June 24, 2010

:: change of perspective ::

the other day i was going to post a picture (similar to the one below) of anna dello russo, and share how insanely insane i thought the look was. but how could i, after admiring this one?among other things i think are crazy about this ensemble, the floral lace over the abdomen is so unflattering. (she has an awesome body.) but then, tonight, i came across these other images and i see that the look isn't as bad as i thought from the first, uncomplimentary shot i saw. still brazen (and nuts, perhaps), but not the craziest thing i've seen her pull off.

June 23, 2010

:: pantry raid - fish tacos ::

this is one of my current favorite go-to meals. super quick, easy, nutritional and inexpensive. i mean REALLY inexpensive.

i'll start with the "necessities" and then move on to the add-ons.

the fish:
i use tilapia from the bag. 1 fillet is normally enough for 2 tacos. thaw the fish, remove from the pouch. place in a hot pan with a little olive oil (or non-stick spray for no additional calories). i only season with pepper and whatever other spices move me in the moment (garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin). i don't like salt, so i don't add salt, but you can. a little seasoning is plenty for this because you'll have other seasonings in other components. all together, it's a flavorful dish. cook the fish, separating/flaking it as it cooks.

tortilla shell:
i don't use anything special. i have these in my fridge pretty much all the time (great for quesadillas (which i never make) and with hummus and veggies). but you can get low-carb or spinach or some other special sort of tortilla. place a small bowl with water in the microwave, put tortilla on top. once the fish has finished cooking, turn the microwave on for 10-20 seconds to warm. the water just helps steam/soften it - you don't have to do that part.

now you could be done. you could go ahead and spread some sour cream, salsa, lettuce, cabbage, cheese and the fish on the tortilla, roll and eat. but i like one (if not both) of these other things on mine. to me, these MAKE the tacos. and both of these things are great pantry raid "recipes" because i pretty much always have (most of) the ingredients on hand. (and so should you.)

this is a new thing for me to make, but i LOVE it. i've made it twice recently, two different ways. here i will tell you how i made it tonight because it was really easy. (so was the other time, but i don't really remember what i did.) put all of the following into your blender. chop everything choppable (except tomatoes). doesn't need to be finely chopped since you're using the blender. just make sure everything is about the same size so that it all blends somewhat evenly.
+ 1 large can of whole tomatoes. i had accidentally bought whole the other day and i knew i wouldn't use those for anything else, but you can use diced or petite diced. or fresh, even. i did throw my first itty bitty homegrown tomato in there, too!
+ 2 bell peppers. i used 1 red, 1 orange. you can use whatever you like/have
+ half a cucumber. i kept the peel on, but you can remove, if you prefer
+ 1/4 - 1/2 red onion
+ parsley, cilantro, chives, lemon and/or lime zest, kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, minced garlic (fresh if you have it), allspice, old bay all to taste. (start small and add to it as needed.)
+ lemon juice, lime juice, worcestershire sauce, tasbasco (or schlotzsky's hot sauce if that happens to be what you have!), sriracha (just a couple of drops! add more if you like heat), and red wine vinegar all to taste, too.

blend. i used the chop setting. then, as i added more seasonings i used the stir setting or stirred by hand to avoid losing the chunkiness.

note that unless you are going to eat this as gazpacho -the soup- you will not want it super liquid-y, so you have to have a lighter hand with the liquids and keep the solids a little chunkier (and then you get both gazpacho-the-taco-condiment and gazpacho-the-soup!).

texas/redneck caviar bean dip:
i make this a lot. so many uses for me. a great go-to thing to have in the fridge. CANNOT make a little bit at a time so i always have plenty to go around. put the following things in a bowl:
+ 1 can garbanzo beans
+ 1 or 2 cans whole kernel corn
+ 1 can black beans (i can't stand black eyed peas, but you can add 1 can of those, too)
+ canned tomatoes or rotel. for the amount of beans/corn i just mentioned, i would probably do 2 cans of diced tomatoes or 3 cans of rotel.
+ 1/2 - 1 white onion
+ spring onions & colored bell peppers are great in this, too
+ the same dry seasonings as above - parsley, cilantro, garlic, chives, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, paprika - and chili powder
+ zesty italian salad dressing. the longer the dip sits, the more everything soaks up the liquid, so do a little more than you might think you need (or just add to it later).

