Monday, December 27, 2010

Cat in the Bath (sort of)

Javier has always sat on the edge on the tub when I take a bath. I fill him up a cup of cold water and he sits next to me and drinks it. Recently he started putting his front two legs onto me when I'm in the bath so he can sniff the water or something. I'm not entirely sure what the point of it was. Then! The other day, he started getting all the way onto my legs and hanging out there. Which is when I decided it was time to take a camera in the bath and post naked video of me on the internet.

Don't get too excited. Except for my amazing cat. You can be super psyched for that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tiny Food in Tiny Jars

I'm pretty much the best ever at picking gifts. I have this unique ability to remember an offhand comment from months before and then seek out the exact thing someone wants. It's pretty amazing actually. But I do have one person in my life who really seems to have everything. She's terribly difficult to find a gift for and ended up purchasing the one idea I had for herself earlier this month. I was at a total loss as to what to give her and her family for Christmas this year until I stumbled upon an article online about making little mini pies in shallow half pint canning jars. I loved the idea but didn't really have any need for making dessert pies so I decided to use the idea to make meals that I could then gift to this person who has everything but hates cooking.

I decided I was going to make chicken pot pies, chili and cornbread, quiche, and lasagnas. I used half pint canning jars that are short and squat rather than the traditional half pint ones most people use for jams and such. Because my gift receiver's family has six members I made six of each meal.

I started with the chili because I wanted to be able to freeze it long enough that I could put the cornbread on top without it just sinking to the bottom. I used some of the black beans I had made the other night with onion and green pepper. I also put in a couple diced tomatoes and extra onion.

I cooked that down for a bit while I waited for Craig to bring me a can opener because I apparently lost mine in my move. I fed him pizza and wine though so I think it was an even trade. Once he arrived I was able to add kidney beans. I also added corn and zucchini.

Next thing to go in was some grated cheddar cheese, cumin, salt and garlic powder. After that melted I took the chili off the heat and Craig and I tried it. This is where I have no shame in bragging about how awesome I am at making food because this chili was amazing. Craig wanted to eat more of it but I hadn't made enough so I promised him I would make it again soon.

I put the chili into the jars leaving enough space to top them off with cornbread batter once they had frozen a bit.

Javi was very loud during this project. Because whenever I am in the kitchen it must mean he gets something except he doesn't like any treats or human food with the exception of ice cream so mostly it's just obnoxious and pointless. He is soft and cute though so he's forgiven.

After they had frozen just enough for there to be a "seal" of sorts over the top of the chili I poured the cornbread batter (which I made from a box) on top of the chili and stuck them back into the freezer. Now when they're heated again in the oven the cornbread will bake.

Next I moved onto the chicken pot pies. If you've ever read any of my cooking adventures before you know I don't follow recipes and even though I have never made chicken pot pie I gambled that I could figure it out. Rather than making gravy (which grosses me out to no end) I used cream of mushroom soup as my base. I added peas and corn first.

I sauteed some red potatoes with diced onion, to which I later added carrots. When that was done I tossed it in the bowl along with some celery. I had bought a chicken breast but had totally accidentally bought the wrong thing and there was bone and skin and it was awful so Craig helped me cut the meat off which I then diced and sauteed in a pan. It went in the bowl too along with some salt, pepper and heavy cream.

I had bought refrigerated pie crust to make things easier. I tore pieces off and just pressed them into the jars to form a crust. I did twelve of these because I was making quiche as well. Also that one picture is in my living room because I needed to get my weekly fix of pregnant teenagers on MTV so I moved my crust making station that way.

Next I filled the jars with the filling and made crusts for the top of the pies. To make the tops I just made a lump of dough then sort of pressed it out between my palms. The tops don't fit perfectly which is actually ideal because then you don't have to cut slits or fancy decorative holes in the tops. I also used an egg wash so the crusts would be all flaky and gorgeous when cooked.

Next up were the quiches. I diced up sun dried tomatoes then used the oil from them to saute leeks and crimini mushrooms separately. Then I realized I forgot to buy gruyere for my quiche so I had to improvise. I ended up making a mixture of cottage cheese and gorgonzola along with the veggies, about six eggs (I also used the leftover egg from the egg wash), and some heavy cream. For anyone unfamiliar with leeks, they're a milder veggie in the onion family and they are delicious. They also have a similar structure to onions so you can just slice them and separate the rings.

I wasn't really sure if I should freeze the quiche uncooked and allow it to cook when it would be heated again or if I should cook it and chance the eggs becoming overcooked when it was reheated. So I turned to the internet and the people there said to cook it just until it starts to set then take it out and freeze it. Which seems super logical now that I know it. So I went ahead and did that. Then let them cool before sticking them in the freezer. It was messy.

Now for the lasagna. I love to make this dish. It's so hard to make bad lasagna.

I made a mixture of cottage cheese (this works as a really good substitute for ricotta if you don't have any or are making for people who don't like ricotta as I was), mozzarella, diced red peppers, zucchini, shredded cooked spinach, a couple eggs, salt, and pepper.

