Friday, August 27, 2010

Things I'm trying now

I've been thinking and thinking for 2 days now, trying to come up with a good post. It's not that I can't think of anything, it's mostly that I think of too many things. Kind of like I talk too much, and tend to write in run on sentences. So I'll go over a couple of goals, things I've been doing recently to help myself save money, products I'm testing out in my constant search for just the right thing.

1. Saving money. I've recently started using a piggy bank, a real honest to god shaped like a pig, piggy bank. I've been trying for a long while to find a good way to save up money for specific goals, and I'm hoping this will finally be it. In the past I've done well with a coin jar, but I'm trying to save more money in a shorter period of time, so I want something I can put cash into w/o seeing it, so I'm putting half my part-time income into the piggy each week, and occasionally dumping coins into him as well. I think there is 60 in him now, but I really have no idea. I like it that way. When I know how much there is it's easier to spend it on something else.

2. Cooking better. We've been doing a lot of shopping at the farmers markets this summer. Not quite as much as I would like, but a good amount. I love it, because we can get everything we want, for much cheaper. It also means I have to cook, because we are getting raw ingredients at the peak of their ripeness so they have to be prepared quickly. Sometimes this means getting creative and making something on Monday that I don't intend to eat until Thursday. For example this roasted sweet corn and pepper salad I made last week. It was quick and easy and lovely.
5 ears sweet corn
2 bell peppers
3-6 assorted peppers, Anaheim, jalapeno, and sweet red
Garlic to taste
Olive oil
shuck the corn and lightly oil, cook on a hot grill till the kernels start to char and rotate so it's cooked evenly, at the same time lightly grill all the peppers, you want a blackened outside but there should still be some crunch in them.
Remove the corn from the cop, chop the peppers (I take out all of the jalapeno seeds because I don't want it too spicy) and mix in garlic and oil to taste.
This is what I like to do when I have too much sweet corn, which seems to happen to a lot of us in MN this time of year. The Man east it, I eat it, and it's easy to freeze if needed.

3. Conserve money in regards to my beauty routine. This one is breaking my heart. I spent a year plus being under employed, and only working my part-time job. And since getting a real job again it feels like my hair and skin have suffered the price. Not only am I no longer working for a company (don't want to use the name) that makes amazing natural skin and hair care products, but I can't seem to afford to get the other brands I've been wanting to try either. Earlier this week I was at Target and saw that they have Bumble and Bumble Seaweed shampoo and conditioner in their buy 1 get 1 packages. I just couldn't justify $40 for shampoo and conditioner, even though I tried, oh trust me I tried. I've been growing my hair out for almost a year, doesn't that deserve some type of pampering? It's almost to my shoulders, I need to start caring for it better right? Well, fortunately or not I have been blessed with strong thick hair and no, I don't really need to spend $40 on shampoo right now.

So this will be what my blog will hopefully be focusing on in the next month. I will continue with the goal of at least 1 post a week, which I was successful with in August. Now I will have something to grow those posts about. When I write about a product review, it is likely it will be something cheaper, or at least purchased on sale. When I'm writing about cooking I will hopefully be writing about easy and healthy meals and recipes I am developing. And I will be constantly searching for ways to save money and have fun on the cheap.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spill The Wine

Spill The Wine is a restaurant in downtown Mpls across the street from the Guthrie theater that I have been wanting to visit for over a year. They just happened to have a groupon of a $50 gift certificate for $25 earlier this week so I jumped at the chance to check this place out on the cheap (well that's what I thought at the time, more on that later). The Man and I made reservations for last night, and I was so very excited. The only time they had available was 7 pm which worked out well for me to get home from work, get dressed a little fancy, and make a nice night of it.

When the night arrived there were a few changes in plans which resulted in the evening being more casual then my original plan. When we arrived I was glad, this is a very nice place, the decor and atmosphere are casual and elegant but most of the clientele were in jeans and tank tops, not the theater crowd or downtown yuppies I had expected. At first everything was lovely, if a little loud due to the high ceilings, the crowd seemed happy and the wait staff was smiling. A couple of notes, the menu is short. Like, 4 entree's short. Of course they have a good wine list, with the wines being well labeled so you can easily choose between a Spanish red or a New Zealand white. There is a short selection of appetizers, a decent selection of salads, a couple of pastas and 4 entree's, none of which are vegetarian friendly. I'm sure if asked the kitchen could do something special for you, but you'll have to find a way to ask. Which brings me to the main problem we found with this restaurant. The service. The hostess and the server were very friendly when they were at our table, however they seemed to be a little understaffed. I can see that they might have been overwhelmed by the sudden business due to the groupon, but most of the people I saw arriving had reservations so I would think they could have called in extra help. Having worked in the restaurant industry for many years I am very sensitive to busy restaurants. I'm happy to wait my turn, and I understand that good food takes longer than cheap food. But, we seemed to wait far too long for simple things like our cheese place and our wine to arrive, and The Man was not happy to have to flag someone down to have his water glass refilled, twice. When our cheese plate did arrived it was dropped by the hostess who didn't stop to describe the cheese's to us. We had no idea if these were locally produced or exotic imported cheeses from France or Italy, which might have justified the $13.00 we paid for 3 teen tiny pieces. The same happened with his wine flight, yes they had one of those lovely papers the glasses go one, but usually they recommend which wine to start with, or at least tell you a little about them. Instead our glasses were dropped at the table by a different waitress who seemed to be a little frustrated that her night had been reduced running other tables orders.