mix together. cover & refrigerate.

add more cayenne or hot sauce for added heat. add some lime juice for added zest.

back to the tacos:
i take the flat tortilla, spread a little light sour cream (teaspoon or so), then spread the gazpacho and/or bean dip on top of that. then i add some shredded cheese, shredded red cabbage (my 2nd favorite part of this!), squeeze some lemon or lime juice on that, then put the fish on top of it all. roll halfway, fold in the ends, roll some more and chow down.

enjoy...and post comments if you have questions or feedback!

this post has not been proofread, so please excuse any typos you might find! i just wanted to hurry and get it up before i slacked off.

June 22, 2010

:: loves ::

have you seen that hallmark commercial that shows the two sisters who, in the process of helping their parents move, find the dad's stash of old birthday & father's day cards they'd given him over the years? yeah, i love it.

love this postsecret, too.
i suppose i'm drawn to these sentiments because my dad isn't exactly your bear-hugging-always-saying-i-love-you type. but he certainly shows me he loves me in his own, unique ways.

"he didn't tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it."
- clarence budington kelland

June 18, 2010

:: help with apostrophe's's ::

apostrophes are for possessives (ownership) and contractions (missing parts of words). you do not need to add an apostrophe to something to make it plural - except when not doing so would create an actual word on its own - like more than one letter "I" (Is/I's).
it seems as though people are inclined to over-complicate writing & grammar and end up with errors because of that. it doesn't have to be that hard! just remember, in the case of apostrophes, you (usually) only need to use one if you are making something POSSESSIVE (someone owns something) or A CONTRACTION (you're removing parts of a word).
ex. Julia's blog, don't forget, y'all come back

* please note that, like most things in language, there are exceptions to these rules. these notes are extremely simplified and are intended to help clear up a few errors i see on the web & in emails on a regular basis.

June 16, 2010

:: pantry raid! ::

i'm not organized enough in the kitchen to be able to tag my dishes with a certain dollar amount or to call them "30 minute meals." but i can safely call most of my dinners (and lunches, for that matter) "last minute meals" as i often get a hankering for one particular thing, raid my pantry and throw a meal together.

i have friends who ask me to teach them to cook. who ask me for recipes. i don't use recipes and (as previously noted), i'm not really organized in the kitchen - not enough to teach someone to cook. i think i would only confuse and frustrate someone. i have learned to cook by watching & helping my mom (and grandmothers and cooking shows), not by using recipes. it's trial and error based on love and desire; i live to eat, for sure.

but since i know i have an interested audience, i'll post a meal here (that i just finished!). it was super fast, easy, inexpensive and good! oh, and pretty nutritious, too. a great summer fare that can take advantage of the best produce this season has to offer - or not. (note the canned & frozen items used this time around for the sake of convenience).

as noted, i do not follow recipes. along those lines, i cannot (do not) write recipes. it will be up to you to figure out how to alter if you choose to leave out certain parts of this.

things to note:
when it comes to seasonings - or anything that you're adding - start light.; you can always add more pepper, garlic, etc, but you can't take it away.

i have all of the following things on hand, pretty much at all times. if you don't - well, in my opinion, you should. why not?

featuring: creamed corn, sliced cantaloupe, roasted tomatoes, baked okra, red cabbage slaw and deviled eggs.