I'd bought fresh lasagna noodles because I figured it'd be easiest to cut circles out of to fit the jars. I was planning on using that glass in the photo next to the package of lasagna to cut out the circles but that didn't really work so I used this weird ice cream scoop I have for serving fancy ice cream. If you have just a circle cookie cutter that would work too but I did not.

From there it was a pretty easy routine of putting layers in the jars. I always put sauce down first to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pan/jar. Next I did a layer of noodle and then filling. Repeat, repeat, repeat. When you get to the top you just put a layer of sauce then sprinkle on some grated mozzarella.

Everything ended up in the freezer for the night and then since it was 1am Javi and I went to bed.

In the morning I made these little labels with instructions on them. I made sure to state that the jars should be put into a cold oven that is then heated rather than a pre-heated oven. That will prevent the jars from being shocked and breaking, although these jars are made for canning so I wouldn't worry about that happening too much.

I gave this gift today since I won't be seeing this person again before Christmas and she loved it. I would like to do this again for myself since I don't usually like to make a whole pan of lasagna or an entire quiche. Living alone means that when I make something like that I eat it for a week or end up throwing it out. If I did this again I would make sure I had a ton of food because once you start it really doesn't take that much longer to fill extra jars whereas making and setting up this whole thing again sort of will take awhile. I started this at about 8pm and worked on it until 1am. Which seems like forever but realistically I made four different meals in that time. In an effort of full disclosure though I did do a lot of multitasking and I definitely thought out how I was going to do this before I started. I grouped the photos together for ease of reading but I worked on the chicken pot pie filling while the chili froze, I baked the quiche while I made the lasagna. I made sure that any dish I had down time with was done earlier so I could work on another then finish the previous one.

But, it was really fun. And now I want to eat quiche. Or chili.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Importance of Tradition

I lived in Southern CA until I was nine. During that time I developed a deep affinity for Mexican food and spice. In fact my whole family was all about Mexican food with our favorite meal being tacos. I may not be a huge fan of my mother but she does know how to make a mean taco. She would use corn tortillas to make her own taco shells by frying them in oil, she'd make her own flour tortillas, guacamole was a must, and they were always had with chocolate milk.

I realize that sounds bizzare and most people do a double take when I tell them about this tradition but if you think about it, milk is great with spicy things because it takes away some of the burn. And chocolate and chiles are a classic combination. So, naturally this being my family's favorite meal, and half of us being vegetarian, we opted for tacos and chocolate milk as our Christmas meal rather than the traditional ham. I wanted to share this little tradition with some friends so last night I had a few people over and we had a Christmas get together/housewarming complete with tacos and chocolate milk. Which everyone agreed was insanely awesome. Meaning, you should try it too.

I used potatoes, red peppers, lentils, zucchini, and some onion to make a vegetarian meat substitute for the tacos. Although I did take pity and make some real taco meat as well. I had planned to make my own tortilla chips and taco shells but then I decided I didn't really want to mess with the whole oil ordeal so I opted to just do soft shell tacos (which I think are really just burritos) and everyone seemed content with that. I made rice and slow cooked black beans with green peppers and diced onion as sides. And I made a salad of roasted corn, cucumber, garbonzo beans, pomegranate seeds, and a dressing of rice vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, and blackberry honey. I have to say, it was all pretty delicious.

Also we watched Elf so even if the food had been terrible I'm pretty sure we still would have had a good time.

P.S. I stole this picture from Lana who actually took pictures.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Asking For Help

So, I don't usually write about "serious things" but lately I've been feeling really thankful for my friends. This week alone I have a friend who brought my packages into my apartment for me when I wasn't there, another friend who is hanging a chandelier for me and putting up with my not understanding tools or wiring or anything at all related to this light and my impulse to buy it, and another friend who is going to come over and sit in my apartment and wait for my groceries to be delivered because I'm not only too busy to grocery shop but I'm too busy to wait for groceries to arrive. And while my friends are truly amazing and deserve bunches of thanks a part of me is really proud of myself right now because I'm asking for help. Which is a new thing for me.

There's a long back story but basically my parents are a little (read: lots) nuts and kicked me out of the house when I was a teenager. I know it sounds hard to believe but I honestly was a great kid and hadn't done anything wrong. I've made a few attempts at a relationship with my mom but it's just never been worth all the ups and downs and headaches that come with it. I've always described it to people like, if that was a relationship with a friend or boyfriend everyone who loves me would be telling me to get out. And while some people have lovely families the one you end up with is really arbitrary and mine just happens to not be that awesome. I'm not going to let the fact that I'm related to someone mean I need to make myself stressed and upset over a relationship I get nothing beneficial from.

So, this relationship, or non-relationship, I have with my parents has sort of fucked me up. Not like extremely but enough that I have a major part of me that insists I must be able to care for myself in every aspect of my life. It doesn't really lend well to asking for help with anything. And it sort of sucks because I won't ask for help until I'm at my breaking point and by then it's too late to really matter.

