“End” 2010

31 Fri, 2010 § 2 Comments

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

~Mark Twain

2010 has been a big year for us.

Exciting, stressful & finally taking its toll on me these last few weeks, I am ready to go on & move forward, embracing the aspects that made this year great — that brought each moment to life.  New Year’s Eve seems like the day to revel in these experiences.

Maybe you will learn a little more about me.

Dave & I spent three weeks in Thailand in March.  [I will share our trip with you on our Thailand anniversary.]

Then we married in the desert only a few days after flying home [on an especially blustery day :)]!

2010 was our first full year as “parents”.

We dove into new adventures with friends,

created our own traditions together,

& savored “old” favorites in a new light…aww, Indian Creek.

~

Of course, we hit the rock every chance we could.

I discovered a passion for photography.

~

~

& am learning to embrace & explore my own style in the kitchen.

We quit our jobs & moved to Arizona…so here we are now.

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”

~Hal Borland

[Thank you Faith for the beautiful quote above.]

2010 has been a bit of a whirlwind, but a whirlwind of happiness & adventure.  Holding back in life only leads to regret; sometimes we have to leap from what is comfortable into the life we know, deep down, we want.  Embrace each moment of the ride, even when it’s a bit bumpy.

I wish you happiness & adventure in 2011!

~

What stood out to you about 2010?  Tell me about it here or link to your own “end of year” post.  I would love to learn more about you too. 😉

Chili & Slow-Cooker Beans

30 Thu, 2010 § 2 Comments

Christine [Dave’s sister] made an amazing batch of chili for a camping trip once.  We could not figure out what secret touch she had used that made this chili so much tastier than any we had eaten before:

S A L S A !

So obvious once she said it.  A simple bottle of salsa can determine the heat, accent & flare of your chili.  Plus, can it get much easier?

Chili is the perfect plan-ahead-low-maintenance meal.  Just throw it in a crockpot & walk away, whether it is for work, school or errands.  The longer is stews, the more the flavors marry & the more delicious it becomes.  When you return, your house will be overflowing with spicy aroma & a bowl full of flavor is at your fingertips.

Or plateful if you are like me & like your chili thick.

Get your crockpot out early though, because you can cook your dried beans in it before combining the chili!  I hope you are not intimidated by the idea of cooking your own beans; it is not difficult just more time consuming & a lot cheaper more cost efficient…& by cooking them in the crockpot, you can leave the house for a couple hours & not fret about a burner being on.  Just remember to soak your beans before cooking them to make them more digestible — different beans soak for different amounts of time & some don’t need to soak at all — soaking overnight is a good general rule to follow though.  I might actually prefer the quick soak method*.  It takes less time, I often prefer the texture & digest the beans best this way.  Please enlighten me if there is a major benefit to the long soak method though.

~

*Quick Soak

Add the dried beans to a pot & fill with water to ~3 inches above the beans.

Bring to boil & let simmer 3 – 5 minutes, skimming off any foam that collects on the surface — this is key in increasing digestibility/eliminating some of the gaseous effect.

Remove from heat, cover & let stand 1 hour.

Drain water.  Rinse & cook beans according to type.

~

My favorite chili beans are a 14-bean mix from Butte Creek Mill [in Eagle Point, Oregon] my mother-in-law sent last Christmas along with a care package from the mill.  They have some really amazing products.  In theory it should be easy to replicate this mix, but the portions they use are perfect.  It has everything from large butter beans to small black-eyed peas to various lentils & split peas to kidney & cranberry beans to white & black beans.  I am sad I just used the last of mine.

Now to cook your “soaked” beans in the crockpot,

First preheat your crockpot on the high setting.  [I like to have it hot before I add the beans.]

Fill the stove-top pot again with beans & the appropriate amount of water.

Bring to a boil on the stove & again skim off any foam that forms.

Very carefully, pour the beans & boiling water into the crockpot.  I always throw a small piece of kombu on top of the cooking beans; there has been a noticeable difference in digestibility since doing this.  [Kombu is a seaweed you can find in the Asian food aisle.]

Cover beans & allow to simmer for about the same amount of time it takes on the stove top.

Once cooked, drain any remaining water & stir in your chili ingredients.

Normally, Dave & I are all about spicy.  This time our chili wasn’t “spicy” but just as delicious.   The cumin added a touch of heat, & I loved the way the nutmeg played with the paprika.

