Thursday, December 29, 2011

Late Night Thoughts

Here I am, 11 pm, laying in bed, listening to the rain pound on the window mixed with my cat purring, trying to fall asleep, avoiding writing what's obviously been in the back of my mind for a while. The same picture keeps popping into my head, the stand of green pottery at a gift shop I visited yesterday. A vase that would look so homey and beautiful with a bunch of daffodils in it.

I swear, I passed by that same vase at least 4 times. It called out to me. The more I studied it, the more I thought about each individual motion the maker performed to make this fascinating object. The ball of clay being turned into the shape of a vase, the strokes to scribe the markings, the brush adding a tinge of green to the top and bottom, the final look when it is completed. Did the maker take a second to admire their work? Or did they just push it aside quickly like an assembly line?

I'm finding the more I'm delving into jewelry making, the more I'm beginning to appreciate art, in it's many forms. I've never been able to understand art and it's purpose, but I'm slowly beginning to "get" it. It's a healing process. It's a way to feel satisfied. It's a way to make yourself feel like you matter, like you can contribute something to this world, even something as small as a pair of earrings.

I'm also beginning to realize why I'm so drawn to cooking and wanting to own my own bakery and restaurant. I want a job that I love, of course, but most of all I want a job that makes me feel physically and mentally tired at the end of each day, but makes me feel satisfied. As thankful I am that I have the job I have now, it only makes me mentally tired, and I hardly ever feel satisfied. I always relied on coming home and cooking to fill that void. It's doing a rather good job, but there is still that void. I can't fix it right now, but at least I'm beginning to understand what the void is and how to fill it.

I cooked today for the first time in a few weeks and it was normalcy. I was frazzled and rather worn down when I began, especially after visiting my grandpa in the hospital (he fell a few days ago and is still recovering) and also waiting for a phone call back from a friend. I began to cook, and all my troubles seemed to slowly melt. I didn't feel as stressed. I was much calmer and I felt more in control. The more I cooked, the better I felt. Both dishes I made turned out delicious (I will definitely share!) and have inspired me to cook more.

I realize that I've been rambling, all while the wind is picking up outside and it's raining harder now. I needed to get these things out, somewhere, anywhere, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to sleep. Now my mind can rest.

But first, maybe I'll go bake a cake.

And next time I'm at that gift shop, I'm buying that vase.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Goals for 2012 (or more affectionately known as New Year's Resolutions)

So I thought I'd get a jump on y'all by posting my resolutions early. Well, to tell you the truth a bunch popped in my head that I want to write down. And really, these are more like goals of things I want to complete in 2012, so it's not really a new year's resolutions list, but I digress.

1. Be present. I would like to continue my journey of learning how to live in the present and not get stuck in the past or think too much about the future. I'm learning how to enjoy each moment before it passes me by and I would really like to continue that. (Due date: end of December)

2. Learn more about emotional intelligence. I started this year reading a few books on the subject, and how the brain functions in relation to our emotions and feelings and I would like to finish these books rather soon. (end of March)

3. Actually start executing my lists. I'm a list maker, and I have several lists of things to do, to cook, to see, etc. that I have been compiling for a few years now and I think this is the year to actually get started crossing things off. Granted, a few of them are rather long and will take a few years, so I'm going to make a goal of getting at least 1/10th of each list completed. I know it doesn't seem like much, but some of my lists have 2000+ items.. so a goal of 200 is pretty out there. (end of December)

4. Get a hold of my stomach issues. I have food allergies (dairy and eggs) and I tend to ignore them quite often and end up paying the price. It's really starting to bother me because during the day I have all these ideas of what to make for dinner, and then my stomach gets upset and I don't want to cook anymore. And then the next day I berate myself to no end. So my goal is to reduce the amount of dairy I eat per day to less than 1/4 c. and reduce the amount of egg-laced food to as close as zero as possible. (end of June)

5. Challenge my creativity as a cook. I noticed that most of my cookbooks are newer and therefore have recipes that I like as is. I've been looking through a lot of older cookbooks lately (90s and older), and a lot of them have inspired me to change the recipe around so it fits my tastes and more current tastes, also. I'm also doing a project where I take a lot of recipes that have a ton of processed foods (Velveeta, Cool Whip, Jello, Miracle Whip, etc.) and rework the recipe to eliminate the processed food while achieving close to the same result (as in not completely change the recipe. If you can keep almost the whole name and it still applies, then it works). It's a lot more challenging than one would expect. (Get started by end of March, complete at least 50 recipes by end of December)

