Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Beginning of the End...

...of grad school! Well, at least for now... lol ;)
It has begun, I officially started writing my Masters thesis this afternoon. So far, so good. All my research is done (well, we don't really have to do *research* but I have read TONS of articles and a couple books on my topic) and I've started in on my review of the literature.
Hopefully I can keep up the pace and have this sucker done soon so I can work on revising it (aka: totally starting over... heh)

This does mean I may not be blogging much (trying to stick to old stand-by/easy/quick dinners) but I only have until September 27 (which just and so happens to be my birthday!) to get this paper written and submitted so I won't be gone too long. :)

Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Orzo Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes (and other yummies!)

My goodness, I love this stuff! I've made it a couple times for parties and it always gets rave reviews. Finally getting around to blogging it - figured I'd share the wealth a little :)

The first time I made this, I did it just as a "dinner" for myself and added some kalamata olives. Now, I usually love olives but I thought they made this too salty. I suppose I should have just rinsed the little buggers but I've left the out every other time I've made it and I do not miss them. If you'd like to add them in, use 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped olives per batch (6 servings).

Feel free to experiment with the fresh herbs. I've tried this with just parsley (as the original recipe calls for); with a mixture of 1/2 mint and 1/2 basil; and with a mixture of 1/2 parsley and 1/2 cilantro. Either way, it's fabulous!

I highly recommend making this ahead of time and letting it sit in the fridge for as long as you can. This will give it time for the flavours to really all mix together and seep into the orzo. Yum! *Just leave the cheese off until you are ready to serve.*

Serves 6


Good pinch of saffron
1 pound orzo

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (see note about herbs above)
1/8 cup lemon juice (I usually use more - I love lemon!)
1 tbsp. capers, drained (I also give mine a quick rinse)

1/2 tsp. sugar

1 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes

1/4-1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta (chopped goat cheese is also wonderful with this salad)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the saffron and then the orzo. Cook for 10-15 minutes (or as the package directs), until the orzo is al dente. Drain the orzo and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

2. While the orzo cooks, grab a large glass bowl and toss together the olive oil, pepper, sea salt, herbs, lemon juice, capers, and sugar. Once the orzo is cooled, give it a good toss in the dressing mixture. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and red onions as well as the olives (if desired). Stick this in the fridge for at least one hour. Once it is ready to serve, carefully toss in the feta or goat cheese. Enjoy :)

Based on the "Orzo and Feta with Lemon-Caper Dressing and Kalamata Olives" recipe from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Southwestern Falafel

So these need a little tweaking - the overall product is really quite lovely. The little bean patties and the avocado spread work wonderfully together but, without that avocado spread the little bean patties are, well, lacking. I'm sure it's an easy fix - some chili powder or cayenne (or both.. why not?) should do the trick!

LadyChicago on the Nest shared this recipe (and her tips) with me some time back but I just go to these this week. The original recipe is from Cooking Light.

Serves 2 (4 small falafel patties + 1 pita bread)

~Falafel patties~
1/2 15-ounce can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/8 cup panko (original called for crushed tortilla chips - this was a tip from LadyC!)
1 tbsp. finely chopped green onions
1/2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1/16 tsp. ground cumin
Egg white (hard to measure, but use about half the white from one egg)
1 tsp. vegetable oil

~Avocado spread~
I love avocado anything so I am leaving the spread amounts so you make enough for 4 servings (oink). Well, if you don't use it all on the falafel things, you can use it on chips :)
1/4 cup mashed avocado
2 tbsp. finely chopped tomato
1 tbsp. finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1 tsp. freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/8 tsp. sea salt

2 pitas, each cut in half

1. To prepare the patties, mash the pinto beans with a fork then add the cheese and the next five ingredients (through the egg white). Stir well until combined. Form the mixture into 8 small patties and dredge in more panko. (another tip from LadyChicago - thanks!)

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook 3-5 minutes on each side until they are nice and golden brown/heated through.

