Archive for January, 2009



so you’ve probably been wondering what on earth has happened to me? All one of you (love you, sister!) ūüėČ i just seemed to drop off the face of the earth. well, let me explain.



as much as i love christmas and the winter (i live in san diego, mind you, so it might not seem just to some of you for me to say i love winter), i must admit that i have a love/hate relationship with it. ¬†i’m sure many people can relate that along with whatever reasons you love christmas, there is also a stress that comes with it. for the most part, for me, this stress is bearable — stress like last minute shopping for presents, and then wrapping all those present (my husband does not like to be around me during this time: “no, dear, you canNOT use three different scraps of wrapping paper to wrap that present. ¬†and please use the sticker name tags, NOT a black sharpie….fine, you can do it on your dad’s”; forgive me, i’m a perfectionist when it comes to present wrapping). there’s also planning the food menu, shopping for the food, and then cooking said food — including scheduling the cooking times so that everything is done all at the same time. there’s cleaning the house and bathing the dogs, to get ready to have christmas eve dinner at our tiny condo for the first time, and then realizing, “uh oh, gotta do the dishes so we have enough plates to eat on! oh, so this¬†is why people register for china for their wedding presents.” ¬†and there’s the splitting the holidays between families (which actually works out for us because it makes the festivities last just that much longer), but that also means cooking more food for another meal (again, not a bad thing at all.)¬†and then, whoops, three days later realizing we forgot to give the dogs their christmas bones. oh well, it’s not like they know any different — any day they receive a bone is christmas to them! so it’s no surprise that we didn’t take our tree down and pack up the decorations until the third weekend in January. but in the end all these stresses are really just little blessings in disguise, more things to be thankful of and for.



what makes me dread the holidays is tax season. if your career is in finances, then you know what i’m talking about. i am the director of finance at the nonprofit i work at. which means: tax season and working overtime. deep down, i really don’t mind it. i would say that i handle stress pretty well. ¬†and i love my job — absolutely love my job. but for as much as i love it, i really like to leave when my workday is supposed to be over, go home, cook dinner, and spend time with my family. but every january i have to put that aside and work my little heart out. luckily, this year i’ve been able to take stuff home to work on in the evenings, so i’m able to hang out with my family still.¬†



needless to say, i have not had any ounce of time to type up recipes, much less work on photos for publishing them. (please note the photos is this post were not¬†taken by me, i’m sad to say.)¬†¬†but there is an end in sight. most of my deadlines are tomorrow, the end of the month. and while i’ll still be busy for the first couple weeks in february, i hopefully won’t have to work as much overtime. so my apologies for not posting anything lately. but believe me, i have some pretty yummy stuff waiting in the queue. one of these days, when i have a free weekend or evening, i’ll bust out a bunch of posts. and you just won’t be able to keep up. ūüôā



(All photos were taken by Rico Castillero, of people Floresta, the nonprofit I work at, supports in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rico and his wife Rachel are also wedding photographers. Check out their website here.)

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“whatever you want in life, other people are going to want it, too. ¬†believe in yourself enough to accept the idea that you have an equal right to it.” ¬† ~diane sawyer

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brown soda bread


to accompany yesterday’s recipe of guinness beef stew.¬† i had only ever had regular (white flour) soda bread.¬† now that i am trying to substitute wheat flour for white flour as much as possible, i was estatic to find a brown soda bread recipe in The Irish Pub Cookbook, by Magaret M. Johnson.¬† i made some adjustments based upon other recipes i came across.¬† this bread is a great (and healthy) accompaniment to a hot stew on a cold winter night.



3 c. coarse whole-wheat flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

2 T. oat bran

2 tsp. baking soda

¬ľ c. sugar

1 T. salt

2 large eggs

1¬ľ c. buttermilk



preheat oven to 375¬įF.¬† butter and flour (or spray with olive oil) a 9x5x3-in loaf pan.

1)  in a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients.  make a well in the center.

2)¬† in a small bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk. (as a shortcut to cut down on dishes, i like to measure my liquid first in a liquid measuring cup, then crack the eggs in that and whisk together. that way, i don’t dirty up another bowl!)¬† with a wooden spoon, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until just combined.

3)  spoon dough into loaf pan; smooth top with the back of the wooden spoon. brush with buttermilk or water.

4)¬† Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out dry. ideally, if you tap the bottom of the bread and¬†it sounds hollow, then it’s done.¬† however, i have no idea what a perfectly hollow-sounding bread loaf actually sounds like — especially when you take the pan into consideration, which just seems to distort what is supposed to be a hollow sound.¬† SO, the toothpick is my preferred method of doneness testing.

5)  remove from oven.  let cool for 10 minutes.  turn bread out onto rack (top side up) and allow to cool for about an hour.

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everyone who knows me knows how proud i am to be irish. granted, i am a typical american mutt (or melting pot, if you will), but still i like to point out the fact that my great grandfather immigrated over from ireland, and while his irish blood has been watered down with every other ethnicity by the time it’s reached me, i still like to claim, “i have irish from all my grandparents, so that makes me at least half, ¬†right?” RIGHT???¬† thank you for the validation. ūüôā¬†

maybe it’s the freckles on my face that, as a child no matter how hard i tried to rub off or cover up with makeup these “imperfections” they never disappeared, cause me to identify more closely with my irish heritage. or maybe it’s the¬†natural strawberry red highlights in my brown hair, an exact¬†color that is hard to find here, but in ireland i saw every where i turned.¬†or perhaps even it’s my desire to belong to a group of people that have been (no matter how long ago in history) outcast by society, a desire to belong to the minority in order¬†to give a deeper purpose behind my passion for helping those society has a prejudice against.¬†¬†but as small of a trace as that blood may be in my body, there is something irish there that causes my soul to leap in dance when i hear an irish jig, to ache when it hears an old irish ballad, and to laugh and sing and shout along with irish drinking¬†songs.¬†and it even (much to my best friend’s amusement) caused me to exclaim under my breath the second i stepped off the airplane in dublin, “oh. these are my people!” (i know, BIG dork.) but i will proudly claim my irish heritage ’til the day i die.