6. Take more pictures! I have neglected bringing my camera with me on trips this year and I really have regretted that. So next year, I'm lugging that piece with me everywhere! I'm determined to improve my photography. (due January 1st! )

7. Try 3 new activities and stick with them. And by activites, I mean physical activities, like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, biking, etc. (Well, I'm going to try those 3, but who know if they will stick!). I'd also like to get into better shape so I can do more challenging hikes this summer. Who knew that I would actually want to train for hiking, when hiking was originally a way to train for skiing? Ironic, eh? (due end of June)

8. Practice meditation everyday for at least 10 min. Oh! And learn the art of a cat nap. (end of March)

9. Finish scanning magazines. I have a bazillion that I just can't seem to part with unless I scan everything I find even remotely useful, so right now I have 4 big stacks and I would like to pare that down. (tackle each stack by the end of March, June, September and December)

10. Realize that I physically will never be able to remember every single tidbit of information that is out there in the world and learn to read for pure enjoyment, not for the sake of trying to impress anyone. (end of April)

I think that is a good set of goals for the year. What are some of your goals for 2012?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Couscous with Shrimp and Corn

You ever have those days when you don't feel like going to store but are hungry for something warm and delicious? Today was one of those days. I have been sick for the past week or so, and I'm finally on the mend, but I still don't have the energy to go to the store.

Which meant I had to make something from whatever was in my fridge, pantry or freezer. I had a bunch of leftover couscous in the fridge, and I was craving some shrimp. I always love corn, so I decided to toss some thawed corn in. Personally, I love asian flavors, so I decided to add some ponzu (a citrus soy sauce) and some sesame oil. You always have to have garlic, so I added a minced clove. And Voila! A deliciously filling yet not energy zapping dish.

Thank goodness for frozen corn.

Couscous with Shrimp and Corn

Serves 1

1/2 c. prepared couscous
6 frozen shrimp
1/4 c. frozen corn
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp ponzu (or regular soy sauce)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 pinch cumin

1. Mix 1 tbsp ponzu with frozen corn and microwave for 15 sec. Stir in a spoonful of couscous and set aside.
2. Heat rest of ponzu, sesame oil, garlic and cumin in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are thawed. 
3. Mix couscous and corn. Microwave for 15 sec. Add shrimp and sauce and stir to combine.


You know what, I think I'm gonna go make another batch. YUM!


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Santa Train

Every year since 1969, there has been a Santa Train that runs from North Bend to Snoqualmie and back. This year was my first year volunteering during the Santa Train and boy was it a zoo! I had a blast hanging out with my mom and greeting all the chilled train riders with some hot cocoa (and warm cocoa for the kids!)

Some pictures from their website:

Doesn't the depot look so pretty with all those lights? 

That's the stove they were baking the cookies in and heating up water for cocoa. It's in an old army medical kitchen car that was never used until the army donated it to the museum. Now it's used regularly to make meals. And it's coal fed, which is pretty neat!

Those were just some of the cocoa cups we served. I swear we went through at least 300-400 cups!

I was standing for 8 hours, serving cocoa, dispensing cocoa, putting lids on cocoa cups, making cocoa, cleaning spilled cocoa, lifting heavy pots of cocoa, lifting huge thermoses of cocoa... but it was all lots of fun!

When I got home though, I felt like this:


Have a great day!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Misery is optional...

Chocolate Rum Balls!

Growing up, I remember always baking a ton of Christmas cookies with my mom and my grandma (Babi, which is short for babička, which means grandma in Czech). We would get together for weekends on end, making batch after batch of cookies. There are so many pictures of me putting sprinkles on the cookies, or cutting shapes out of the dough. 

But ever since my grandma moved out of her house after my grandpa passed, we haven't made any Czech cookies. A few years passed until last year, when me and my mom decided to try making them from recipes we found online. We had lost all of my grandma's recipes in the move (or so we thought. Turns out they were tucked safely way in, well, a safe), so we fiddled around and found some great recipes, and some not so great recipes. 

