Saturday, June 26, 2010

Menu for the Week (June 26 - July 2)

I planned the menu last night and Ian and I ran around town picking up our food and groceries at various places.

  • Moroccan Beef Stew, with couscous
  • Wilted Kale and Roasted-Potato Winter Salad
  • Taco Salad with black beans, queso fresco, scapes, green onion, and purslane (no recipe here, we just usually serve with tortilla chips, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream) 
  • Quick Veggie Stir-Fry (with broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, and sweet basil), served with jasmine sticky rice
  • Simple Baked Salmon, served with Roasted Beets and a Wild Rice Pilaf with Carrots and Pecans
  • Scape Pesto with Fettuccine
Lemon Coconut Chiffon Cake, served with strawberries.

I've had a case of the blues today and was very happy to have some time to myself in the kitchen when Ian went on his long run today (9 miles, dear lord). I watched Love and Other Disasters, the chickest of the chick-flicks I could find: Vogue, London, Brittany Murphy with fake lashes and cute 60's-esque outfits playing match-maker amongst her 'artist' friends. While watching this bit of froth, I whipped together the Lemon Coconut Chiffon Cake (courtesy of my all-time favorite cookbook, The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated), made a nectarine lemonade, and washed up some dishes. Ian came back and hopped in the shower as the cake was coming out of the oven and my movie was finishing. As the cake had to cool for about two hours (upside-down, how glamorous!), I took my time making the lemon glaze.

We just had a piece each - delicious! The cake came out perfectly light and moist. I think next time I'll eliminate the glaze as it gets a bit sweet, but yumyumyum.

Now it's 8:00 in the evening and time to start thinking about making dinner. Stir-fry tonight, I believe. Tallyho!

Friday, June 25, 2010

CSA Week #2

 A shout out to Frog Holler - Ian and I are excited to get our second CSA box tomorrow! This week we are getting the following:

Curly Kale
Garlic Scapes
Sweet Basil
Salad Mix

I need to plan our menu for the week. Any ideas? Anyone? Any... blog readers?

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I just realized I'm a "Mrs."

A List

Books I read at the same time:
  1. A book to be read at bedtime or on the weekends
  2. A book at my desk at work, to be read during lunch and my afternoon break with tea
  3. My audio book in the car, to be listened to while driving to and from work (typically 1.5 hours daily)
  4. A book I'm reading out loud with Ian
Respectively, I'm currently working on the following:
  1. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon
  2. The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
  3. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  4. The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski

Friday, June 18, 2010

Family Visit & Coconut Vegetable Curry

My mom and 15 year-old brother drove from Minnesota to bring Ian and I our wedding gifts. They stayed for two days, and although the visit was short, we had some great food. We walked around quite a bit of Ann Arbor, stopping in small shops and thrift stores. My mom has visited a few times, but it was Matthias' first visit - he was a hunt for some old records and sound equipment (does anything change?).

The first day we stopped at Zingermans and purchased some goodies to eat with our afternoon tea. We had some Bostock (a lovely brioche covered in almonds and a light syrup, absolutely to die for, or die of eating after consuming so many calories in one small danish), Magic Brownies, a Cream Scone (my favorite), and a cherry/current scone. I also purchased a partial loaf of a wonderful, European whole wheat sourdough. Yum!

We ate at the Jolly Pumpkin for dinner.  The Jolly Pumpkin is my new favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor. The food is traditional brewery food (burgers, sandwiches, pizza, etc.), but with a refined touch. For example, french fries with truffle oil, pizza with a sourdough crust with a base of 130 years old, with goat cheese and eggplant, you get the point. Not being a beer connoisseur myself I really couldn't say much about the beer, but Ian tells me their dark ale is superb.

Yesterday also included some good food, but we ate at home and did our own cooking. For lunch, I made some paninis that, I thought, turned out quite nice. We had picked up some deli meats and cheese at Trader Joe's, and I had the bread from Zingermans. I made a mayonnaise with diced bacon and a Tuscan herb blend, spread it on thick on the bread, and loaded them up with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, thin apple slices, and spinach. Yum! Everyone should have a panini press. I served lunch with an Asian broccoli slaw and watermelon lemonade, which my handsome Ian took the time to put together (recipe below).

Matthias brought a recipe for an Indian Butter Chicken. As the dish was pure meat, I decided to wing together a vegetable curry for a side. Although Ian did his darnedest, the Butter Chicken turned out okay but was nothing exceptional and not really worth sharing. The vegetable curry was really good - I've tried to remember everything I did and put in - enjoy!

