Love in the Kitchen - making fast, healthy, homegrown meals you'll enjoy

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Dam Ships Are Back!

Another sure sign of fall is when the cruise ships start coming back in town. San Diego is mostly a gateway to Mexico, and most cruise lines don't frequent the Mexican Riviera in the summer - too hot!

The Mr and I have taken two cruises together, both on Holland America's "Dam" ships (so-called because all of their ships' names end in 'dam' - Zuiderdam, Ryndam...), so we are always happy to see the Dam ships back in town.

We get a lot of different ships at the beginning of the "Mexican Riviera" season, and then again, in the spring, at the beginning of the "Alaska" season. Today we have the Volendam, coming down from Alaska and off on her way Australia and the South Pacific.

I work on the harbor and walk by the ships every day. Makes for some nice daydreams, thinking of the places they'll go!

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Monday, September 29, 2008


  • Friday night we ate at our favorite neighborhood Italian place. Not fancy, not a huge menu, but always good. We know the owner (because we go there all of the time) and soemtimes he sends us some nice food on the house. Friday we got a delish bruscetta. Yum!
  • Saturday we went to see the San Diego State Aztecs play football. The Mr and I are both Big 10 alum (he is U of I Illini and I am U of M Gopher) and the Aztecs are certainly no Big 10 team. On the upside, while both UofI and UofM lost, the Aztecs won! Big! Pretty exciting game, and likely the one win we'll have all year. We have season tickets to the games (because even bad college football is better than no college football) and we love tailgating beforehand. Anyone going to the next game, stop by!
  • Sunday was busy too - church, Sunday brunch, The Girl's youth group - and our theme dinner.... all make for a busy day.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Being Left-handed

Someone made this offhand comment in a meeting this morning - "This is starting out to be a real left-handed day."

I know that they meant the day was turned around, starting off in the wrong direction... but it got me thinking. You see, I am left-handed and generally don't consider myself "in the wrong direction" (though don't ask The Girl or The Boy - their opinons can't be trusted about this.)

It is commonly observed that while hoofer Fred Astaire received most of the attention and fame, his partner Ginger Rogers was doing everything he was doing, only she was doing it backwards and in high heels. Not a bad observation to begin a description of the situation for left-handers and ambidextrals.

I looked up the definition of left-handed:
1. Having the left hand or arm stronger and more dexterous than the right; using
the left hand and arm with more dexterity than the right.
2. Clumsy; awkward; unlucky; insincere; sinister; malicious; as, a left-handed compliment.

I love it - sinister! Malicious and unlucky!

Mostly being left-handed just has its annoyances. And it is little things, things that you would never notice unless you are a lefty. Things like ladles for punch, soup, gravy, etc. all pour from the "wrong" side; writing in a three-ring binder requires a lot of arm-twisting and contortion; right-handed desk/chair combos are painful; can openers are right-handed; sporting goods like gloves, etc. require us lefties to buy a "special" version....

Teaching lefties can be as easy as you want to make it. In first grade, the 2 lefties in my class were made to sit in a separate area, use special pencils and sit in assigned seats for lunch (so we wouldn't bump into the right-handers with our elbows). I suspect that doesn't happen much now - when I was in first grade my teacher was already ancient. Hopefully most teachers have a different view these days.

On the other side... My mom is right handed. When I was a young girl, she taught me to knit and crochet using a big mirror in her bedroom. We would sit side my side on her bed and I would copy her image in the mirror. It worked too - I can still knit and crochet, and I still have such wonderful memories of learning how.

There are even some advantages to being left-handed. I took up fencing when I was in law school. I was never great, but it is a wonderful release of energy, both physical and mental - kind of like aerobic chess. The best part was that, since most people are right-handed, they don't fight many left-handers and consequently don't know how to fight against a left-hander. That meant that I could beat people who were much better than I was! Always a nice ego boost.

Also, if I want, I can win at those baby or bridal shower type games that require you to do some task (like spoon cotton balls from one bowl to another) using your left hand. ;-)

OK, I'll step off the soap box for now. Just don't get me started on "Lazy Susans"!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

I've been tagged by Mrs. Forever and Smile! It's Becky! This is exciting - it's the first time I've been tagged!

