Thursday, October 16, 2008

Later 'Gator.... I'll see you on the other side...

So I tried another new food last night- alligator! My good friend Juan was having a dinner celebrate his 25th birthday and we went to this Creole/Cajun place called "Creole" in east Harlem. The place is actually really nice. The space was cute, there was live music, the food was excellent, and the mixed drinks were apparently good judging by the number of drinks that my friends were downing.. I just had a glass of Pinot... I'm classy like that. :-p

Anywhoo... back to the gator meat. Like I've mentioned before, I'm a pretty adventurous eater, and alligator didn't really sound that exotic to me (not like blood pudding or head cheese or something). The others at the table seemed a bit more dubious than I. One of the main concerns people kept voicing was, "Where did they get the alligator from?". My response was, "The NYC Sewers", but I figured they probably got the gator from a gator farm. I assume all "exotic" meat (ostrich, deer, rabbit, snake) is farmed just like regular meat... It's not like people are going into the forest to trap deer and rabbits or wrestling alligators to provide wholesale meat to restaurants.... although that would be funny :-p

The alligator I ordered was prepared in an etoufee and was served with 2 sides (I chose Mac and Cheese and green beans). The etoufee itself was really tasty. Etoufee is a creole/cajun stew that usually has crawfish, shrimp and chicken. The etoufee at Creole was spiced really well, and --despite the addition of the gator--seemed to be a fairly traditional (spices, and the holy trinity of Cajun/Creole cooking- Green Peppa, Onions and Celery)... I thought that most etoufee's have tomato, but according to Wiki apparently some people think an Etoufee ceases to be an etoufee once tomatos are added... Whether the dish was authentic or not, it was really good.

The gator meat tasted pretty much like I assumed it would... I figured it would taste like turtle (sorry Steph)... which is kind of chewy and usually takes on the taste of whatever it's cooked in. That's pretty much what it tasted like.... It was a little chewy, but not in a bad way. I actually really liked the texture. It wasn't sinewy like chicken and it wasn't as solid as beef... The only meat I can think to compare it with is turtle.... or maybe calamari. It seemed like the gator meat was cut into chunks and browned prior to adding it to the stew. I can't really describe the taste of the meat as it didn't taste like much.... It wasn't gamey and it didn't have a "seafood" taste... i just took on the taste of the etoufee.

All in all I really enjoyed my gator experience. I liked how well it took on the taste of the dish really well and it had a very appetizing consistency. I don't know if I would seek it out specifically because it didn't really have a distinct taste, but I definitely would not reject a dish because there was alligator in it. .

All in all I give alligator an A

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wow, so much has happened

Hey Ya'll..

so much has happened in the last week!

First of all I want to thank everyone who sent their well-wishes, prayers, positive thoughts and energy for my mom's surgery last week. The surgery was long and arduous, but she came though it like a champ! Exactly like I thought she would. The morning after her surgery she was sitting at the hospital vanity table putting on make-up and apparently she's walking up to half a mile now... less than a week after her surgery! (Yeah I told her to slow down on that... I know they said walking was good... but I think they meant walking around the house, not power-walking around the 'hood...) I love my mom. She's been such an inspiration throughout this entire ordeal. MMMMMMMMMMMMM! That was a cyber hug for my momma :-)

Secondly, I got a puppy!! I decided I'd had enough with pug rescues telling me that I would be an unfit mother for a puppy and decided just to purchase one. I had been looking for a breeder in Indiana for a while, and I decided to go with a hobby breeder named Marci at Farnsworth Farms. Marci breeds boxers and pugs and she had 4 puppies currently available. All the puppies were SOOOOO CUTE! I had been reading up on puppy temperment testing, and I selected the puppy that fell in the middle... not too shy and not too boisterous. Thinking back on it, I think I got fooled. I think Leroy was just REALLY tired when I administered my test, so he seemed a lot more laid back than he is.... He's really completely nuts.... but I love him! I named him Leroy, of course, and he's 3 months and 5.9 pounds of crazy. He spends most of his time currently chewing on everything, sleeping and humping his bed. I got a dog walker for him, who is going to come in 2x a week and walk him/play with him for 30 min during the day. I also walk him/play with him outside for 30 minutes in the morning and evening. Hopefully that will help him expend a good amount of energy so he can spend most of the day peacefully chewing his toys or sleeping. So far so good.... It's been SO hard to get pictures of him b/c he's always in motion. I'll try to take and post some video.... but for now GOAL 1 IS COMPLETE BIATCHES!!!!!

Whew! Other than that all my other goals have fallen by the wayside.... I'll have to ramp up again this weekend.

