I Got Tagged Saturday

My friend Jen tagged me for this meme. I still don’t know what meme means. But this is the most fun one I have done.

The Rock Star Club
1) Go to Wikipedia and hit the random link on the left sidebar, under the navigation heading. The first article you get is the name of your band.
2) Go to the website The Quotations Page. The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your album.
3) Go to Flicker’s Randomizer feature. The third picture, no matter what it is, is your album cover.

This is what I got, and it is awesome!

ophir

Jen posted the accompanying Wiki and Quotes text, but I did this a while ago and no longer have that info. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I didn’t make it up.

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World Travel Wednesday: Aberdeenshire

aberdeen-coastline-slains

My family is descended from the Scottish Clan Baird. We have traced our lineage back to the Aberdeenshire area of Scotland. Isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to see it in person one day. Maybe this is why I love the ocean so much — it’s in my genes!

Tasty Tuesday: Sakura

sushi

I love sushi. And I love people who will go get sushi with me. It’s really not as weird as people think it is. Last week, Coocatchoo and I tried out Sakura, this place in town we’ve been hearing is great. We both agreed it was the best sushi either of us has ever had. Now, I’m not saying I am a sushi expert. I know a little bit about it. I’m not the most adventurous sushi-eater — I know which things I like, and I tend to stick with those. I’m willing to eat some of the raw stuff. But not all of it. And while I’ve had sushi in every available spot in Asheville, I’ve haven’t had it many other places, except Chicago. Which is a city better known for its pizza and hot dogs than its sushi. All I know is that I’m really excited that the best sushi I’ve tasted thus far in my life is available in my current city. The atmosphere at Sakura could be a little more interesting, but the quality and freshness of the food makes up for that. They also had great sake, and Coocatchoo said the seaweed salad was delish.

So, my top three sushi places are now:
1) Sakura – Winston-Salem, NC
2) Wasabi – Asheville, NC
3) Heiwa Shokudo* – Asheville, NC

When I relayed the news of my discovery to another local friend who is also an Asheville transplant, he said, with his typical sarcasm, “Wow, I can’t believe you found anything here that’s better than Asheville!” He said this only half-jokingly, because he misses Asheville just as much as I do. I may be slightly more vocal than he is about my feelings that everything is better/cooler/prettier/more fun/etc in Asheville. Except, of course, the nonexistent job market and unaffordable property prices. Which would explain why we don’t live there anymore.

*Heiwa has them all beat in terms of atmosphere and ambience.

Musical Monday: Built to Spill

bts

As I’ve mentioned before, my friend grantmasterflash gave me a ton of new music to absorb last fall. I mean, so much that I still haven’t gotten through it all yet. More often than not, I have my iPod set to shuffle, and I try not to look at the display. I really like experiencing new music with no information about the band’s name or genre or reputation. Usually if something I don’t recognize starts to play, and I don’t like it, I’ll just skip it without looking. But if I really like it, I look. (This makes it easier for me to remember the names of the bands I like as opposed to the ones I skipped past. I am dangerously close to needing the 80GB iPod.) Every time I’ve looked down recently to see what was playing because I loved it, it has been something by Built to Spill. This band was included on grantmasterflash’s Loads ‘O Tunes disc.

One of the best descriptions I’ve read of their music says they’re great at “mixing classic rock-influenced guitar solos and quaint folk sounds with psychedelic effects and high-pitched melodies.” You can’t quite figure out what that would sound like, right? That’s why it’s so impressive to hear them pull it off.

YouTube has a bunch of concert footage here. If you’re interested, my favorite album so far is You in Reverse. Listen to the whole thing for free online here. And then buy it if you like it.

Good stuff!

Film Fest Friday: The Parent Trap

parent_trap-poster

Every couple years I have a hankering to watch the original 1961 Parent Trap with Hayley Mills. When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. It was a huge adventure when we would drive up from North Carolina to visit. Nana and Pop treated me like royalty, as I was the only grandchild for quite a while. Even as a little kid, I loved movies. In New Jersey, I got to rent several at one time and hole up in the cool, secret-bunker of the daylight basement, entertaining myself as only-children so often do. While I was watching movies, I was also doing art projects, and making forts out of chairs and blankets while directing the cats as my personal attendants. Pop would sit in his chair behind me, chain smoking, doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, and feeding the dog Brie and Snickers. Nana brought a continual stream of snacks for us, and when my mom complained, she said, “Oh, she’s on vacation!”

