Thursday, January 31, 2013

California in January {Wednesday Files}

Santa Barbara, California, in the middle of January
As I was wondering what to write for this week's Wednesday Thursday Files, I saw a friend's Facebook post.  It reads:

I have all my big windows open on this beautiful afternoon. It feels like the ocean is inside my house. California, I'm so glad I married you.
Amen, Melanee.  Amen.

Happy not-Wednesday, Friends!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Third time's a charm... right? (Coconut Pound Cake)

We decided to put up new curtains a couple of weeks ago.
Bought the rod...
... it was too short.
Took it back and bought another rod (the right length this time).
It was missing a piece.
Took it back and got one more...
it fit and worked.

Third time;s a charm.

It was time to get a new dining table.
Er... get our own dining table, instead of using a hand-me-down one.
It arrived.  We opened the box.  The screws were loose and the table was broken.
Called, complained, and waited for a new one.
The reviews were all 4 1/2 stars or above...
Excellent packing, no loose screws, but broken top.
We are waiting for another one.
Which will be perfect, they assured me...

Third time's a charm.

Made a recipe the other day.
Didn't have all of the ingredients, so I thought would substitute.
The pictures were amazing.
The taste was good.
The texture was awful.

Made another recipe after that.
The texture was good.
The taste was pretty darn incredible (my husband feel in love with me even a bit more, I think...)
The pictures?  They are the ones you see here.
Not terrible, but good.
Just Ok.
But I want more than OK.  I want GOOD and GREAT and YES, I AM PROUD OF THESE pictures.

Next time, it is going down.  Beautiful pictures and a fabulous taste to accompany it.  How do I know?

Because third time's a charm.

(Seriously, though, MAKE THIS.  Trust me, OK?  Ok.  Thank you.)

Coconut Pound Cake
Recipe adapted from Everyday Food, Oct. 2012


  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk mixed together with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, divided
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 8 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down bowl. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with two 1/2-cup additions buttermilk, and beat until combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in 1 1/4 cups coconut.
  2. Transfer batter to pan and bake until a skewer inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, 1 hour. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack. (Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, up to 4 days.)
  3. Whisk together confectioners' sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Drizzle over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup coconut.

    COST: $4.39  COST PER SLICE (10): $0.44

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lavender Lemon Bars {Sundays with Joy}

You know those days when you think to yourself, "I've got this!" but then you don't?  Maybe it is walking into a test during your college years, ready to rock it, and then you realized you studied all the wrong stuff.  Come on, where is the part on the heart? I know the heart, not muscles!  Yeah, as you can tell, that happened a lot to me in anatomy.  Good thing I didn't go into medicine.

That was me with these lemon bars.  And like the bad tests in college, I only have myself to blame.  A combination of not checking ingredients before I started cooking and trying to multi-task during (I just had to catch up on The Bachelor!) led to creative substitutions and not the best consistency.  Le sigh.

Consistency/schomistency.  That's what I am saying today.  The taste isn't that bad (actually quite nice, really) and the pictures are beautiful.  They kind of remind me of France.  Not that I have ever been...

Whether or not they turned out perfectly, it is nice to be back in the kitchen.  And very very nice to not be on a low-residue diet anymore.  Hallelujah for ingredients that have flavor!

To get the original recipe (which I am sure is better than my version of 'very-little-sugar-let's-use-honey'), pick up a copy of Joy the Baker's book.  Otherwise, click here to get your standard lemon bar recipe.  Not as French-feeling as Joy's, but pretty good to be sure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tacos, ATV's, and Some Pina Coladas (Ensenada Birthday Weekend)

Remember when I said I was happy with my little shindig at my house for my birthday?

Well, I lied.

Not totally and completely.  I was happy with that totally chill and relaxed party.  But I also knew that I had a bigger thing coming.

You only turn 30 once!

For me, turning 30 meant making up for all those years of January-suck-birthdays.  And what a better way to do it than hop on a big boat bound for Mexico with your favorite people???

Note to the world: we don't do vacations the way many Americans do.  No tour busses for us, no itinerary mapped out.  Nope nope nope.  Instead, we find a local person and say, "If you had one day in this city, what would YOU do?"

And in this case, it led us to fab fish tacos (3 for $2) off the beaten path, some five-dolla bling, and ATVing our way through Ensenada and the local country side.  All in all, $33 per person.  For a day of fun in the sun.  And food to boot.

That's how we do vacations in this family.

And then we hopped back on the cruise ship, lived/laughed/partied it up, and generally had an all around PERFECT time.

One of the best weekends of my life.  Hands down.

If this is any indicator of how the thirties are going to be, I am predicting a great decade.  Cheers!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pretty much sums it up...

