curling tickets were only $35.00.  Curling it was!  Sweden vs. Great Britain.  I was starting to get into it when Cheryl had had enough, she was pretty bored. I can't blame her, it is probably the most boring Olympic event of them all in my opinion.
We also visited the cauldron...
Came across some very friendly and patriotic Canadians...
We also stood in line for 45 minutes to enter the Olympic gear store to purchase some memorabilia, and Cheryl set off the metal detector at the Curling rink (or is it an arena?) and was pulled aside for some special one-on-one time with the metal detector wand.







Happy Birthday Cheryl!! 
What a memorable trip!

Go USA!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Herb Garden

I can't wait for our yard to be finished, literally. 

Well, I guess we have to actually start working on the yard first.  Today we paid a visit to Home Depot and did some pricing on stone we're going to need for our retaining wall, and are narrowing down options for our patio. When I say I can't wait for our yard to be finished, I'm talking mostly about the vegetable and herb garden that will be residing on the side of our house.  It will be so nice to have all of those fresh veggies waiting for our bellies right outside our back door!

So, while we were at Home Depot, I purchased an adorable Herb Grow Kit for the kitchen windowsill for $7.99.  These are also available through Target, Amazon, or Buzzy Seeds.com. 

It's frustrating (and a waste of money) when a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons chives and I have to buy an entire package...and the left-overs usually end up going to waste :(

In 7-10 days, we will see Sweet Basil, Chives, and Parsley beginning to sprout! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Flava-Filet"

The last couple nights, Matt and I have laughed so hard we had tears running down our cheeks and my belly was burning. One example:

Matt:  "Is it Flava-Flav, or Flava-Flay?"
Amanda:  "Aaaaahahahahaha!"
Matt:  Stares at Amanda
Amanda:  Laughing so hard she can barely breathe
Matt:  "Flava-Filet?" Laughing so hard he can barely breathe.
Matt and Amanda:  Repeating "Flava-Flay" and "Flava-Filet" joking about how he's Bobby Flay's distant cousin and they should have a cooking show together.  "Flava-Flay" could keep track of the cook times with his giant clock...

...it was hysterical in the moment.

I love this man!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's in the Bag!

Groceries to nourish my body, books to nourish my mind...the bags I use to carry the cargo of my life are now more meaningful. 

About a year ago or so, I was on the search for cute and stylish reuseable grocery bags.  Bags sold in the grocery stores have logos on them, and are not very storage-friendly.  I wanted something that would be easy to store when not in use and I found these:
They fold down to this when not in use which makes them really easy to keep in the car and not take up much space:


They are from BAGGU, and they come in over 50 colors and prints, and various shapes and sizes. My favorite is the regular BAGGU.  One of these bags holds enough groceries to fill 2-3 plastic grocery bags, they can hold 50 pounds, and are machine washable.  The long straps make it easy to carry on your shoulder if you'd like.

My only dilemma is that they are made from Nylon, which is not so environmentally friendly to manufacture.  I justify this by reminding myself that I am reusing them, which IS environmentally friendly.  Using one BAGGU for one year replaces 300 to 700 disposable bags.  That's a lot of trash!

Go HERE to purchase your own little piece of "green-ness".

**      *     **     *     **     *     **
I received a very special Christmas present from my new sister-in-law Elizabeth (Matt's brother Paul's wifey as of 9/19/09).  I call her "Sistaw" in my love-for-joining-words-together fashion.  She gave me a handcrafted bag from India, purchased from Sari Bari:  New Life in the Making...

"Sari Bari, a business initiative, seeks the freedom and restoration of Kolkata’s red-light areas through dignity-giving employment opportunities for women affected by the sex trade.

Sari Bari is a safe home where women, who have been exploited in the sex trade, can have their dignity restored and experience new life in the making.
Each of our products made from the Indian sari is marked with a woman's name, a woman who now has the opportunity to make a choice for freedom and new life."

Knowing I am carrying around a little piece of a woman's freed heart makes me smile.  When I get a compliment on my bag, I love sharing the story of who gave it to me and where it came from.  The name of the woman who made your bag is printed in the inside. My bag was made by Supriya.

Thank you my "Sistaw" Elizabeth for being so thoughtful. 
Thank you Supriya for my lovely bag.

