Friday, February 27, 2009

How to Make Bread

This past weekend, I made bread using my favorite cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Have I mentioned that I adore this book? I tried out a new recipe for pumpernickel bread, which is my favorite bread of all time and extremely difficult to find here in Montana. While not quite as pumpernickel-y as I would have liked, this bread was still wholesome, delicious, and darn easy to prepare. How easy? you ask. Let me show you!

1. Mix up the dough. Let it rise, covered, for two hours. Even just the rising loaf, without any oven involvement, will make your home smell yummy. Soak it up, baby.

2. Refrigerate the dough for up to two weeks. Indulge your inner procrastinator.

3. Baking day! Using wet hands, pull off a hunk of dough from the main batch. Shape it into a ball, then turn it into whatever shape floats your boat. Let the dough rise for another 40 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven. Just before sticking your bun in the oven, paint the loaf with a cornstarch wash.

5. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with caraway seeds, then slash it with a bread knife. Try not to cackle maniacally.

6. Bake! About 35-40 minutes in the oven. Enjoy the even yummier aroma than the bread rising as your loaf bakes. Discreetly wipe up any drool.

7. Allow the loaf to cool completely. Resist temptation! Do not eat it hot from the oven! You can do it! You . . . can . . . okay, give in and devour. Life's too short for cooling when there's freshly baked bread at stake. Enjoy it plain, as a sandwich, as a dipping side for soup/stew, with a spread, or any other way you can think of.

Easy, right? See, even you can bake artisan-quality bread without crazy amounts of skill or kneading. I've made quite a few loaves using this cookbook, and I haven't messed up one yet. (That, by the way, is a testament to the awesomeness of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day as opposed to my own baking chops.) Obviously, there are a couple of more details to fill into this rough guide, but that's why you need to buy this book! Home-baked bread = crusty happiness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Food Pornogrpahy Vs. Food Photography

If you've been around the foodie corner of the blogosphere for any length of time, you'll probably have heard the term "food porn." This crass little phrase means exactly what it sounds like: images of food intended to make you want what's pictured. Food porn is meant to literally make your mouth water and your taste buds tingle. Food porn, quite logically, leads to food lust.

I take issue with this. When I was in the darkest time of my battle with anorexia, I was very much into food porn. I'd wander web spots Flickr's foodie groups or TasteSpotting and gawk at the splendid images of succulent foods. I told myself that it was in the interest of gathering meal ideas, of being inspired, of becoming a better cook and photographer. In reality, though, I was torturing myself by lusting after food I would never have let myself eat, much less enjoy.

Thankfully, I'm no longer in that place, and now I eat and enjoy previously forbidden foods. However, I still have a problem with food porn sites. To set food up as something to be associated with pornography is troubling. To my understanding, a person who takes in pornography is someone seeking fulfillment by means of exploitation of the bodies of other human beings, a pursuit which is neither respectful, dignified, or meaningful. Although the repercussions of food porn and lust are much more inocuous, I still think food porn is problematic. I feel that food porn encourages people to find meaning and fulfillment in "gorging" themselves on images of food that they may or may not eat. Food does not bring fullness to your life outside of gastronomical fullness. To imply otherwise, however much you are doing it tongue-in-cheek, perpetuates a lonely and empty practice.

Food photography, on the other hand, is quite the noble pursuit in my mind. As someone who has been blogging about food and cooking for a year and a half, I know that it is difficult to take a good photograph of a dish, beverage, or other food item. Framing, background, focus, garnishes -- it takes a skilled eye to be a successful food photographer. It is truly an art! To appreciate quality food art is a positive thing, in my opinion. It is only when that appreciation turns to lust, turns to the seeking of fulfillment from something that cannot provide it -- in other words, idolatry -- that you find yourself in the danger zone.

As is obvious, I am always snapping pictures of food. Whether they are shots of a completed meal, a series following the progression of a recipe, or a purchased treat, my camera's memory is constantly full of food images. Sometimes I take really great pictures. A lot more of the time, I take average or pretty darn awful food pictures. On this past weekend's treat day with the Best Husband Ever, I was delighted to find that the former occurred. The photographs I took of my vanilla cream scone and the hubby's moose bar (a bar cookie made of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and oats -- yum!) turned out fantastically. The lighting, framing, background, and, of course, the treats, all united to form some splendid images that I was really pleased with.