I started with 2 cups of dried beans, which turned into just over 4 after soaking.  If you are not cooking your own beans, use 2 15-oz cans of store-bought beans [red & light kidney beans are a good choice].

Sweet & Smokey Chili

adapted from Christine’s Chili

serves 4

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced

Saute onion & garlic until soft, fragrant & translucent.  [You can also brown meat at this time if you are a meat-in-your-chili-type guy or gal.]

Combine all ingredients, along with the beans, in a slow-cooker for several hours on low [or heat on the stove top for at least 1 hour].

  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt [my tomato sauce had salt, so I didn’t want to add much more]
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce [If you like thinner chili, add another 1/2 – 1 can of sauce.]
  • 8 oz salsa of choice [I used a bottle of mom’s homemade. Mmm.]
  • 1 T grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds, ground
  • 1/2 tsp paprika [smoked if you can find it]

The perfect scooping vessel for chili:

Sweet potato fries baked with coconut oil, paprika & sea salt.  The paprika is my favorite part of these.

~

Do you like your chili spicy or rich & savory?

Traditions & Forbidden Rice

29 Wed, 2010 § Leave a comment

On Christmas day, one of the first items on the agenda was taking a family photo.  We had to document what a beautiful family we have before the little ones could even think in terms of getting messy.  This is becoming sort of a tradition — my mom is set on updating our photo often it seems — which I think is nice.

The second priority — ok, maybe it was farther down the list after food & exchanging gifts — was a “family activity” like decorating gingerbread houses.  That was a little more involved & wasteful than I wanted though.  I was set on these cookie trees by Nienke but could not find the right star cutters.  World Market was my best bet, but then Dave spotted a paint-your-own tea set.  I immediately agreed with his sentimental, “aw…look…for Daiqri.”

With my hands covered in Daiq’s mess paint, I didn’t get photos of the creativity in action — even with a professional photographer in the house!  [I should have bribed for his services.]  Sometimes a girl just gets caught up in having fun with her niece & let’s the blogger in her hibernate a moment.

Even with one spill incident, I think mom’s carpet survived for the most part; & it was fun to veer from the traditional for a few minutes Christmas day.  Plus with all the goodies around, it’s a good idea for me to keep my hands as busy as possible for as long as possible…but not too long.

Before we left for our holiday weekend, my hands were busy with something else: playing with my current spice obsession.  You will figure it out if you haven’t picked up on it already.

I spotted my stash of forbidden rice in the pantry [I wonder if I can find it in AZ] & wanted to try something a little different.  It’s a nice, sticky rice, & while it is not necessarily my favorite rice, it lends a dark, pretty purple to the plate for a fun change.

Forbidden Rice with Saffron

  • 2 T Earth Balance butter
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp cumin, ground
  • ½ tsp saffron, soaked in a little milk or cooking water from rice
  • sea salt to taste

Cook rice according to directions.

When the rice is about 20 minutes from being done, melt the butter in a small sauce pan or skillet.

Remove from heat & stir in the other spices.

Cover & allow to steep 15 – 20 minutes.

When rice is finished cooking, pour the butter mixture over the rice, cover & let sit ~10 minutes.

Fluff rice & stir to mix spices.

I love the complexity of saffron & usually keep the rest of the meal pretty simple.  This paired really nicely with diced butternut squash, carrots & cauliflower roasted in olive oil, salted & peppered [a little basil also goes well with saffron].

The orange & purple really popped when we added bright green edamame pods to the meal.  I figured out the best way to cook frozen ones, which I will share when we make them again.  For leftovers the next day, I sprinkled bee pollen over the rice & laid out a green mat to give you a sense of the pods.  Now I really want edamame again.

~

What fun, reoccurring or newly created, traditions did you enjoy this season?

Fingerling “Fries”: Unlikely Road Food

28 Tue, 2010 § 5 Comments

In an attempt to deter Dave from a fast food stop on our way out of town last Wednesday, I tried to meet any french fry cravings that would arise with these.

I drizzled fingerling potatoes with olive oil & sea salt, wrapped them in foil & baked ~1 hour at 400*F.  I unwrapped the top to let them crisp slightly for another 15 – 20 minutes.

What made these really special was the squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top before wrapping the foil back up to keep them warm for the drive.

They were quickly devoured — before we were even out of Flagstaff — so I’d say success, though his were accompanied by a couple gas station hot dogs.  😛  I enjoyed my share with a new favorite combo: quinoa cooked with fennel, dried apricots, oj & sage, tossed with almond meal for added crunch texture & flavor.  LOVE THIS. It could have used a little more sage, so once I perfect it, I’ll share a recipe.

