Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New Direction

The other day I'm lounging around the house reading The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. While I'm not giving dinner too much thought at the time, after reading some passage about a steak dinner I realized I could really go for a steak myself. The funny thing is I don't even really like beef (I'll always be yours chicken), but something about reading other people eating one made me want one.

What can I say? I'm human. I always want what other people have. (I'm just kidding...mostly.)

Maybe it's because I love both so much, but food and books just seem to go together to me. So I started searching the interwebs looking for a blog dedicated to food inspired by fiction books. Guess what I found? Nothing. Nadda. Zip. Now that obviously doesn't mean there's not some genius blog out there right now dedicated to this very thing, but it does mean that this assumed blog has some terrible exposure and should work on that. Just a tip.

Anyhoo, my point is my book reviews are mediocre at best and my recipes are as random as all hell. Because of this, I am going to start posting recipes inspired by books I read (tell me you didn't see that coming). Now I have no idea how this is going to actually work out. I haven't planned out any of the details yet, but I do know that these recipes will only be inspired by the books. This means that unless there is a passage where the main character starts talking about a half cup of sugar, you can assume I'm using some creative license. Some recipes will be based on the place the story takes place, others on a particular style of eating that gets mentions. Some may be completely out of the blue and based on my feeling of the book instead of anything tangible. Most books I read don't go into detail about food, but I'm sure I'll be surprised at how many details I've looked over without even realizing it.

So that's it. On the surface I suppose things won't look much different since I know for sure that I will post the book summary (which will now be shorter) and the recipe in separate posts (for people who want one but not the other). I'm still pretty excited though.

What this says about my priorities in life I'm not sure.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"3 of a Kind" 06/10

I just finished some pictures of my little family to put in the hallway:

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I actually used a big box I had sitting in the basement for a canvas. I had originally planned on just nailing the cardboard pieces onto the wall since I'm low maintenance, but I was able to find three frames of the same size at the thrift store (only a buck a piece!). I painted all of the frames black and used the glass as a template for where to cut the cardboard. Without the glass that cardboard fits perfectly in the frames.

Process pics:

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I like taking pictures of the progress since it's interesting how something often starts out super ugly but ends up awesome. I'm very happy with the final outcome.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Garlic Bread

Even though this isn't really a recipe (in the sense that the amounts of everything and what you include are up to you), I thought I should include my way for making garlic bread. I'm making a family cookbook for Holden so I've been taking pictures of the more basic things I cook regularly. In our house, garlic bread is definitely on that list. I love garlic and I adore bread. I would eat a loaf of French bread every day if I could. So finding the perfect garlic bread was a must for me.

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For a long time I messed around with different ways of making garlic bread, but this is by far my favorite. Everyone likes their garlic bread different, so just do what sounds right/good to you. I only have two real tips: Include a spoonful of mayonnaise (even if you hate mayo, like I do, I promise it will add a melty goodness to the bread without any discernible taste) and make sure you cook your bread for a good period of time. I used to try and rush my garlic bread, but a solid 25-30 minutes in the oven is a must.

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Garlic Bread

All of these amounts are up to you and based on what you have on hand.

Ingredients:

Butter (I usually just double however much mayo I use)
Mayo (only like a spoonful)
Garlic (I use like 5 cloves)
Parsley
Mozzarella (handful)
Parmesan (I didn't have any last time that's why there's none in the pic)
Sliced olives (I usually use a small can of sliced black olives, but green olives are also nice)
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

French bread, halved lengthwise

Directions:

1. Mix everything together in a small bowl and spread over your french bread.

2. Bake in a 350 degree over for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the edges are browned.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Week in Pictures

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I had a boring week, but a pretty awesome weekend. I got some new tights (I'm a little obsessed), a new haircut, went to Ikea, saw Toy Story 3, started a new picture, watched fireworks from my front step, and finally tried my hand at cooking leeks.

Not too bad.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Megan Fox and a Mannequin

These pictures of Megan Fox in Interview are so full of win I can't even describe how much I love them.

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The photographer, Craig McDean, is just brilliant and the idea suits Fox perfectly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'd like your advice...

I'm having a hard time deciding on whether or not I should change my blog template. I feel like I need a change, but I'm having a hard time committing.

See, I actually like this template. The only problem, besides me being finicky, is the fact the background of the posts isn't white. (And I'd prefer it to be white.) I've also gotten it into my mind that I just have to have a three column template this time. Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding anything I liked so I had to resort to the new blogger template designer thing. Even though it has a lot of neat features, for someone who only knows the very basics of html (just enough to screw everything up actually) it's kind of a nightmare.

This is what I have so far though:

Copy of sunshineandbones

I'm not sure I like the header with the grey background but I'm too lazy to deal with it right now. (You can see the actualy page here.)

Either way I'd like to know what you think. Knowing me I'll end up changing it no matter what, but I thought I'd throw it out there in case someone finds it completely atrocious or something like that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dead Broke Wallet

Anyone who knows me knows I adore zombies (is there anyone who doesn't?) and surprising details. This "Dead Broke Wallet" fits the bill on both accounts.


Isn't it just lovely? At $24.99 it isn't too expensive, but I could buy a dress for that much. Or a book. And books beat wallets that I'll probably never carry any day.

I love that this wallet is at Tilly's though. Just another reminder that even the lamest stores can offer good finds.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich

Spicy and fried are two of my most favoritest things in life. Add chicken, my love of bread, and a preference for ranch into the equation and a spicy chicken sandwich hits the spot in a way other food just can't compete (especially since I'm not much of a burger person).