This year, after we found my grandma's recipes, we decided to try them out. Only problem was that most of the recipes were incomplete or the steps were out of order. My mom had tried to write them down in English what my grandma did exactly for each recipe, but unfortunately in the hustle and bustle of things, details were left out. We tried to fill them in and improvise as best as we could, and some turned out well.

The chocolate rum balls were just as I remember. Sweet, chocolatey, with a hazelnut in the middle. They were my favorite cookie, so when I pulled them out after letting them sit for a week, they brought back so many good memories of Christmas past. And now I would like to share them with you.

Chocolate Rum Balls (Bombicky, literally "bombs")

2 egg whites
1 tsp lemon and vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
4 tbsp Nestlé’s quik chocolate
1 tsp rum
2 c. walnuts, ground
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
Hazelnuts, whole

1. Mix together egg whites, sugar, walnuts, extracts, chocolate and rum.
2. Take a tsp of batter and place hazelnut in center. Roll in sugar, then place in a paper liner. Let sit for few days in a cool room in a tin.



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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

Ugly Christmas sweater parties seem to be all the rage lately. To tell you the truth, I had never been to one before last Saturday. It was actually a lot of fun to see what people were wearing!

Crystal, Laura, me, Robin, Nancy and Cady
As you can see, some decided to not dress the part (cough, Laura, cough, Vanessa), but for the most part we all picked some interesting sweaters!

Crystal, Cady, Vanessa, me, Robin and Nancy

I decided to borrow one from my mom, but when I asked her if I could, I neglected to mention what it was for. I kept the rouse going for a while, until the night before she asked me flat out if it was for an ugly sweater party. I told her that I didn't want to hurt her feeling since I know she loves the sweater that I picked.

Her words to me were as follows: "Oh that sweater, oh I hate that sweater. I only wear it because the kids at school like it."

And here I was trying to protect her feelings, when she actually didn't like it in the first place! Ha! (And I think I had a matching mini sweater when I was little that we got as gifts from my aunt.. ahh the 90s!)

Our food table!

Back to the party. We each brought food or some thing to drink and we pigged out! After eating and laughing, we decided to open our white elephant gifts. The gifts ranged from a candle, to a Christmas cupcake decorating kit, to a picture frame, to a scarf and earrings, to a cute kitty tea set, to.. right now I can't remember the two other gifts, but I'm sure I will remember soon! They were all wonderful and thoughtful!

Our gift table!

We listened to Christmas music and laughed and had lots of fun! This weekend we are going to see the Zoo Lights at Point Defiance and having a sweets swap. I'm excited for both of them!

Me opening the first gift!

Have a great day!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Linguine with Cauliflower and Pancetta

To tell you the truth, I'm not the biggest fan of cauliflower, unless it's roasted. I've been trying to cook through a lot of my recipes, so I thought I would give this one a try. The flavor was really tasty, but I wasn't a fan of the cauliflower since it was just steamed. I think this dish would be a knockout side if you left the cauliflower out.

Linguine with Cauliflower and Pancetta
Inspired by Quick from Scratch: Pasta
Serves 4

1/3 cup pine nuts
1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into small florets
1/2 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz. pancetta, diced
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound linguine
1/4 c. white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley 

1. Toast the pine nuts until golden brown, about 8 minutes, in a saute pan over medium heat. Put the cauliflower in a large frying pan. Add the currants, water, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook, covered, until the cauliflower is almost tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan.
2. Cook pancetta in frying pan until crispy, about 5 min. Remove from pan and let drain on paper towels. Put the butter in the pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the butter is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower mixture, the oil, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until just done, about 12 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the linguine and toss with the wine, 1/4 c. of the reserved pasta water, the cauliflower mixture, pine nuts, Parmesan, and parsley. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the reserved pasta water. Serve with additional Parmesan. 



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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Remembering to Rest

I have a hard time making myself rest. I tend to over schedule myself with stuff to do, or I have too many projects I want to work on. I always forget that I need to rest for a whole day every once in a while. Unfortunately, I usually only rest after my body starts crying out for it in the form of illness.

I have also come to realize that I need more rest during the fall months. I've been noticing the past few years that I typically will fall sick a time or two (or more!) during October, November and December, but then I'm relatively healthy the rest of the year. I'm not quite sure why this is. It might have to do with the fact that these are my least active months. In winter and spring, I have skiing on Sundays to keep me active. In summer, I replace skiing with hiking. I also spend more time outside walking. But once fall comes around, I tend to not exercise as much, yet I feel like I need more rest.

