October 21, 2009

Whole Lotta Love

How does the saying go, “Life is what happens when you make other plans”? My little projects are generally more fun than laundry or dishes, but they don’t start to smell if I neglect them for a week. Consequently, it is my little projects that suffer. Occasionally I need to remind myself why it’s important to make time to devote myself to a project and not just to going to the grocery store.

My cool friend Mr. A.C. invited to me go see It Might Get Loud. It is a documentary featuring Jack White from the White Stripes, The Edge from U2, and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. The three talk about their favorite electric guitars, their love of electric guitars, how guitars changed their lives, and then they play some guitar. I mean, they play some guitar. It’s a guitar love fest and a love fest of three great guitarists and if you have ever liked listening to any rock song ever, you’ll enjoy this movie.

My favorite part is when Edge gets up and walks around the stage so he can get a closer look at Jimmy Page playing the opening riff to “Whole Lotta Love.”

I want to make time to teach myself guitar because I love this stuff. I love music. I love creation. I love that one good guitar story makes me itch to go home and strum a guitar.

No matter how many dishes there are in the sink.

October 12, 2009

Horseradish Repurposed

I was watching “Tyler’s Ultimate” on the Food Network®. I like Tyler Florence because he makes delicious looking food and he’s rather tasty looking himself. Most of his dishes are not points friendly for those of us on Weight Watcher’s so I’ve never been tempted to try and prepare his recipes. However, in this particular episode he made a dish that inspired me: Horseradish and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes.

Like any red-blooded American gal, I believe that a good dish of mashed potatoes is next to godliness. I’ve made and eaten many types of potatoes (mashed, smashed, and otherwise), but the horseradish take was new to me. If you click on his version you will see, it complicates the simple beauty that is mashed potatoes about as much as you can. Also, I can tell from the ingredients list that it would be a whopper on points.

If the key to a healthy planet is to reduce, reuse, recycle then the key to healthy eating is to lighten, replace, and avoid.

In the case of mashed potatoes, I choose to lighten. Flavor for potatoes typically comes from yummy fats like cream and butter. It is easy to lighten those, low-fat milk and butter substitute, but you lose flavor. You must replace the flavor with some other ingredient that is also low in fat but high in taste. Some basics include salt and pepper, chicken stock, and the ever glorious garlic. After watching “Tyler’s Ultimate,” I thought, why not horseradish?

Horseradish, like other members of the mustard family, has no fat to speak of and is a flavor powerhouse. It has a very strong bitter, somewhat sour, mustard-like flavor. It is the ingredient that gives tartar sauce its kick. It pairs well with roast beef but should always be handled in moderation. Horseradish can overwhelm other flavors easily if you get spoon happy with this particular condiment.

Is it healthy? It’s as healthy as wheat grass in a tofu shake…if you pay attention to what you are buying. Horseradish can be found in the spice aisle; it’s the white stuff in glass jars. There are two main types of horseradish available to purchase: prepared horseradish and horseradish sauce.

If you are being healthy minded you want prepared horseradish. Prepared horseradish is essentially the crushed plant preserved in vinegar. (Fun fact: horseradish is believed to get its name because, originally, horses were used to crush it to make it fit for consumption.)

Horseradish sauce is typically horseradish mixed with mayonnaise or other similar ingredients. It has a definite fat content and can raise your calories where the wholesome prepared horseradish will not.

For both types, once you open the jar store it in the fridge. It will last in there for quite a while. If your horseradish darkens in color in the jar in the fridge, throw it away, it’s gone bad.

I made mashed potatoes by boiling three diced potatoes in water. When I mashed, I added two tablespoons of margarine and two tablespoons of horseradish. That’s all I needed. The sauce-like texture of the horseradish supplanted the cream/milk generally used. A serving size came to a friendly three points and the flavor was outstanding. The horseradish gave the potatoes a kick that went excellently with the beef I served them with. Though I wouldn’t use this type of potatoes for every meal I make, it is a super tasty and healthy alternative to plain spuds.