Speaking of unlikely food, I want to create an easy, minimal “recipe” [note]book for my younger brother.  You see, he is leaving on a mission for the LDS church next month.  I won’t see him for 2 years!  You can imagine how much I am going to miss him, but I am also excited for him to be out “on his own” & experience something new [like the big city].

I want to send him a small notebook with some simple meals he can make, & I need your help!  I can’t go too far with my “weird” food — but I want him well-fed & nourished — so I need to be realistic with healthy, [whole food] dishes I could expect a 19-year-old boy out on his own for the first time to actually make.  I am including these fingerling potatoes…how to bake a potato in general…the basics of cooking rice…pasta with pre-made sauce…then I’m stumped, so I need your ideas!  Keep in mind, his meals need to be quick, inexpensive & likely use only a single pot/pan.  I thought batches [like chili] would be great, but he probably won’t have containers to store food in for later meals.  I just might have to send him GladWare every time he moves.  Did I already mention he’s 19?  I did?  Well, it’s a pretty crucial point.  Since talking to Dave about this, I have realize I am quite awful at brainstorming simple meals a teenage guy would make.

Willing to help me?

[I sure hope you say yes.]

So…

Easy.

Cheap.

“Healthy”.

oh yeah, they should probably be Tasty too.

GO.

~

Thanks in advance for helping me with this. 😉  In return, I will give you details for that quinoa dish pronto.

Slow Down

27 Mon, 2010 § 4 Comments

How was your holiday?!  Full of laughter & love?

I sure hope so.

The long drive was worth spending a 4-day weekend with my family.  Eis, normally a basket case in the car, wriggled her way under the passenger seat & stayed there calm & seemingly happy in her little “den” for the 7-hour drive. 😀

Between Daq [the niece] blaming Dave [the husband] for drawing all over Darryus’ [the nephew] legs

to sunny hikes with my dad & brother [was it really December in EC?]

to happy baby news from my other brother & SIL,

we got a big dose of fun & love over Christmas.

Can you believe I missed saying goodbye to my dad though?!  I was walking Eisley Sunday morning & decided to stop at my grandparents’ to say goodbye & didn’t realize he had to leave for an early meeting.  He looked for me but thought I was on a run.  😦  I was crushed.  Good thing Dave has learned to endure my tears.

Many people might be mourning Christmas’ past.  I am actually relieved to be able to focus & put energy toward other aspects of my life.  I enjoyed the holiday immensely & would lengthen the time spent with my family if I could, but with the recent move & job hunt, the stress of holiday prep was more than I could bare some days.  Again, good thing Dave has learned to endure…

I was so worried about letting everyone down, I didn’t slow down to really savor & embrace what I love most about this time — which is slowing down, embracing contemplative moments & sharing time with those I love.

We did enjoy our night hike…finally painted our shoes

…Daiqri & I created art…my sister shared ideas & inspired future food photography…& some of us even hiked a bit…but part of me feels like those moments were rushed & squeezed in…

Maybe I didn’t really miss anything.  Maybe it just took spending time with my family to make me stop & enjoy the moment…if only we could have had more than those 4 days.  I guess I am mourning, but it is my family I am already nostalgic for, not Christmas.

~

How was your holiday spent?  Lots of festivity amidst a bit of chaos?  Were you able to slow down & enjoy the moment?

Peace!

25 Sat, 2010 § Leave a comment

Om  Shanti  Shanti  Shanti

I cannot help myself during this time of year.  I always have the urge to end correspondences [letters, emails, cards] with this mantra.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Peace Peace Peace

Each shanti, or peace, is chanted in response to three distinct “disturbances“.

Divine

Physical

Spiritual

Maybe it is because this festive time of year becomes so noisy & frenzied that I hope those I love — all people actually — take the time to find quiet, nurture what truly matters & embrace utter happiness.

I truly do love you, my friends who stop by my little blog, & feel a closeness that is at the same time strange [because we do not actually know each other] & wonderful [because it is still real].

So this season — & the remainder of your lives — may you find

Peace in the World.

Peace Without.

Peace Within.

Peace, beautiful Peace.

with love, Allie

Out of Paint

24 Fri, 2010 § 8 Comments

When Dave & I were preparing for our first Christmas together, I was really set on finding actual knit stockings…until we spotted these at our favorite import store.

