Monday, November 10, 2008

Feeling stressed!

I'm feeling like I have too many hobbies, and I don't know how I'm going to get everything done. I hate having so many unfinished projects, but it always seems like something else more important comes up. Now that it's almost Christmas, I'm practically hyperventilating because I don't know if I'll get to everything in time, not to mention my fun, personal hobbies. :P Does anyone else ever feel this way? How do you handle it?!?!?!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Last night I had the BEST chicken tortilla soup I have ever had. Seriously. It was just a simple recipe in my crock pot cooking book, called "Fix It and Forget It", but BOY was it good!!!! I didn't get any pictures, but I wanted to share. It's super easy, and super yummy!

2 chicken breasts
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can Mexican stewed tomatoes or RoTel
1 can diced green chiles (I used the fire-roasted kind)
1 C salsa (hot, medium, mild - your choice!)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 t cumin
tortilla chips or tortillas
1/2 C shredded Mexican cheese

Put all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for about 8 hours. Before serving, take out chicken breasts and dice into bite size pieces. Return to crockpot. Serve with crushed tortilla chips (I used torn pieces of flour tortilla) and cheese.

This could be easily customizable...serve with avocado, sour cream, cilantro, etc.

Mike and I both thought it was amazing last night, and I am still raving over it after eating leftovers for lunch!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Blog Name!

As you may have noticed, I have renamed my blog! I figured that since I don't update all that often, it really made no sense to keep TWO blogs. From now on, I will be combining my fun random posts with my cooking posts all here on the same blog.

Why the vanilla bean? I LOVE vanilla. I have never been much of one for chocolate...I have always preferred vanilla. And once I discovered that fresh vanilla beans are affordable on ebay, I was hooked! Now for the clincher - my favorite flower is an orchid. I discovered that vanilla beans are produced by orchid plants, and the vanilla orchid is the only orchid that produces a fruit. I figured that this is just way too much of a coincidence, and orchids/vanilla are definitely meant to be my thing!

Please point your browsers from now on to http://alannasvanillabean.blogspot.com.

Stay tuned for more! :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chile Pineapple Margaritas

AKA "Mike's Dirty Thirty Margaritas"

For Mike's 30th birthday, we went down to Mexico for the weekend. I decided it would be the perfect time to try making a margarita I had seen on a menu at a local restaurant. I had no idea what the proportions were, but I had a general idea of the contents. I like to think I have quite mastered the margarita, so I gave it a shot! Here is my recipe:

jalapeno
roasted pineapple
tequila
pineapple juice
triple second
lime juice
sugar

First I sliced and seeded the jalapeno and pineapple and put them in tequila. (I didn't have the resources to roast the pineapple first, and it was still great. You will need 3 parts tequila, so make sure you infuse enough of it.) Then I let it sit for several hours.

To make the margarita:
1. In a shaker, add 1 part lime juice and 1 part pineapple juice.
2. Add 2 parts triple sec.
3. Add 3 parts of the infused tequila. (Be sure to strain out any seeds or fruit pieces.)
4. Shake-a shake-a shake!
Enjoy!

Beware, these are potent margaritas, and the chiles have a bite! But the flavor is SOO good! Everyone at Mike's birthday loved them!!!
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm addicted...


I just bought another one. Isn't it cool though?!??! :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Orchid Update!

Some of you may remember my post back in June about my new orchid. I have loved orchids for years, and growing them is slowly becoming an obsession of mine. They are almost like children - I LOVE these things! Here is a photo of my first orchid -
The blooms lasted for a LONG time, but finally they all dropped. I cut the spike, and it has been continuing to grow new roots.
Here it is now. I had some problems with scale insects (gasp!) but hopefully I got rid of them before they could spread. It's still doing quite well...I'm just trying to be patient as I wait for a new spike to start so I can get some new blossoms!

A few weeks ago, my wonderful husband brought me this new challenge. He found this orchid outside of his office, abandoned and sad. :( I brought it inside, trimmed it's dried up spike, and repotted it. I was a little worried about it, but just yesterday I noticed that a new leaf is starting to grow!!! I can't wait to see what color blooms this plant will produce! It is looking so much happier and healthier!