Some of the movies I most vividly remember watching in the basement bunker at Heller Way are Top Gun, Irreconcilable Differences, The Devil and Max Devlin, Lady & the Tramp, and The Parent Trap. That one was a big favorite because I had seen pictures of my mom in middle school, and she looked just like Hayley Mills but with dark hair. Same short mop-top hair cut, same pixie face, same slightly mischievous smile. I was fascinated by the fact that the two sisters were played by the same person (early movie magic!). I still find it to be pretty darn entertaining. It is well-written and a good story. Hayley Mills’s accent is adorable.

haley1

One of the only movie “remakes” I have ever thought to be successful was 1998 version of The Parent Trap, starring Lindsay Lohan. Disney stayed very true to the original plot and kept all the elements that made it unique. They also added some twists that made it a little more creative.

lindsey

It doesn’t give me quite the same euphoric nostalgia as the Hayley Mills version. And I find it slightly sad to watch because it’s obvious that Lindsay Lohan is actually a decent actress and probably could have had a decent career if she’d had better adult guidance and a more commandeering stylist. She used to be so cute and funny!

lindsay_lohan copy

But slowly she has morphed into (I’m going to say it) a train wreck. She’s dead to me now. She has joined Kirsten Dunst in limbo until further notice.

lindsay2-copy

World Travel Wednesday: Isle of Palms, SC

sunrise

Last month, I sat on a palmetto log and watched the sun rise over the Atlantic with someone very dear to me. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen was the sun shining on his face and lighting up his eyes. Such a perfect moment — a blanket of peace and positivity. I hope I’ll always be able to call it up in my mind as clearly as I remember it right now. I’d like to thank the universe for giving me that day.

Tasty Tuesday: Pistachio Baklava Cups

cups

My family is pretty big on baklava. I think my mom has some Greek genes in there somewhere, because she loves Greek food in general. She makes these at Christmas-time. They are so delicious — bite-sized sticky, flaky goodness.

Pistachio Baklava Cups

2 pkgs mini Phyllo shells
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup shelled pistachios
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp melted butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place phyllo shells on rimmed baking sheet. Stir honey and lemon juice in small cup until blended. Set aside.

Pulse pistachios, cinnamon, sugar, and cloves in food processor just until chopped. Add melted butter. Pulse just to distribute.

Spoon a rounded teaspoonful into each shell. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Spoon about 1 tbsp honey mixture over hot filling. Cool on baking sheet on wire rack. Makes 30. Only 3 g fat and 62 calories per shell!

Musical Monday: Bon Jovi

jon

Are you laughing yet? I’m really not a Bon Jovi fan. When I was in the 5th grade (1988), I had the flu, and my dad wanted to buy me a present to make me feel better. I asked for the cassette tape of Bon Jovi’s album, “New Jersey.” I don’t remember why I liked it at the time. It was the first cassette tape (of popular music, anyway) that I ever owned. I heard “Lay Your Hands on Me” driving home from work today and thought, “Why did I like this when I was 10?” I still have no clue what about it appealed to me. But any time I hear a song from that album (“Bad medicine is what I need, whoa-a-oh!”), I will always remember being sick and in 5th grade and getting my first tape. And everyone thought I was really cool when I got better and went back to school, too. We passed my Walkman around on the playground while twisting our swings tighter and tighter, like a telephone cord. Then we’d cling to one of the front poles on the swing set, and let go on the count of three, spiralling and zig-zagging backwards, kicking up wood chips, enjoying the sporadic and unpredictable movement in the middle of a militarily structured day.

Randomly Ridiculous

On my way home from work today, I got behind a car with some bumper stickers. This is not nearly as common in the Triad as it is in Asheville. In the mountains, you see a lot of “Support Local Food,” “Namaste,” “One World,” and “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History.” People down here are not so into expressing themselves publicly, except politically. I’ve finally found bumper stickers I hate worse than anything in the shape of a looped ribbon. This ONE car had this:

hubby1

And directly underneath that:

wife

You have got to be kidding me. One of these would be bad enough. But both on one car? No. Just — no. TGI-Freaking-F!

Tasty Tuesday: Salmon on the Foreman

george_foreman_grill

I was first introduced to the wonders of the George Foreman grill in college. My roommate, Scotty, was on the tennis team and therefore could eat like a horse and never gain weight. He was famous for his love of Wendy’s Triple Bacon Cheeseburgers. Every once in a while we’d go on a health kick and try to act like responsible adults. George Foreman’s promise to press the fat out of Scotty’s beloved burgers drove him to shell out the money for a grill. In general, he was a pretty good cook, but his Foreman burgers were the bomb. He even had a little contraption he used for shaping the perfect patties.

