Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Culinary Cry for Help

I love to cook. I think that's been evident from many of my previous posts. But I have been thrown a challenge. Chris and I have a good friend who's been diagnosed with an allergy to yeast and mold. We've been invited to a Christmas party at their home and it's a pot luck of appetizers and deserts. Poor Krista won't be able to eat much so I have volunteered to bring one of each and ensure that they are things she can eat.

I have pasted her list of "do NOT eat" foods below and am looking for some recipes that I can share with her as well as 2 to bring to the party; one sweet, one savory. Any suggestions are welcome as are any resources. Keeping in mind that Krista is a self-proclaimed bad cook. She's mastering the art of the crock pot and her husband, Justin, is pretty good with the grill.

Can't wait to see what my friends come up with here, and THANK YOU in advance for your suggestions :-)

Foods to avoid on a yeast free diet

Yeasty foods:

Breads, rolls, cookies, pastries, pretzels and other bready foods

Vinegar, and foods which contain it, like mayonnaise, salad dressing, barbecue sauce, mustard, pickles and pickled foods.

Wine, beer and spirits

Fermented foods and beverages like sauerkraut or cider

Moldy foods:

All cheese

Dried, smoked or pickled meats

Cured bacon

Mushrooms, peanuts, and pistachios

Soy sauce, miso, tamari, and tempeh


Pre-packaged herbs and teas

Canned tomatoes

Sugary foods:

Processed sugar (granulated, confectioner’s, brown)

Grapes, raisins, dates, prunes and figs; citrus fruits

Fruit juices and dried fruits

Soft drinks and drink mixes

Honey and maple syrup

High-fructose corn syrup


Starchy foods:



Monday, November 29, 2010

Experiment with Denim

I hate to iron. I try hard to buy wrinkle free garments and wear things that are forgiving of wrinkles. But there is one culprit in the laundry that drives me bananas. The auto-cuff feature of most jeans. I refuse to iron my jeans, so for years I have accepted the fact that the stupid seam on the bottom cuff of denim will always fold up.

A few weeks ago, you'll remember that I was in a HUGE rush and had to do last minute laundry to get to JA in time. My mom used to get after me all the time because my dirty laundry was always inside-out. As an adult, I have tried hard to take my clothes off without turning them inside-out, but it still happens, only now I tend to turn it the right way before tossing in the washer. That was, until a couple weeks ago.

See, when I threw that laundry in, I didn't have time to figure out what may be inside-out. I just washed and dried in a hurry. I did notice that my jeans were inside out (and dry!) but there was no cuff at the bottom. So for the past few weeks I have turned ALL my jeans inside out before washing and drying and guess what....NO MORE STUPID CUFFS AT THE BOTTOM! It actually cured the problem.

I waited to blog it because I wanted to make sure it consistently worked. And maybe none of you have this issue, and if you do, maybe it doesn't bug you like it bugs me...or maybe you really like to iron!

From now on, I wash jeans inside out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel

I am throwing culinary caution to the wind this week! I am going to cook Thanksgiving dinner as if there will be 15 people at my house this year. Sadly and happily, there will only be 4 of us. More leftovers for us that way!

My reinvention inspiration, you ask?! Here it is... on Saturday night, my friend Lisa and I had a girls night out. We went to dinner and the Little Big Town (country music) concert. We had dinner at Tag Restaurant in Denver and consumed what I would classify as one of the 10 best meals I have ever had in a restaurant. A-MA-ZING. And the French Onion "Soup" Dumplings were a completely new twist on one of the classics. The way it melted in my mouth and tasted like French Onion Soup sans the spoon I am drooling just thinking about it. That got me thinking, if this chef can do this to French Onion Soup, maybe I can do something to Thanksgiving.

It may be a little ambitious on my party, but hey, Friday is a paid holiday for me so I figure I should do something productive with my time, knowledge and love and appreciation of the culinary arts. Keeping in mind that my father-in-law can't have dairy AT ALL...Here's my subject-to-change plan for lunch on Friday:

Turkey Tortilla Soup (broth made from the carcass)
Mashed Potato Latke with thyme, sage and Hungarian Smoked Paprika
Sweet Potato Bread (like Banana bread, but not and only if I can figure out how to get the marshmallows off the top) with Cranberry glaze

And Farm Grandma Salad. Somethings shouldn't be messed with!

I am so excited to get in the kitchen that I can hardly stand it! Happy Thanksgiving! There will be before/after/after after pictures this weekend! Stay tuned!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tis the Season

I love this time of year! I think Thanksgiving is neck-and-neck with Christmas Eve in my book. All the great smells, yummy food, happy people, paid days off...it's all so much fun!