put eggs on to boil for deviled eggs
preheat oven to 400 for tomatoes & okra

creamed corn:
drain a can of sweet yellow corn - set the liquid aside. (fresh corn from the cob is preferable, but not enough so to have made a special trip to the grocery store for it when i had canned on hand.) dump the drained corn into a skillet with a dab of butter (or not) over low-medium heat. add a few sprinkles of bacon bits (the real bacon pieces, not the hard, crunchy kind). i always have hormel bacon pieces in my fridge for salads, green beans, corn, scrambled eggs. once the butter has melted, sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour to thicken. add the corn liquid for a sweeter taste or just skip straight to adding some milk. i used organic 2% because that's what i have. cream is more traditional (and would mean skipping the flour). add a little milk. stir. mash (with potato masher, spatula, back of spoon, etc). season it. i use a good bit of black pepper, (unsalted) poultry seasoning, a pinch of kosher salt (can omit) and a little nutmeg. watch it thicken. if it gets too thick, turn down heat and add more liquid (milk and/or corn juice). the longer it sits, the better the flavor.

roasted grape tomatoes:
spread grape tomatoes on a baking sheet. drizzle with olive oil. sprinkle with black pepper, garlic powder and a tiny bit of kosher salt (if desired). place in oven (can go in before preheated). eventually, you'll hear them popping as they burst open. once they pop, remove from oven. you can remove them before then, too, but i think post-pop is when they're best. i sprinkled mine with some fresh basil from the garden after taking from oven.

baked okra:
i used frozen, sliced okra (thawed) because that's what i have. fresh, sliced okra may be used (and would have been preferable if it didn't mean making a trip to the store!). about 2 cups for the amount of stuff i'm about to tell you. really, i just used what was left in the bag i had. it's way too much for one person, but i'll reheat tomorrow for lunch. in a small dish (i used a square pyrex casserole dish - great for dredging), mix about 1/2 cup of cornmeal (i used buttermilk cornmeal because that's what i had, but the recipe i was using for inspiration called for yellow cornmeal), 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (which i don't have, so i added about 1 teaspoon of grated white onion), some cajun seasoning (which i don't have, so i used cayenne pepper and some old bay) and black pepper. in a separate bowl, lightly whisk 1 large egg. dump the okra into the egg, coating each piece. use a slotted spoon to add egg-coated okra - a little at a time - to the flour mixture. dredge . (the first batch i did was very well coated and was too crunchy, not okra-y enough for me. the second batch was just lightly breaded and was much better.) place the okra on a baking sheet, leaving space between each piece for even browning. spray the tops lightly with cooking spray. cook for 20-25 minutes or until the outside is crispy.

red cabbage slaw:
chop red cabbage. toss with a little mayo, red wine vinegar (or tarragon vinegar or white vinegar or a combination) - or just use store bought cole slaw dressing. season with garlic powder, pepper and salt (if desired). refrigerate until everything else is done.

deviled eggs:
once the eggs come to a rolling boil, remove from heat and cover for 20 minutes. then peel and cut in half, length-wise. place the yolks in a bowl. i use a metal strainer to finely mash the yolks, but a fork or spoon will work, too. just might be lumpier. add a little mustard and mayo (start with small amounts and add to it as needed) and white pepper (black pepper is fine if you don't keep white on hand). fill the egg white holes with the yolk mixture. if you're over 70, sprinkle some paprika on top. over 80, add an olive slice. (that's a joke. i like mine topping free.)

sliced cantaloupe:
slice cantaloupe.

i had a couple of cornbread muffins left over from another meal, so i had those tonight, too.

* my mom would make a meal like this and call it "all veggies" despite there being cantaloupe, tomatoes and other fruits on the bill. in our house and in the south (as far as i know) this is considered an all vegetable meal. period.

this post has not been proofread, so please excuse any typos you might find! i just wanted to hurry and get it up before i slacked off.

:: fashion police make arrest ::

can a single color be considered a brand?
what if that single color is used on a single article of clothing? say, an orange dress - with absolutely no typical brand markings like a logo, slogan, name or color combination.

according to the international federation of association football (FIFA), the answer is yes. 36 girls showed up at a match wearing orange mini-dresses and were kicked out based on the claim that their attire was a case of ambush marketing. (two of the women have been arrested for their involvement in the illegal campaign.)
had i seen this group of women in their not-so-flattering dresses, i might have thought "beer" or "liquor," as they do closely resemble beer/liquor girls here who wear inexpensive, revealing clothing to promote alcohol at various clubs/events. but it would have been highly unlikely that i would link the group to a particular sort of beer (bavaria) without them having been detained, ejected (and/or) arrested and the media having picked up the story.

ny times blog - the lede

all in all, i gotta give the company an A for effort - or really just for the luck involved in having its attractive minions getting busted and actually making this news. but an F for ethics for attempting something like this (a 2nd time).