And so the obsession grows. I was at Henry's Market on Saturday and noticed these BEAUTIFUL orchids. They were huge...most of them about 3 feet tall, and gorgeous. They had white ones similar to my little orchid at home, and purple ones. I definitely have a thing for the big white phalaenopsis orchids with the yellow centers, and I just couldn't stop looking at them. I was still thinking about them when I got home from grocery shopping, and decided to go for it - they were only $20...how can you pass that up!?!??!!? So, yesterday I went back to the store and selected my very own plant. I also bought a stand for it so that it would have it's own spot in my house. It is SO beautiful - I love that it has multiple branches! I can't wait for all the buds to start blooming. :) See how pretty it is? :)


Monday, September 8, 2008

Cherry Vanilla Coffee Cupcakes

The other day I had a moment of pure flavor delight. I had just finished drinking my fresh cup of Kona coffee, and began to eat my breakfast of granola and cherry vanilla yogurt. I was suddenly overcome with awe at the mingling of flavors in my mouth. I couldn't let it slip away, so I decided to try to capture it in cupcake form. I browsed several recipes and came up with my own crazy concoction incorporating all of the ingredients I listed above.


I apologize for the crappy picture...I did a poor job of decorating, so I didn't bother taking any cupcake glamor shots.

I started with a simple recipe for coffee cupcakes, adapted from several different Kahlua cupcake and coffee cupcake recipes. I specifically wanted to include yogurt in my cupcake recipe. Once baked, I started the cherry vanilla filling. The filling didn't thicken enough, so I had to add more cornstarch and cook it again. It sure tasted good though! I filled the cupcakes using the cone method, which was a first for me. The cupcakes were hideous...they looked like surgery had been performed on them. Yikes! But, that's what frosting is for! I used my own personal recipe for vanilla bean icing. Unfortunately I didn't have enough icing to cover all the cuppys, but the ones that got frosted looked much better. :)

Overall, they were really good! I served them at my Labor Day party, and they were eaten up in a mad grab. I usually am NOT a fan of fruit-filled things, but these worked well. It was an interesting flavor combo. Not quite what I remembered from my moment of epiphany, but good just the same! I even heard a couple people say that these were my best cupcakes yet! I tell you, that vanilla icing will melt anyone's heart! :)

Cherry Vanilla Coffee Cupcakes
Cupcake Batter: (serves 12 to 15)

2 cups flour (448 grams)
2 cups sugar (448 grams)
¼ teaspoon salt (1 gram)
1 tablespoon dark roast coffee grounds
¼ cup water (120 ml)
¼ cup coffee or coffee liqueur (120 ml)
½ cup butter (112 grams)
1 cup Greek yogurt, at room temperature (240 ml)
1 teaspoon vanilla (5 ml)
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda (6 grams)
2 beaten eggs

Grease or line two cupcake pans. Preheat oven to 350° F. In mixer, combine flour, sugar and salt.
Mix butter, coffee and grounds, and water. Add to flour mixture and mix lightly. Add yogurt, vanilla, baking soda and eggs and mix well for 2 minutes.
Pour batter into pans. Bake until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on rack 10 minutes and unmold cakes to cake rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cherry Filling

2 cups cherries, pitted, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Add cherries, water, and vanilla to a pot. Cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Stir together sugar and cornstarch then stir into the cherries.
3. Cook until thick, about 20 minutes. (I had to add more cornstarch and cook it again, so I would recommend adding the cornstarch before you take it off the heat and letting it cook for a while longer so it can thicken a bit while cooking.)

Assemble
1. Fill each cupcake with filling. I used the “cone method”, but many methods will do.
2. Frost filled cupcakes with Vanilla Bean icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
5 T whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
vanilla bean

Beat powdered sugar and butter in a small mixing bowl. Scrape out vanilla beans and stir in into sugar mixture until they're evenly distributed. Add whipping cream and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add remaining cream if needed to reach spreading consistency. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

How well do you know your spouse?

This little survey has been floating around, so I figure after 1 year
of marriage and 7 years together, I'd give it a try! :)

1. They are watching TV….. What are they watching?
Dirty Jobs, NFL, CNN

2. You're out to eat.what kind of dressing do they get on their salad?
Balsamic Vinaigrette

3.What's one food this person doesn't like?
red peppers

4. You go out for a drink. He/she orders…
Alcoholic: Stone or other dark microbrew...if we are at a GOOD Mexican
restaurant, then a top shelf margarita, Non: Iced Tea

5 Where did he/she go to high school?
Marion Steele

6.What size shoe do they wear?
9.5

7. If this person were to collect anything, it would be?
Gremlin memorabilia

8.What is their favorite type of car?
Gremlin (or pretty much anything AMC - but not a Pacer!)