But you know you are getting close to the holidays when the UPS truck has 2 guys in it! One driving like a bat after a bug and the other with one foot perpetually out the door, ready to leave the long anticipated package on the front porch.

Having a window like this makes it perfect for spying on our weird-o neighbor, the UPS guy and the dogs across the street that guard the back yard with an enthusiasm level opposite that of the UPS guys! They just look around, dig an occasional hole, but never bark. My favorite kind of neighbor dogs!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Moment to Breathe

This week has been absolutely insane. Between work, and fun, I haven't even had time to grocery shop this week. And about an hour ago I realized it's Wednesday...I volunteer for a 4th grade classroom to teach Junior Achievement on Wednesdays at 2:30.

Because my work day started an hour and a half early today, and I am completely out of clean jeans (haven't even had time for laundry this week) I decided to give myself permission to work from sweat pants and my favorite sweatshirt this morning. Before lunch I opted to start a load of laundry when the whole JA thing dawned on me. So, I started the laundry, jumped in the shower, did some sort of ethnic dance to encourage the laundry to wash and dry faster (see note on clean jeans) with some really annoying whining interlaced throughout the said dance and nuked a frozen meal (I keep a couple on hand for emergencies like this one) and shoveled it in my mouth while I studied my JA guide.

All that rushing around and here I am with an hour to spare. Rather than getting back into the work requirements (too easy to lose track of time), I decided to take a breath and blog. My lunch was gross but fully consumed and my jeans are in the dryer. It will all be OK today.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I have going on that I forget that other people exist, or even care about my feeling of being overwhelmed. It's moments like these that I remember that from time to time everyone feels like this.

Last year at this time I was terrified that I would NEVER find a job and was considering deepening our debt by a cool $25,000 to go back to school and do something completely different. A year ago this week I met my now current boss for lunch and told him I was interested in coming back to work for the company while secretly laughing to myself knowing the odds of it panning out in the next 12 months were pretty slim. Boy was I wrong.

In twelve months I went from unemployed and ready to begin exploring a completely different path to completely overwhelmed with work that I really like for a company that I love. It's been a roller coaster of a ride!

But it's in moments like these when I give myself permission to come up for air and reflect on where I am today and how I got here that things fall into perspective. No regrets. No worries. Just a little heartburn from a really crappy frozen lunch. I really need to hit the grocery store tonight!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quick Update

Blogging this week has been a little rough. I seem to be at a loss for words...not much interesting going on in the Rowland house. Here's the quick 10-point-update:
  1. Fuzzy sheets went on the bed Tuesday night and I couldn't be happier about it!
  2. Leaving my house at 5:15 for the gym is not the right time. Their parking lot holds about a quarter of the the capacity of the gym...tough to find a spot. I parked on the road. Others circling the lot left. More exercise for me that way. I had to walk a block just to get there!
  3. Our first house party ever is on for Saturday. There will be a total of 8 of us, plus one toddler and an infant.
  4. I am reinventing the Drunk Cake this week. If you've had the infamous McFarlane Drunk Cake, you know it's pretty perfect. But I am going to make a white version in addition to dressing up the chocolate version. It may be a flop, but I am thinking that it will either be like a spice cake or a coconut cake. I love the coconut idea. Are there some who hate coconut? As for reinventing the chocolate version...think mint!
  5. We like to sleep with our bedroom COLD. I mean really cold; the colder the better. But my office is in here. I think you could hang meat in here and my hands are so cold they feel like they are about to break off. Good thing I have a fireplace! Or maybe I like to sleep really cold so that I can run the fire while I work. The jury's out on that one.
  6. Our beagle, Abby, hates the cold. And hates the snow even more. Needless to say, we have to keep the deck shoveled so she'll "go" in the yard.
  7. My coworker has buried me in achievable deadlines this week. For the first time in many days, my head is above water. But please don't tell anyone. I like it this way and would hate to have more work on my plate right now. An even distribution is a good thing!
  8. We officially settled on the pasta bar idea for Saturday. Three sauce choices, three noodle choices and 10 topping choices-everything from capers and sun-dried tomatoes to meatballs and Italian sausage.
  9. Our guests are so excited about it that they are each bringing a dish that coordinates with the theme. Who knew this would catch on so well! Pretty cool, eh?
  10. I had my hair colored Tuesday night. About 6 months ago my now ex-stylist (against my request) put highlights in my hair and I hated them. Finally, the toner has come out and I looked like bad-roots-dishwater-blonde. It was awful. So, I covered it up. And it's D-A-R-K. Holy buckets is it dark. Like Lauren Graham dark. But I LOVE it! Even the 4th grade kiddos at Junior Achievement yesterday told me that I looked different...I asked how and one kid said, "different like prettier." I can live with that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Storms Brewing on this Busy Day

I only have a minute in that I am chin deep in project deadlines! It's marketing planning/strategic planning season and that means lots of tight deadlines for me.

