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I am a mom to twin boys, full-time employee of a telecommunications company and wife to a professional musician. I work, do yoga, cook and try to squeeze in DIY projects and spending time with friends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fish and Corn Pie

Not the most creative of names, but a really yummy recipe.

It all started with an email from Bon Appetit with this recipe for Fish and Corn Cakes with Tartar Sauce.  I'm not a big fan of tartar sauce, so that part got ditched.  And the recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs fish.... I only had a pound.  And many of the reviews said that the cakes fell apart, so I planned to increase the eggs, which serve as glue in the recipe.

You know, a normal recipe for me.  Find something online/in a book and make myriad changes.

But the last change was the best!  Wait for it.....

Bake it in a pie pan, not on the stove!

You see, I love making pancakes on weekend mornings.  But at the end of the day, when I'm tired and hungry, I don't want to stand at the stove flipping burgers (or fish cakes) while the rest of the family either eats without me, or stomps around, tired and hungry.  Changing this into a pie removed that burden, and got all of dinner (and the chef!) to the table at the same time.  Yay!  I will be adapting my Black Bean Burger recipe in the same way...  Bean Pie!

Note, the fish needs to be cooked BEFORE the pie can be assembled.  I oil a baking sheet, lay the filets on the pan, sprinkle with Old Bay, then bake at 350 degrees until cooked (around 15 minutes).  The Old Bay gives the flavor a boost, but can be omitted or substituted if you like.

Fish and Corn Pie (serves 4)
1 lb skinless firm white fish, cooked and broken into small pieces
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 large eggs
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn
2 Tbsp fresh chives or green onion
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), plus 2 Tbsp to sprinkle on top
1/2 tsp each Old Bay, salt and pepper (omit Old Bay if you seasoned the fish when preparing)
lemon wedges for serving (optional)

1.  Heat over to 400 degrees.
1.  In a bowl, whisk together eggs, mayo and lemon zest until well combined.    Stir in fish, corn, chives/green onion, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.
2.  When combined, pour into greased pie pan.  Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs on top of pie, pressing them lightly into pie.
3.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until topping is browned slightly and pie is cooked through.

Note:  this recipe can be made gluten free by swapping panko crumbs for any GF crumbs.

Bon appetit indeed!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Curried Pickled Cucumbers - Refrigerator Style

I am clearly not a serious blogger.
I took no photos during this pickling adventure because I was so sure it wouldn't work.  After all, I broke sooooooo many rules of pickling!  

For starters.....

1.  I used the wrong cucumbers!

I ordered a double batch of cucumbers in my delivery from Washingtons Green Grocer expecting that they would be small, pickling cucumbers.  It ends up that Diva Cukes are relatively thin skinned, but are huge and have tons of seeds.  Not what you want in a pickler, and not what I *thought* Google told me before I placed my order.  Oops.

2.  I did not boil the pickling liquid.

Heated it in the microwave.  My new favorite way to make it! :-)

3.  Made substitutions in the recipe.

Okay, hardly a news flash there.  I am incapable of following a recipe.  Or, as it seems, checking that I have all the ingredients before I start.

That all said, these are delicious pickles!  

The recipe (mostly) came from Andrea Chesman's  The Pickled Pantry.  The recipe I made is below-- consult her awesome book for the original.  (To start, she uses the correct cucumbers and boils her pickling liquid!)    Also, her curried pickles are water-bath processed so that they are shelf stable, and will last longer.

Because I used the large slicing cucumbers, I was concerned that their high water content will make them mushy before too long.  Water bath canning, and making them shelf-stable, seemed unnecessary.  After tasting these, I'm definitely interested in doing it the 'right' way, in order to make more than one jar at a time.  I think they would also be great cut into spears or thicker slices.

Curried Pickled Cucumbers
4 cups sliced cucumbers (I sliced thinly by hand)
3/4 onion, sliced thin
1 heaping Tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp raisins
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds

Mix cucumber, onions and salt in a bowl, and cover with ice water.  Let soak for 2 hours or so, until the cucumbers taste slightly salty.

At the tail end of the brining time, mix remaining ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and heat until  the sugar is dissolved and the mix is hot-- 1 minute did the job in my microwave.  Set aside.

Drain the cukes and onions, and pack into a clean quart jar.  Pour hot brine over the veggies, then put the lid on the jar and store in the fridge.  Try to wait a day before eating.  

Note:  soaking the cukes in salt water- brining them, really- is a new one to me.  I can't argue with the results!

