Glee - Are you watching it yet?

It's on tonight. I was literally giggling with, well, glee at this scene last week.


I have a slight fascination with Martha Stewart, and I think she totally rocks. Case in point: She just got a new batch of one-day old chicks for her farm, to give her fresh eggs. Don't I wish! Maybe someday . . . when I live on the imaginary farm in my head. (That farm also has goats and llamas, in case you were interested.)

The chicks are SOOO CUTE! I want some! You can read her post about it.

Photo source: The Martha Blog

My neighbors have chickens. They're a very pretty golden brown and I like to hear them clucking when I walk to my car. But sometimes they get out and stand in the middle of the road like a bunch of dummies. I've tried to herd them back a couple times without much luck. Maybe I'll be an urban chicken owner someday, since Lord knows I'm too lazy to actually take care of a real farm.


Weekend Highlights

I rendered lard last night. It didn't turn out perfectly, so I'll try again tonight and post a longer rundown later this week. Most people have been at least interested, if not supportive, of this new experiment. My mom just thinks I'm crazy.

Many other culinary adventures are in the works - including canning! I bought the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and have referred to my most reliable source - my mom. We're starting with peach jam, and we'll go from there.

Besides working with lard and learning about canning, it was a lovely weekend with the highlight of attending our fifth wedding this year! It was a beautiful evening and a lovely service. I caught up with longtime friends, drank wine, did a little dancing and ate cake. What more can you ask for? Here's wishing happiness and adventure to all the couples I saw get married this year!

P.S. A couple tasty recipes that I made last week and I think are worth passing along:

Steamed Eggplant and Mushrooms with Peanut Sauce - Quick and healthy. A good way to use all the eggplant at the farmers markets right now. I served it with brown rice, just don't over-steam the eggplant like I did.

Pork Chops with Bacon and Cabbage - The perfect fall meal. Pete and I both really liked it. I mean, just look at the picture! I can't wait to eat leftovers tonight.
Photo source: MarthaStewart.com

P.P.S. There are SO MANY blog posts and YouTube videos about rendering lard and canning. So very helpful. Thank you technology!


Cupcake Conversion

Photo courtesy of Cupcake Royale blog
Dear Cupcake Royale,

Something's changed in our relationship. I used to put down your cupcakes, calling them dry, tasteless and over priced.

But, I take it all back.

A plate of your cupcakes was placed in front of me at a meeting recently. At first I resisted, but eventually gave in. And, to my surprise, the cupcake was moist and tasty, and the frosting was creamy and flavorful! Was it a fluke?

Then, I saw your sign about the cupcake of the month: Blue Mountain Huckleberry. My internal response: "Must have huckleberry cupcake. Immediately."

Would I be let down? Disappointed? No! It was delicious!

Plus, your Capitol Hill location is so cute and cozy, I kind of want to hang out there every day - drinking coffee, eating a cupcake and reading. Oh, and your employees are all very helpful and friendly.

You've won me over! I'm a fan, and I will now be singing your praises in Seattle. And I'm dying to trying your Salted Caramel cupcake. Watch out - I'll be back!


P.S. I also admire the fact that you provide employees with healthcare and advocate healthcare for all!

(Cupcake Royale has bunch of locations in Seattle, you can find them and see the cupcakes at their Web site.)


Lardfest 2009

That's right people: Lard. In case you haven't heard, it's in. This is mostly because transfats are out of favor, which includes vegetable shortening. So, we went old school by re-embracing butter. And, now we're going real old school with a renewed interest in lard.

The New York Times was singing its praises recently:

I have a suggestion for those Old World cooks who are wrestling with New World advice: take another look at the fat profile of lard. It has half the level of saturated fat of palm kernel oil (about 80 percent saturated fat) or coconut oil (about 85 percent) and its approximately 40 percent saturated fat is lower than butter's nearly 60 percent. Today's miracle, olive oil, is much lower in saturated fat, as everyone knows, but it does have some: about 13 percent. As for monounsaturated fat, the current savior, olive oil contains a saintly 74 percent, yes. But scorned lard contains a very respectable 45 percent monounsaturated fat - double butter's paltry 23 or so percent.

As with all dietary advice, the fat of the day will change. But eternal truths will remain: food is always best with little or no processing and eaten as close as possible to where it is grown. This goes for lard, too. The artisan pig farmers whose fortunes have been revived by a new market for pork with real flavor should look into selling lard because the supermarket kind is processed and dismal.

(Side note: I had a fascinating conversation with a local artisan pig farmer, which has inspired me to try rendering my own lard. But, stay tuned for more on that in a later post.)

And Slate seconded the wonders of lard:

Lard's fat is also mostly monounsaturated, which is healthier than saturated fat. And even the saturated fat in lard has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. Not to mention that lard has a higher smoking point than other fats, allowing foods like chicken to absorb less grease when fried in it. And, of course, fat in general has its upsides. The body converts it to fuel, and it helps absorb nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamins.

In fact, I might need to get my hands on this book: Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes. The Amazon listing even include ones of her recipes - Pumpkin and Bacon Soup.

So with all this hype about lard, I was super excited when my friend Maggie sent along a recipe for pie crust that was supposed to be to-die-for and suggested we have a pie baking party. It involves a mix of half lard and half butter. And, the trick is to use high quality, leaf lard. It's the most tasteless and the best for baking.

We convened at Maru's house on Saturday to find she had whipped up five different varieties of tamales. WHICH ALSO INCLUDE LARD! Do you see where I'm going here? Lard was the theme of the day! LARDFEST 2009!