Anyway, there's a storm brewing outside and I am so excited I can hardly stand it. The wind this week finally knocked all the leaves off the trees and the sky is so ominous that if it were June, I'd be running for a tornado shelter.

But it's not June. It's November. And you know what that means!! YES, that's right...SNOW! Bring it on. I am very ready for the season, bad weather, hot chocolate, and best of all, skiing (sorry, Lisa K.).

The prediction is for mostly rain, and changing to snow, but areas along the Palmer Divide could see 3-7" of the white stuff. And we sit in the very edge of the Palmer. I am hopeful, but not optimistic. Regardless, it's way more fun to have a window in my office when the sky looks like this! If you want to see live pictures of our sky today you can link to our NBC affiliate 9News or our ABC affiliate 7News-The Denver Channel We are south west of the city and are closest to C-470 and I-25 (Highlands Ranch/Littleton)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Party Food

Chris and I are throwing our first ever party on Saturday night. We have had friends over for dinner many times, but it has never been more than one couple at a time. And Thanksgiving is different...you don't have to be that creative with the meal...although I have been pretty creative with the deserts and potato preparation (My father in law can't have dairy at all.)

As of right now, we may have three couples and four children that come over to play! At first I was thinking burgers and dogs, but am now thinking "no way" on that idea. I don't really like hot dogs and burgers are a challenge in our house right now. Chris and I are at war over the size of the burger, the cooking method (Weber grill or gas grill), the temperature at which to cook them, and finally the temperature at which consumption is safe. I think it's just best to not have burgers in front of guests so as to avoid the...errr...loud discussion that usually ensues.

So, what should I make?
  • Ribs are good, but also very subjective (one person's yummy could be another person's yucky).
  • The skirt steak with salsa verde from Thursday was pretty awesome, but if you have a garlic aversion, you will go hungry
  • What if we did a "make your own chicken?" I could chop up a bunch of garlic and herbs, have the liquids ready (EVOO, salad dressings, tabasco, etc) and let everyone marinate their own chicken breast in whatever cooties they want. We can put toothpicks in them w/ little flags so we can tell them apart and if they are all the same size, regardless of the marinade, they will take the same amount of time to cook.
  • Even though I lived in Texas, twice, Tex-Mex isn't really my thing. I love to eat it, but can't create it to my specifications.
  • What about a "build your own" with an Italian theme? Different noodles, sauces, toppings, sausages, etc. That could be fun...and could include mac & cheese for any kiddos who come.
Ok, I am really looking for a fun, creative and impressive idea. I have never cooked for any of these friends before and I want to put my best foot forward so they will want to come back. And I love to cook! So, suggestions? And forward the blog along to your friends too. I want to hear what the world thinks!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dogs in the News

I remember hearing Mt. Pleasant's infamous "Barking Dog" story involving a McGuirk and his new neighbor. Something about the constant barking dog, a tape recorder and a loud speaker.

Last week there was a story on our local news about a puppy that was shot through the fence with a pellet gun. Likely because of barking. The dog had some surgery and is fine now, but the owner is REALLY mad and I don't blame him one bit.

With both of those stories, I have always thought, "jeeze, it's just a dog. It can't help it that its parents neglect it."

That was until last night. I don't know where on the culdasac the dog lived, but it was close. Probably within 2 houses close. Even closing the window didn't help with the constant bark. The dog started barking at 10:00pm and at 2:00am we were so (insert really bad word followed by another really bad word) that we got up, put shoes and socks on and decided to figure out where it was coming from so that we could call somebody to make the dog stop barking. As soon as Chris stepped one foot out the door...silence. No barking, no crickets, no cars, no breeze. NOTHING. Ahhhh...relief!

By the time we were back in bed, it was 2:30 am. Needless to say with a 6:30 alarm this morning, we are both a little cranky with puffy eyes today. And I have heard the dog barking on and off today while I work. I would never harm somebody's helpless pet. But I think I understand the motivation behind the tape recorder and the pellet gun.

Tonight I will be armed with my own weapon... a telephone with Animal Control on speed dial. I don't do well with 4 hours of sleep. Chris is dealing a little better than I am, but he's listening to Christmas music so that he's not grumpy when our friends come over for dinner tonight. It's way too early for that and hearing TSO (Trans Siberian Orchestra--a Rowland family favorite that I happen to loathe) this morning almost pushed me over the edge of insanity.