Monday, June 30, 2014

US Capitol Building, Washington DC

I work in the wireless industry, and sometimes that makes for an interesting opportunity.  Like today, when this normally white collar gal put on a figurative hardhat and went on a site walk.  Wireless, after all, has become a utility.  Like electricity and running water, most people can't do without wireless, and most buildings need to have it inside.

After all, the phone on the desk (if you are sitting at a desk) is used less and less.  And since most wireless traffic originates indoors anyway, there need to be indoor systems to support voice and data services.

Today's opportunity was to walk the House of Representatives (HoR) in Washington DC.  When you're standing at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, looking east towards the Capitol Dome, the HoR is everything on the right of the midline of the dome.  That line dividing House and Senate might as well be literal, but since that would wreck the aesthetics of the historic building, it's merely figurative.

The downside of this opportunity:  had to arrive at 530am.  Yup, dressed, make-up, breakfast.... 530am.  I am a morning person, but this, to my mind, is still the night before!

My cab was early-- I got there at 510am.

The silver lining of arriving at this hour was the opportunity to breathe the still, mild air of a beautiful city while standing in the shadow of a quiet, captivating, historic building.... The US Capitol.

East front of the US Capitol at 515am.... what a jewel!

Amazing.  Simply awe-inspiring.

Back to business.... the job of the day was to inspect 100+ wireless antennas inside the building.  They exist to bring your carrier's wireless signal to most every nook and cranny of this huge, historically significant space.

I say 'most every nook and cranny' because there are spaces where signal is not wanted.  Not to worry though, most of us mortals will never be inside the private Members Only dining room, so you won't notice.

I am not an engineer, but I had one with me.  He did the hard work, and I played tourist, spectator, gawker and student.  Lots to learn, both about the building and the wireless project.  And what a space to learn it in!
View from one of the private offices on the West side of the Capitol.  House Majority maybe?

While there are no wireless assets on the roof, we did get to wander out there to take in the view.  Wow!

Standing on the roof, looking up towards the Freedom statue on the Capitol Dome.

The old House Chamber-- this photo is taken from what was spectator seating (only accessible now via one of the House Speaker's private offices) 

Wireless is a utility, which means basements and attics and ugly spaces.  These are some of the cables/conduits running through the basement-- also called the Headache Chamber, because of all the VERY low ceilings!

Our day ended about 1215.  I walked 4 1/2 miles since 5am, and it was time to head home and get my actual job done.  Before I left, I walked out to the same spot as the first photo, for another picture of the Capitol.  This time, in the full light of a sunny, Washington DC summer day.

I purposely did not crop this photo.... there are people and cars at 1230pm.  Wow!

Thanks for a great day Washington DC.  You take a lot of heat for lazy, entitled politicians.  I saw only hard working facilities and security folks on my tour today, taking care of a magnificent building and the people who work there.

Cheers to you, US Capitol.  Happy early July 4th!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spy Gear

Last week, I scored an invitation to a Spy Gear event for me and the kids at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC.  The invitation came from my friend Elaine (blogger and parent extraordinaire!) who was unable to attend.  She knows my kids well, and was certain that this event would be right up their alley.... boy was it!

The event was sponsored by Spy Gear, a kids toy maker.   With the kids wrapping up third grade, I don't find myself buying a lot of toys anymore-- mostly the kids want books, apps or games/accessories for the Wii.   I was curious as to what Spy Gear offered and what the kids would think.  And the Spy Museum is always a hit!

The event was fun- upon arrival, we were each given a pair of Night Goggles.  These glasses have battery powered lights, which helped when we snuck back into the house after the event, hoping the scare the cat or Mr. Unwired.  I can confirm that a child wearing these while climbing into your bed  in  the morning will certainly cause you to wake up... and fast!  The kids had a chance to check out the table of Spy Gear stuff, while I chatted with a spy (actor) or two.  After a presentation by EvanTubeHD, dinner and instructions, we were off on a scavenger hunt through the museum. 

After the scavenger hunt, we came back into the event space and collected our swag.  From the presentations earlier, the kids were very interested in the door alarm and Video Glasses. I was pleased that instead, of those toys, they received a pair of Walkie-Talkies, which they tested all over the house and through the neighborhood the next day.  I can confirm that they reach 1/4 miles- we look forward to testing them further soon. The packaging says 2 miles!