Peace folks!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hot off the presses.....

I might buy a puppy today.... Everybody keep their fingers crossed for me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Awww Bruno I'll miss you!

So... Bruno, my first foster pug, Bruno has gone off to his "forever home"... His adoption happened really quickly. As many of you know I had to go home to Indiana for a week to be with my mom/family for my mother's surgery. My plan was to drop Bruno off at a PPRA foster's house and then pick him up again when I got back to NYC. He had a few people interested in him last week, but they fell through, and because it seemed like Bruno wasn't going to get adopted too quickly, I thought I'd have a least a week to think about what I wanted to do... I guess the universe had other plans.

As many of you know, I agonized about the decision of whether to keep Bruno or allow him to be adopted out. Here were the pro's and cons that I came up with...

Pro (keeping Bruno):
1.) He is SUPER sweet! He's never growled at me or showed any aggression towards me or anyone else (except an annoying Yorkie... but I don't blame him). He was always happy to be petted or picked up and he always wanted to be next to you.

2.) He was a VERY mellow pug. For the most part when I was at home he was asleep. He got very excited when I got home and was happy to go on our walks, but after he was fed and he would generally chew a little of his bully stick and then jump up on the couch with me or just go to his bed and go to sleep. This was good for me because other than feeding and walking him, he really didn't impact my life too much. I was able to work (transcribe), or play on the net or blog, etc etc without feeling like he needed me to play with him or needed a ton of attention.

3.) He had a lot of personality. Although he was mellow, he still made me laugh and had a defined personality. He was stubborn and smart and funny. During the 3 weeks he was with me, he learned 2 commands, "sit" and "down" and got VERY good at them. I always made him sit for me before I put his collar on for a walk or fed him and after a while he would just sit down for me without me having to say anything. Or he would sit and look at me expectantly.. .and then he would lay down and look at me expectantly.. and if I still didn't give him what he wanted he would sit back up like, "Damn! What you want woman!" heh heh... Another funny thing he always did was that he would throw little tantrums sometimes when I would tell him to sit... especially right before a walk. I would say sit, then he's start whining and walk around me in circles and finally he would sit down, usually behind me, with an audible "plop" and make a noise that sounded very much like he was saying "HUMPH". Heh heh..he was so cute.

4.) He was generally a good dog... I didn't have any issues with him marking or trying to show dominance. He liked everyone who came over. He didn't bark. He walked like a DREAM and people really liked seeing him waddling down the street. All in all just a super calm, chill dog.

Cons (reasons to have Bruno adopted out)
1.) The main thing that bothered me about keeping Bruno was that he had severe separation anxiety. Every time I would leave, or even start getting ready to leave he would get really upset, barking and howling to the point where it sounded like he couldn't catch his breath. That broke my heart. It made me really sad. I know I'm always talking about how I hate rescues because they don't adopt dogs to working people because the dog will get lonely, I have to say that I really would have prefered that Bruno go to a home with elderly people maybe, or another older/calm dog to play with.

2.) Bruno didn't really care for/about other dogs. Bruno was DEFINITELY a people pug. When we would encounter dogs on the street he would just ignore them. He wasn't agreessive or scared.... he just walked right passed them like they weren't there. He would let them sniff him, and check him over, but he just wasn't interested in playing. One of my plans for keeping my pug happy and occupied was to have a pug of my own and then foster pugs that he'd be able to play with. The fact that he had really bad separation anxiety AND he didn't really like to play with dogs made me worry about how his health while I wasn't home.

3.) Bruno was 7 years old. Maybe this sounds bad... (don't crucify me ya'll), but I just wanted my first dog to be a younger dog who had a little play left in him. Bruno was super calm and sweet, but he had no interest in toys or playing with people. He just wanted to be pet and then left alone. I want a dog that I can play with, and watch him tear the arms and legs off of stuffed toys and play frisbee fetch with. Bruno wasn't that dog. I would be completely happy adopting an older dog later in life, but at this point I really wanted the experience of a younger dog.

So after weighing the pro's and cons I decided that Bruno might be better off going to a home where there were more people or where he had at least another pug to co-exist with. I met his adoptive on Sunday morning. His adoptive parents were a young couple that live in New York (not in the city... I don't remember where they live). They adopted a 8 year old, blind pug a little while ago and wanted a calm black pug to keep him company. Essentially they wanted the black version of their fawn pug. They saw Bruno's add and were sold. They emailed the PPRA with a complete application, pictures of their house, and all their references. All the references checked out and they seemed genuinely excited to be adopting Bruno.