3. While the patties cook, make the spread by combining the avocado, tomato, red onion, sour cream, lime juice, and salt. Spread the avocado mixture on the inside of each pita and then place 2 patties in each half. You may want extra spread on the top of the patties.


Original recipe was from the August 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


So Kayte tagged me about a gazillion years ago and I just never finished answering it.. then I was tagged again by Annie. Since the Olympics coverage is SUCKING right now (just show the damn gymnastics! Nobody really cares about anything else..! Well, maybe Phelps but you get the idea..), I figured I'd sit down and actually finish this tagged thingy this time. ;) Thank NBC and Bob Costas' crap show... (I wasn't going to watch any Olympics this year for, well to be honest, mostly political reasons, but as usual the gymnastics sucked me in! Sigh...)

Here you go:

Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

What was I doing ten years ago?
Well, let's see... I was just about to turn 21 so I can imagine I was having a good old time! Um, I was quite the little party girl in college. Who wasn't?! Please...
I was a senior in college and I worked on campus.
I can't remember yesterday so getting any more details out of me about 10 years ago would be like getting blood from a stone..! ;)

What are five (non-work) things on m to-do list for today?
I think I'll do tomorrow since today is just about over..
1. Laundry - wow! That makes for a thrilling Friday! :)
2. Get stuff for party I'm throwing on Saturday.
3. Do some more research for my MA thesis (oh joy!)
4. Clean the house.
5. Workout - I went on vacation and completely forgot the tai chi form I'd been working on... oops! ;)
Well, darn good thing I have something to look forward to on Saturday because tomorrow is not looking like much fun!
Ooh, I do have vacation photos to go through... that can be my *highlight*

Five Snacks I enjoy:
1. Fruit (seriously, I'm not just saying that to make myself look good!)
2. Hummus & pita chips
3. Guacamole - I could quite possibly live on avocados...
4. Dark chocolate (I love British and European chocolate, too - Hershey's sucks.. sorry!)
5. Cheese and crackers

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:
This must have been where I gave up last time I tried to fill this in! lol :) I really don't have the foggiest idea what I'd do with all that money! Adopt a bunch of dogs or something daft like that...
1. Fix this crap Olympics coverage... heh, couldn't resist! I would change the channel but then, knowing me, I'd miss the only reason I have it on to begin with. And is there really anything else on? I seriously need to convince DH that we need to get BBC America ;)
2. Clean up the planet... don't ask how but I'm sure with $1B, I could think of something!
3. Buy a house closer to the coast (I know, I'm in San Diego, how much closer do I need to be?! Well, we live like 10/15 miles inland and I'd rather be walking distance from the beach... too conservative for me out here in the valleys! heh).
4. Build myself the kitchen of my dreams in that house on the coast ;)
5. Give a bunch of money to some worthy causes (environment, animal rights, human rights, education, etc)

Five Places I've lived:
1. Thornhill, Cumbria, England
2. Rancho Bernardo, California (San Diego)
3. Escondido, California (N. San Diego)
4. San Diego, California (right smack in the middle of San Diego county this time)
5. er, that's it... oh wait! I lived in Egremont, Cumbria (England) for a year when I was a very brand new baby :)

Five Jobs I've had:
1. 2nd grade teacher.
2. Student Orientation Director - when I was in college. Talk about a cushy job! :) I had a corner office!
3. I was a waitress at a really nice retirement home when I was in high school/a couple years in college.
4. Pre-kindergarten teacher.
5. "Education Specialist" - fancy title, huh? :) That's my current job. I work with students who are home-schooled through a public charter school. It's really more "guidance" than teaching since I work a lot on helping with curriculum, getting courses squared away for the high school kids, making sure everyone is on-track with state standards, stuff like that. This year, I'll also be teaching a couple enrichment classes for the K-6 kids which I'm really looking forward to! I have a horrible case of classroom withdrawals... I also (as if all that is not enough) work as a mentor teacher to new (1st- and 2nd-year) teachers at the school. That's a really fun part of my job. :)

Friday, August 8, 2008


I was tagged twice (once a LONG time ago!) and completely forgot... I'll get to it.. promise! :)
I also have an England trip review thingy coming soon! With lots of photos!