9. This person could eat __________ everyday?
mangoes

12.Favorite sports team?
San Diego Chargers!
(Cleveland Browns come 2nd)

10.Favorite cereal?
granola

11. This person wouldn't be caught dead wearing…
Tight Jeans

13.Who will he/she vote for?
Obama!

14.What is their sign?
Virgo

15.What is something you do that he wishes you didn't do?
Play with my Crackberry (I don't even mess with it that often,
seriously.)

16.How many states has this person lived in?
Ohio and California (plus a couple long stays at several military
bases/schools for training)

20. This person could spend hours….
surfing, working on the Gremlin

17.What is his heritage?
Irish, German

18. You bake them a cake for their birthday….What kind do they want?
Depends on his mood...no regular requests.

19.Did he/she play sports in high school?
Football for a while


Now… how well do you know your spouse? (JKnotties, this means you!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Blackberry vs. iPhone

My cell phone is on it's way out. I just ordered a new battery so I can make sure that isn't the issue. If that fixes it, great, but if not, I will be in the market for a new phone. The two I am looking at are the Blackberry and the iPhone. I know several of you that have one or the other, so I'm looking for some input on pros and cons of the two. Which phone do you have, and what do you like/dislike about it?

Thanks! :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Peters' Punch

As I hinted at yesterday, we have a tasty new summer cocktail at our house. The hubs created it one day. (He has gotten SO good at mixing drinks...he is my own personal bartender! The man can grill AND mix me up a good one - boy am I lucky!) I'm not exactly sure what his proportions are...but here is how I made it:

2 oz. rum (preferably white rum, but the brown rum works as well)
3/4 oz. sugar syrup or agave nectar
1 oz. lime juice (we like Nellie & Joe's Key Lime Juice)
1 oz. pineapple juice
2 oz. orange juice

Shake with ice and pour!

We have also added coconut cream and/or mango juice along with chunks of fresh mango to this beverage for an extra tasty treat!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

For Natalie (Book Club Recipes!)

Last night I hosted our girls' monthly book club at my house, and naturally I used it as an excuse to try out some of the tasty-looking recipes I have been collecting off of various blogs! My friend Natalie asked for the recipes, so here they are! This first one is a recipe I got from my coworker. It is SOOOOO good. The recipe makes a lot, and is great for a party! It's the perfect summer salad - it tastes just like a California Roll!

Sushi "California Roll" Salad

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons rice vinegar* (not seasoned)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (preferably unhulled*)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled ginger*
4 scallions, cut lengthwise into thin 1-inch strips (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
1 large seedless cucumber (about 1 pound), quartered lengthwise,
cored, and chopped
2 sheets nori (paper-thin sheets of dried seaweed)*
1 avocado (preferably California)
1/4 pound surimi (mock crab legs) if desired, sliced thin

For dressing
2 teaspoons wasabi (Japanese green horseradish) powder*
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons ginger juice (squeezed from freshly grated gingerroot)

*available at Asian markets, natural foods stores, and some supermarkets

Into a large saucepan of salted boiling water stir rice and boil
10 minutes. Drain rice in a colander and rinse. Set colander over a kettle of boiling water (rice should not touch water) and steam rice, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, 10 to
15 minutes (check water level in kettle occasionally, adding water if necessary).

While rice is steaming, in a small saucepan bring 1/4 cup vinegar to a boil with sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and remove from heat. In a dry small skillet toast sesame seeds over moderate heat, stirring, until golden and fragrant and transfer to a small bowl.

Transfer rice to a large bowl and stir in vinegar mixture. Cool rice and stir in sesame seeds, remaining 3 tablespoons vinegar, oil, ginger, scallions, carrot, and cucumber. Salad may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before proceeding.

Dry-roast nori, 1 sheet at a time, directly above moderate heat (gas or electric burner), holding it at opposite corners and moving it back and forth, until it turns bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute. With scissors cut nori into thin 2-inch-long strips.

Peel and pit avocado. Quarter avoado and cut crosswise into thin slices. Add avocado to salad with surmimi if using and two thirds of nori strips and toss well.