The good news: The day is half over and our good friends that took a year-long sabbatical to do mission work all over the world are back home and coming over for dinner tonight. The last time we saw them was when they we lived next door to them in our old house! Good friends, good wine, experimental dinner (grilled marinated skirt steak with salsa verde and grilled endive) and cherry pie for desert. Nothing to complain about!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

97 and Counting

Yesterday was Grandma Peg's 97th birthday. I remember her 80th and I am pretty sure that's how she'll be in my mind forever. A little more hair, a little less age in her voice, baking at will and loving her family. Last night, Gram and I chatted on the phone for a bit about the weather, baseball, candy and voting. That got me thinking about how much this world has changed in 97 years. In Gram's frozen memory (the age you like to remember yourself as being!) Babe Ruth was the slugger, trains were a common mode of transportation and there was no television. Last week I flew to Dallas and watched the Texas Rangers in the World Series in color and high-definition. That's pretty cool!

Everything has changed for Gram. I have to say, when you think about all that her generation has been through, the trouble and triumphs, struggles and celebrations, Gram is remarkably well adjusted. I think I understand why some old people are perceived as being crotchety. I would be too if the world I was the most comfortable living in changed before my eyes and many of the things I loved most in life were gone. As for the lack of verbal filtration that many of Gram's generation suffer, well, in my best, albeit uneducated, opinion, the affliction is one of choice. They've earned the right to say what they want to say.

Here are a few great things about being 97:

1. Junk food whenever you want it. Eat it for breakfast if you feel like it. It obviously will not impair your longevity.

2. The two things you can always talk about are the weather and baseball. Neither change from year to year, decade to decade, and generation to generation.

3. Being called a cougar because your male companion is 12-ish years your junior. And he's 85. That's just AWESOME!

4. Watching your family grow from 4 boys and a husband to 14 grandkids, 20 someodd great-grandchildren and a handful of great-great-grandchildren too.

5. Did I mention chocolates for breakfast?

6. Using a walker with a basket for carrying the extra things that won't fit in your hands. And you can turn the walker around and have a seat whenever you want. I am 34 and there have been some days where that would have come in REALLY handy!

7. Being able to say what you want, when you want, to whom you want. At 97, you've earned the right. And can use age as an excuse even tough this spring chicken is pretty sure it's not age but rather a right of passage.

8. Hindsight. At 97 you still have it, and you will probably still have a few regrets. But with all those years under your belt, you've more than likely had the opportunity to drop a mulligan (that's golf-speak for a do-over) and try out the alternative. Maybe it isn't 20/20.

9. A quiet mind. With people around to take care of you and a family who loves you, I would think the worries of life would be somewhat over. Sure there will still be some stresses, but not like those of us mid-years folks. You can sit in silence and conjure up a thought of the olden days, or when you remember when, or even perhaps just reflect on your life well-spent.

10. Not only do you get chocolates for breakfast if you want, but you can tell the dentist to stick it if you so choose! At 97, if you lose a couple teeth to cavities, WHO CARES? That's what chocolate malts are for.

So, with that, I wish Gram a very happy 97 th birthday. Maybe getting old isn't so bad after all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Art of Yogurt

Almost every morning I have Greek yogurt for breakfast. High in protein and low in fat, it's a pretty good breakfast. My only problem is that the flavored ones are too sweet and the plain too, well, plain. I typically add a little Kashi Go Lean Crunch to the creamy goodness just for a little crunch.

Adding the cereal certainly helps the texture, but does nothing for the sweetness (or lack of, depending on the choice of the day). Yesterday I stumbled across what I thought was a pretty good compromise. Pomegranates. Not the juice, but the actual seeds from the fruit!

King Soopers (the Kroger corporation calls it that out here) had whole pomegranates on sale for $1 each. I thought I'd give it a whirl! While messy to get the seeds out, there were a little more tart than I really wanted to eat naked so I tossed them in the vanilla yogurt with the granola. It was absolute perfection! And the best news: that pomegranate will last me all week (unless the fruit goes bad first). But so far, so good! Not to mention, it's a superfood!

I put the Wikipedia link there in case you are curious about the pomegranate's superfood capabilities, and holy catfish is that a lot of information! But good to know I guess. I dare you to give the pomegranate a whirl. My only tidbit of advice: when you cut it in half, do so across the fruit, not from top to bottom...that will make it MUCH easier to extract the seeds!