Each kid also received a Spy Recording Pen.  One of my boys immediately started recording everything said in or around him.  The other had trouble with the buttons, so we'll keep working on that.  I was impressed with the heft and build of the Spy Gear toys; they are not flimsy!  With that in mind, I expect that the toys will last through multiple adventures!
Kids wearing Spy Gear Night Goggles, en route to the moon in their cardboard spaceship.

Disclaimer: I attended an event hosted by Spy Gear at the International Spy Museum. My children received Spy Gear toys during the event. I was not asked to write about either the event or the toys. All opinions are my own.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Peach Jam

It's good to have a plan.

Here's mine for the summer:  preserve lots of fruit, make pickles, move my work project forward, and master another inversion or two in yoga.  I've already got tripod headstand down (or up, as the case may be).

For this blog, I'm going to document the first two.  The work thing is confidential, and the yoga... well, that's my personal obsession.  I'll leave it that way for now.

The fruit and pickles story starts many years ago, in a house far far away.  Well, not that far-- we only lived 2 miles from where we are now.  We bought the house in 1998, and soon after, met the couple who lived across the street with their young daughter.  We always called them our first adult friends-- we owned a house but wow, they had a kid!

We became close friends over the years.  They were always the folks you could count on. She made the curtains for our nursery when I was too pregnant (and inept) to do so.  They helped us clean out the fridge on our last night in the house.   Even when we moved two miles away, they were a phone call away, inviting us to a block party in the old neighborhood, or we were inviting them to a party at our house.

And then.... she got sick.  Pancreatic cancer.  It was not curable, and her time in chemo was awful.  Mercifully, she died just six months after the diagnosis.  It was awful and miserable and unfair... and a year later, it's still awful and miserable and unfair.

As she was declining, I spent time with her, talking about the things we had in common... our families, her daughter, the neighbors, and cooking.  She knew the magic of preserving, and I did not.  At this late date, it was not possible for her to teach me, but her passing reminded me to not delay in spending time with and learning from my friends and loved ones.

Seven weeks after her death, my BFF drove from her home in NY State to teach me how to make jam.  The whole water bath thing was a mystery-- I could make the stuff and store it in fridge or freezer, but it was not shelf stable, and not giftable.   That weekend, she helped me conquer the water bath... we made made plum jam, chipotle pickled carrots and jalapeno green beans.  The experience was wonderful, and the fruits of our labor (pun intended) were delicious!

I used what I learned to make apple butter over the winter, gifting it to teachers and friends. In honor of the 1st anniversary of my friend's death, I made strawberry jam.  The berries were picked from a local farm by me and another BFF along with our kids.  I brought a jar to the family.  It was sad and happy and sweet, all at the same time.

Tonight, I made my first peach jam.  I used this recipe, selected because it calls for minimal sugar and no pectin.  I used 8 good sized CA peaches, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice-- tried to cut the recipe in half but miscalculated.   These were cling peaches (darn!) and a real pain to pit!  Learned my lesson-- freestone next time.  They rested for 2 hours after slicing (macerating, for those of you in the know); after five minutes on the stove I added 1 tsp fresh minced ginger and 1/2 cinnamon.  I'm proud to say that the latter was my son's idea-- he smelled the peaches as they cooked and made the suggestion.  When the jam cooled he got a taste of the finished product...  he heartily approved, as did I!
Cooking the peaches... it took about 15 minutes for my almost-half recipe.

This eight peach recipe yielded 4 full 8oz jars.  I put 3 through the water bath and put the remaining jar in the fridge.  Finally bought a batch of these reusable lids, so putting the excess in the fridge is easy and I can use the lid another time.

This was a test of the peach jam (low sugar, no pectin) recipe.  When local peaches are ripe, I intend to pick a ton, brush them with maple syrup, then grill them. Some will be eaten hot off the grill, and the rest will be preserved with their smoky sweet flavor intact.  I think both will be heaven.

Stay tuned for more preserving goodness!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Raspberry Jam Oat Bars

A quick post to share an excellent healthy treat.  I found this recipe Raspberry Jam Oat Bars at Weekly Bite, one of the blogs I follow.  With an RSS reader on my phone (I use Feedly to aggregate the posts, and GReader to display them on my handset), I can catch up on blogs at stop lights, in line at Starbucks, and during boring meetings (yes, that means you, "Mr. Seven-Point-Font" on the slides!).

This one is very simple-- all the ingredients (except the jam) go into a blender or food processor.  Mix for 30 seconds or so until the ingredient look crumbly and well integrated, then pour into a prepared pan.

