Value of 80s

This was too good NOT to share ... combines my love of the comedic with my brain full of oldies.

In 1989, the government of the United States blasted high-volume music at Panama's president Manuel Noriega in an attempt to force him out of hiding in the Vatican's embassy where he was avoiding capture and criminal charges.  The government played such timeless classics as "I Fought the Law and the Law Won" by Bobby Fuller and "Nowhere To Run" by Martha and the Vandellas.

It worked.  He was captured by U.S. agents and imprisoned.

So next time you groan at me for loving my "Best of the 80s, 90s, and Today" radio, just remember, it may come in handy someday.  I could topple a government with the help of Bruce Springsteen.  

See a full list of the government's favorite melodies here.  Thanks to NPR's Morning Edition for sharing the story with me.


Kung Pao Chicken (sort of)

This recipe is from my friend A.H., who spent two years after college in China.  When SHE makes this, it tastes authentically Chinese.  When I make this, it tastes like a good attempt of a decent cook at coming up with something Chinese (maybe because I substituted three or four things).  Try it out anyway, though.  It's a nice change from the norm ... (Thanks, A.H.!)

Kung Pao Chicken

Marinating sauce:
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine or sherry (
I didn't have this, so I used rice wine VINEGAR instead)
¾ to 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root  (
used a sprinkle or two of dried ginger instead)
1½ tbsp. cornstarch

I added in 1/4 tsp. chili oil to the marinade for a little spice
1 lb. tender chicken breast meat, tendons removed, cut in ½-in. cubes

Seasoning sauce:
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine or sherry (
again, substituted an equal amount of rice wine VINEGAR instead)
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sesame oil (
I used vegetable oil, because I didn’t have any canola)
2 tsp. cornstarch

Other ingredients:  
½ c. canola or corn oil
½ c. peanuts, roasted and lightly salted (
I omitted this)
6 to 8 dried red peppers (
how about 1 Tbsp. dried crushed red peppers, anyone?)
2 to 3 green onions, chopped, with 1 tbsp. reserved for garnish

In a shallow dish, stir together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, ginger root and 1½ tablespoons cornstarch. Add chicken and marinate for 30 minutes.  

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the seasoning sauce; set aside.  

Place all ingredients and the seasoning sauce within easy reach of the stove.  Put the canola oil in a wok or heavy skillet and heat until almost smoking.   Add the dried red peppers, the chicken, and the green onions, and stir-fry over high heat until all the pinkness is gone.  Add the seasoning sauce. Stir until thickened. Stir in peanuts. Enjoy! 

The semester is almost over which means ... 
... I get my husband back from the land of academia soon.  I'm very much looking forward to it ... 
... potlucks start up in just a few weeks (and we're hoping A.H. will bring some authentic Chinese dishes!) ...
... the peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli will go in the ground in mere days ... 
... I can stop wearing socks for at least the next few months (ok, well, this has more to do with summer coming than with the semester ending, but the two are identical for me) ... 
... more time for experimenting with fun recipes from friends!

One more thing ... last weekend my friend Chantry and I hosted a fun jam-making party at her house, and ended up with more jam than we know what to do with!  Check out her blog for a run-down of the events and some cute pictures!   


Big deal(s)

First exciting news of the day: my quiltblog idol and favorite modern quilter, Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts, is coming back to her readers after a 4-month break.  I thought she was gone forever, and I seriously grieved a bit when she announced in January that she would no longer be blogging.  My modern-quilting inspiration is back though, and I'm so happy!!

Second exciting news of the day: I finally finished a commissioned quilt called "Windowpanes" ... though it probably doesn't look like it, it took me a whole month to finish!  There's a lot more piecing in that sucker than you think ...
I experimented with the quilting on this one - don't know if you can see it from the front or not, but the "+" in each block is left without quilting.  It shows up on the back a little better ...
Here's a close-up:
I am really pleased with how this turned out.  The finished quilt measures 52"x66" - a great lap quilt or picnic blanket size!

Third exciting news of the day: I have forced invited my friends to a quilting class this summer that I'm going to teach ... they are kind enough to let me treat them as my student guinea-pigs, as I learn how to plan and execute a 6-week course in quilt-making!  I'm looking forward to spending some summer mornings with sweet friends, and I can't wait to show off their amazing handiwork!


ode to a weeknight dinner

Patatas Rancheras
4 servings

1 lb. red potatoes, washed and scrubbed (peeled if you want)
salt, pepper, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
4 eggs
1/4 c. salsa
1/4 c. shredded cheese
garnish: lettuce and tomato

Shred potatoes in food processor to make hash browns.  Squeeze out excess water and place in a bowl.  Add seasonings to taste (I found about 1/2 tsp. salt and 1-2 tsp. of the others was sufficient) and mix thoroughly with the shredded potatoes.
Heat butter in a large skillet until melted.  Pour in potatoes and press them down to the edges of the skillet to make a patty.  Cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until they are brown on the bottom.  Cut the patty into four sections, and flip each section over to cook on the other side for an additional 8-10 minutes.  Remove from pan once the potatoes are soft, translucent, and crispy on both sides.
Using the same skillet (or another one, if you want to multitask), heat a little more butter or oil in the pan.  Gently crack the four eggs into the skillet and fry them over medium heat.  When the edges start to look a little set, turn them and cook to desired doneness.  Turn off heat and remove skillet from stove.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. cheese over each egg and cover skillet for 2-3 minutes.
On a plate, put one quarter-section of potatoes and top with a fried egg.  Layer with salsa, lettuce, and tomato. 