Do you enjoy taking food photos, or are you more of a luster? Do you have any thoughts of the dangers of food porn versus the virtues of food photography? Do you think I'm right on the money or downright crazy? Post your feedback in a comment. I'm eager to hear what you have to say on the subject!

To learn more about food photography, visit these sites:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Flowered Fowl

This month's Royal Foodie Joust ingredients were quite the challenge. I've never seen such a selection -- three items that, in my humble culinary experience, are on the rare side. To have one of these ingredients in the mix would make things difficult, but with all three in the mix . . . well, it was certainly a great opportunity to flex my cooking muscles and try something new and very, very different!

What were this month's ingredients? Satsuma (or any orange citrus -- I used plain orange peel and mandarin orange slices), shallots, and -- drum roll please! -- edible flowers. Did I mention that this round of the Joust was a challenge? I'm glad, though, because I did learn a bunch. Take the shallots, for example. For some reason, I thought that shallots were a variety of mushroom. Imagine my frustration when I could not find shallot mushrooms among the chanterelles, buttons, and portobellos! Now I know that a shallot is something of a cross between garlic and onions.

I'm sure that you're wondering what I made with these ingredients. I wondered the same thing myself for quite some time! I toyed with ideas of making butternut squash soup, some sort of bulgur pilaf, or a flowery herbed bread. In the end, though, I opted for something classic and simple in preparation but sophiticated in terms of flavor. Using dried hibiscus flowers, I cooked a chicken breast in my slow cooker, adding orange peel, honey, rosemary, and red wine vinegar. The hibiscus steeped in a thin layer of chicken broth mixed with the vinegar, and the result a moist piece of meat that carried a graceful, delicate taste. As an added bonus, the hibiscus dyed the meat in lovely rose-colored patterns. Served over mandarin oranges and blackberries, this dish made for a unique meeting of the sweet and savory. I would definitely make this meal again, and really enjoyed how this Joust stretched and challenged the chef in me.

Flower Power Chicken

1 chicken breast (I used frozen)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 T shallot, diced
1 tsp dried hibiscus flowers
1/2 tsp dried orange peel/zest
1/4 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
drizzle of honey

1 cup mandarin oranges
1 cup blackberries

Place all ingredients except for the chicken in the basin of a slow cooker. Mix, then place the chicken in the basin. Turn the breast a few times to coat it with the marinade. Sprinkle some extra rosemary and hibiscus over the chicken. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the chicken to a plate and pour the remaining sauce over the top. Serve over mandarin oranges and blackberries (your choice of fresh, frozen, or canned). This recipe is great paired with a side of bulgur pilaf, pita chips, or your favorite crusty bread.

Serves 2.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Because I have a little more time on Sunday mornings, I like to play around with my breakfast. This morning was no different. I plopped one small container of Oikos vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup pumpkin spice trail mix, about 1/2 cup of Annie's Honey Bunnies cereal, and a spoonful of pumpkin into a bowl. I stirred it all up and . . . thought it tasted pretty average. Ah well. These are all ingredients that I love separately on their own -- especially the trail mix -- but somehow they don't meld well. I've tried putting this trail mix in yogurt once before, but it somehow loses its taste. Perhaps the yogurt washes away the spice? Still, I'm glad I tried it. The tenuous nature of success versus failure makes playing around that much more fun and interesting. How do you get creative with your food?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Butters

I recently had the opportunity to try out P.B. Loco's gourmet peanut butters. They offer a wide variety of flavors, from regular smooth or chunky to more exotic tastes. Of course I opted for the non-plain options! I tried: Jungle Banana, Asian Curry Spice, Sumatra Cinnamon & Raisin, Raspberry White Chocolate, Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough, and CocoaBanana.

My thoughts? They're all delicious. Well, as far as I know -- I haven't tried the Raspberry White Chocolate yet since I have two jars of other brands' white chocolate flavors open. All they rest are really yummy, though. The Asian Curry Spice is more savory, so it's probably best to include that one in dinner recipes like a chicken satay or peanut-y stir-fry. The Sumatra Cinnamon & Raisin is fabulous, with exotic flavors that are less sweet than other versions of this flavor that I've tried. The two banana flavors are great, but taste similar that it hardly seems worth having two of them, one with chocolate and one without. My favorite, though, is the chocolate-chip cookie dough. It's on the sweet side, sure, and definitely a dessert peanut butter, but it's deeeelicious.