The things I did different from the posted recipe (because there's always something):

  •  I used an 8-inch round silicone pan so that I did not need to oil or line it.  The bars ended up thicker than in the original recipe, with a solid layer of bar on top of the jam. 
  • I used strawberry jam, as that's what I had.
  • Not having whole wheat pastry flour, I used white whole wheat flour in equal proportions.  And I swapped out 3 Tbsp or so of the flour for wheat germ (more fiber and protein, and a nice nutty flavor).
  • Thinking chia seeds could be added next time, for more fiber, protein and Omega-3 goodness.  Maybe a few Tbsp in place of some of the oatmeal? 
Let me know what you substitute to make the recipe yours.  I'm committed to making jam this summer, and think that this recipe will be a great way to use it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Best Snack Ever! Crunchy Chickpeas!

I know, I know.... best ever?  A wee bit of hyperbole for a snowy day?

I think not.

These are awesome.  Sweet or spicy, and definitely crunchy.  And unlike many of the recipes I've seen on the interwebs, these STAY crunchy for days... not that they last that long.

Crunchy yummy goodness.
As a bonus, these are healthy, full of fiber and vegetarian.... and gluten free depending on your seasonings. No guilt, all goodness.  And did I mention delicious?!

I've made multiple batches, and the best came when I started with dried chickpeas*, not canned.  It might be a coincidence that these were the best batches, but it's not much harder to start with dried, and you get the chance to make so many more.... so I'll always start there.

Crunchy Chickpeas
1lb dried chickpeas
10-12 cups water

1.  Rinse dried chickpeas and pick through them, discarding any discolored ones or stones that found their way into the bag.  Place chickpeas in slow cooker, cover with water, then cook on high for five hours until tender.

2.  Drain, and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet(s) lined with paper towels/cloth.  Rub chickpeas gently to remove liquid, and pick out any skins that come off-- no need to skin them if the skins hold on.
*Suggestion 1:  1lb chickpeas = 2 full cookie sheets.  These need some elbow room.
*Suggestion 2:  Leave the chickpeas in a colander or on a cloth for a few hours/overnight... let evaporation do some of the drying for you

3.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Use the convection setting if you have one.  Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper and spread chickpeas on top in a single layer.  No need for oil or flavors yet... just chickpeas!  Place the cookie sheet in the over and set the timer for ten minutes.

4.  When the timer goes off, shake the pan, then put it back in the oven and set the time for another ten minutes.  Repeat two more times (a total of 40 minutes)

5.  After 40 minutes, the chickpeas should be nicely browned, and if you eat one, it should be crunchy all the way through, and not at all soggy.  If it's still not crunchy, try another five minutes before proceeding.

6.  And now... seasonings!  During one of the ten minute baking rounds, mix up seasonings in a bowl large enough to hold your chickpeas.  Here are some suggestions:

Spicy:  1/2 Tbsp (or more) Sriracha, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp line juice 1/2 tsp sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp salt
Flavorful: 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp each smoked paprika and cumin, 1/2 tsp salt
Sweet: 2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp salt
Sweet II: 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon sugar, 1 pinch cayenne pepper, 1 pinch salt
Tons of seasoning suggestions on the web... just make sure you dry roast them first following the instructions here to make them crunchy crunchy crunchy!

7.  Pour chickpeas into seasonings and mix until coated, then return the chickpeas to the oven (on the parchment covered cookie sheet) for another five minutes.  With wetter seasonings like the sweet combo above, you may need to make it ten minutes to bake the seasoning onto the chickpeas.  Keep an eye on them to ensure your creation does not burn!

8.  Important last step.... when done, turn off the heat and crack the oven door.  Leave the chickpeas in the oven until cold.  I don't know if this is necessary, but my chickpeas are awesome and I will continue to do it until someone tests it another way and tells me it definitely works :-)

When cool, store in a tightly covered container-- jar, glass bowl, plastic or whatever.  I understand these can be frozen also, but mine never make it that long.

Enjoy the deliciousness!

*chickpeas = garbanzo beans.  Same thing... main ingredient in hummus and falafel.  Sold canned or dried, in the grocery section with beans.  You'll need a larger and/or healthier store to find dried garbanzos.
** Post updated 3/30/14 to reflect that fact that drying these like crazy using tons of paper towels is not necessary is you follow the rest of the directions.  I did my last batch by defrosting cooked chickpeas for a few hours on the counter, then roasting them with nary a paper towel involved.  They came out great!

Credit to for introducing me to the idea of dry roasting the chickpeas, and for the bones of the Sriracha Lime seasoning combo.