I'm supposed to list 7 random things about myself. How to choose??? Here's a random sampling of random things:

  1. I am one of a handful of people left in the world who still drinks TAB. I started drinking it when I was about 13 and still do to this day. I once had a pink swimsuit and yellow towel that were the colors on the Tab cans at that time! One of my best friends was my co-conspirator in Tab drinking. She carried a Tab can bouquet in her rehearsal for her wedding. I've got to find that picture!
  2. I am that crazy cat lady. Until last year, when my little Gracie died, we had 6 indoor cats. I grew up with dogs and always considered myself a dog person, but somehow ended up with a crazy number of cats.
  3. I lived in England for a year while in college, and my dorm was right next to the Wimbledon courts (though I was not there during the competition, many of the players would stay in our dorms when it was going on).
  4. I love musical theater and Monty Python, and saw Spamalot! with the original Broadway cast (that was a fabulous long weekend in NYC)! I got my picture taken with David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria after the show.
  5. I subject my family to "theme dinners" every Sunday night. We pick a theme for the day (sometimes a historical event, or current event, or random entertainment) and have food based on it, print special menus and place cards.... The Mr puts together information on the event, and everyone has to read their piece about it. My favorites are where we have to get to wear hats! One good dinner was when John Roberts was sworn in as Supreme Court Chief Justice. Everyone chose their favorite justice and we looked up information on them and each "justice" presented the information we had gathered. Our menu that day was:
  6. Opening Statements:
    Wendell Holmes Olive Trays
    Presentation of the Case:
    Warren Burgers on "Nine"-grain Rolls
    Clarence Thomas Salad
    Supreme Vegetables
    Grilled Sweet Potato and Scalia Salad
    Closing Arguments:
    Sunday O'Connors (with Just-ice Cream)

    And we all wore wigs (like old-school judges)! Oh yes, those pictures were in that year's Christmas letter. ;-)

  7. I was a synchronized swimmer when I was in junior high school.
  8. I play handbells in a church handbell choir.

So, the 7 people I was going to tag have already been tagged. Rats. I'll open up the tagging to whomever would like to join in the fun!


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Changing Seasons

I have always loved the beginning of the season. Growing up in MN, the change of seasons was always dramatic. Winter came in with that first quiet, fluffy snow. Spring came on that one day when, after seemingly endless grey, all of the trees turned a misty green with new growth. Summer arrived with its heat and intensity. And perhaps my favorite of all, fall. The leaves subtly changing color until suddenly everything is ablaze in color.

Here in SoCal, seasons change, but you have to be attuned to it. I think it is easier to see the change in the quality of the light (particularly as I have been getting deeper into photography). Winter light is thin and white. Spring is grey, while summer is rich and colorful. Fall is golden.

I'm glad it is fall.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Anniversary!!

This is The Mr and I 5 years ago, on the day I became Zentmrs.

Today we went back to our wedding site and took some pictures. This is us today, on our 5th anniversary. And I'm still the luckiest girl in the world!

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Giveaway over at The Pink Potpourri

Don't you just love this stationary?! It's from Casey's Etsy page (be sure to visit her there - she's got tons of super products).

The Pink Potpourri is hosting a Friday Giveaway... featuring this stationary! Hop on over to The Pink Potpourri and enter now!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Halloween Cats

So we have 5 cats. We know, it makes us "the crazy cat people" but we can't help it.

I saw that Mrs. Forever is thinking about costumes for her dog for this Halloween, and it got me thinking. At Halloween, we dress our cats up in costumes. And no, they don't have much interest in it, but they play along pretty well.

Last year we had Captain Jack Sparrow (though she is a little girl kitty and probably has all sorts of complexes now)...

... and a little construction worker...

... along with Darth Vader and a University of Illinois Alum. Trying to figure out what to do this year. Any ideas?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pressure Cooker

So I LOVE my pressure cooker. There I said it.

I remember my mom using one years ago - it had a little spinning thing on the top and we had to be very careful around it. I've always been leary of getting one... then saw someone on "Iron Chef America" using one and decided it was time.

I've made chicken and pork in it. Here's what I've learned so far:

  • things cook very fast!

  • safety is not an issue - lots of safety built in

  • the meat I have cooked has come out incredibly tender and juicy

  • chicken does too cook nicely in the pressure cooker! (I've read that it comes out rubbery)

The chicken cacciatore I made Sunday was delicious!


1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium redbell pepper, diced
1/2 cup white wine (not cooking wine)
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thighs
14 oz diced tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup hot italian ground sausage, cooked
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese or romano cheese
salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 Place first 6 ingredients in the pressure cooker.
2 Over high heat bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 8 minutes.
3 Turn off the heat.
4 Allow the pressure to come down naturally. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.
5 While pressure is released, sautee mushrooms until tender. Add sausage to mushrooms and heat through.
6 Remove chicken pieces from cooker and set aside.
7 Stir in the tomato paste, mushroom/sausage mixture, cheese, and salt and pepper, to taste.
8 Pour sauce over chicken and serve.