besides, they have great beer and damn good whiskey.

with that said, ANY recipe¬†that has beer in it, in my book, cannot go wrong. so when a co-worker (also irish) brought¬†for lunch one day this soup she had made, i knew i had to have the recipe.¬†it comes from¬†a cookbook¬†called The Irish Pub Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson. I’ve only made two¬†of the recipes¬†so far¬†(the second recipe, brown soda bread, i will post tomorrow, so that you can make it to accompany the guinness stew), but the rest of the recipes in it look to die for. i made some adjustments to this, so it’s an “adapted from” recipe — among other changes, i HAD to throw some whiskey in there…for good measure…and to make my ancestors proud of me. ūüôā



1 lb. beef sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes (i am completely clueless when it comes to red meat, so don’t feel restricted to sirloin. this last time i made it, i bought a rump looking thing, and¬†in my opinion, the meat was more tender than i remember the sirloin being.)

salt and pepper to taste

flour for dredging

4 T. butter

¬Ĺ c. olive oil

1 c. chopped onions

2 c. beef stock (the last time i made this, i actually used chicken broth, and it tasted just fine)

2 c. Guinness (or any stout or porter will do. a chocolate/double chocolate stout would be delicious!)

¬Ĺ c. irish whiskey*

5 carrots, diced

4-5 medium sized potatoes (you can even mix this up with a sweet potato or two. the original recipe called for 4 parsnips and 1 turnip)

3-5 springs fresh thyme, depending on what your tastebuds tell you



1)  season meat with salt and pepper.  dredge in flour.  in a stockpot, melt butter with oil over medium heat.  cook meat 5-7 minutes, or until browned.  add onions; cook for another 3-5 minutes.

2)  add broth, guinness/beer, and whiskey (and go ahead and take a shot of whiskey to warm you up on this cold winter night). bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low.  simmer 30 minutes. (if you are making the brown soda bread recipe, make it now during this 30-minute down time.)  add remaining ingredients.  simmer for 45 minutes, or until veggies and meat are tender. feel free to add more salt if you feel like it needs it.


get creative with your veggies and herbs. try adding celery, or parnips and turnips like the original recipe calls for, or even leeks. experiment with other green herbs, like tarragon or marjoram. maybe even a bay leaf or two. i’ve even seen other recipes use lamb instead of beef, if you feel like forkin’ over the dough to buy lamb.

serve and devour heartily.


*trivia of the day: ¬†did you know there is a difference between WHISKY and WHISKEY? ¬†the word spelled “whisky” (with no “e”) is reserved only for that made in scotland — scotch. ¬†whiskEy, on the other hand, is the rest of the stuff: ¬†whether irish, canadian, or american (like jack daniels). ¬†now, here in america you may not see labels abide by this rule (in fact, many american distillers scoff at this scottish snobbery and will use whisky–no “e”–on their labels just to spite the scotch distillers), but in the UK (and especially among scotch distillers who want to distinguish between scotch whiskey and “the other stuff”) that is the general rule to follow. so i will trust them — i mean, for pete’s sake, they invented the darned stuff anyways so they would know! so if you go into a bar and order whiskey, they’ll pour ya a whiskEy; but if you want whisky (no E), you have to ask for scotch. tricky stuff, this alcohol. and then there’s bourbon, which is also whiskey but a specific kind of whiskey — think back to your geometry class days: ¬†by definition, a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. it’s like that: ¬†bourbon is a whiskEy, but not all whiskEy is bourbon…and most certainly whisky (scotch) is not bourbon at all! now that i have you all thoroughly confused, go ahead and take a shot of whatever whiskey/whisky/bourbon you have on hand…then it will all make sense in about 5 minutes.

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(adapted from Cooking Light)

the original recipe called for asparagus and peas. i didn’t have either on hand (hubby doesn’t like asparagus anyways); instead i used broccoli and green beans, as that is what i had from the farmers market. so if you do like and/or have asparagus and peas, use those instead. or, if you really like veggies, add all four! (whoa! gettin’ kinda crazy over here with all these veggies!). other veggies could very easily be substituted or added in. i decided to start with the basic this time.


8 oz. rotini, penne, fettucine, or linguine (i had tri-colored rotini on hand)

1 broccoli crown, chopped into bit-size pieces

¬Ĺ – 1 lb. fresh green beans, diced (hubby doesn’t care too much for green beans so i cut them really small. but you could leave them whole or just cut in half)

olive oil

1 c. chicken or vegetable stock

1 ¬Ĺ tsp. cornstarch

1 T. butter

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

¬Ĺ c. half and half

juice of 1 lemon

¬Ĺ c. shredded parmesan or asiago cheese


freshly ground pepper

a dash or two of cayenne powder


1)  cook pasta according to instructions. drain; set aside.

2)  in skillet, saute veggies in olive oil until desired cruchiness (or mushiness, as the case may be. if you prefer it on the mushy side, add some broth to steam them a bit). place into separate bowl and set aside.

3)  whisk together broth and cornstarch; set aside.

4)  add butter to skillet over medium/medium-high heat.  add garlic; saute until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. add broth mixture. bring to a boil; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. add cream and lemon juice. stir with whisk to combine; remove from heat.

5)  add cheese and stir until melted. stir in veggie mixture. add pasta and toss to combine. serve with shredded parmesan cheese on top.

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