We fill each shoe with small gifts on Christmas morning.  They are fun & different than stockings, but our favorite part about these are the stories they tell.

Each winter solstice, before our night hike, we paint our shoes.  We each commemorate a signifying aspect, memory or overall theme for that year through our painting.  In the end we may end up with a neatly-tied-together scene or a fun, mish-mosh collage of our life stories.  There is no way of telling, but the making of our stories is sure fun — in every aspect.

My [2007]star & [2008]tree were more symbolic, telling of new beginnings & finding harmony & balance through nature’s example.  2009 is a more literal image of our expanding family as Bodhi chases a recently adopted Eisley [she was our early Christmas last year].

Dave’s book is a year of introspection, reading & sharing information between us.  We learned a lot about each other & ourselves that year.  His joined “bands” & holly represent his Christmas Eve proposal to me that year — he was very sneaky because he painted that before he proposed.

From our three weeks together in Thailand to our desert wedding to moving to Arizona, how do we portray 2010?

Before our hike on Monday, we turned on Christmas music…pulled out the brushes…got our shoes ready…had our visions in mind…then realized we had left the paint in another box that was still at Christine’s.  😦 boo.

Looks like our shoes will be accompanying us to my parents’, so we can borrow mom’s paints & create on Christmas Eve — wait, if you are reading this now, then that is tonight!

~

I hope you are already enjoying your holiday celebrations!

Do you have a similar tradition of “journaling” through art or craft [it doesn’t have to be during Christmas]?

Fresh Winter Greens

23 Thu, 2010 § 2 Comments

Salads are such a simple meal, so why even blog about them?

Because, for me anyway, it is not always easy to get into the mood.  I still have to resist the initial thought of “salad” equating to…a bunch of lettuce.

That is not often what I am in the mood to eat — especially in winter — so the trick is to pile my salad with things I am in the mood to eat…

like

Lentils

&

Pink Ladies

& topping it with my favorite dressing.

If I had felt like quickly toasting nuts or seeds, I would have thrown that in the mix too & made it even tastier.

I am still in love with this baby herb salad & think it is a huge reason why I am loving fresh greens right now.  If you can find one — or are daring enough to make your own — I highly recommend it.

I have to give it to some of my blogger friends for getting me to eat more salads even though it is winter.  I haven’t quite felt like steamed greens lately & am often inspired by the “simple” lunches you foodies throw together.  So I just wanted to share a quick winter salad that hit the spot.  This is especially helpful if you are like me & trying to eat super clean & load up on veggies before holiday festivities.  Obviously this is more of an idea than a recipe, because I am always in need of those myself when it comes to salads.

~

Now you go: what is your current favorite salad combination? (please) 😉

A Subtle Touch

22 Wed, 2010 § 5 Comments

Apparently if you have aspirations of becoming a successful bank robber, move to Arizona.  On the two month anniversary of our AZ move, the second bank [since we moved here] was robbed.  I did not know you actually could still rob a bank!  Does this happen where you live?

It was sort of fitting — tragic, yet fitting — that someone had broken into the Chase bank while I was across the street at Michael’s tediously trying to create simple, pretty cards with a personal touch that would not break our own bank.

I like making my own cards, but anyone who has ever scrapbooked, knows paper & embellishments add up quickly.  I spent hours debating over a couple different card-making routes I could take.  [Seriously.  Picking out paper & crafts is like Christmas for me though.]  I thought I had narrowed it down — & wasn’t 100% happy with either — when I stumbled across this idea while perusing the close-out bins.  Ok, so they are the $1 bins, which I was hesitant to tell you; but these still turned out pretty cute regardless of the price tag.

I fell in love with the whimsical birds & trees.  All I needed was to start with a cute card, add a 3D “Happy Holiday” sticker & stamp the inside to dress it up a touch.  It is still pretty simple, but I was going for simple.  I usually think less is more.

Did you know that stamps are expensive? Did I tell you I also nabbed this for $1?  Depending on the ink & embellishment powder, these could be spring leaves…or summer leaves…or fall leaves…or festive gold leaves.

Perfect for every season.  This was a point I really liked; because even though I loved a couple holiday stamps, they were at least 4 — if not 8 or 12 — times the price & could only be used for Christmas.

I had never used embellishing powder [a.k.a. glitter] before & thought this little set [also $1] was the perfect chance to try it out.  Super easy: just make a stamp using the ink pad, immediately sprinkle glitter over the entire image, then gently shake/tip the glitter off & back into the jar.  It is “messy” — I’m sure I still have glitter hiding in my hair & will probably be wiping it from the kitchen counter until July, but I like the way it turned out.  I just don’t know if any of the glitter will actually survive the mailing process…here’s hoping.