(First, watch this clip.  DO IT!)


... the first time I saw snow I was five.  On the beach.  When big semi-trucks dumped snow so we, the deprived ones, could use our K-mart snow coats and mittens.

... I learned (while in Russia) that you should not go outside with wet hair if the temperature is way below freezing.  Remember Cool Runnings?  Yeah...

... the number of times I have been to the snow?  Probably about 12.  Number of times I have enjoyed the snow?  More like four.

... the thermometer said 66F today and sunshine is streaming in.  All is made right in my world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Wednesday Files

Friends & Family

One of my favorite people visited me during my birthday week.  I made her work for me as I had some house projects I wanted to get done and so we were pretty busy, but we did manage to sneak away for a bit to hang out in Monterey.  We saw the jellyfish and hammerhead sharks at the aquarium and then caught the sunset over Cannery Row.  It was quick, but it was just what we needed.


Being on a low-residue diet kind of sucks.  But I am getting better and adding more and more things to the list of stuff I can eat right now.  While I wait to get back to full-on cooking I did try a couple of new recipes, but took pictures so terrible that they might make you cry.  That's what I get in the Winter when the sun sets early and the day is long.  But if you would like to have some of the best turkey burgers around and/or a great baked potato with egg, feta, and spinach, have at it!  Maybe your pictures will turn out better than mine.


I am a Packers girl in my heart.  For a very serious reason: their colors are green and yellow (gold).  And when I was told I needed to pick at a team at age 12, that sounded like a pretty good reason to pick a team at the time.  You know what?  I have stuck by them all these years... until they played the 49ers this past weekend.  I may be a Packers girl, but I am a Bay Area girl now.  It is in my blood.  And so I didn't wear green and yellow last Saturday night, but gold and red.  Yes, I know... traitor!  Hey, when in Rome, right?  (I must say, I was mighty proud of our local men.  Let's see how far they can bring it this year!)

Happy Wednesday, Friends!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sushi Bowl {Low-Residue}

A few months ago I shared my 'little secret' with you -- that I have Crohn's Disease.  I know I don't talk about it a lot, and there is a reason for that: I don't want it to be a part of the definition of me.  And most of the time, thanks to very good doctors and a husband who smacks my hand away when I reach for things like popcorn (and I personally believe, in answered prayers), I have been in remission for the past few years.  It has been AMAZING.

But sometimes little things pop up here and there and I have to back up a bit and remember that my colon and I don't always get along.  When that happens the very first thing that I change in my life is my diet.  Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast... the BRAT diet is kind of bland.  Yet it can be necessary sometimes.  Next step up?  A low-residue diet.  Basically, you cut out anything that causes lots of poop.

Yes, I just said that word.  In a food blog.

Here's the deal though: less poop = less pain.  And we all know that less pain = happy person, right?

Although a low residue diet does not cure or take away the issue itself, it does make the symptoms of Crohn's or ulcerative colitis more tolerable.  (Let me insert here I am not in any pain right now, so no need to feel sorry for me.  I am just doing what I can do to avoid that pain while I am in a small flare-up.  So far so good.)

Basically a low-residue diet is everything your doctor ever told you not to do: eat white breads instead of whole grains.  Stop eating leafy greens, or any greens really.  Fruit and veggies?  Yeah, be careful.  Stick to bananas and avocados, applesauce or other 'mushy' things.  And for me, cut out that dairy!  I know not everyone is sensitive to it, but I have definitely noticed that an increase in dairy (except yogurt) usually means an increase in discomfort.

As you can imagine, this diet can be very boring.  So what to do, what do do... ?

Time to get creative!  According to my list I can eat white rice.  Avocados are always good.  Tuna, fine.  And soy sauce?  No problem.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized those were the ingredients (or variations of them) of one of my favorite foods: sushi!  So I threw it all in a bowl, mixed it up (yes, you see some salt there, I had 'healthy' soy sauce and I wanted some saltiness in my life!), and enjoyed.  Much cheaper than hitting up Tokyo Tokyo and I can eat it in the comfort of my living room.  A low-residue meal that tastes pretty darn good!

Have you ever needed to eat a low-residue diet?  Any good 'recipes' to share?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Last Day of my Twenties {Wednesday Files}

I am one of those people who sees the good in everything.  You probably have noticed that already, and maybe have been even slightly annoyed.  As my aunt said the other day (after I declared that our botched plans would be OK because our new plans would work out even better): "Ah, there is Tiffany's true personality shining through.  You know what?  I want to feel to mad and annoyed, at least until we reach that trashcan!"  Ah, yes, I am the 'excessively happy' one...