Make dressing:
In a small bowl stir wasabi powder into hot water and stir in cold water, soy sauce, and ginger juice.

Serve salad sprinkled with remaining nori strips and drizzled with dressing.

Gourmet
July 1994

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This next recipe I got from Picky Palate. These little Turkey Club Sandwiches were delicious!
I ended up bringing all the leftovers to work today and gobbled them right up! The brie cheese, arugula, and fig preserves really added a unique touch to an otherwise ordinary sandwich.


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I found this recipe for Mediterranean Bruschetta on my friend Kat's blog. They looked so yummy and original, I had to try them! They were quite a hit, though I still have plenty to nibble on when I get home! :)



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This Squash and Zucchini Tart looked delicious over at Cooking and Booking. Turns out it is a version of Ratatouille. I DO like tomatoes, so I made one tart with them and one without. I thought it was good, though I think I like the veggies better on their own than with a crust. I have a bunch of leftover squash slices, so I think I'll fry them up with a light flour coating, salt, pepper, and some olive oil. Mmm...


****************************************************************************************************************

Anyhow, thanks for coming last night, girls! I had a great time! :)

Need your input

Okay, friends. You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't blogged much lately. Here's the deal. I have been extremely busy this summer, and just haven't had the time to photograph my cooking. On top of that, I refuse to bake during the summer because it is so freaking hot, and anyway, baked goods will make my already squishy belly even less bikini worthy. So, that's that on the baking. But as far as cooking goes, I do cook nearly every night. I LOVE summer food...it's so light and refreshing.

So now, here is my question to you. Do you prefer a blog with pictures? Or would you still be interested in hearing what I make for dinner, even without pictures? I just feel like so much of what I make is off of other blogs, there's really no point in reposting. What are your thoughts? Should I post it anyway? Would anyone read it?

I could always share some drink recipes, I suppose. M came up with a KILLER summer cocktail. Interested?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Garden update

I am SO behind on my garden updates. These photos were all taken about a month ago. I'll try to fill you in on new developments as I go!

Here we have our leek plant. That bulb in the middle continued to grow until it was probably close to 3 feet tall, and it blossomed into a huge flower. We have since cut the flower off (it made a great kitty fishing pole) and have yet to eat any leek.

Here we have our strawberry plant. Only one berry actually survived. The rest mysteriously disappeared in the night. Now the plant has stopped producing fruit, but is sending out ridiculous numbers of baby shoots. Soon the far half of our garden will be covered with strawberries.

Here is the first bunch of lettuce that survived the snail attack. Doesn't it look pretty?
These little guys are in the higher tier of the garden, and they are all just as big as the individual lettuce plant now. I have no idea how we are going to eat this much salad!!!

The tomato plants are getting massive, and going crazy with tomatoes!
These guys have since turned red and been eaten. No worries though...there are dozens more turning red and being eaten! They are so good...they can actually just be eaten plain. Good stuff!

The jalapenos are right next to the tomatoes. This little guy was really growing great!
Check out that plump, spicy pepper. I later came back to find a gargantuan tomato worm hanging off of it. He had eaten the entire side of two jalapenos. YUCK!!!!

We later found several of his brothers and sisters hanging out on our plants. Troy discovered that they splatter green EVERYWHERE if you throw them at the fence.


The oregano is growing like crazy now. It doesn't get taller...just wider. It's probably twice this in diameter now.


Our edamame is starting to produce pods.


So far they are still not plump enough to harvest, but there are definitely enough there for a good night of Asian food. I can't wait! It shouldn't be long now....


The sweet peas have had a hard life. They look beautiful here, and have produced a handful of pods. They just aren't very hardy, and we have lost most of the plants. Only two of the pods have matured enough to pop the peas out. They were definitely the tastiest peas I have ever eaten though. I ate them raw, straight out of the garden! The rest of the baby pods have made their way into salads.

This house plant was doing really poorly, so we put it outside in the garden. All the green is new growth, and it has totally exploded in the past few days. There is a TON more growth. Hopefully it all turns red like the old leaves!

Troy's little pineapple never did get much bigger, and started turning yellow. We think it was a mini-pineapple. See below for the fun you can have with a little pineapple.

Matt looks quite classy with a pineapple hat.

There's Norm the Gnome back in the shade, looking after the garden. I swear he is alive. Every time I go out to the garden, he is in a new spot!