I do not think this is some brilliant craft.  I just wanted to show you how simple it is to add a little something extra to a store-bought card…& it doesn’t have to cost a lot either if you are willing to hunt a bit. 😉  Ribbon or buttons are often a nice touch too.

p.s. I am the queen of upcycling cards to create new cards — I don’t know if Dave thinks it is funny, cute or weird — but I just hate waste & have fun trying to be creative & thrifty.  Most of our gift tags this year were from cute cards I got for my birthday.  You can’t even tell.  I’ll show you next time it happens.

~

Do you ever make your own cards?  I would love ideas!

Shades of Grey

21 Tue, 2010 § 8 Comments

I do not naturally love winter.  I have no winter sports that I enjoy that keep me where I prefer [outdoors].  I hate being cold.

I have had to slow down & turn inward — mimic the season in a way — to learn to cherish it…or at least not become horribly depressed when the worst cases of cabin fever hit, usually around January/February.  I have already been feeling down though with the stress of moving & finding work.  The holidays have not even passed — this is supposed to be a festive & joyous time!  I can’t already be sad.

Fortunately, today is the winter solstice: the shortest day & longest night of the year.  It is “midwinter”, which means the gradual lengthening of days, & therefor, return of light to the earth.  Last night, I realized I can embrace & mimic this within myself as well.

Dave & I have started a tradition of taking a midnight or night hike during the winter solstice.  Since there was a lunar eclipse last night, we decided to enjoy our hike a night earlier than usual.

We bundled up, anticipating a frigid night, & headed out to the national forest that lies just east of us.  It is only a short walk & the perfect setting for our hike.  Eisley was thrilled.

The wind gusted constantly; we had expected it to be biting, but it was actually refreshing.  I wasn’t cold at all, which was a shock to both of us [I’m known for freezing in 70*F weather].  We found a beautiful meadow, hoping it would be an ideal spot to witness the transformed moon.  Being our first trek into these woods, it was amazing to see it from night’s perspective, surrounded by varying shades of grey.  Even the eclipse glowed only a faint yellowish grey.  Though that was sort of a dud, it was amazing to be out in the night air, walking the network of trails by moonlight & growing anxious to see them by daylight.

I decided that I will not forget or neglect the bits of “light” that bring me happiness & make my life worthwhile.  I also need to acknowledge my own inner light — my beauty & worth — & not let my self esteem [or worth] wane.  I will strive to embrace this & allow it to grow along with the natural light in the world.

~

Now speaking of a different type of light & warmth, we wanted a warm & hardy — but not heavy — meal before heading out.  I had everything needed for one of my favorite truffled whipped bean dishes…except the white beans & leeks.  I did, however, have lentils, & a beautiful white onion calling from the basket to be caramelized.   I love lentils, but often forget this & therefor forget to make them often.  After this meal, I do not think I will be guilty of that again.

French Lentils with Caramelized Onions, Thyme & Truffle Oil

2 servings

Rinse ¾ cup of french lentils [or cook more if you’d like leftovers for something else].  Prepare by simmering in 1.5 cups of water, until water is absorbed & lentils are soft. [Mine took ~50 minutes, which seems long; often it’s closer to 20, so I don’t know what to tell you.  Just watch them closely I suppose.]

When lentils are nearly finished, use a large skillet to saute a small, thinly-sliced sweet onion in olive oil over med to med-high heat for ~5 minutes.

Quarter 10 or so baby bella mushrooms & add to the skillet with a splash of mirin or white wine.  Saute ~5 minutes more.

Stir in 1 – 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme & the juice from ½ a lemon.  Saute about 2 minutes longer.

Fold in 1 cup of cooked lentils, add some fresh-ground pepper & allow to heat through for a minute.

Remove from heat.  Serve in bowls & drizzle with ~1 teaspoon of truffle oil.

The worst part about this meal: I was hoping for leftovers…

While I absolutely love the way truffle oil enhances this dish, don’t stress or rush out to buy some if you don’t have it.  [When you do have a bit to splurge or find it on sale, I highly recommend it.  Only a little goes a long way.]  This dish is still delicious without it, or you could simply drizzle with quality olive oil instead.

~

Did you catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse last night?

Do you have any fun or special traditions that occur before the holidays?

Where Am I?

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