June 11, 2010

:: under the big top ::

i don't think i'd ever have the nerve to wear this away from the beach, nor would i think to own a pair of shorts or bathing suit like that, but i love this look (with different shoes)!


June 08, 2010

:: letters home - mamma's birthday ::

this year's memorial day (weekend) was very different for me from those of the past. normally, i would have my thoughts of gratitude toward those who have served, and i would move on about my day. this year i was constantly reminded of my late grandfather. a man who served his country and his family honorably. as though i don't think of him often enough! i thought of his sacrifice as a soldier more than ever. i kept thinking of him as a young man, leaving his mother & father and wife and sisters and going to a foreign country to fight in a war. in a time when foreign didn't just mean "overseas" or "far away." it really meant "unknown." he didn't have that real-time inside view like we have today (via internet, tv, etc). england, france, germany, belgium…those places were truly foreign to him. shoot, new york city was even shocking to his small town (atlanta, ga in 1944) frame of reference!

i have a stack of letters and vmail that i salvaged from my grandparents' house in decatur when they moved to greenville a few years ago. to me, these are not just a fascinating view into the life of my grandfather as a young man (and my family's past), but they're also a really neat piece of american history.

v-mail was used to expedite the mail delivery overseas during the war. notes were written on full-sized paper, inspected (the mail was censored) and photographed. microfilm containing pictures of numerous letters were then shipped, saving valuable space (and weighing much less than physical letters would). the photos were printed, smaller than the originals, folded and placed in special v-mail envelopes, specifically designed for the layout of the stationery (so that the mail-to address would show through the small window on the envelope's front). because of the very specific design of the stationary, notes had to be kept short, else the legibility be compromised (when the image size was decreased) or the address placement not be correct.
[click to enlarge]

13 Dec 1944 [england]

Dear Mamma,
Happy Birthday. I know that this will reach you a little late since it won't even leave here until the 14th but anyway it will show you that I am thinking of you on your birthday. To be very frank I had let it slip up on me and one of the boys waked me this morning and asked me for a pass so when I wrote the date it suddenly registered. I went into town this morning to see if I could find you anything but they are just about out of everything. Maybe I'll be able to find something later on. I may even get a chance to go to London and then I may find something to send you.

I have visited Liverpool and saw some of the effects of the bombing that they had there back in 1941. I'm really glad that the war wasn't [arrived?] to our country so that we would [n't] have bombing etc.

Mamma this money over here is really a mess. I believe that our system is much simpler. How about sending some fruit cake & chicken?

Lots of love,
Arthur Jr

June 07, 2010

:: two for one for good ::

if you're in the market for some canvas wedges for the summer, get more bang for your buck and pick up a pair of the new TOMS wedges. for every pair you purchase (of any TOMS shoe) another pair of shoes is sent to a child in need in a developing country. it's buy one, get one for someone else. keep that in mind when considering the $69 price tag - which isn't really bad for 1 pair, but is great for 2 plus a good deed!

while TOMS have a reputation for comfort and compassion, this new style combines the TOMS mission with a cute summer trend.

June 03, 2010

:: on parade ::

last week i visited the young designers' market in soho and i kept thinking how great it'd be to have that in greenville. first fridays in the pendleton street art district used to give me my local art fix on a regular basis, but once lily pottery and knack moved, i started slacking off and my withdrawals set in.

but today i found out about the indie craft parade, coming to town in september and i can't wait to check it out and see how things go! it won't be a frequent event (or will it?) but will be an annual affair. pass this along to any regional crafters you know who would be interested in participating. applications are being accepted now through june 18.


June 02, 2010

:: and He has ::

"may God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. may God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace. may God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy. and may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen."

- a franciscan benediction

IC blog post on the signing of the bill
statement from the President
video after the signing of the bill