Maybe this time of year is when my body is recuperating from all the activities I do at other times of the year. And so my homework for the month of December is to learn to rest before I get sick. And to learn how to relax.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

List of Pain

I've been spending way too much time on the computer today reading articles on stress and anxiety and how to deal with them. I found some great articles from Natural Health that are definitely worth reading. (here, here and here)

I realized that I have been keeping a lot of things inside that I need to deal with. I have been pushing them aside for years and years and I need to deal with them. I need to give myself time to ponder over things that happen and not just brush them aside, figuring I either will deal with them later, or don't need to deal with them at all. So I did what I do best, I made a list. A list of all the things I need to deal with and need to get out of my system. I had barely gotten through 5 things when I felt this sudden, intense urge to burst into tears. I had no idea that some of the things in there were so strong. Just reading the list makes my head hurt and I feel stressed. I definitely need to let them out and process them. But how?

I guess I'll do it the only way I know how, by typing them out. I'm not going to get to them today, but I need to get to them soon.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What do I want?

I've been on a search lately for a lot of thing. Mostly, who I am as a person. I feel like I'm going through a crisis of self, that I don't know who I am, I don't know where I'm going. And it scares me like no other. I've been having such a hard time keeping things in order. The stress has been getting to me too much lately, and I don't know how to fix it.

So today at work, I was not having a good day. I decided to go home and rest and try to get my head screwed on straight instead of just trying to plow through. I checked out the September 2004 issue of body and soul magazine from the library yesterday and I decided to read it. Nothing really called out to me until I reached an article about finding your spiritual path. I began reading it, figuring I would just skim it over like I do with most articles, but the first few paragraphs really pulled me in. It was almost as if she had pulled them out of my mind and put them onto a piece of paper.

"Occasionally, a strange feeling comes over you. You hear a call from inside your heart. A faint, faraway sound you can barely hear amid the office phones, the people who need you, the list of plans for the week, the month, the rest of your life. But when you breathe deeply, the sound is louder and you relax. Finally, one afternoon during your commute home, you hear yourself. You say you need to nurture your soul. But now that you have voiced this need, how do you respond?"

And that is the part that I am at right now. I know I need to do some soul searching. I need to nurture my soul. I need to find out who I am and what I'm supposed to do with my life.

"I reluctantly began a spiritual search when I was 25. I hated my job - my entire direction - and entered an early midlife panic. Many told me it was just 'the age,' but I knew it was more. These were the symptoms: A dull sense of separation from my own heart. An uncertainty about what I loved. A feeling that even my family didn't really know me..."

I feel all of those symptoms. And more. I feel disconnected. Dissatisfied. Just plain off.

The author then goes on to write about spirituality and how she tried many different religions before she found the right one for herself. I don't feel a need to explore my spirituality like she did, but I do feel a need to explore my soul. She included a 4 step path for others to follow, which I don't feel a need to follow but step 1 caught my eye.

Imagine what you want.

What do I want? I've been asking myself that question a lot more lately, but I've been coming up empty handed. I used to think I knew what I wanted, but now I am realizing that I was wanting what someone else wanted. And now I'm lost. I don't know what I want.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I want stability, how much I want happiness, how much I want to love and be loved. I want to know where my life is supposed to go, what I'm supposed to do. I know that I want to have my own bakery and restaurants, but I'm not sure if I want to take that step quite yet. I have so many conflicting things in my head, they are all battling each other and there is no clear winner.

I guess I have a lot more soul searching to do in order to fully answer that question.

Baguette French Toast with Fresh Berries

Yes, I know, berries are no longer in season so this post is kinda late, but I'm really trying to post more food posts! I made this breakfast for myself a while back on a lazy Saturday morning. I had half of a baguette that was rapidly drying out and some fresh berries chilling in the fridge that needed to be eaten fast. Combine the two together and what do you get? Baguette french toast with berries!

Sprinkle a little powdered sugar, butter with a little butter, add a little syrup and you are on your way to one fantastic breakfast. You ready to face the day yet?