The couple seemed nice. The guy seemed like a guy's guy. He kept on talking about how he plays with Nitro (their current pug) but just hitting him on the face and startling him and then he'll start to play. Uh.. I don't really think Bruno would go for that, but who knows... He just seemed like a guy who talked a lot, a really nice guy, but a guy that talked a lot. :-) The woman seemed really sweet and loving towards her current pug and Bruno. She seemed interested in hearing what we had to say about Bruno and when she just seemed SOOO excited about getting him.

The only thing that I worry about is them keeping up Bruno's exercise regime. I walked Bruno twice a day for at least 35 minutes each and during my care he's lost a pound and a half. Their pug was extremely large. They said that while he was with them he's only gained about 2 pounds. 2 pounds is a HELL OF A LOT of weight on a 15-20 pound dog. Bruno's breathing had gotten a ton better during his time with me. Because he hasn't lost a ton of weight, the breathing improvement is probably a function of him getting more exercise, not necessarily losing weight. It worried me. I have to admit. I was worried about him getting fat. I was worried about them being committee to his exercise regime.

At the end of the day I think the Bruno will be happy in his new home. It was really hard for me to give him up, because I know that he loved me and was happy with me, but it made me really happy that the adoptive parents seemed so genuinely happy about getting him. I just kept on thinking how happy I would be if a rescue org. actually responded to one of my 40+ applications and actually agreed to let me adopt a dog. I know I would be beside myself, and I was really happy that she was so excited about Bruno.

So that's it. I'll always love you Bruno.. I hope you have lots of pleasant sleep and chewing time in your new home.

I might be getting a pug puppy this week.... stay tuned...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Amaranth Cakes with creamy mushrooms

Hey Ya'll...

It's time for recipe number 3 y'all! My friend Curtis came by tonight for dinner and our monthly Scrabble game. Curtis is a vegetarian, so it's always a bit challenging to come up with creative meals that aren't just a bunch of side dishes masquerading as an actual meal.

When I'm looking for veggie meals, the first place I check is the Vegetarian Times website. They usually have some good recipes and they aren't necessarily a rigid, super health conscious vegetarian site (ie they're vegetarian, but not hippy, dippy, crunchy granola)... it's more about the taste and using interesting and innovative ingredients. So I was looking through the site and stumbled upon this recipe for Amaranth Cakes with Mushrooms.

Amaranth is another one of those grains that most people don't really know about or cook with. Amaranth Grain (according to Wiki) is a very hardy grain that was a staple food among the Incas, Aztecs and other native peoples of Mexico and is also cultivated in Guatemala, Peru, India and Nepal. Amaranth grain is becoming more popular in developing nations because it is inexpensive, easily harvested and, much like quinoa, Amaranth is complete protein , and is a good source of fiber and a variety of minerals.

Ok... that's enough with the history of amaranth. .... You make the amaranth cakes basically the same way as polenta is made. You cook the grain down into a mush in a broth of mushroom juice, shallots and some spices and then you fry into like pancake type things.

In order to make the broth, you had to soak some dried mushrooms. The mushroom water would be used as broth and the reconstituted mushrooms were chopped up to be added to the amaranth mix before cooking. I was being cheap when I bought the mushrooms, so I didn't buy the dried porcinis that were $5.99 for like 2 ounces at Whole foods... instead I bought some Nameko Mushrooms... which were like $3.99 for a big pack. I actually had never heard of a Nameko mushrooms, but on the back of the bag it listed a website like, "" or something like that, so I just figured they were a type of porcinis.... i think I was wrong... I don't think they were porcini's, but they were definitely nasty. Bleh. I soaked them in boiling water for about 20 minutes and just tasted the water... it tasted like musky dirt... like bitter, musky dirt.... and you were supposed to cook the amaranth in the mushroom juice so that the amaranth cakes would take on the taste of the mushroom... Being that the mushroom juice tasted like ass, I wasn't too keen on cooking the amaranth in it or chopping up the reconstituted mushroom (which also tasted like ass) to go into the amaranth mix. I thought about cooking the amaranth in some broth, but I only had chicken broth on hand, which wouldn't work with a vegetarian meal... so I went ahead and cooked the amarnth in the smelly mushroom juice... I figured I could always just add some salt... salt makes everything better!

So while the amaranth/musky dirt water mix was simmering I went about making the mushroom topping. The Veggie Times recipe included the recipe for the mushroom topping, but I decided to use the topping from an appetizer I had made for a holiday party. The mushroom topping was basically shallots, garlic, lots of mushrooms, heavy cream, fontina and parmesean cheese. MMMMMHMMM! I also added some sherry, which is always good with mushrooms.