Obama Bake Sale

Last month, MoveOn members across the country organized over 3,000 bake sales to raise money for the Obama campain. See here for photos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124466908@N01/2605539884/

I wanted to help out, so naturally, I baked my Vanilla Nut cupcakes that everyone seems to think are to die for! I figured I would deck them out in a political theme, and took them up to the bake sale at the Cardiff Seaside Market.Don't they look patriotic? :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

I need your help!

Okay, friends. I need some advice. I really would like to buy a new Chargers shirt for the upcoming football season, and I really cannot decide which one to buy! The t-shirt looks SO comfortable and casual and cute, and would work, but I do already have a jersey, which is kind of like a t-shirt. However, the tank top is super cute, and I could really use something sleeveless for the games early in the season.

What do you think?



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Check out our new ride!

We have a new addition! Last night Mike and I bought a Vespa. We will be back to having two vehicles now...hooray! We still have to take care of the registration and licensing, but within a couple of weeks, we will both be good to ride it. I am guessing Mike will ride it more at first until I get used to it, and I'll drive the Element, but after time, I will probably ride the Vespa more. Hooray, we are so excited! It only takes about $6.50 to fill the tank, and we shouldn't have to fill up more than once every couple of weeks. I can hardly wait to start driving it! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Awesome Night!

So, this is not food related, but I felt like I needed to blog about my wonderful night last night. As an anniversary gift, I bought M tickets to see Heart and Journey. The show was last night. WOW. Was it amazing!!!

Heart totally rocked.

Ann Wilson can SING. That woman has got a set of pipes on her. Whoa. I just can't believe how much power is in her voice. I was blown away, seriously. When her sister Nancy took the mic and sang "These Dreams" I was seriously brought to tears, it was so beautiful.

They did a rendition of The Who's "Love, Rain O'er Me" and I was speechless. So much power and emotion. "Barracuda" was a huge hit, and we snuck out to beat the bathroom lines, just as they started to sing "Crazy On You." LOVE that song. I was thrilled when M bought me a Heart tank top that says "Crazy on You" - while they were performing that very song! Wheee!!!

Then, Journey took the stage. They started rocking right away. Then, the new singer came running out. So crazy. The new singer is seriously like the Asian version of Steve Perry. I couldn't believe that voice came from that little guy! Check out the picture of Steve Perry,

and the picture of Arnel.

Similar, no? Especially from a distance. He was wearing tight yellow pants and a black vest, and he was running and jumping all over the stage. He was absolutely incredible. The entire show was SO good.

We saw Journey last year with a temporary singer, and we thought it was a great show. Well, it totally paled in comparison to last night's show! This was definitely a concert that I will remember for years to come!!! It is up there on my list of great shows, for sure!!!!!


Stay tuned for more...today I am going to Opening Day at the Del Mar races - I bought a big hat to wear. How fun! We are going to buy a Vespa today, and in a couple of weeks, I'll have a report on the Wolfmother & Stone Temple Pilots concert. And, eventually I will get my garden pictures and pictures of my anniversary trip to Niagara Falls online! What a great month this is! :)



Tuesday, July 1, 2008

And...I'm off!

Dear Readers....all two of you....

I just wanted to wish you all a wonderful 4th of July holiday! I will be in beautiful Ohio (hee hee) for the next week, visiting the in-laws. M and I are driving up to Niagara Falls for a couple of days though to celebrate our 1st anniversary. I can't wait!

Stay tuned for updates! :)

Alanna

Monday, June 16, 2008

Asian recipe ideas?

This weekend, I am hosting a cooking "class" for a couple friends of mine. We settled on an Asian themed menu, with chicken being the only meat involved.

Anyone have any killer recipe ideas for me?

:)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

White Sangria

Can you believe it...I TOTALLY forgot to post my sangria recipe last night....and get this - I WAS DRINKING IT AS I WAS BLOGGING! I know...crazy. That's what I get for drinking and blogging!

Anyway, I have had some BAD sangria in my life. I am NOT a fan of sweet wines, so a lot of it grosses me out. But this recipe is SO good. No sugar...it's naturally sweet, but not TOO sweet! It's so light and refreshing for summer...a definite must-try! It's quite customizable, too. I've altered it a few times.