Baguette French Toast with Fresh Berries

1/2 baguette, sliced in 1" thick slices
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
fresh mixed berries
powdered sugar
maple syrup

1. Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg until mixed well. Soak slices for 30 sec on each side.
2. Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add bread slices and cook until lightly browned, about 5 min. Flip over and brown for 5 more minutes. Serve with berries, a sprinkling of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.



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Monday, November 14, 2011

Emotional Intelligence, Day 2

Exercise 2: Answer these questions

-What are your five greatest strengths?

Love of learning, kindness/generosity, modesty/humility, playfulness/humor, passion

-What do you consider your greatest or signature strength?  

The ability to make others smile and feel happy, even when I don't feel happy (kindness/generosity)

-How has your signature strength helped you deal with adversity?  

I have helped others get through rough patches in their life by being a source of happiness. I try to bring light into their lives when they are surrounded by so much darkness. It helps me out because I tend to care deeply for lots of people and seeing them hurt makes me hurt.

-How can you use your signature strength in a different or new situation?

I should learn to be happy myself instead of faking it for others.

-What are your weaknesses?

Leadership, self-control, caution, gratitude, sense of purpose.

-What one thing do you want to change about yourself?

I want to be able to identify which emotion I am feeling at a certain time, why I am feeling that emotion, and be able to express my thoughts and feelings freely, without hesitation.

-How would you go about making that change?  

My first start is by reading this book. Next, practice, practice, practice. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Emotional Intelligence

I was surfing the net the other day and came across a book titled, "Emotional Intelligence for Dummies." This intrigued me for some reason, partially because I had no idea what emotional intelligence was. I decided to check out the book and see what it was all about. I started to read the introduction, and the more I read, the more I realized how much I needed to find this book right now.

I have come to realize that I am not in tune with my thoughts, feelings or emotions. I am distant most of the time and I do not live in the present. Sometimes, I have reacted the completely wrong way to a situation. Other times, I just plain feel dead inside. This book supposedly helps you become more aware of your emotions and how to deal with them, which is something I desperately need.

There are some exercises that you are supposed to do while going through the book. I'm trying to read a chapter a day (although tonight I read 3!), and I need somewhere to write down my answers to the activities. Since I'm so much faster at getting my thoughts out when I type, I thought, hey, why not put it in my blog? So over the next few weeks, I will be unleashing my thoughts and feelings and try to become more in tune with my emotions, and I will let you know how the book helped me (or didn't help me).

Exercise 1: Record your responses to these items:

-I'm usually aware of how I'm feeling emotionally.  

No, hardly ever.

-I find it easy to express my feelings and beliefs to others.  

No, it's pretty much impossible for me to do so.

-I really know what I'm good at and where I lack skills.  

Mostly. I know some skills I'm good at, but I don't know where I lack skills.

-I know exactly where I'm going in life.

I thought I knew, but right now I have no idea.

-I depend on others when making important decisions.  

Yes, I definitely do. 
-People feel I really listen to them.

No, they feel as though I'm off in my own world and I'm not really paying attention to them. 

-I have many friends and acquaintances.  


-I spend a lot of time doing things to help others.

No, I wish I did though.

-I'm good at solving people's problems.  

No, I'm hardly adept at solving my own problems. I do try though. 

-I find it easy to change tasks.

Sometimes. Most of the time I switch from task to task before fully finishing the first one.

-I live in the real world and tend not to daydream.  

No, I daydream a lot. Too much. It was more of a safety net for me growing up. I would always think about what could happen and how I would react so that way when things happened, I wouldn't be caught off guard. Now it just causes me more heartache than it's worth. 

-I get through stressful situations without a lot of anxiety.  

No, I freak out and cannot stay calm.

-I'm thoughtful and I carefully plan my reaction to things.  

I'm thoughtful, yes, but I do not carefully plan my reactions.

-I tend to look at the bright side of things.  

I can when I'm in a good mood, but I've noticed that if I'm physically sick or in pain, my mood worsens and I become unhappy and negative.

-I'm usually happy.  

Yes, but again, if I'm physically hurting, then my emotions suffer also.