Oh, weeknight!  You leave me such little time
In which to feed this stomach of mine.
I get home from work, and OH!  I can't wait
To get something edible onto my plate.
I just have to scramble, with weakening defenses
That say EAT NOW or face consequences. 
So potatoes there are, and eggs a-plenty
Throw in some cheese - that's dinner in twenty.
Tomorrow's the same so I'll do what I can
To get food on the table for me and the man.


Life on the Point

It all started last spring with the innocent plan of saving a bit of money by starting tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from seed.  With our initial investment of about $20, some friends and I bought seeds, seedling trays, and dirt.  We rejoiced over every little seed that sprouted, and split up the care of the trays between houses so that we wouldn't be over-burdened with the care of such fragile beings.

And, oh, the joy!
Those little plants turned out to be a fruitful (albeit overgrown) garden that we are STILL enjoying the benefits of (yes.  I have one bag of corn and one jar of salsa that I just can't bring myself to part with yet.  I need to know that I will have a harvest this year before I can say goodbye to last year).

For my birthday last December, my thoughtful husband bought me a fluorescent grow lamp in preparation for our Garden 2K10 (I should have known then that we were approaching the Point of No Return).  The new year began with bitter cold, and, if you remember a blog post from a bleak January night, plans for the summer garden.  The mister and I, trying to be a little more intentional about our choices, opted for heirloom seeds from SeedSavers and drooled over them when they arrived.  We moved from casual sightseeing at the Point of No Return to considering real estate on the Point.

On March 1, we planted.  And ran out of seedling trays.  So we got more.  More dirt.  More seedling trays.  We started a rotation of trays under the light, because we didn't have enough space for them all at once.  We called on friends to care for the seedlings when we went out of town.  We religiously checked them, watered them, petted them, talked to them, screened them from the harsh sun, and talked to each other about them daily:
     "Oh!  Look at this little guy!  I thought he was done with, but he stood back up!"
     "Check out the peppers.  They're setting out their second set of leaves!"
     "I guess I don't have to leave for work just yet.  Let me finish watering."
     "Do you think they're OK?  I called Rebecca to go check on them.  I hope it's good news."
Having learned a lesson from last year, we assumed that roughly 75% of our seeds would either (a) fail to sprout or (b) be killed by us once they had sprouted, so we planted accordingly.  So, yeah.  Thankfully, we don't have the killer touch we had last year, but surprisingly, we have about 584 sprouts - four varieties of tomatoes, four of peppers, and broccoli.  All of those sprouts have to be transferred from the little seedling trays (you know, the little 1"x2" black plastic trays) to bigger peat pots, so that the roots can grow before we set them outside.

Do you know what 584 sprouts in 3" peat pots look like? 
We didn't either, until it happened.  And we had seedling trays all over the floor and on every table we could find.  So we had to buy a 6-foot shelf to put all the trays on.  The upside: we can hang the lamp from the wire shelves, so that the seedlings get lots of lamp time.  The downside: we're now those people, the ones who buy a 6-foot shelf to put 584 seedlings on. 

It's OK.  We like the Point.  Come visit.  You might find that you like it too, and you're welcome to stay.



This recipe for Green Minestrone is adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe I found here.  I tweaked it a bit.  So, if you want to go for the original recipe, check it out.  If you want to try mine, here goes ...

Time: 30 minutes (it is a Rachel Ray recipe, after all)
Serves: 4-6 (depending on size of serving)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Italian sausage links, cooked and chopped into small pieces (because I didn't have the prosciutto or pancetta that RR called for.  I thought about substituting bacon but I didn't have that either.)
1/2 c. minced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 dry bay leaf or 1 tsp. crushed bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
6 c. chicken broth
2 (15-oz) cans cannellini (white) beans
8 oz. bowtie pasta
1 c. fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 c. coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1/2 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in pot over medium heat.  Throw in the chopped sausage, onion, and garlic (at this point, if you haven't yet cooked the sausage, hold off on the onion and garlic, cook the sausage, drain the fat, chop the sausage up, then throw in the onion and garlic).  Add bay leaf, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir.  Saute for 2-3 minutes or until onion gets translucent.  Add chicken broth and beans.  Stir, and bring to a boil.  When boiling, add pasta and green beans to the pot and continue boiling for 7-9 minutes or until pasta is just done, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the chopped spinach and cook for one minute more.  Remove from heat, stir in 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, and cover. 
Serve immediately. 
(Cook's note: I know Rachel Ray is famous for 30 minute meals, and this one was done, start to finish, in 29 minutes.  I may have had a little head start because my sausage was already cooked, my onions were already minced, and I used a bag of frozen green beans, but other than that I was impressed with the 30 minute delivery.  Kudos, RR)

In my mind, the time for soup is almost over.  Fall and winter deserve soup, spring and summer deserve sandwiches.  We may get another cold snap or two, but we are headed towards spring and summer so I must file away my soups until October.  I may hang onto this one though, since it uses greens in the soup.  We're going to plant our spinach this weekend (a kind neighbor is turning up our garden for us).  You know what this means, right?  Garden-fresh food out the wazoo and the need for recipes that use early crops in a variety of ways.  One can only eat so many salads, right?

This little poem has been on my mind for a few days.  I think the brilliant yellow forsythia bush in the backyard, highlighted by the backdrop of green green grass and blue sky, brings it to mind.  It's from Song of Solomon, chapter 2, verses 11-12:

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of the birds is come;
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Oh, joy!