I'm not sure if I'd spend the money to mail order peanut butters, but I would definitely nab them again if I saw them at the grocery store. Have you tried any of P.B. Loco's concoctions? Their websites offer great recipes, store locations where you can buy sandwiches made with their products, and recommendations on how to eat their butters. But you don't have to go there, because I'm going to do the same thing right here at Kitchen Courage. Here are some of my preferred ways of ingesting these fabulous nutty spreads. What are some of yours?

Jungle Banana or CocoaBanana: a Mess O' Potassium bowl.

Asian Curry Spice or Sumatra Cinnamon & Raisin: a microwave baked apple.
Chop an apple of your choice (I like super crunchy reds, like Jongalodes) into bite-sized chunks. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir, then stir in 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter. Microwave for 30 more seconds, stirring once again upon removal. This works great with Nutella as well as regular, chocolate, or white chocolate peanut butters. Yum!

Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough: spread on a lightly (or un-) salted rice cake. This tastes great with just about any flavor peanut butter, but this is my favorite pairing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Workout Duds

Once upon a time, there lived two kick-butt bloggers, Jenn and Erin. Together, they ruled the Fit Bottomed Girls, a sane yet challenging haven of health and fitness. One day they experienced the joy of working out in some of Puma's choice gear and decided to pass some of that bliss along to their readers. Two lucky ladies won a Puma tank and a Puma bag, respectively. And one of those chicas was me!

Yesterday I received my FBG-colored tank top in the mail. Of course I had to don it immediately and do a little photo shoot before going out with the pups for a run/hike. Although I wore a different top for the run itself, I really enjoyed my model time in the tank. Officially dubbed the Puma Essential Tank Top, it boasts a built-in shelf bra, and it's super cute and comfortable to boot. It makes me feel strong and tough, yet feminine and sexy at the same time (and a bit silly, too, judging by the results of my photo shoot...). Can't complain about that! I can't wait to do some yoga in it. Thanks a million, FBGs, for your fabulous giveaway!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Struck Speechless by a Sandwich

For this week's Wordless Wednesday, I present one of the tastiest sandwiches I have ever bought: Hula Ham from the Good Food Store! Ham, pineapple/mango (I think) cream cheese, jalapenos, roasted red peppers, romaine, and -- my favorite bread of all time -- pumpernickel. How do you say "yum" in Hawaii? And as much as this sandwich struck me speechless with its deliciousness, I was even more wowed by the news the friend I spent this lunch with shared -- she and her husband are pregnant with their first baby! Congratulations, my friends!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Baking My Own Bread

This weekend, I embraced my inner baker and made several loaves of homemade bread in the spirit of Bake Your Own Bread (BYOB), hosted by At the Baker's Bench. Making use of the best cookbook I have ever bought, I turned out two delicious batches of bread. If you haven't checked out Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, you really, really must. Their bread is super easy, super tasty, and nigh impossible to mess up.

The first of this weekend's loaves was to complement some baked tilapia that the Best Husband Ever made. After enjoying his fabulous Valentine's Day tilapia, we still had three fillets left to use from our Costco fish purchase. We decided to share it with the Best In-laws Ever and invited them over for dinner, along with our niece, whom they were babysitting. This time around the hubby put together a Dijon mustard-based marinade, and I sauteed some garlic and lemon broccoli. We also served garlic hummus -- my favorite -- with baby carrots, but the meal lacked grains. That's where the bread came in. I made a 1 lb. loaf of the Artisan Bread in Five's peasant bread, which incorporates white, whole wheat, and rye flours.

I served this bread up as plain wedges, without the aide of any butter or jam. And let me tell you -- no one missed the spreads. This loaf of bread stands alone strongly, and it received lovely reviews from my even lovelier parents-in-law. My father-in-law even requested the recipe for the women of the house to play with, and for him to eat the results of! I can't think of a better compliment. The crust was just a tad too crispy for my liking, but the interior texture was perfection. The taste was, as always, just right. I'd call this first loaf a success!

The second loaf I made from the same batch of dough was equally delicious. This time, however, I did not serve the bread plain but instead used it in sandwiches for yesterday's lunch and dinner. This bread sits fairly heavily on my stomach, so when I use it for a sandwich I tend to fill it with pretty light items, especially lots of produce. These sandwiches were no exception. Both were paired with a side of baked spicy butternut squash fries doused in ketchup, and both meals tasted fantastic. I just can't get over how versatile, easy to prepare, and nutritious this bread is!