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Monday, September 15, 2008

Omnivore's 100 List

I ran across "The Omnivore's 100" list the other day - here's what Andrew at "A Very Good Taste" said about this:

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.
You all should try this! Here are the rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

I think I counted 63 that I have tried and only a couple that I wouldn't try. I've added some comments to the more memorable ones.

1. Venison - I grew up in MN and we had lots of different game. Venison is quite good when prepared properly.
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile - I had a roommate from the South who had me try all kinds of interesting food. This was one (rattlesnake was another!)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue - oh my! Love this!
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari - my favorite is with jalapeno cream sauce
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - plum. Yum.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream - delicious. Why is it green?
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries - wild strawberries are very small, but incredible and worth the effort to pick!
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans - a New Orleans staple
25. Brawn, or head cheese - my grandpa used to eat this.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - holy cow! Don't rub your eyes after touching!
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float - really brings back memories of my childhood, the A&W drive-in and the little trays that hung off the side of the window.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - college. Memories? Well, maybe I'll leave them back there.
39. Gumbo - I took a cooking class while visiting New Orleans and had my first bowl of Gumbo there. De-lish!
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle - a favorite of mine... and the kids like it too!
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian - ABSOLUTELY the WORST thing I have ever tasted. I tried some while vacationing in Thailand once (against the recommendation of the vendor I might add). I should have known from the fact that this fruit was not allowed on planes or in many hotels! A mixture of rotten meat and gasoline maybe. At least that's what I thought. Lots of people love it.
66. Frogs’ legs - when I was a kid my parents used to get us to try different foods by bribing us. I think we got to go to a movie if we ate frogs legs. I did - they tasted like chicken. Tasty.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho - we made this in a cooking class on our last cruise. I'm not a big raw tomato eater but had to try this as we made it. Fun to make (we got to use this huge industrial sized immersion blender that was about the size of a jackhammer) but not my favorite.
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini - I would have this every day if I could.
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict - I've never tried this because I don't like eggs unless they are mixed up... but I can't say that I would rule it out.
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor - this is a FABULOUS dish. Have it in lobster country. It's worth it.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake - my southern roommate made this for Thanksgiving appetizers one year. Really good - he deboned it, which took a lot of effort, but it was tasty. Looked weird in the refrigerator before it was cooked, coiled up in the packaging.

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Apron Giveaway!

Interested in winning this?

Go visit Pennies on a Platter and enter her giveaway. Go ahead - I'll be here when you get back!

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Thursday, September 11, 2008


In the midst of politics as usual, it is important to remember those who give us the freedom to engage in those politics.

I remember. I hope you do too.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008


The Mr and I
  • The Mr and I celebrate our 5th anniversary in a few weeks (yea!).
  • I am a computer programmer and a lawyer, working as neither.
  • The Mr works in our Quality Improvement area (6 Sigma for those folks in the know).
  • The Mr and I work at the same company (a division of Caterpillar).
  • The Mr and I have 5 cats.

  • The Boy and The Girl
  • The Mr and I share custody of The Boy and The Girl with their mom and stepdad. We see them every evening (from when we get home from work to when we drop them off for bed at their mom's house) and every other weekend. It's an interesting arrangement, but works for us.
    The Four Parents have a great relationship and are in agreement with all of the major child-rearing issues.
  • The Boy's and Girl's mom remarried 4 1/2 years ago and they have a younger half-sister.
  • The Boy and The Girl are both incredibly smart, love their little sister and wish we had dogs instead of cats. Those are about the only things they have in common.
  • The Boy and The Girl share first names with my parents (how coincidental is that!).

  • The Girl
  • just turned 11 and is in 6th grade (middle school in this school district... heaven help us).
  • is high-drama and has a very strong sense of right and wrong (read she is right and everyone else, particularly The Boy, is wrong).
  • plays piano and clarinet, loves softball and swimming, hates soccer and most other sports.
  • LOVES pink
  • is a voracious reader!
  • looks, talks and laughs just like her mom.
  • will be taller than me in a year or so (already her shoe size is two larger than mine). Sigh.
  • is very sweet and really wants to make all of us happy. Except The Boy. And not when she is trying on her "teenage" personality.

