Branching Out

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to cooking dinner, I tend to get in a rut. I stick to the same salad, or turkey burgers, or salmon, or chili that I know and love, and I don’t often get out of my comfort zone. I do like having a repertoire of dishes that I can come back to day after day and week after week. I know I can trust these dishes, that they won’t let me down. They’re easy to make, they’re healthy and best of all, they taste great. Well, they do the trick, and that’s what counts.

Sometimes though, it’s just time to try something new. Time to throw the pasta out with the bath pasta water and move on. So yesterday, while shopping at Whole Foods all hopped up on a cappuccino and an exploratory spirit, I decided to really throw caution to the wind. Screw those boring tacos I had planned for dinner. I was going to branch out. I was going to attempt something wildly new, something so different, something truly phenomenal. No, I wasn’t going to attempt to Master the Art of French Cooking.

I was going to try to make a curry.

An Indian curry to be exact, using a spice packet that had really already done all of the work for me. The thing is, I like Indian food, but actually cooking it myself has always seemed completely out of my range. All of those spices and sauces and exotic ingredients have the ability to intimidate a relatively boring cook such as myself. But when I saw the Kitchens of India Chicken Curry paste I thought what the hell, it was worth a try.

courtestykitchensofindia

It turned out to be a piece of cake. Cut up some chicken breasts, mix the spice packet with a cup of water, and simmer for 25 minutes. Serve with whole wheat naan and some sauteed spinach (makeshift saag I guess) for a healthy, delicious dinner. John and I both loved it so I think we’ll definitely be trying this one again. And now that I know Indian food doesn’t always have to be so difficult, maybe one day I’ll even move out of pre-packaged spice range. For now now though, this little cook is stretching herself, and that in and of itself is a good thing.

Dinner tonight? The options are endless… Thai, Brazilian, Nepali? Or maybe I’ll just stick to an omelet. Even Julia Child loved those

Happy Birthday Saucer

Okay not to get all dog-mom crazy on you, but I have to say happy birthday today to my little guy. Saucer turns 7 today.

He’s been with me through a move from Denver to D.C. and back again, my M.A., my first real job, four apartments, one new house, a marriage, a trip to Singapore (he didn’t go, but I was glad he still loved me when I came back), and so much more. He’s changed a bit over the years, but he’s still as ornery as ever and I love him for it.

welcome home

sixmonths

firsthaircut

snow trekking

2008

middleaged

Thanks for guarding the window for me every day, even though you are ruining my couch cushions. Love ya buddy.

My Pie

So it’s November, and Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. Like many of you, I will be attending two Thanksgiving dinners, one at my in-law’s house and one at my mom’s house. Both of these meals will be fabulous I’m sure, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to my mom’s house a little more.

It’s not that I don’t like the meal my in-laws typically create, it’s just that it’s different from the Thanksgiving traditions I’ve become accustomed to, those that I grew up with. Different isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just, well… different. Many of the elements are the same. The turkey, the dressing, the sides of sweet potatoes or yams, the pies, they’re all there. But they’re wearing different clothes, and sometimes it’s hard for me to recognize them. My marriage is young, so I’m sure over time I’ll become used to these strangely dressed items, the broccoli casserole made with bread crumbs instead of rice (not my favorite), the spicy green beans (which I love). My husband and I will surely combine our traditions as our grandparents and parents age, and hopefully one day our meal, our table and our home will create new and different Thanksgiving Day memories for our families.

So even though we won’t be having a Thanksgiving meal in our home this year, and in fact we’ll be attending two separate celebrations, I’ve decided to start some of my own traditions that I can carry out regardless of my location. I’ve talked to my mom and this year I’ll be bringing a healthy butternut squash side dish in lieu of the sickly sweet yam goo that I’ve avoided for long, and my sister and I will also be attempting a new pie. That’s where you, dear reader, come in.

In terms of pie, my mom is going to stick to the basics this year, pecan and pumpkin, although we’ve been known to have all kinds of different pies in my family, from oreo to rhubarb and pretty much everything in between. For my pie this year, my very first pie, I’d like to have something new, something different, and of course something delicious.

In that vein I’ve been scouring the web looking for new recipes to try. My plan is to try the pie this week, and if it’s a complete disaster, which could very well happen, I’ll try another pie (or however many it takes) next week. Hopefully by the time Thanksgiving rolls around in two weeks, I’ll have perfected something. Or at least I’ll have something edible.

I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of different options, but now I’d love to hear your input. If you already had a pumpkin and pecan option at your house, what else would you get excited about? Keep in mind I’m going for different, exciting and new, but I’m also hoping to start a tradition out of this pie. This is going to be MY PIE.