Yesterday's lunch sandwich was rather ooey and gooey, but that's the way I like it! I spread two thick wedges of bread with 2 Tablespoons of garlic hummus, a big spoonful of pureed pumpkin, cucumber and apple slices, and pickled beets. I also snuck in some jalapenos, Dijon mustard, and a little cumin. It tasted yummy, and definitely hit the spot. There's nothing like filling the apartment with the smell of freshly baked bread, and then immediately using some of that bread while its still warm. Can you say satisfaction?

Dinner's sandwich was, if possible, even better than my lunch. This time, fresh cucumber and apple again found their way in between my bread, as did some more of that garlic hummus. I also added some cider vinegar, apple butter, and romaine. I guess it was an apple-themed sandwich! And quite the delicious one at that.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What Makes a Muffin a Muffin?

In my last post, I reflected on how I seem to have lost my sweet tooth and refined sugar cravings. Instead, my body's cravings and hunger cues point more accurately toward what it needs instead of what I think I want. Of course, if my body starts telling me to eat cheesecake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I may have to rethink this theory. For now, though, it seems to hold water.

That got me to thinking about Valentine's Day. Even though I've been working in elementary education for a number of years now, I always forget how much attention this holiday gets in the schools. During my student teaching, I was astounded to receive bag after bag laden with pounds of decadent chocolate from my students. Although this is probably not the norm -- my placement was in an affluent Boston suburb -- most schools make a big deal over Valentine's Day.

This year was no exception. I couldn't believe my eyes as parents swarmed the school for afternoon parties, toting ice cream, candy, chocolate, cookies, cupcakes, and other goodies. My own students gave their peers and teachers gift bags of candy. Although I was touched by the thoughtfulness, and especially enjoyed the bags one of my kids hand-decorated, I couldn't help but wonder -- why do we celebrate this holiday with such poor nutrition choices? Candy is not bad in and of itself, but why fill our children's bellies with such large amounts of sweets? Even adults can't seem to help throwing huge helpings of chocolates at each other.

In my classroom, we planned to celebrate Valentine's Day with a movie party. To add a little tasty but nutritious sweetness, I baked these muffins. Or are they brownies? I can't decide. They're baked in shaped muffin molds. And they incorporate whole wheat flour. But they also don't really look like muffins, and they do have quite a bit of chocolate as well. What makes a muffin a muffin? I ended up calling them brownies, but, sadly, even that moniker could not entice my students to eat them. Only one boy ate his -- the rest nibbled a little, then either threw the remains away or tried to pawn them off on each other. Sad.

Still, that meant more for me! I thought these browniemuffins were fairly good -- even the batter was lick-ably tasty! (Yes, that's me goofing off with my Foodbuzz spatula . . . .) The Best Husband Ever seemed to think even higher of them than me. The combination of cocoa powder, melty chocolate chips, and tender blackberries made for some deliciously dark decadence. They tasted best fresh from the oven, yet remained great when warmed the following day. I topped the heart browniemuffins with matching heart-shaped Ginger Sweeties that I won from The Ginger People. The Sweeties sort of sank down during the baking process, though, but that simply made them a spicy surprise.

These treats are a good compromise of the naughty (chocolate! chocolate! chocolate!) and nutritious (blackberries! whole wheat flour! ginger! applesauce!). Enjoy these for breakfast, dessert, snack, or as a side. In fact, these are so good at any time of the day or night that I'm submitting them to the Quaker True Delights Be Delighted contest, sponsored by Foodbuzz.

Heart-y Double Chocolate BrownieMuffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup liquid egg substitute
1 tsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup blackberries
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 Ginger Sweeties (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Grease a muffin tin of your choice with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and ginger. In a separate bowl, mix the applesauce (I used peach flavor -- use whatever kind strikes your fancy), milk, eggs, and vanilla extract, stirring until very smooth. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened. Incorporate the blackberries and chocolate chips, mixing until distributed evenly throughout.

Pour the batter into the muffin tin so that each cup is about three-fourth's of the way full. Top each browniemuffin with a Ginger Sweetie or other fun topper of your choice. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire for another 5 minutes. Enjoy warm and plain, or spread a browniemuffin with low-fat cream (my favorite is Cool Whip) and top with sliced fresh strawberries for a casual chocolate strawberry shortcake.