Coconut Vegetable Curry
You could probably put any vegetables you wanted in here, just adjust the cooking time as needed. Serve this curry over basamati rice, or in a bowl with Naan.

2 Tbsp butter, divided

1 onion, sliced
4-5 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes (I used a variety of small potatoes, including reds and purples)
1-2 cups butternut squash or sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cauliflower head, chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch cubes/slices

1 14 oz can coconut milk
1-2 cups vegetable broth

2 Tbsp garlic paste (or 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed)
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger (or ginger paste)
2-3 Tbsp garam masala (to taste)
1 tsp coriander
1-2 tsp cumin (to taste)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper

Heat a large pot over medium heat (I would recommend using an enameled cast iron french oven, like a Le Creuset). Add 1 Tbsp butter until melted and starting to brown a little. Add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown and is softened.

Add the rest of the butter. Add the potatoes and cook for 3-5 minutes, then add the squash, cauliflower, and carrots. Cook the vegetables, stirring them occasionally, for about 10 minutes, letting them brown a little bit. Add the coconut milk, 1 cup broth, and all of the spices. Stir everything until the vegetables are well coated and the spices are evenly incorporated. Depending on the amount of vegetables and size of pot, add more broth until the vegetables are almost covered. Stir and cover, allowing the heat to increase until it reaches a nice simmer.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Depending on the amount of time, you can cook this until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes or so, or cook longer (recommended) so the flavors are better combined and the potatoes start to fall apart and thicken the sauce, anywhere from 30-60 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Watermelon Strawberry Lemonade
We found small, beautiful strawberries at our farmers market, I would recommend using this type of fruity instead of the traditional large strawberries found at the supermarket.

3/4  - 1 cup sugar

3 - 3 1/2 cups water, divided
1 small seedless watermelon, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 cup fresh lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons
1 cup strawberries, hulled

fresh mint (optional)

Mix sugar with 1/2 cup water in a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for 2-3 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved, to make a simple syrup. Refrigerate to cool down quickly, if possible.

Blend watermelon and lemon juice in batches. Mix in a large pitcher with the simple syrup and strawberries. Top off with water and add mint leaves.

Chill until cold, or serve immediately over ice.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ginger Catfish with Sticky White Rice

Right. Ian and I cooked perhaps our best meal ever this evening. Ten kinds of yum, we should open our own restaurant. I made a simple veggie stir fry on the side as the catfish to give us some leftovers and.... our vegetables for the meal. While this was by no means our healthiest dinner, sometimes you've got to just splurge a little. 

Ginger Catfish
Adapted from

We found mushroom soy sauce at our local asian grocery. You can use regular soy sauce, if you have it, but now I would strongly suggest investing in a bottle of mushroom soy sauce, it adds a whole new depth to the meal. 

   5 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
   2 cups peeled, julienned ginger (about 1/2 pound) or 1 cup chopped bottled ginger, drained and pressed
   1 1/2 pounds catfish fillets, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
   3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
   2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
   2 tablespoons fish sauce
   1 teaspoon salt
   1 onion, thinly sliced
   1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
   4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is smoking. Add the ginger and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring infrequently, until the ginger is crispy and starts to brown nicely. 
While the ginger is cooking, mix together the sugar, mushroom soy sauce, fish sauce, and salt. Set aside.
Add the onion and stir-fry, 3-4 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the catfish, mixing well in the oil, ginger, and onion. Cook, keeping heat at medium-high, for 3 minutes. Add the sauce mixture and the red pepper to the skillet, tossing the fish and vegetables to coat evenly in the sauce. Stir fry for 3-4 more minutes, until the red peppers are crisp-tender and the fish is cooked through. Remove from heat and to with scallions.

Serve immediately over rice.

The Perfect Rice
 Perfected after much trial and error! This rice is great for stir-fries as it is nice and sticky. Leftovers used within a day or so make great fried rice

   2 cups rice, jasmine preferred although any white long-grain will do
   3 cups water
   1/2 tsp kosher salt

Mix the rice, water, and salt into a pot. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, until the water level is just at or below the rice and the water is bubbling through the rice. 

Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 14-16 more minutes.

Quick Veggie Stir Fry
For the hottie in a hurry. You could really throw any veggies in here, this was a nice combination that I made this evening.

