Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

To Do? Try TaDa

My husband, Rick, is always looking out for me, trying to help me feel less stressed and more organized. So he did some research for me to find a free time sheet application I could use to keep track of my freelance work (more on this in another entry).

It made me think: if this kind of program is available, I bet something exists for online list making. Sure enough, Google "online to do lists" and millions of links pop up. Lazy as I am, I only did minimal research on two. Ta Da List and Remember the Milk.

I've been using Ta Da pretty exclusively because it's so darned easy. So far, I've created 11 lists all in one convenient location. Normally, I'd have at least as many lists scattered about with entries scribbled all over the place. And really, I probably have at least 10 more lists to enter into this account. But for now, it's a good start. I still don't consult the lists ( I have to keep updating the date on my 'to do today no matter what!' list). But I always know where to find the info if I'm looking for it.

From the minimal messing around I did on Remember the Milk, I think this application is probably more useful on a broader level because you can tag items by due date, calendars can be utilized and it seems more customizable on a cursory glance. I haven't had time to explore it more indepth like I want, but it's on my to do list.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Call A Spade A Spade, Dammit

On more than one occasion, I've unsuccessful searched for rice wine vinegar - it's been listed as an ingredient in several recipes, but I can't find it at my regular grocery store. In the past, I'd use half rice wine and half rice vinegar, thinking this might cover my bases.

A few recipes ago, I decided to look rice wine vinegar up on the internet to see if it actually exists. Lazy as I am, I took the first answer I found at ochef.com as gospel. It's a site that claims to have the answers to life's vexing cooking questions, so I believed the voice of cooking reason when it confidently explained the differences between rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar and wondering how it was possible one couldn't find it at their local grocery store.

Today, I decided to trek out to an Asian supermarket here in town. They had to have it, right? Wrong. Couldn't find it on the shelf anywhere and they had almost a whole aisle dedicated to vinegars of all sorts. I even double checked the shelf stickers to make sure I wasn't missing it because I don't read any 'ese' languages, and some of the products didn't use any English.


So as I was checking out with my other selections, I asked the friendly Asian girl running the register. To her knowledge, rice wine vinegar doesn't exist.

When I got home, I made another, more extensive pass on the Internet. Most 'authorities' agree: rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are one in the same. Then why the heck are all these recipes calling for rice wine vinegar if it doesn't exist?? What's the point? UGH!

As if I don't have enough aggravations in the kitchen.

No Eggs? No Problem.

In theory, I had a pretty good idea you could find a substitute for most ingredients. I've had to look up many of these myself as I generally have lots of things on hand I don't need while missing other crucial ingredients.

With that said, I was still extremely surprised to learn you could actually bake cookies without eggs. I found this out on Saturday night when our friends Jean and Andy came over bearing chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies.

Jean didn't have any eggs. She substituted 2 tbsp. flour, 1/2 tbsp. butter, 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 2 tsp. water. The cookies tasted great. They were flat, but delicious just the same. I had never heard of this. Jean had.

She'd also heard of substituting applesauce for an egg. I hadn't. One source I found suggested 1/3 cup of applesauce for each egg; others 1 or 2 tbsp.

Tonight, I was using ground flax seed as part of a coating for tuna (I bought it when I was pregnant and never used it 'til tonight; my son is almost 7 months old) and noticed on the package you can combine 1 tbsp. of it with 3 tbsp. of water to replace an egg (3 tbsp. of it replaces 1 tbsp. of oil - who knew?).

Apparently, you can also use banana, pumpkin, mashed potatoes, tofu and many other crazy items you vegans out there will have heard of. What a wacky world we live in.

So next time you're out of eggs, don't let it stop you from baking something. Jean didn't – and I'm glad.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

It's A Two-Peat

Holy cow, I can't believe it myself, but I've actually made dinner two nights in a row with new recipes involving ingredients I had on hand. Crazy.

Last night, I made Hudson's Baked Tilapia with Dill Sauce, homemade 'Rice-A-Roni' and canned peas. My husband, Rick, bought some tilapia a few weeks ago that he said he'd figure out how to make since I don't really care for tilapia. I'm more of a catfish girl - a southern thing, I know.

Suffice it to say, the fish wasn't going to cook itself, so I did a basic search on allrecipes and there it was. I actually had a lemon that needed to be used anyway and I just substituted dry dill for the fresh stuff. Very good and pretty good for you to boot.

Tonight I whipped up Tonkatsu-Asian Style Pork Chops. I found this on allrecipes as well. You gotta love the ingredient search – I typed in 'pork chops' and 'panko', two ingredients I wanted to use, and found this recipe.

(If you haven't used panko (Japanese bread crumbs) before, you should give them a try. I had some left over in the pantry from making a chicken Parmesan recipe I got while taking at class at The Party Source.)

From reading the reviews, I learned it was missing tonkatsu sauce (funny, since it's in the recipe name, but who am I to question) – apparently a must have for making these chops. So I found one at Recipe Zaar that got high marks. (I split the recipe in half, but it was still way too much for our purposes.)

About 4 minutes before the chops were going to be done, Rick asked me what we were having with it. Oops. I had some corn (a disconnect, I know) heating up in the microwave, but it kind of slipped my mind to make some sort of rice since I was caught up in making the sauce. So I quickly boiled some Ramen noodles from my Avian Bird Flu stash.

And voilá – an Asian-themed dinner.

The chops were crunchy, juicy and tasty. Rick and I ate all four of them tonight - so much for leftovers. The tonkatsu sauce was good, albeit a little reminiscent of A-1 sauce, not one of my favorite condiments, and it gave much-needed flavor to the noodles. All we needed were some fortune cookies. Maybe next time...

All in all, two great nights of relatively healthy, easy to assemble homemade meals. Let's see if I can keep up the good work.

Thank God That's Over

I don't know about you guys, but, ultimately, I'm glad the holidays are over.

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas and everything it represents. Jesus. Love. Happiness. Sharing. Cookies. Presents. Pine scent. Ice skating. Colored lights. Hearing from people for the first time all year. And I had high hopes for the 2007 holiday season after the bust 2006 was. But overall, they stunk.

They were stressful. They were disappointing. And they were way out of my control.

I thought for sure I'd have all the time I needed to do my shopping, bake my cookies and get out our Christmas cards. Afterall, I quit my job after my son was born a few months ago.

But here we are, January 12, and I still have 75% of my shopping left to do, I never baked one stinking cookie (that wasn't of the break-and-bake variety to satisfy my sweet tooth), and nary a card was mailed.

A few weeks before Christmas, I was listening to NPR while heading in to my former office to do a little freelance work. It was Science Friday and they had an expert talking about why the holidays are so stressful for some people. I almost ran off the road when I heard (something along the lines of) the following:

Holidays are stressful because people try to do too much without getting enough sleep or exercise, they stuff themselves with a lot of crap and they have unrealistic expectations.

Hello. That's me to a T. The sad part is, I still didn't get anything done (including keeping up with this blog). Better luck next year, I guess.