Makes 12 browniemuffins.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Best Valentine's Day Ever

I'm a Valentine's Day cynic. Even as a very happily and securely married gal, I just don't like the holiday. It's no secret, either -- I'm open with everyone about just how ridiculous I think this day is. Even the worst relationships get patched up with roses and chocolates and fancy dinners for this one day of the year, only to return to their normal unhealthiness the next day. Promiscuity, adultery, poor pairings, and abuse are some of the issues I see glossed over with a glittery band-aide on Valentine's Day. Do people really think that a box of candy and a delivery bouquet will solve all the problems of a bad relationship just because Hallmark says so?

In my estimation, Valentine's Day is a sappy wallet-drain as dictated by our Hollywood-idiolizing consumption-crazed culture. It's a day of meaningless yet expensive fluff. And, as much as I believe all of the above . . . I still -- quite perversely, I know -- want a happy Valentine's Day for myself.

I've always wanted the same thing since I first discovered romance and boys as my high school-aged hormones awakened. And every year, I'm always disappointed. Always let down, depressed by the rampant commercialism, my cynicism and bitterness surrounding the holiday always reinforced.

Until this year. This year, I had the best Valentine's Day ever. It was so wonderful, a low-key day of celebrating my relationship with the most amazing man in the universe, my hubby. It was such a fabulous day, in fact, that I want to share it with you. So here it is -- my very first not-so-cynical Valentine's Day. I hope that your holiday, regardless of your romantic relationship status, was just as lovely.

Since it was Saturday, we started off the day like any other Saturday -- with a sweet treat over a game of Scrabble. We headed to Le Petite Outre, a French bakery, where I purchased a brioche and an Americano coffee. I love their brioche -- light and fluffy, savory topped by a crunchy layer of subtly sweetened ground almonds. The fact that it resembles a swanky muffin only adds to its yum-factor.

I took my coffee and bag of patisserie spoils to Bernice's Bakery. There the hubby ordered a long-standing favorite, the caramel roll. I helped myself to a bite, but was extremely satisfied with my brioche. Then we played a game of Scrabble in which I got magnificently lucky to draw nearly all the high-scoring letters in perfect ratio to usable vowels. It was a great game, and the best part was being able to laugh over it with my wonderful husband.

Just how wonderful is this man that I married? Well, to give you an idea, he made me the most fabulous Valentine's dinner. He baked marinated tilapia, paired with sauteed cucumbers and mushrooms. I love it when he cooks, because he's the fish master in the family. He enjoys trying new marinades and sauces with fish fillets, and they're always delicious.

He said something really sweet yesterday while cooking up a storm. As you know, I'm coming out of a long battle with anorexia. One of the side effects of this is that I still mistrust fats, including oil and butter, and even healthier butter substitutes like Smart Balance. I knew that the Best Husband Ever would be using some oil in the fish marinade, but I had made my peace with that and was quite okay.

When he put a dollop of Smart Balance in the pan for the vegetable sautee, though, I balked. What do you think he did? He took that Smart Balance right out and put it back in the tub without a second thought. I felt bad, then, so I told him to forget what I had said and cook according to his original plan. He wouldn't, so I said that I felt sad that I had ruined his dinner. He looked at me and said, "I'm making this for you. I want you to enjoy it. So I don't want to put anything in it that will make you not like it." You can see why I call him the Best Husband Ever.

Cody (the white pupper) and Jackson oversaw the dinner-making. Check out Cody's bemused expression. I wonder what he's thinking about.

Despite the dogs' attempts at assisting the Best Husband Ever, the tilapia turned out beautifully. I'm not a fan of fish, but I always love the fish dishes that my hubby creates. Like I said, he's the fish master!

So you can see, even though we didn't spend exorbitant amounts of money on a fancy-shmancy dinner or flowers or chocolates, we had a really awesome Valentine's Day. The best I've ever experienced! I think our secret was that we just simply relaxed, enjoyed each other's company, and tried new things without going over the top. No gourmet restauarants required!

Of course, the service at our meal left something to be desired . . . .

Even though we didn't go over the top with our Valentine's Day plans, the Best Husband Ever and I did splurge a little bit. Following our amazing dinner, we returned to Bernice's (twice in one day? wowza!) for dessert. I got one of their holiday cupcakes, and he got another caramel roll. This dessert was an interesting experience. I had had my eye on these cupcakes for quite some time. I used to have a massive sweet tooth, and these look so sugary and absolutely beautiful to boot.