Let's move on to the entrees, which were both amazing. The Man had the steak, served with roasted potatoes and spinach I believe. He loved it, though it was a little overdone for my tastes. He ate every last thing on his plate and felt it was the perfect portion for a good filling meal. I had the lamb ragout as recommended by the server, which came in a bowl with full of sauce, spinach and deliciously chewy gnocchi. It was topped with just a dollop of some kind of cream, which I can't for the life of me remember. My only problem was trying to find all of the lamb mixed in with the mushrooms, gnocchi and sauce, so I could make sure I didn't leave any behind. We skipped dessert because we had ice cream at home. And he wont let me get desserts when we're out any more, the big meanie.

All in all, as much as I loved the food, I probably wont be going back. It wasn't just the service, because our actual waitress was very knowledgeable when she could get to us. It was the cost, even after the $50 gift card our dinner still cost another $60 with the tip. That's just too much for wine that's ok, food that we have to wait for, and website that hasn't been updated with the most current menu (I tried to look up my dish to find out what the cream was, and the item I had isn't on the website). If I'm in the mood for something similar I will stick with First Course, our favorite restaurant in town. They might not have a best website either, but the staff remembered us after the second time we visited, and every Tuesday the wine list is half price.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Being a good neighbor

I've never been the kind of person who gets along with my neighbors and hangs out in the yard, until now. Living where I do now, The Man has been here for a few years and knows everyone, so we find ourselves doing exactly that. Half of our summer has been spent having a glass of wine in the backyard while talking to the neighbors over the fence. Their kids walk our dogs and mow our lawn (for a price) and we all keep an eye on each others houses. It's so domestic it hurts.

So, tonight is our block party, and TM (The Man) decided that our contribution should be Jucy Lucy's. Earlier this summer we had a cook off with a few of our friends with both professionals and non professional's in the food world cooking. I won neither category, which is fine with me, because I have some amazing cooks in my life. However it leaves me wondering what I can do to make my Lucy's better. Tonight I am going traditional; American cheese, light on the seasoning, because there are young children on the block and I want everyone to be able to enjoy it. Next time though... I'm thinking Greek. The farmers market in downtown has some good ground lamb, it would be amazing stuffed with Feta and then topped with Mozzarella (like how I capitalize my cheese names? I really like cheese) and fresh spinach. Hopefully I can test it out soon, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I hate crockpots.

In which I explain my deep loathing for what I consider to be the laziest and possibly one of the best inventions since… something other then sliced bread.

Crock pots, slow cookers, whatever you want to call them, are suppose to be gods gift to the busy spouse/parent/PTO president/girl scout troop leader next door. I’m sure that some people find them to be exactly that. But I simply don’t understand how. I’ve managed to make 1 successful meal in them in my life, and that took 14 hours. I could have easily made the same thing in a real pan on the stove in 4. I will very happily admit that I have a background in food service, and spent 5 years working in various kitchens around my lovely town. So yes maybe I am a little biased, and a little stubborn about my cooking methods. I don’t like being limited to 2 heat settings, low and high. What can you possibly cook with 2 heat settings?! I digress. My lovely boyfriend, who for the purpose of this blog will be called The Man, asked me to make chili this week. I was more then happy to oblige, as I love my chili recipe, and I haven’t made it in quite a while. I also figured it would give me a chance to make it in the crock pot, because it’s hot outside and that would mean less leaning over a hot stove. And I will master this #$%&ing crock pot cooking thing if it kills me.

So I started. I knew it would be different, because I wouldn’t be able to caramelize the onions and the garlic, and I wouldn’t be able to brown the meat. That’s ok, I decided to let the meat stew with the garlic and peppers and onions till it was cooked. So I let it stew… and stew… and stew… two hours later I gave up and added the broth, figuring maybe it would start to boil, and that would finally cook the meat. It sorta worked, no boiling but FINALLY the meat was cooked. Which was good because my kitchen-spidey “ew you shouldn’t be eating that” senses were starting to kick in. The rest of the ingredients went in and I went to watch some TV. The timer was set, 30 minutes for a stir, on my stove 30 minutes wouldn’t have done too much, but it would have been slightly thickened and the onions would be completely transparent. In the crock pot nothing had changed. The onions were still crunchy (they’ve been cooking for well over an hour by now) and there wasn’t a hint of thickening. Two hours later and it was still the same story, not a hint, seriously, NOT EVEN A HINT of thickening! It should have been done by then! I should have been scooping bowls full of thick chunky chili that looked more like a nice thick curry full of chicken and bean and lots of other delicious things into Tupperware for lunch for me and the wonderful man this week. I knew I had to leave it on overnight, so I added more broth, just in case it ran dry and burned down my house, and turned it on low.

This morning I woke up to a house that smelled of chili and made my tummy happy. I immediately had lovely thoughts of my lunch today. So I went upstairs to check on it and it looked lovely. Till I stirred it. It’s still a big brothy bowl spicy chicken soup.

Crock pot 1 – Girl 0

The End.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Maybe I'll actually start using this thing. It was originally going to be a food blog, but I'm guessing it will be a little less directed then that. I'll keep the name, because I love it. But for now I'll just try to use this as a way to keep myself on track with some personal goals. And what are those goals? Well, that's a great question. Which is the whole problem, I've met most of the goals I had set for myself over the last two years and if I want to continue to grow and improve myself I am going to need some goals and a good way of tracking them. So lets start with something easy. Update this at least once a week for the month of August. Ready, set, go!