Lardfest then got underway in ernest, with lots of pie-making.

The star of the day: Lard. Maggie ordered it from Minnesota.


Peeling - Peaches were still in season, so Maru and I made peach pies. I'm looking forward to making an apple pie a little later in the fall.

Fruit was prepped and crust ingredients were combined and chilled - and we were ready to roll out the dough! One handy trick from the recipe - thump the dough before rolling it out!

Sept 20 008

Sept 20 011

Sept 20 009
Can you tell I'm excited?

A series of pre-baking photos:
Sept 20 014
Sept 20 016
Sept 20 025

And, the finished products:
Sept 20 035

We all agreed they were the best pies we'd ever made, and maybe the best pies we'd ever had.

So, Lardfest 2009, in summary:
three pies
Sept 20 020
Sept 20 019

Final note: I also got a quick lesson on making tamales, so I'll have to attempt that on another day and report back.

Now there's just Lardfest 2010 to plan for!


What a weekend!

It was a weekend of culinary adventures, time with friends, football, farmers markets, eating and more eating. And it all ended with a sunset sailboat ride.

Lots more to come about the weekend and our adventures into the exciting world of lard.
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Postcards From My Commute

This isn't breaking news, but it has been beautiful in Seattle over the last week. I've taken so many mental pictures on my walks and bike rides, and I often wish I had a camera strapped to my helmet. There's one point on my bike ride to work, as I'm climbing Capitol Hill, that I can see both the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains. (It's nice to have inspiration as I'm huffing and puffing up the hill.)

I've been keeping a pretty consistent commuting schedule of bussing two days a week, biking two days a week and doing whatever I feel like on the fifth day. I'm pretty proud of myself! The morning are getting slightly more chilly, but I'm hoping to keep up the biking until those dark, dark rainy days in the heart of winter. I might take a break for a month or two then, but otherwise I'm going to try to stick with my program.

I've also been lifting weights twice a week - which caused some major soreness in muscles I must have left dormant for at least the last three years. But I'm feelig stronger now, and it's worth the time investment in the gym.

So, a couple quick snapshots from commutes:

One thing I've learned through biking is that a lot of people sleep near the Burke Gilman trail - along the canal and near bridges. Sometimes I see the remnants of late night bonfires next to the water in Fremont! One man always has a makeshift tent up near the I-5 bridge - you can tell he's a pro (at being homeless) and has staked out a good spot and developed a solid set-up. So, one morning this week, I ride by his "tent" and see this:

It says: Lea! Call your f@!king voicemail.

I love how he was polite enough not to write the actual F word. And, let's all hope Lea did call her voicemail!

In addition, I have one quick photo from my phone of one of the many beautiful morning views I get on my ride:

Now that I'm in a little better shape, I'm thinking of doing the Kitsap Color Classic, a 64-mile ride!


Dirty Dancing

This is how obsessed I used to be with Dirty Dancing in high school:

Not only did I watch the movie almost weekly, I would rewind the last dance scene at least once to watch it again.

I convinced my class to use the theme "I've Had the Time of My Life" for our senior prom.

My friends and I learned entire dances from the movie, and one even had her date at a dance do the lift from the movie. (Note: That lift causes underwear exposure.)

So, Patrick Swayze is close to my heart. And, how can you not love him for his performances in Ghost, Saturday Night Life and To Wong Foo? He played a drag queen in a movie! And he can dance! (And, since he just died, I'll even admit that I enjoy Road House.)

So, in his memory, I present to you one of the greatest movie clips of all time. It won't embed, so you'll have to watch the Dirty Dancing clip on YouTube.

Thanks Patrick! We'll miss you!


Don't Stop Believing

Something to lift your spirits on a Wednesday. It's the the fifth-grade chorus from Public School 22 on Staten Island, N.Y. singing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." And one little guy does an amazing solo! You go guy!

Here's an NPR Story on the chorus.

And, you can watch many more videos on their You Tube channel.

P.S. Hearing this song made me excited for the premier of Glee tonight.


Postcards From My Commute

I now commute up to Capitol Hill everyday, usually by bike or bus. And I get to see all sorts of inspiring, beautiful, weird, fascinating and even disgusting things. So, I'm going to try to start mentioning them. I'll try to post pictures as well, whenever possible.

First thing of interest: While biking on the Burke Gilman trail I have seen two fellow bikers who were missing a limb, yet still smoked me on the trail. One man was missing a leg, and used a prosthetic to pedal. Another was missing an arm. Seriously bad ass.

Second thing of interest: I'm a snooper - I snoop on what groceries people buy, what they check out from the library and what books they read on the bus. The other day, a small, middle-aged Asian woman was sitting by me. She was conservatively dressed, carrying a canvas bag and looked to be on her way to work. When I looked more closely at the book she was reading, I was able to make out the title: Drink, Play, F@#k. Wha??? I know it's a spin-off of Eat, Pray, Love. But, who would actually read that? She was about halfway through and looked pretty engrossed.

Bad Blogger

I've been a bad blogger. You know when you feel like you're always a step behind? You can't get to work on time, can't get enough sleep, can't get you apartment clean, can't go to the grocery store. Yeah, that's been me in August. But, I think I have time to take a deep breath now and start to catch up.

I have a big dinner planned for me and Pete tonight, followed by a nice walk around Green Lake. Then, a three-day weekend in town. What a concept! I'll be getting together with some friends and maybe taking a bike ride in the San Juans, if it doesn't rain too much.

I hope everyone else has a nice, relaxing weekend as well!