October 2, 2009

The Easily Met Goal

Photo by Anne

In my dreams of the perfect job, I believe the axiom, “If you have a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I love food; I think it would be great to be a food critic. I love music; I think it would be great to be a musician. I love to write; I think it would be great if someone would pay me to write. (Anyone?) There is one thing, however, that I love to do that I have decided that I don’t want to somehow turn into a job.

I love to travel. Well, I should clarify, I love to get away. I love to have lazy days in places other than my little home. I love to take longer than usual to do everything. I love to be a tourist. I love to read my tour book while taking the tour and listening to the tour guide. I love to take too many pictures of a thing that everyone else is taking pictures of and then pay a little too much for a kitschy souvenir with a picture of that thing on it. I love cruising there. I love road tripping there. I love taking a plane so I can spend more time at the there I’m going too. I love going on vacation.

If your travel somehow involves a job, I don’t think it can really be called a vacation. There are jobs that include travel. You can’t be lazy when you travel, though, because it’s part of your job. There are jobs that facilitate others’ vacations. You aren’t on vacation, though, they are. There are jobs writing about traveling. For instance, people write those guide books I read. Those people didn’t go on vacation though. They went on research trips. They actively sought out information and trivia and timetables and maps. They didn’t have it spoon fed to them on glossy pages with full-color photos and a Metro map in the back. If someone wanted to pay me to scrapbook my vacation photos the way I always do, we might have a deal. Otherwise, it’s okay. My vacations are my vacations and my dream job is what I’ll be doing so I can go on vacation.

So, what is my goal?

A few years ago I made the goal that I would go one new place a year. It has so far been a reasonable goal. Unlike, “See the world!” or “Visit every continent!” it is a graspable concept. It is also a goal that is flexible in the face of the wart-ridden fates of money and responsibility. My new place can be a grand adventure (cruise to Juneau, Alaska!) or it can be closer to home (road trip to Silver City, New Mexico!) or somewhere in between (visit friend in Chicago!), it just has to be a place I haven’t been to before. The place is good because it’s new. I have to change a little to visit this place. I have to incorporate a new set of images into my concept of the world. I get to try something new by being in this new place. Hopefully, I come out a little newer too. I’m now someone who has been to Juneau and Silver City and Chicago.

I just came back from Burlington, Vermont. I learned why there are paintings of rolling green hills with red barns and black and white cows and puffy clouds in blue skies; there is a part of the world that looks like that. I have now experienced the onset of fall in a place where fall is a distinct season. I’ve heard a crow caw as I crunched through leaves and breathed cold air. I now know that Vermonters are proud of being ecologically friendly in the same way that Texans are proud of largeness. I can picture where my best friend and her family lives. I can see why they like it. I can see why they want to come back. I know a bit more than before I went to Vermont.

I don’t know where my new place will be next year, but I’m excited by the idea of it. I’m excited that I’ll choose a place. I like that I won’t quite know what to expect. I like that I’ll learn something there. I like that I’ll be a person who visited there. I’ll like that I got away from here with no other purpose than to go there and enjoy being there.

It’s a big big world and I want to see all of it, one new place at a time.

Then I want to take its picture.

Did She Really Get That Wigged Out by a Capo?

My blog is not real time. I wrote a few entries before I began posting so I would always have some banked and could post in a regular and timely manner. This plan worked brilliantly, until I went out of town. I could have posted right before I left and right after I returned so no one would be the wiser, but I did not. Instead, my little blog sat all alone with no updates. Today, I was embarrassed to discover that while I was away it sat on an especially silly entry.

You see, in real time, I moved past the capo incident quite quickly and went on to bigger and better guitar things. If you were just going by my blog, however, it seems I was thwarted by a bit of Italian.

Rest assured, the next day after I had gotten some sleep, I realized that capos are good things. They actually make playing a guitar easier. It is also really easy to MacGyver your own capo using rubber bands and a pencil.

Thus, I moved on with my guitar lessons till I went out of town. These exploits will be posted soon. No really. I intend to do it in a timely manner.

Photo by Anne