After the mushroom mix was done it was time to fry up the cakes... I tried the amaranth/dirty water mix... it tasted a little bitter, but not as bad as I expected, so I just added some salt and lots of thyme.. and little sherry. .. i wasn't quite as nasty then. The frying didn't quite go as planned... he cakes kept on falling apart in the oil, butI got a couple nice ones... I think next time I'll use a metal spatula.

I also roasted up some carrots and made a little zucchini to go with the mushroom cakes.

All in all it came out really well! Curtis seemed to really like it! The topping was delicious and the creamy, savory mushrooms were actually a really good compliment for the nutty/dusty flavor of the amaranth cakes. The only change I would make if I were to make it again would be to grind the amaranth before cooking them so the mixture would be more polenta like and less graand zucchini made the meal look better on the plate, but it would have been nice if theiny. I would also buy the right type of mushrooms, or maybe use some dried Shitaakes from China town... Also I think the mushroom/cake could use a little more color. When the mushrooms cooked down they looked like purple/brown mushroom mush... not too appetizing. The carrots re was even a small sprinkle of color in the mushrooms.

Overall I give the dish a solid B. I'm not sure if I would make it at home for myself, but with the above changes I think it would be a viable option for another vegetarian meal.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Month Numero Tw-o!

So... many of my goals from September were ongoing and will stretch into October... and probably FAR beyond October. But here's a quick listing of the total things I'll be working on for October. The goals that are totally new for October are at the top

Watch all the movies that have won Best Picture since I’ve been alive. (13/29)

I know i've watched 13 of these films for sure. There are a bunch of others that I'm pretty sure I've seen (Kramer vs. Kramer, Terms of Endearment, etc), but I honestly don't remember them, so I will watch them again. If anyone feels like watching any flicks with me, let me know :-) The full list is below.


Kramer vs. Kramer


Driving Miss Daisy


American Beauty


Ordinary People


Dances with Wolves




Chariots of Fire


Silence of the Lambs


A Beautiful Mind








Terms of Endearment


Schindlers List


Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King




Forrest Gump


Million Dollar Baby


Out of Africa








The English Patient


The Departed


The Last Emperor




No Country for Old Men


Rain Man


Shakespeare in Love

Read 6 non-fiction books (0/6): I don't love non-fiction books, so I don't read them... honestly I think I have adult ADD... I oftentimes start a non-fiction book, but I honestly think the only one I've finished in recent memory is "Blink". I've got a bunch on my shelf and even more that have been recommended to me, so I'm going to have to get to reading. I think I'll start with Freakonomics. Anyone else have reccs please let me know.

Be on time or early for everything for a month (0/30): I've become one of those habitually late people that I HATE! It started when I moved to Brooklyn. At first I blamed it on having to walk 10-15min. to get to the train... then I blamed it on having to re-calibrate my time approximations from what I was used to in Harlem.... but really that's no excuse... I should be able to add 10-15 minutes onto my travel time... because I'm not an idiot. I've just gotten lazy and used to being late. I've even turned into one of those people that others EXPECT TO BE LATE. I hate it and it must stop. I'm really serious about this one... Let's see how this goes once I get back from Indy.

Take multivitamins every day for 3 months (0/90):

I need to start taking a multi-vitamin. Now that I've gotten better about swallowing pills I think I'll be able to handle it... Maybe I'll add a hair and nail vitamin too... just because. :-p

Do 15 minutes of abs 3 times a week (outside of a class) for 1 month (0/12)

This is pretty easy... I've just gotten out of the habit of doing ab exercises at home. I like to share workout tips, so I'll post some ab stuff too :-)

Complete 50 military push-ups

I just thought this would be a fun goal. I think I can probably do 15 military style (or man) push up's right now. I bet I could get to 50 by the end of the month or at least by the end of November if I tried.

Go the gynecologist and dentist once per year (0/4)

I'm pretty bad about my routine medical care... I don't even have a primary care doctor! Even though it's not on the list I think I'll work on getting a PCP as well as making sure I do the routine gyno and dental once a year.

Create my wardrobe database

I'm a dork. I'll just put it out there so I don't get 50 comments telling me that I'm a dork... but I love making databases, and I think creating a database of all my clothes will help me utilize more of my wardrobe because I'll actually KNOW what I have. I have big plans for this database... I think it could totally revolutionize dressing as we know it... Ya'll can make fun of me all you want, but I PROMISE you'll want one when I'm done. :-p

Start retirement planning:

I need to start seriously planning for retirement. The fact that the economy is going to hell is helping spur my actions along, but even before the sky started falling I've know that I need to start making a serious plan. I currently save each month, but not specifically toward retirement. This month I'd like to open a retirement account and/or start utilizing the retirement resources through my employer.