This past year was really rough for me with a lot of friends leaving my life which left me feeling all those feelings I had with my parents again. I felt even more determined to do everything myself and a bigger refusal to let people into my life, because, in my mind, they all would leave anyways. And then, I was driving one day and I couldn't breathe. It was pouring rain, really hard even for here, and I couldn't pull over and I just felt like I couldn't make myself do the most natural of things and just take a breathe. When I finally did start breathing again I realized it was time to ask for help.

I know this is maybe a sort of taboo thing to reveal but I feel it's important to be open about this. I don't think making people feel bad for getting help does any good whereas being open may allow someone else to feel well and that would be awesome. So, I started seeing a therapist. Who was really bad at her job. So I stopped seeing her and started seeing someone else who is amazing and everything I thought I didn't want. I was not keen on seeing a male therapist because I thought I wouldn't be able to be as open as I would with a female doctor and I didn't want to see a psychiatrist because I'm not that cool with taking medicine for a cold so I didn't think I'd want to be taking something daily. But after some time and some of the medicine I was so opposed to once upon a time I started to feel better and realize how not normal I had been feeling before. I started relaxing and not feeling like any mistake I made would make people leave me and I stopped being so insane about schedules. And all of a sudden now, I'm able to ask for help. Which may seem like a small step but is huge for me. And luckily I have amazing friends willing to give me that help.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Debate

craig: There was a tornado in Silverton today.
me: oh wow
maybe it will SNOW!!!!!
i told Lana you don't want it to snow and she agreed that we don't really care if your dad has to come pick you up
craig: I don't think it's going to get cold enough this week. You two are jerks
me: hahahaha
we want it to get cold enough NEXT week
craig: Whatever. You are jerks
me: i think you are the jerk for wanting to deprive everyone of snow just for you
that's pretty selfish
craig: Oh please. That is just lame
Just for my safety and everyone traveling that weekend.
me: well you will be safe
here in Portland
with the snow
craig: I want to go to Eugene
me: put some chains on
you'll be fine
craig: You go to Alaska and spend Christmas. Lana can go too
me: Hahaha
me: I almost hope it snows in Eugene and not here.
Just to spite you
craig: I hope it does too! Just to spite you! I will send you photos of me drinking cocoa and making snowmen
me: well i mean i hope it snows while you are driving
i hope you even get in a tiny car accident but that you are okay except maybe you stub your toe really hard
and i will send you pictures of me with perfect toes that don't hurt
craig: You are a bad person
You want me to get in a wreck?
me: i think you are a bad person Christmas snow hater
you want me to not have any snow?!
craig: Do you want me to be paralyzed too just on spite
me: only your lips
and maybe your fingers
so i don't have to listen to your snow hate
craig: Yeah and maybe your fingers
Damn you were too fast
me: i am exceedingly clever
i will always win our word wars
me: especially when you have non-working lips
craig: I said the same thing. I'm just typing by phone
me: maybe you should learn to type faster on your phone
if it snows you can stay inside and practice

I made some art.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm pretty sure it's all the glitter involved that makes this my favorite holiday.

Lana and I wanted to do crafts on Thanksgiving but once it rolled around and everyone was together the boys didn't run away to watch football as we had predicted so we stuck around and all played games. But we had all this crafty stuff for a craft project and so we kept making half-hearted plans to make our crafts but instead watched Glee. Until this weekend when we decided we had better do these Christmas crafts before we'd have to wait a whole 'nother year.

Originally I'm not sure what we had in mind for a craft, or maybe we had nothing, but we ended up wandering Michael's one cold November day in search of a Christmas craft when we came upon these in the dollar bin.

I'm not really sure what they were intended for. They each have a hole in the top and come with a ring although I can't think of anything you'd want to do with these that would involve keeping them on a ring. Except maybe making flashcards. But the holes do make it possible to make a pretty awesome garland out of them. We stocked up on tree shapes, stars, and ornament shapes. And also pretty much everything else there. Especially all the sparkly things.

There was a lot of glitter involved.

These are my trees which I left to dry and will tie together with twine to make a garland.

This one has teeny tiny jingle bells on it.

I used to use a lot of letter stickers for something I can't even remember now but it's left me with sheets and sheets of letters that don't really spell anything so I put them to use.

Rhiiiiiiinestoooooones! I tried to type that the way Oprah talks.

This one is Lana's favorite because it looks like a quilt.

This was the first one I did and I definitely contemplated just making an entire garland of these but then the possibilities of other trees lured me in. I think I'm going to do some star garland in this style though and leave it up year round.

This one is my least favorite. I'm not really sure what I was going for so I just kept adding more stuff.

These are the stars that came from the pieces on the quilt style tree.

Little baby Scrabble tile sticker letters! I've had these forever and never do anything with them so this seemed as good a time as any to use them up.

This is my favorite one. When I did it I actually didn't have a ton of control over how it would turn out. I used a glittery puff paint to make the dots then poured little sprinkle heaps of glitter all over in different colors then at the end I just dumped it all off to see what happened.