As you can see, I've answered no to most of these statements, which means I'm emotionally unintelligent, as I had figured. Boy, this hurts to realize that. I kind of always thought that I at least was somewhat in step with my emotions, but I'm really not. And it's hard to think that. It's hard to see that. It's almost like a slap in the face, saying, Wake up, Rachel! Step out of this fog that you are in and live in the real world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cooking Projects

I have so many cooking projects (along with all my other projects), that I don't know how to complete them all in a fashionable amount of time. Should I try to work on them all at once, or should I focus on just one at a time? If my interest in that one project fades, should I switch to another one? I have slight ADD, so I have a feeling if I did that last idea, I'd be switching all the time and wouldn't get anything done.

I also have the issue of wanting to cook too many things at once, and then not getting anything done. Does anyone else have that problem? You have so many things you want to do, but don't know where to start, so you don't do anything? I really need to work on that.

I've become so inspired to cook lately, all thanks to another good friend I've made. They have really given me a lot of good ideas and inspiration and I have really enjoyed talking food with them.

I am determined to decide every Sunday what I'm going to make for the week and I am determined to stick to that plan. Like tonight, I'm going to be making steak with roasted root vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, butternut squash) and quinoa. Yum yum!

I hope to be able to post photos soon. My old laptop is having a hard time reading the SD card, so once I get that figured out, I'll be back to posting recipes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Being Present

I've recently been realizing that I have a hard time being in the present. I'm always focusing on the future or the past, yet rarely focus on what is happening right here, right now. I get so caught up in my thoughts that I can't savor the moment. I feel disconnected. I have for as long as I can remember. I was in a fog, and I didn't know how to get out of it.

I thought for a while that by meeting the right man, he would help bring me out of the fog. I don't think that's the case anymore. I think I need to carry myself out. I need to stop thinking so much and just live. I need to let my thoughts cease and enjoy the moment.

I have made a dear friend in the past year that I thank God everyday for bringing them into my life. They have helped me in so many ways, and they continue to help me. Today when I talked with them, they mentioned being present and how important it was. Later, as I was watching Eat, Pray, Love, I realized that I don't live in the present. I'm always thinking, about the future and how I want it to be, or the past and how it should have been. I don't know how to not think. Yet I have such a hard time expressing my thoughts and my feelings. I keep everything so bottled up inside, and everything gets so jumbled up that I don't know how to express them.

I'm learning how to say things out loud. I have a hard time telling people how I really feel about them, partially because I'm afraid they won't feel the same towards me and I'll end up looking foolish. I find it easier to write things down, but I need to learn how to say them out loud. I need to learn to enjoy the moment, to stop thinking.

My thoughts are my worst enemy. They cause me so much pain, so much frustration. I need to learn to calm my mind down when I get wound up. I need to learn to not get so wound up. I need to learn to live in the present and enjoy what is right in front of me instead of focusing on how it could have been better or what I should have done differently. That moment has passed. I didn't get to enjoy it, so I'm regretting it and feeling guilty. I need to feel less guilty about everything. I'm going to train my thoughts so they don't become my worst enemy. So what if things don't turn out how I want them to. Yes, I believe there is a plan for my life, but I have no idea what it is, and that scares me.

I thought I had it all figured out, had figured out exactly how my life was going to be. And then I changed it. And my life keeps changing. I have no idea where it's going to go, how it's going to end up being. And it's scares the living daylights out of me. But what I've learned in the past hour or so is that I need to learn to be present for every moment. Not just the ones I think are going to be important, all of them.

Today was one of the first days I actually felt myself living in the moment. I was walking with my dear friend I talked about earlier and we were standing on the bank by the river. We were both silent for a little while, and I realized, I had no thoughts in my head. For the first time in such a long time, my head was clear. I had no worries, no anxieties, no fears. I felt happy. My mind was so clear and I was so into that moment. I need to learn to experience that more often, eventually learning how to experience every moment.

I'm learning so much more than I thought I ever would. I'm coming to realize that I really don't know everything. I hardly know anything. I still have so much more to learn, about life, about people, about love. I'm learning new things everyday.

Life is full of surprises and I just need to learn to accept that they are going to happen and I have no power to change that. I do, however, have the power to change how I react. I can react negatively, like I have for my whole life, or I can learn to laugh and smile and look at the positive of the situation. I will learn to be positive and be present.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Smoked Salmon Quesadillas with Corn Salsa

Who doesn't love quesadillas? All that cheese, oozing out the sides. I sure love them! Smoked salmon quesadillas have become my favorite version. I know, this is a summer-y kind of dish, but it has recently become my choice go-to meal. I swear, in the past few months, I have made this at least 4 or 5 times. I was surprised at how delicious it was! I prefer to serve mine with some Greek yogurt instead of sour cream; it still gives you a sour kick, but without the fat.