A couple years ago, I inherited my mom’s George Foreman because she never used hers. So far, the only thing I use it for is grilled salmon. I’m not very good at cooking meat in general (except in the oven), and I’ll admit it — I am your stereotypical female who thinks it’s a man’s job to grill outdoors, detail a car, and use a chainsaw. But an ex-boyfriend who seriously could have been a chef taught me a great method for grilling salmon on the Foreman, and this method is THE SECRET to flavorful, moist, meaty salmon and better than I’ve had at any restaurant.

bear

Before we talk about cooking salmon, we need to talk about buying it. This is important. I am not entirely stringent in my efforts to buy organic or local or fair-trade or what have you. I do think about it, and I try to make an effort at it. But I’m usually too poor to be all that fanatical about it. Salmon is a little bit of a special case. There are no USDA organic certification standards for seafood. If you find something labeled organic in the seafood department, it could mean anything or nothing at all. The decision you normally face is wild versus farmed.

Farmed salmon costs less than wild salmon and has been shown to have higher levels of heart-healthy Omega-3’s due to their controlled diet. But it’s also loaded with chemical contaminants that cause everything from cancer to memory impairment to neurobehavioral changes. Farmed salmon is naturally gray in color, but it’s dyed pink to look like wild salmon. (Gross.)

Your best bet is to buy wild salmon whenever possible. Usually the grocery store will label salmon with “farmed” or “wild” and also the country or area of origin. Wild Alaskan salmon is, to my understanding, the cleanest. I can usually find it at The Fresh Market. If you don’t have an option due to funds or availability, and you have to go with farmed, you should choose Chilean first (cleanest), North American second (cleanish), and if it’s from anywhere else (especially Europe), you’re not eating it. Seriously — the chemicals really are that bad for you.

All righty then, on to the tasty stuff!

salmon

Grilled Salmon, George-Foreman Style

One pound of salmon will feed two people for a couple meals, but it’s generally more difficult to cook smaller amounts. If you are one person, you will have a lot of leftovers. This would be a good excuse for inviting people over to have dinner with you. Unless you have picky-eater friends, like me. Ha! That’s okay, more for me. Be sure to buy the salmon and cook it on the same day to ensure freshness and maximize flavor.

First, you will need to marinate. My favorite marinade is Olde Cape Cod salad dressing. My favorite flavor is the Wasabi Soy Ginger, but I’ve also used the Raspberry Vinaigrette, and that creates an interesting flavor combo if you are not opposed to hints of fruit in meat. I usually am opposed to that, but here it is very subtle. If you can’t find this stuff, or you’re not into crazy flavors, I would suggest using a basic balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.

In a large sauce pan, cover the bottom with salad dressing. Put your salmon in there, skin side up. Pour some more salad dressing over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Longer is better, but an hour will do.

When you’re ready to grill, plug in the Foreman and wait until the light goes off. Spray top and bottom with nonstick cooking spray. Make sure you have the juice-catcher tray thing (technical term) in place, because salad dressing will be all over your counter if you don’t. Put the salmon on the Foreman, skin side down. Spoon some more salad dressing over the top.

Now. This is imperative: get an average regular-sized drinking glass or cup, and set it in front of the juice-catcher tray thing. Lower the lid of the Foreman until the handle part rests on the rim of the glass. The lid will be almost closed but not quite. It might be touching the salmon — that’s okay. Many people complain that a George Foreman grill results in meat that is too dry. Basically that’s because the lid mashes down on it and squeezes all the juices out with the fat. This method prevents that from happening. But it also traps heat on top of the fish, which I think makes it more moist. When I have tried grilling salmon on a regular non-lidded indoor grill, it’s not as moist. And if you do it on an outdoor grill, you have to close the cover.

At this point, you’re going to babysit it for a while. Every salmon recipe I’ve ever read calls for really short cooking times — maybe because they are using higher heat. When using the Foreman Method, you need to be prepared for it to take much longer. You’ll have to watch it, because the thickness of the piece of fish makes a difference, but I usually leave it on for about 30-40 minutes. Every 7-10 minutes, I lift the lid and spoon more salad dressing on top. The juice-catcher tray thing will collect the excess salad dressing that is not absorbed.

You will know when it’s getting close to being done when you see a white substance start to appear randomly on top. (It’s not fat. It’s protein exudate. Like on a pork chop.) After you see the white protein, leave it on the grill for another 7-10 minutes. At this point, I would cut into the middle to see what the color inside looks like. It should be a uniform light pink color and not darker pink in the middle (unless you like it rare).

Remove the salmon from the grill by working a non-metal spatula in between the flesh and the skin. It should separate pretty easily, and the skin will be left on the grill. You can remove it second and discard. The Foreman actually cleans up pretty easily, especially if you use the nonstick cooking spray.

Enjoy your juicy perfection!

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