  • The Boy
  • is 7, turning 8 in November. He is in second grade.
  • understands people better than just about anyone I know. This is cute and sweet now - just wait until he gets a little older and figures out he can use it to his advantage! ;-)
  • has his yellow belt second degree in karate!
  • is obsessed with Legos and Star Wars and Lego Star Wars. Seriously.
  • always asks how my day was when I see him. He has done this about since he could talk.
  • is a button-pusher and instinctively knows how to get a rise out of people.
  • blows kisses to me when we drop him off at his mom's house.

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    A Great Giveaway!!

    Another great giveaway over at My Journey Toward: The Glamorous Life of a Housewife! Go check it out now!!

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    Monday, September 08, 2008

    Not a great day...

    The Mr is out of town. :-(

    We work for a division of Caterpillar. Cat is based in Peoria, Illinois. Occasionally we have to go "to the mother ship" so to speak for meetings or training.

    Peoria is a nice enough midwestern town. I grew up in the midwest (outside of St. Paul, MN) and find a certain charm in small towns. I think midwesterners are wonderful people too. I miss the kind of people you find back there more than I ever expected.

    But I think The Mr should be here with me and not in some nice midwestern town. I am off my schedule. I don't sleep properly when he is not here. The cats are all out of sorts. I find it all annoying - and have enormous respect for those out there who spend extended periods of time away from their families! Honestly, I am not sure I could do it.

    And thank goodness for those willing to make that sacrifice for us.

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    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Vacations & "Accesibility"

    The Mr and I have been trying to figure out what we would like to do for our vacation next year.

    The last two years we have travelled with my folks and his folks and my sister. 2007 was a Panama Canal transit cruise (amazing!!) and last year was a Sea of Cortez cruise (also a wonderful trip).

    We've figured out that, at least for now, cruising makes sense for us all as it gives us the opporunity to travel together, but do our own things. We also really love getting together for a nice long dinner... and the associated pampering by the wonderful staff.

    One of our difficulties is that my mom is in a wheelchair. She's a great sport, but some things are just not possible. Tender ports (where you have to take the little boat to the pier) - not possible for her. And she requires special accomodations. Like enough room to get around the bed to get to the door or the bathroom. Roll-in shower. That type of thing.

    You would be astonished at how hard it is to explain that to folks who are trying to sell you accessible rooms on a ship (or anywhere for that matter). The requirement that there be no steps to get into the shower actually means that THERE CAN'T BE ANY STEPS. One small step is still a step.

    Hawaii is our next destination (probably). I'll be on the phone with the cruise line. For many hours. The good thing about all of that is that next winter/spring we will be on a boat to Hawaii!


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    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Family Reunion

    I am lucky to have a family that is proud of its traditions. One of those is our annual family picnic - this year was our 39th! 39 years of salami sandwiches and Uncle George's salsa. 39 years of guessing how many nuts are in the jars. 39 years of our crazy dice game. New traditions have sprung up over time - the kids pie eating contest, family name bingo...

    The picnic started with my grandfather's generation. The Old Folks. Grandfather, Aunt Veve, Uncle George, Aunt Marie, Aunt Marguerite, Uncle Ernie... they are all gone now, but the tradition lives on. Their kids ("the cousins") are now "the old folks" and my generation is next in line to take it over when the old folks decide to pass on the reins.

    The best part is seeing everyone together, passing along the tradition to the little ones. That's what family is about.

    Some time in the future, these kids will be passing along the tradition to their kids...

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    Monday, September 01, 2008

    MPM - September 1, 2008

    I can't believe it is September already! With fall just around the corner, I want to get the most out of my summertime flavors before they give way to the comfort foods of cooler weather. Here's what I came up with for this week!

    Monday - Labor Day Potluck Picnic Fare

    Tuesday - dinner at the in-laws

    Wednesday - Herbed Chicken with Spring Vegetables

    Thursday - take out dinner at the park before karate

    Friday - Steak w/gorgonzola cheese sauce (Dream Dinners)

    Saturday - Chinese "Stay In" Dinner
    - Spicy Kung Pao Style Chicken
    - Stir Fried Veggies in Peanut Sauce
    - Steamed Brown Rice
    - Fortune Cookies

    Sunday - "A Few of Our Favorite Things"
    - Sundays we have grandma and grandpa to dinner and usually make a dinner based on a theme (e.g. for our "Olympics Are Over dinner - we had fish and chips since the Olympics will be held in London next time). This Sunday The Mr. will be travelling so we are going to do something a bit different. The kids will love this dinner. Everyone gets to choose on thing to have for dinner. Mac & cheese to chocolate sundaes... this will be fun. Check back to see what we all chose!

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