Except when it comes to having my birthday two weeks after Christmas, one week after new years.

Then I am very realistic.

It sucks.

I can't count the number of people who are too fat, broke, or tired to go out and do something for my day. Oh wait, yes I can... pretty much everyone I know.  Which has led me to celebrate my birthday whenever I feel like, say March...?  Whatever.  It can be a very-merry un-birthday, right?

But this year -- my 30th birthday year! -- I put my foot down.  I was having a party and I was having on, or very close to, my birthday.

So that people wouldn't feel too broke I invited everyone over to our place.  Free, really.

And to avoid people having fear of getting fatter I just served cake and punch.  Simple.

Of course, everyone is still pretty tired after all the festivities, so we just hung out.  Nothing too grand.

And it was perfect.

By far, best birthday ever.  Right there, doing nothing, going nowhere, just eating cake.  I think I might have found a winning combination...

Nah.  Just wait.  Next time I will do something BIG.  Maybe in March ;)

(A 'Wednesday Files' Post, except it was shared on a Thursday.  Oh well, as you read above, actual dates and I don't always get along...)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hello World! You've treated me right...

That's me.  My very first picture, 30 years ago today.

Looks like someone didn't want to this party to start ;)  But it did, and I went along for the ride.  Some parts were bumpy and rough, but overall it worked out perfectly.  This grumpy pants above now is known for her smiles.  Thank you, Life, for being crazy good...

And now that I am a little bit older and maybe a bit wiser, bring on the thirties!  This decade of joy starts NOW.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Feliz Ano Novo! (The Wednesday Files)

Happy New Year, Friends!  I know this isn't officially my first post of the year, but it is my first Wednesday post, which makes me happy.  I love Wednesdays and the freedom I allow myself to share anything I feel like for that day.  Cooking is fun, but it does make up my entire life, and Wednesday is the day I can share some of the rest with you.  Like talking about New Years...

So, did you make resolutions this year?  And more importantly, do you plan on keeping them?

I, for one, did not.  I used to.

Make the bed everyday
Floss more often
Eat sugar less
Exercise more

The lists were good.  All of those things, good, for sure.  But inevitably I would fail and then I would feel guilty, which would lead to discouragement.  So this year I am trying something new.  Another kind of list or two, if you will...

Things I want to keep doing...   and things I want to do a little more.  No real measurement tool, just hopeful growth.

Things I want to keep doing:

  1. trying new vegetables and fruits
  2. getting dressed up for me (as in, who cares if I am going to be running errands and won't bump into anyone I know?  I know me, and I want to feel good when I look in the mirror.)
  3. focusing on the moment.  This past year was really good for me in this area, and I feel more blessed than ever.
Things I want to do a little more:
  1. create things
  2. get up early and seize the day, even on weekends
  3. listen to the unexpected stories of others
Happy 2013!  May it be one of great memories, real growth, and love.

What things would you like to keep doing/do a little more of in this coming year?

PS -- I never posted it, but I made Joy the Baker's bourbon-spiked chocolate banana bread this past weekend for my Sundays with Joy group.  Didn't change the recipe, just did it as it was, and it was to die for.  Grab her book off your shelf and make some!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dinner in a Flash: Salmon with Fennel, Bell Pepper, and Orange

BEFORE (above)...

Twenty minutes from start to finish.  I kid you not.

Chop some veggies and fruit, throw on some salmon, sprinkle salt and pepper, and then broil.  Drop some olives on top and... that's it!  Dinner is done in flash.

Who knew healthy eating could be so fast -- and delicious?!

AFTER (below)... 

Don't thank me, thank Everyday Food.  Unfortunately, they no longer have a print version of their magazine (yes, a tear almost slid down my cheek...), but I hear they are keeping the love of good, wholesome food alive online.  I will for sure be following along.  You should, too.  Either way, I will be eating good tonight... :)

Salmon with Fennel, Bell Pepper, and Orange
Recipe from Everyday Food, Dec. 2012

Prep: 10 Min    Total Time: 20 min    Servings: 4

  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 large bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced, 1/4 cup fronds reserved
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 skinless salmon fillets (4 to 6 ounces each)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup pitted black olives, quartered
  1. Heat broiler, with rack 8 inches from heat. Grate 1 tablespoon orange zest, then cut orange into wedges. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together orange zest and wedges, fennel, bell pepper, and oil and arrange in an even layer. Add salmon and season vegetables and salmon with salt and pepper. Broil until vegetables are browned in spots and salmon is opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with olives and fennel fronds to serve.
    ( You can eat the cooked oranges (peel and all) or squeeze the juice over the fish.)

COST: $10.40   COST PER SERVING (4): $2.60

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