I think I seriously took almost 600 photos with my digital camera on top of 6 rolls of old school camera photos! I'll never give up film... ;)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pita + Pesto + Portobello = Perfection

No more wondering what the hell you're going to make for vegetarian friends next time you have a cookout! :) These were fantastic!
I think next time, though, I'll add some more veggies - maybe some grilled eggplant and tomato... Yum.
Just be sure to make extra - the meat-eaters may get jealous ;)

I found these recipes in the most recent (August 2008) issue of Cooking Light magazine and just made a few changes. The original recipe for the pita things called for "commercial pesto." First of all, it's one of the easiest things to make so I'd never go buy it. Second, I had two different types of pesto in the freezer. :) One was a vegan version - parsley and lemon pesto which I decided to use since I figured it would work well with the lemon rice. It did. :)
For the rice, I didn't have mustard seeds and thought that may be a bit weird anyway... I did, however, have saffron which worked wonderfully! Saffron may be the world's most expensive spice but it's worth every penny. I highly recommend keeping a jar in the pantry!
Saffron also imparts this great yellow colour which I think makes it look like totally fake FD&C coloured lemon yellow rice... lo
l :) It's absolutely not fake but it makes for a good conversation starter ;)

Speaking of vegan... this isn't a hard meal to convert to vegan. The only non-vegan components as it is right now are the sour cream or mayonnaise and the feta. Easy fix! You can get "Vegannais
e" (seriously, that's the brand name.. I may be spelling it incorrectly but you get the idea) which you can use in place of the regular mayo or sour cream. Or, you can just spread hummus on the pitas and then throw the veggies in.
I'm also wondering what a hummus and lemon-parsley pesto combination would be like.. that could work, too! :)
Obviously, you would just leave the cheese
off. While the cheese was a nice addition, I didn't think it was 100% necessary (yes, I had one sans cheese just to see). This would also make the dish lower in fat which is nice for everyone.

Here are the recipes!
Lemon-Parsley Pesto (Vegan)
This will make a bloody boat-load of pesto b
ut it freezes rather well so make the whole thing! :)
It thaws in no time and is great on pasta, white beans, sandwiches, as a dip...

4 cups loosely packed parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil

2 small garlic cloves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as neede
d. The volume will reduce to about 1/2 cup.
You can change the amounts to taste (salt, vinegar, lemon juice) but the predominant tastes should be the lemon and parsley.

Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Feta Cheese and Creamy Pesto
4 servings

Another photo, this time with the cheese.

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise, Vegannaise, or sour cream (I always use sour cream in place of mayo)
1 tbsp. lemon-parsley pesto
4 whole-wheat pitas, halved
Lettuce leaves
4 portobello mushroom caps, sliced
2 medium bell peppers, thickly sliced
1 medium red onion, thickly sliced
Cooking spray
Pinch of sea salt
Good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Combine the mayo/vegannnaise or sour cream with the pesto. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Arrange the mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions on a baking sheet. Coat the veggies with cooking spray and then sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle the vinegar over the vegetables and place the baking sheet on the grill rack. Grill 5 minutes on each side or until tender.

3. Spread the pesto mixture onto each pita half and then stuff with lettuce and grilled veggies. Sprinkle crumbled feta into each pita half.

Lemon-Saffron Rice (Vegan)
4 servings

Rice (long-grain or basmati)
Sea salt
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Couple pinches of saffron

1. Cook the rice according to package directions, adding saffron when you add the rice (crumble it a bit between your fingers as you add it).

2. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the lemon juice, lemon rind, and cilantro.

The lemon-parsley pesto recipe is from JoyGotDots on the Nest. The grilled veggie pitas and the lemon rice are based on the "Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Goat Cheese and Pesto Mayo" and "Fresh Lemon Rice" recipes from the August 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.