White Sangria recipe

Ingredients:
1 bottle (750 ml) sauvignon blanc wine or champagne
4 oz. peach schnapps
6 oz. apricot brandy (I couldn't find this, so I used some extra schnapps and regular brandy)
8 oz. pineapple juice
(I have replaced this with OJ and OJ/Mango juice before)
2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
4 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
1 orange, sliced into rounds
1 small peach, pitted, diced
(I replaced this with a mango before - would also be good with a green apple)
2 vanilla beans, split

Garnish:
1 peach, sliced
Several springs of mint for garnish

Directions:
In a large bowl or pitcher, combine ingredients and let chill for at least one hour. Strain well and serve over plenty of ice. Garnish with peach slices and sprigs of mint.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

California Roll Salad

Okay. Here is my last post for the evening. This stuff is SOOOOOOOOO good. My friend made it at her birthday party, and OH so amazing. It tastes just like sushi, but in salad form.

"CALIFORNIA ROLL" SALAD
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons rice vinegar* (not seasoned)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (preferably unhulled*)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled ginger*
4 scallions, cut lengthwise into thin 1-inch strips (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
1 large seedless cucumber (about 1 pound), quartered lengthwise,
cored, and chopped
2 sheets nori (paper-thin sheets of dried seaweed)*
1 avocado (preferably California)
1/4 pound surimi (mock crab legs) if desired, sliced thin

For dressing
2 teaspoons wasabi (Japanese green horseradish) powder*
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons ginger juice (squeezed from freshly grated gingerroot)

*available at Asian markets, natural foods stores, and some supermarkets

Into a large saucepan of salted boiling water stir rice and boil
10 minutes. Drain rice in a colander and rinse. Set colander over a kettle of boiling water (rice should not touch water) and steam rice, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, 10 to
15 minutes (check water level in kettle occasionally, adding water if necessary).

While rice is steaming, in a small saucepan bring 1/4 cup vinegar to a boil with sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and remove from heat. In a dry small skillet toast sesame seeds over moderate heat, stirring, until golden and fragrant and transfer to a small bowl.

Transfer rice to a large bowl and stir in vinegar mixture. Cool rice and stir in sesame seeds, remaining 3 tablespoons vinegar, oil, ginger, scallions, carrot, and cucumber. Salad may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before proceeding.

Dry-roast nori, 1 sheet at a time, directly above moderate heat (gas or electric burner), holding it at opposite corners and moving it back and forth, until it turns bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute. With scissors cut nori into thin 2-inch-long strips.

Peel and pit avocado. Quarter avoado and cut crosswise into thin slices. Add avocado to salad with surmimi if using and two thirds of nori strips and toss well.


Make dressing:
In a small bowl stir wasabi powder into hot water and stir in cold water, soy sauce, and ginger juice.

Serve salad sprinkled with remaining nori strips and drizzled with dressing.

Gourmet
July 1994

Another garden update!

As you can see, we have some additions to our garden! First of all, let's welcome Norm the Gnome! He is here to look after the garden, chase away the snails, and so on. :) (And say hi to Chloe up there on the left...she thinks it's her job to sporadically run through the plants. Ack!) Those tomato plants are getting freaking HUGE! And the cilantro is like a tree. Troy also planted a leek (from the grocery store!) which is getting nice and big. We now have gourds growing in the little pots. The soybeans are finally making progress again, which is a good thing. I am looking forward to that edamame!

Here you can see we only have one lonely lettuce plant. The snails ate that stuff up! What? So, we planted a whole new batch (on the other side of the cilantro monster) and it's doing great!

Check out my little tomatoes. :) This guy is about ping pong ball size.
and some spry young new 'maters.

My jalapenos were going slow for a while there...2 peppers for about a month, but all of a sudden, we have 9! and more on the way!!!

We ended up having to add a new tier to our garden, because T kept bringing home new plants! We now have several types of basil, sage, parsley, and dill, along with these sweet peas. T pulled some of these sprouts out of our salad sprouts and planted them. They went wild! He built this fence for them out of bamboo plucked off our beach. Doesn't it look nice?

See how cute the tiny little tendrils are, just starting to grab onto their frame? Aw, I love them! Too bad I'm not a big pea fan. :P

And, our cute little pineapple. :) (I don't like them either...but it's fun to watch them grow!)

Stay tuned for more! I have a feeling there will be some harvesting going on soon! (By the way...the radishes are about done...the boys have been picking those every day...they are almost gone already! And I dont' even eat them!)