When I finally had my treat plated before me, I tried a bite of cake first. It was delicious. Usually, I'm all about forgoing the cake for the frosting, so last night I wanted to get the cake out of the way first. Then I tried a bite of frosting. It was -- okay. That's right. Not amazing, not blow-my-mind out-of-this-world, but just okay. As I continued my cupcake consumption, "okay" quickly turned to "overly sweet." I finished it, but didn't enjoy it as much as I expected to.

I guess that what health experts say is true -- once you stop taking in so many refined sugars and switch to whole foods, your body stops craving the junk. My taste buds have grown, matured, and transformed! Now my cravings are more in line with what my body requires (fresh produce, whole grains, protein and healthy fats) instead of what my mind says it wants (candy, pie, doughnuts). That's not to say that I'll never eat one of those less healthy options again -- in fact, I'm sure that I will. But I realize now that I no longer feel deprived when I choose to pass on a peanut butter cup. And, on the flip side, I also don't feel guilty when I indulge and have one scoop of ice cream. Moderation is key, right?

So Valentine's Day 2009 rocked this muffin chick's world. I got to spend some beautiful quality time with the man that I love. We enjoyed good eats. I even got some yoga in and came to some important realizations about what's truly valuable in this world, nutrition and balance, and myself. I don't expect any post-Valentine's angst or cynicism this year, you can be sure!

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Heart Hiking

Remember how I wrote about a video I wanted to post, but couldn't due to technical difficulties? Well, after a vast overnight upload, here it is! I chat about one of my favorite active extracurriculars, hiking, as well as health, nutrition, and my battle with anorexia. Let me know what you think! Should I have more videos here at Kitchen Courage, or should I leave the cameos to those who are better skilled in speaking and not sniffling in the cold? It was fun making this one, and I'm excited to be able to share it with you. Think of it as my bloggy Valentine!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blogger Frustration

I had something exciting to share with you all . . . but Blogger/You Tube/the internet have flouted my efforts at every turn. What was the new item? A video of yours truly, chatting up one of my favorite extracurricular activities, hiking. However, it seems that the video is just too big for the uploaders to handle properly, so there will be no video at Kitchen Courage. For now, anyway.

And so, beaten, with my blogging tail between my legs. I leave you with Wednesday's very Valentine-y breakfast. I had a bowl of fresh strawberries (I found them super-duper on sale, and in such good condition! strawberries rock my world),. I paired that with a bowl of Chobani's vanilla Greek yogurt (yes, there is yogurt hidden under there!) topped with blueberry flax granola. That's my favorite kind of granola, incidentally -- I guess it was a favorites kind of morning. I liked this breakfast so much that I had it again today, only I added fresh kiwis to my strawberries. Yum!

What are your plans for Valentine's Day? Single or otherwise, I hope that you'll enjoy the day. I'm not one for Valentine's Day myself, but I might try to pull something out for the Best Husband Ever. He's more than worth it, after all!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Crock-Pot Success Story

I love it when I achieve unexpected and unlooked for culinary victories. Yesterday I was responsible for providing birthday treats for a co-worker's birthday. Eager to do something a little different than the typical (although tasty) bagels/muffins/sweet breads/cake, I decided to put together a lentil curry in my crock-pot, based off this recipe. I also set out pita bread, trail mix, yogurt and granola, cottage cheese, cinnamon apple sauce, fresh grapes, and oatmeal cookies from Costco (okay, so I gave into the baked goods tradition a little -- but they were surprisingly good cookies!). I was concerned people would not enjoy this departure from tradition, but I need not have worried. This is what my crock-pot looked like by lunchtime:

As it turned out, people really liked the curry! The birthday woman loved it, and even gave me a very sweet thank you card today. I received a number of thumbs-up from other co-workers, and ended up passing the recipe on via email. I felt -- and feel! -- so blessed.

I highly recommend the recipe, although I did depart from it in a number of ways. I omitted the kidney beans and used two cups of lentils instead of one. I substituted a can of spinach for the celery. In addition, I added copious amounts of spices to taste, including chili powder, cumin, curry powder, ginger, garam masala, and cayenne. As always, it was fun to play with tastes and let the slow cooker do its thing. And the degree to which the rest of my school's staff enjoyed the meal was just the sweetest icing on my crock-pot curry cake.