Smoked Salmon Quesadillas with Corn Salsa
Serves 2

1/2 lb. smoked salmon (not lox!)
1/2 c. Mexican shredded cheese (mixture of pepperjack and cheddar)
4 flour tortillas

Corn Salsa:
1 c. fresh corn kernels (from about 2-3 cobs)
1/4 c. diced green bell pepper
1/4 c. lime juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
handful cilantro leaves, chopped finely

For serving:
Sour cream (or yogurt)

1. To prepare the corn salsa, cut kernels off the cob. Bring water in a 3 qt saucepan to a boil, cook kernels for 1 min, then drain. Put kernels into a bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. Let stand while making the quesadillas.
2. Heat a saute pan large enough to fit the tortillas over medium heat. Put one tortilla in the pan, then layer on the cheese and chunks of smoked salmon. Layer some more cheese on top of the salmon. Let sit until cheese begins to melt around the edges. Top with second tortilla, and let cook for 1 more minutes, until cheese closer to center begins to melt. Carefully flip the quesadilla over and brown on other side for 1-2 minutes.
3. Slide onto plate and cut into wedges using a pizza cutter. Repeat step 2 with second set of tortillas and more cheese and salmon. 
4. Serve with some corn salsa and a dollop of sour cream.



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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Renton Museum Auction

Last night was our 4th annual dinner auction for the Renton History Museum. Usually, I help set up the auction tables and then help with check in, but last night I was in for a treat. The guy that usually helps the caterers in the kitchen had a cold, so our fundraising chair suggested that they ask me for help. Of course I said yes. And it was a blast!

I learned so much about working in a commercial kitchen and preparing food for a large group of people (nearly 150!). We served green beans with almonds, mashed potatoes and gravy with roast turkey and roast pork. It was delicious! And I enjoyed every second of being in that kitchen. From helping slice the meat to learning how to operate the dishwasher, I just soaked it all in.

The experience really helped me realize that if I'm going to follow my dream of opening my own restaurant (and bakery and sandwich shop and....), I really need to go to culinary school. I thought by just going to baking school, I would be happy in a bakery. But baking is not my passion. It's fun, but it's not what I want to do. I want to be in a kitchen, cooking food.

I realize that at first, I'll be low on the food chain and I will be doing a lot of menial tasks. I originally thought that would bother me, having repetitive work, but at my current job, a lot of what I do is repetitive. I don't think it would bother me that much anymore.

So I've decided, I'm going to culinary school, not baking school. It's an extra year and an extra $5000, but I think it would be worth it. And someday, I will have my own restaurant and bakery and sandwich shop and...

I'm gonna be a female version of Tom Douglas.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Italian Sausages with Braised Cabbage and Potatoes

I love comfort foods. Then again, I think everyone does. But I also think everyone has a different idea of comfort food. For some, it's mac and cheese; for others, it's their mom's chicken noodle soup. For me, it's Czech food.

Roast pork, dumplings, sauerkraut, potatoes, braised cabbages, caraway, and chicken paprika. Those are my favorite dishes to eat. I especially love braised cabbage and potatoes. It's such an easy dish to make and it surprisingly doesn't take too long.

This dish is great for fall and winter since it's more of a stick to your ribs kind of dish, but if you have been having the kind of weather we have been having where I am, it's perfect for a cloudy, grey day anytime of year.

Italian Sausages with Braised Cabbage and Potatoes
Serves 4

4 Italian sausages, mild or spicy
Vegetable oil
1 head savoy cabbage, halved, cored and each half cut into 3 wedges
2 potatoes, quartered
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1/2 to 1 c. chicken stock
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over med-high heat. Brown sausages for 2 min per side. Add in potatoes, then layer cabbage wedges on top of potatoes and sausages. Sprinkle caraway seeds over mixture. Pour enough chicken stock to just cover the bottom of pan by 1/2 in of liquid. Cover and put in oven.
2. Braise in the oven for 25 minutes, tossing and adding more chicken stock after 15 minutes. You will know it's done by sticking a fork in the potatoes. If the fork goes easily into the potato, it's done. 
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve with butter for the potatoes.