   1 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
   1-2 long, Asian eggplants, sliced down the center lengthwise and cut 1-inch slices on the diagonal.
   8 oz mushrooms, oyster or shiitake if you can, otherwise baby portabellas will work fine
   1 red pepper, julienned
   1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
   2 Tbsp. mushroom soy sauce
   2 Tbsp. aji-mirin (sweet rice cooking sauce)
   1/3 cup water
   dash of pepper

Mix oyster sauce, mushroom soy sauce, aji-mirin, and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once oil is smoking, add the eggplant. Cook the eggplant for  a minutes or so before tossing, letting it brown. Cook for 1-2 more minutes more, tossing occasionally. Add the red pepper, also giving it a little time to brown. Cook for 2 minutes, then add mushrooms. Stir-fry vegetables for about 5 minutes more. Once vegetables are pleasantly browned, add sauce, stirring so that vegetables are coated evenly. Cook for a few more minutes until sauce has thickened and dash with pepper. Serve immediately over rice.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a novel regarding four sisters that moved to the states as children from the Dominican Republic. The book is broken up into fifteen stories moving in reverse, from the time when Yolanda, the eldest sister visits her relatives in the Dominican Republic as an adult, to when they were all children living amongst their relatives under the Trujillo reign.

The stories themselves our interesting and the writing is good, but I felt that the book lacked cohesiveness or a driving force. Many things are alluded to, such as a number of divorces of the Garcia sisters, an eating disorder, etc., but there are no explanations or connecting threads that explain any of these events. The sisters did not seem to differentiate much from each other, and the whole book rather bled together as a mass of enjoyable snapshots in time, but without reason or distinguishing moments. The only real theme throughout the book was the struggle between identify as a Dominican Republican and an American, but not even this was represented well throughout. I feel each of the stories would make an excellent short story on its own, but that they did not necessarily belong together in one work.

Did I enjoy reading this book? Yes, I did, but I do not think I would recommend it to a friend.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: Chocolat

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Chocolate in four hours while traveling. What a delightful, delicious book! And my god, the lovely imagery and beautiful discussions of sweets and cooking!

Yes, some details are different from the movie but who cares? It still tackles the primary struggle between Vianne/chocolate/acceptance and priest/tradition/social mores, and the community interacting with both. Of course, Vianne is such a admirable character, strong and feminine, a woman connected with her past and present in a beautiful way.

This was one of my chick-lit reads for my wedding week/honeymoon. Strongly suggested if you want something frivolous and light while attempting to keep your dignity intact.

View all my reviews

Review: The Lover

The Lover
The Lover by A.B. Yehoshua

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished The Lover by A. B. Yehoshua. A really fabulous read, I'm rather upset I spent so much time playing the Sims 3 in the past week (shut up, the new expansion was released on the first) instead of finishing this sooner.

As described, The Lover is indeed a dream-like novel. Narrative floats between the central six characters shortly following the resolution of Yom Kippur in Israel. The main premise of the book concerns a middle-aged mechanic looking for his wife's lover, whom disappeared during Yom Kippur, but the storyline certainly entails much more than the mechanic's midnight trolls around Israel as he searches. The story contains themes of power and submission, love and hate, desire and loss, dreams and reality. Between the intricate connection of the characters to each other is a more essential, basic question regarding the self and position and belonging.

This was really a wonderful, wonderful read, surprisingly accessible. Yehohua is a fabulous storyteller and I cannot wait to read another of his books.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Very Silly Thing

I don't have a whole lot to say today. But this is courtesy of


Laundromat Woes

Ian and I signed our new lease today for a brand-new (but not spanking) apartment, our very first legal document we signed as a married couple with our new names. And, sitting in the laundromat at.... 11:34 PM, I anticipate being able to do laundry at any time I please, and at home. In the comfort of our own little apartment with hardwood floors and white walls. Hurrah!

This Monday was to be the first day starting exercise back up again after weeks of laziness, craziness, and delicious vacation (and post-vaca) food. BUT, typical Rachel style, work was super busy and lame, I left an hour late, and didn't feel like it (shock). Ian, anticipating I would be 100% LAME SAUCE sorted out my sports bra, workout capris, and exercise mat, folding them nicely together on the chaise. Well, you just can't say no to that sort of organization/preparation! But jumping? Kicking? Grapevining like a 90's crazed lady with insanely bushy bangs? Not I, said the tired, cramping, side-spasm girl. Luckily, I can google like a pro, and found an exciting new website: The instructor/creator has many instructional videos up, including yoga for women during their... womanly times (*clears throat* I did this - super relaxing and a really nice stretch!) and even tummy upsets / digestion.

Is 15 minutes of yoga equivalent to 45 minutes of kickboxing and aerobics? Not at all, I know this. But great website. And yoga is an excellent replacement if you are super lame like me. 

(Rachel at the Mr. Stadium)