Option 1:

Roasted Grape and Mascarpone Cheese Pie from Health.com

I like the idea of this pie because I think the grapes and cheese would pair nicely with a glass of wine after a big meal, and I don’t think it would be quite as sickly sweet as some of the other fruit pies out there. My main concern with this pie is that I’m typically not a fan of warm fruit, so I don’t know whether or not the roasted grapes will appeal to my pallet. And it’s obviously all about me.

Option 2:

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie from Health.com

To me, this looks like the ultimate indulgence. Intense chocolate and hazelnut flavors, and a nice departure from fruit. Would be delicious with coffee of course.

Option 3:

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie from CookingLight.com

This is another cold pie, which I know can be off-putting to some people. I love banana and chocolate together though, and for some reason banana cream pie just seems like a great Thanksgiving topper. John always says drinking apple juice reminds him of his childhood, and I think eating some banana cream pie might do the same for me.

Option 4:

Chuck the pie idea and go with cookies, a cake, bars or these sweet potato balls, which sound kind of crazy and yummy (even though I was just talking smack about sweet potato goo).

What do you guys think? Do you have any new suggestions I haven’t though of? Where oh where is my pie?

Site Redesign

So, you’ve probably noticed, I redesigned the site! Isn’t it just the cutest thing you’ve seen all day? Besides that mouse down below of course?

I sadly cannot take credit, I have to thank Emily over at The Blog Fairy for helping me with the header. I’ve also added a few new features, including a page with some of my favorite reads (you can access it up top by clicking on links). And, for all you stalkers out there, you can follow me on Twitter by clicking the little pink follow me button over on the right, or just watch my Twitter stream in the column next door. Finally, you can share my posts on Facebook, Tumblr, and a variety of other social networking sites by clicking the little buttons below each post, or you can tweet my posts by clicking the little guy in the righthand corner. I hope you’ll share with all of your friends.

Now I hope you’ll stick around, read a little and share your thoughts with me. I’ll value each and every one of your opinions. Or at least I’ll pretend to.

XOXO

Jeni

We Need a Cat

So…we had a mouse in our house.

Maybe even more than one. Now before you start getting all “ewww, that’s gross, her house must be so dirty, blah blah blah etc.” let me just stop you right there.

Image courtesy of bug-central.com

Devil mouse

My floors may not sparkle every minute of every day, but we keep the house clean. There are no dirty dishes in the sink. There are no piles of crap. Okay well maybe a few piles but really, I promise, we are clean people. We just live in an old, old house (built in 1890) and it is difficult to know if every tiny hole is sealed up from the outside.

And last week, when the temperatures dropped and the snow started piling up, we heard a little noise in Saucer’s dog dish. A little clanging sound, the same noise Saucer makes when he’s eating. Only problem was, Saucer was sitting there on the couch with us.

So we creeped into the kitchen, and what did we see? A little mouse, scurrying right underneath the dishwasher. Cute little guy really.

I remained calm. John jumped up on the kitchen counter and started screaming like a little girl. Saucer, although he’s a small terrier bred to hunt rodents, stayed on the couch and blinked at us a few times.

Once I had John calmed down a little, I proceeded to formulate a plan. We needed to catch this mouse, and we needed to do it now. NOW.

So I did what any intelligent person would do. I googled.

After a little research, I found two ways to make homemade mouse traps. On involves a box, a ramp, a tunnel and a trash can, and one involves a 2 liter. We decided to start with the 2  liter.

The basic idea is to cut off the top of the 2 liter, invert the top so it creates a type of funnel, and then lure the mouse in with some bait (we used dog food since he seemed to already be into it). I was so proud of our little homemade trap.

It didn’t work.

We saw the mouse at least three times over the next two days, and at no time was he inside of the 2 liter bottle. The little bugger was not falling for it.

So we tried the other trap. That didn’t work either. John was starting to get frantic. He was hopping on the kitchen counter screaming at the slightest shuffle of the leaves, worried that the mouse was going to come get him. He couldn’t sleep. He was losing his mind.

We had tried the homemade, crafty, do-it-yourself mousetrap method and it was not happening. So we turned to a traditional, tried and true tactic. We went to the store and we bought a bright shiny mousetrap.

Not just any mousetrap. Yes, a rodent had infested my house, but no, I do not want to kill it just because it’s trying to get in on that delicious dog food I feed Saucer. I didn’t want to put down poison, I didn’t want a snappy trap, and I didn’t want to watch him kill himself on sticky tape. I wanted a kinder, gentler mousetrap. At least something humane.

We ended up with this Victor Tin Cat Mouse Trap and within a day, we had captured the little guy. Unfortunately I wasn’t home to see it all go down (I was out partying like a rock star like I usually do on Tuesday nights) so John took him to a lake about a mile away from our house and set him free.

We may or may not have his brother, wife or cousin hanging around somewhere, so we put the trap back down just in case.

For now though, John is calm, and I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes homemade just isn’t good enough.