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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Clam and Corn Fritters

Here is the recipe, as requested by my coworkers:

 Clam and Corn Fritters
makes roughly 2 dozen

1 10z can whole clams, rinsed and patted dry
1 ear corn, kernels removed
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ c. milk
¾ c. flour
vegetable or peanut oil

spicy sour cream sauce:
½ c. sour cream
½ c. plain yogurt
cayenne pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, mix together clams, corn kernels, bell pepper and green onions. Mix in eggs and milk, then add flour. Mix until just blended.
2. To make spicy sour cream sauce, mix all ingredients together. Let stand until ready to use.
3. Heat ½ in. of oil in a large Dutch oven to 360 F, using a candy thermometer. When oil has reached 360 F, drop rounded tablespoons of clam mixture into oil, 3 or 4 at a time. Let fry on one side for a minute to a minute and a half, then flip and fry on the other side for the same amount of time. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towels. Repeat until mixture has been all used up. If needed, add more oil to pan, but let heat back up to 360 before resuming frying. Serve with the sour cream sauce.



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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kirsti's Marinated Steak

I know, I know, I'm posting two steak recipes in a row. But really, I love steak. That's hasn't always been the case, however. Growing up, I was never really a fan of steak. I would slather it in ketchup to cover up the steak flavor. That was until my mom got this recipe from her best friend, Kirsti. When I tried it, I fell back in love with steak. It's seriously my favorite marinade. And it's so easy too! Just a little bit of teriyaki sauce, a few splashes of Worcestershire, and a sprinkling of It's a Dilly (it's discontinued, but I've written a substitute below). That's it! Let it marinate for about half an hour at room temperature, or a few hours in the fridge. Then grill!

Seriously, it's that easy. Why don't you make it for dinner tonight?

Kirsti's Marinated Steak

1 lb. of your favorite cut of steak (I like tri-tip)
Teriyaki sauce
Worcestershire sauce
It's a Dilly (or 1 tbsp dill, 1 tsp garlic salt and 1 tsp onion powder)
Salt and Pepper
1. In a large rectangular glass dish, spread steak out in a single layer. Pour enough teriyaki sauce to just barely coat the bottom of the dish. Splash a little Worcestershire sauce over each piece, then sprinkle a little bit of it's a dilly. Massage marinade into steak. Let marinate for 30 min at room temp, or 1-2 hours in the fridge.
2. When ready to cook, heat a grill over med-high heat and grill until done to your liking. Or you can cook the steak the Alton Brown way.



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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Steak Kew

Summer is definitely my least favorite season out of all of them, and if it weren’t for the great produce, I swear I’d move to New Zealand for June-August. But luckily, the summer here isn't too hot so I think I can live with it for a few months.

Don't you think fresh tomatoes, right off the vine, are absolute wonderful? In the garden I’m growing with Tim’s mom, we have a few tomato plants that are growing really fast. We also have several varieties growing at work, including purple tomatillos! There are already some green ones, and I’m sure once they start to ripen, we are going to have tomatoes coming out of our ears! (ok not really, but you get the idea!)

The other night I was really craving something with tomatoes, but I also wanted a stir-fry, which made things difficult because most stir-frys I make don't include tomatoes. Then I found this recipe, which was perfect! Steak kew is a lot like a stir fry, but you blanch the broccolini and the tomatoes are left raw. I was surprised at how delicious it turned out. For a great summer stir-fry, you must try this dish.

Steak Kew
Serves 4

1 lb flank, skirt steak or other tender beef, cut in ½ in. strips
1 onion, cut in 1−inch chunks
1 1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 garlic clove, minced
1 slice ginger root, minced
1 bunch broccolini,
2 firm ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
3 tablespoons peanut oil
Cooked rice

1. Combine beef, onion, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, soy, pepper, cornstarch, garlic and ginger in a large bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes. Blanch broccolini for 1 to 2 minutes; drain and place on a platter. Scatter tomato wedges over broccolini.

2. Heat peanut oil in a wok or skillet and stir−fry meat and onion mixture for 1 to 2 minutes; meat should be seared but still pink inside. Immediately pour over blanched vegetables and serve with rice.



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