Go HERE to support these women.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inter Courses: A Special Valentine's Dinner

I received a cookbook from my friend Jessica at one of my bridal showers and it is titled "Inter Courses:  An Aphrodisiac Cookbook".  When unwrapping the book, I immediately felt my face turn red.  Jessica knows I like to cook and experiment in the kitchen and, title aside, this is a great cookbook full of unique, flavorful, and healthy recipes to be shared with your hubby (or wifey if you're a man-cook).  After the wedding, Matt and I went through the book marking recipes we wanted to try, but I never got around to making any of them for whatever reason.  When Valentine's Day rolled around I figured this would be a perfect time to create an extra special dinner. 

We usually don't go too crazy celebrating Valentine's Day, especially because our anniversary is the next month.  However, this being our first married Valentine's Day, it just felt extra special.  My Maverick did surprise me with my favorite flowers at work (which he usually does :), Godiva chocolate, and a pair of teal sweat pants from Gilly Hicks (warning: this is a sister company of Abercrombie and Fitch, so the picture on their website is a lot like those adds).  I redeemed myself after the "sugar-free heart-shaped peep incident of 2009" and got Matt some full-of-sugar heart-shaped peeps, along with a stainless steel water bottle he's been wanting. 

 
(My camera is not too conducive to great food photography :)

Artichoke and Scallop Kebabs
The cookbook warns that this recipe contains "multiple aphrodisiac ingredients".  Chiles and peppers are supposed to get the "blood rushing, the heart pumping, the face flushing, and the pores sweating - all reactions strangely familiar to what one can experience with anything from a good-night kiss to ..."
Artichokes:  "Tough green leaves, each armed with its own thorn, stand on guard.  They rally their strength to make one tightly woven bud, protecting the exquisite beauty found inside their walls".  I am not going to quote the rest of the description of the artichoke, nor the description for scallops...not only do they make me blush, but I'd also like to keep this blog G-rated :)
  • 1 lg tomato, minced
  • 1 sm onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sm jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 med-size zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 (9 oz) jar quartered artichoke hearts, drained, oil reserved
  • 2 oz fresh sea scallops or shrimp, rinsed (Me thinks the author of this cookbook may have been a little high with aphrodsia...2 oz is probably only 2 scallops, so I got 8 scallops, 5 for Matt and 3 for me. Which was 0.85 pounds.)
  • 2 tsp lime juice
Place tomato, onion, garlic, jalapeno, juice of 1/2 lime, cilantro, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Mix well and let flavors meld at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. If using wooden skewers, pre-soak in water for about 15 minutes. 

Alternate the zucchini, artichoke, and scallops on the skewers.  Brush with reserved oil and 2 tsp lime juice.  Grill over hot coals for 6-8 minutes (I used our gas grill), turning occasionally, or until scallops are opaque.  Serve with salsa.

Strawberry Pasta
"Not your traditional red sauce", and actually it turns out pink.
No need for me to quote the cookbook on this fruit.  We all know the romantic quality linked to strawberries, especially when dipped in chocolate. This dish sounded so odd at first, but I just had to try it out.  Not knowing what to expect, I have to tell you "try it!!". 
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Mint sprigs for garnish
Puree strawberries in a blender.  Strain to remove seeds (not completely necessary, I skipped this and the seeds were not even noticeable). Cook spaghetti using the package directions; drain and toss with the cheese. 

Heat the butter and cream in a small saucepan.  Move the pasta to a serving bowl, cover with strawberries, and then the butter sauce.  Toss well.  Serve with additional cheese and garnish with mint.

Chocolate-stuffed Crescent Rolls
There is a scientific explanation as to why we go gaga for chocolate..."Besides the jolt of caffeine served up in a piece of chocolate, this savory candy also contains PEA, or phenylethylaine, the very same molecule that courses through the veins of one who is in love. Conbine our internal stores of this natural amphetamine with chocolate, and one only heightens that giddy sensation known as love." 
  • 2 ounces bittersweat chocolate
  • 1 (4-count) package crescent rolls (I could only find 8-count, and took that as a sign I was supposed to double the recipe...worth doubling in our opinion)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
Cut chocolate into 4 pieces about 3 inches long.  Unfold the crescent roll dough.  Place 1 piece of chocolate at the wide end of each piece of dough and roll up.  Place on lightly greased baking sheet.

Mix egg yolk, milk, and sugar in a small bowl.  Brush on the rolls, then bake according to package directions.  Cool for 15 minutes before serving (you will burn your mouth if you don't practice patience and wait, and this may ruin your romantic evening).

Happy Valentine's Day!