Set a budget and stick to it for 2 months (0/2)

In order to jump start my home savings and retirement savings... and just better budgeting in general I've decided I need to seriously learn how to stick to a budget. I don't think my spending is out of control now, but I have been known to impulse buy... a dollar here and a dollar there... and i really want to reign that in. So I have created a budget that I think I can live with (I created it using the information I've been summarizing with Quicken over the past few months) and I have to stick with it for 2 months. Thankfully my friends need to stick to their budgets as well, so we've started some budget challenges. In October I'm in a challenge with my friend Alex to see who can best stick to our budget... This is going to be a hard one, because Alex lives a quite posh life (just kidding Alex... kind of) and she spends lots of money on "incidentals" that I don't (nails, hair, massage, personal concierge services...:p Ok maybe I'm exagerating with the last couple :-p). I originally threw a tantrum because it's so much easier to stick to a budget when there's a lot of non-essentials in it (ie if you're over budget it's easy to cut out a manicure, but it's hard to cut out food... and utilities)... but I'm not going to be a baby about it... I'm in it to win it

The rest of the goals are things that are hold-overs from September...

  • Adopt a pug:
  • Acquire >2 songs per month for 6 months (1/6)
  • Make 100 new recipes (2/100)
  • Try 50 foods or types of cuisine I haven't tried (2/50)
  • Blog on my 101 90% of the days (19/901)
  • Drink 1.5 liters of water per day for 2 months (0/60)
  • Go to the gym 500 times (0/400) *UPDATED*
  • Do 400 "no spend" days (1/400) *UPDATED*

Wish me luck y'all!!!

One month down...September Recap

One month down...

So it's been 4 weeks since I started this little 101 goals in 1001 days.... and I think I'm doing a helluva job! So far I've fully achieved 1 goal, and I'm pretty much on target for most of the others (except for the water and the no spend days... ) Let's re-cap my goals for September

Ongoing Goals:
1. Adopt a pug:
Ok so this is still in the works... I still have Bruno, my super adorable foster dog. I'm pretty much coming to the conclusion that rescue groups will NOT adopt a young dog (<5 st="on">Indiana next week and will hopefully be taking a trip out to a breeder who lives in Alexandria, IN to look at the 4 little black boy pug puppies she has available. If I don't do that, I will probably just keep Bruno... decisions decisions..

2. Make 100 new recipes (2/100):
Two (2) down, 98 to go! This month I made a tasty Chicken Millet Skillet and some Shrimp with roasted tomatoes, basil and Feta. I've already got a few recipes on tap for next month... stay tuned...

3. Try 50 foods or types of types of cuisine I haven’t tried (2/50)
Two(2) down and 48 to go. The "new" foods for this month were pretty weak.. but whatever, I had never had them, so they were new to me. The new foods were heirloom tomatoes (which are NOT nearly as tasty as they sound) and Millet, a very tasty and versatile grain. I am next in line to pick the restaurant for the monthly/bi-monthly dinner club that I belong to. SOMEBODY (ahem Janet ahem) suggested that my foodie card be revoked after looking at my 100 foods to try before you die list, so I want to pick some sort of far out cuisine that will stretch and challenge my palate... any suggestions (a-hem, a-hem Andrea K.? :-p)

4. Blog on my 101 things blog 90% of the time (19/901):
I think I'm doing stellarly on my blogging, but not meeting the target of 27 blogs per month...

5. Do 500 “no spend” days (1/500):
Ok so I'm changing this one... I don't know what was going through my head when I created this goal, but 500 no spend days pretty much equates to not spending every other day for 2.74 years... that's not going to happen. So the new goal is 400 no spend days. This equals to about 3 no spend days a week for the entire 143 weeks of the challenge. I have some making up to do, but I think I can do it. Because I changed the goal I will have to pay the $10 (the fee for failing the goal), but I will still have the bragging rights :-p

6. Drink 1.5 liters of water per day for 2 months:
Oh Lord... it might take me the entire 2.74 years to achieve this goal. Drinking is annoying. Liquid makes you pee. I don't really see the point of ingesting liquid unless it wakes you up (coffee) or makes you happy (liquor) ... I don't drink juice or any other stuff because of the empty calories... but I also don't drink water because I don't like to walk down the hallway to the bathroom. Drinking sucks. I'm going to give it a shot again starting in October... I'll be at home in Indiana for a week where the bathrooms are MUCH more convenient.. hopefully I can build some peendurance (that's pee endurance) during this time. :-/

7. Make the earring holder that I’ve been putting off:
DONE! And very nice if I do say so myself :-p