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I found this recipe for Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich over at Food People Want and I am very happy with the way it turned out. This sandwich is reminiscent to Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich (which I LOVE) except you can tell it was made at home (which I prefer). I don't allow myself to fry food too often, but this sandwich is great for when I feel like eating something spicy and fried.

The only difference I would make to this recipe is dredging the cutlets in flour twice instead of just the once (so I would dredge the chicken in flour after I sprinkled it with Cajun seasoning and before putting it in the egg). Without the first dredging in flour the egg had a hard time adhering to the chicken and I think the extra flour adds more crunch. I also only marinated my chicken for about four hours since I forgot to let it sit overnight. The flavor was still really nice though so I wouldn't stress it. Lastly, I also brushed the chicken pieces with more Frank's Red Hot Sauce after I pulled them out of the oven.

Would I make this again? Oh yes.

Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich

Soaking the chicken overnight in a spicy buttermilk marinade not only adds great heat but also helps tenderize the chicken. If you don’t have self-rising flour on hand, make your own by combining 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. I’ve included a recipe for the Cajun seasoning I make at home, but any store-bought brand will work just as well here.

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced horizontally into 4 thin cutlets
1 cup buttermilk
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper Cajun seasoning for dusting (recipe follows)
1 cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 eggs
2 teaspoons hot sauce
Canola or vegetable for frying
4 sesame seed hamburger buns
Mayonnaise/ranch for spreading
4 leaves of butter or leaf lettuce
Tomato slices for garnish

Directions:

1. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl and whisk in the cayenne pepper. Add the chicken cutlets to the buttermilk mix and marinate them overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before frying. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the hot sauce and set aside. Pour the flour onto a clean plate and stir in the coarsely ground black pepper and set aside.

3. Drain the chicken cutlets from the buttermilk marinade and place on a clean plate. Sprinkle both sides of each cutlet heavily with Cajun seasoning (this is where I would dredge the chicken for the first time) before dunking it in the egg mixture. Quickly dredge the seasoned chicken in the flour-pepper mixture, making sure to shake off any excess. Place on a clean plate and repeat with remaining chicken.

4. Pour oil to a pan and heat over medium-high heat. Working 2 pieces of chicken at a time, carefully fry until crispy and golden brown, about 4-5 minutes per batch. Remove the fried chicken cutlets to a plate lined with paper towels and repeat with the remaining chicken. Keep first batch of chicken warm in a low, 200° oven.

5. Spread each half of the hamburger buns with mayonnaise (or ranch dressing) and top with a fried chicken cutlet, lettuce and tomato. Serve immediately.

Cajun Seasoning

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions:

Stir to combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in an airtight jar.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Alanna: The First Adventure


Title: Alanna: The First Adventure
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publishing Date: January 6th 2005 (first published 1983)
Paperback: 274 pages

Stand Alone or series: Book one of the Song of the Lioness series

Summary: (from goodreads)
Call it fate, call it intuition, or just call it common sense, but somehow young Alanna knows she isn't meant to become some proper lady cloistered in a convent. Instead, she wants to be a great warrior maiden--a female knight. But in the land of Tortall, women aren't allowed to train as warriors. So Alanna finds a way to switch places with her twin, Thom, and take his place as a knight in training at the palace of King Roald. Disguising herself as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page in the royal court. Soon, she is garnering the admiration of all around her, including the crown prince, with her strong work ethic and her thirst for knowledge. But all the while, she is haunted by the recurring vision of a black stone city that emanates evil... somehow she knows it is her fate to purge that place of its wickedness. But how will she find it? And can she fulfill her destiny while keeping her gender a secret?

Review:

By the summary you can tell this story is a bit cliched from the start. Alanna is a girl who doesn't want to be a fluffy lady-in-waiting, so she disguises herself as her twin brother so she can be a knight instead. As with the nature of these sorts of stories, Alanna quickly rises to the top, befriends all sorts of convenient characters, is destined for greatness, and with hard work and dedication eventually becomes the Prince's squire.

I just made it sound like I hated the book didn't I?

Well I definitely didn't hate the book, but I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more if I had first read it when I was younger. For me the story had a few problems.

1. The pacing was kind of odd I thought. Maybe this is just what happens when you try to span a few years in under 300 pages, but the way time moved in the story was rather sporadic and quite vague.

2. Even though I liked how Pierce wrote about how much Alanna was training (since so many books just leave that part out), I still had the impression that everything would always work out for Alanna. She was just a little too good at everything for my taste.

3. The story was light on the details. While some author's can go a bit crazy in detail, I thought this book could use some more. Because of that, a lot of the impact was lost and the plot was pretty transparent.

4. Even though I liked Alanna, most of the secondary characters were flat. They also seem to be in the story only to help Alanna.

Beyond those complaints, the story was still a good read. The lack of detail makes the book perfect for reading when you don't want to put too much energy into reading. As a character, I think young girls will enjoy Alanna's spunky nature.

Verdict:

I don't want it to seem like this book isn't worth reading, but then again the book is what it is. I will probably read this book to Holden when he's older, but I no intention on reading the other three books. Not because this book was bad, but because I just don't expect the other three books to get any better.

Plus, I think it's pretty obvious how some things are going to work out and I hate that.

Rating: 5. Blah – essentially neutral

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mark Ryden

Mark Ryden is by far one of my favorite artists. His surreal and whimsical paintings are just fantastic.


When I came across this video of Ryden painting one of his pictures I was blown away:



Isn't that just amazing?

If you're interested, you can see more of Ryden's work at his website.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Week(end) in Pictures

I don't think I'll ever get use to the weather here in Utah. One day it's gloriously sunny and warm, the next day is rainy and windy, and then later in the week it is hot as hell. There's just no happy medium here. We only get about two weeks of fabulous weather and those 14 days are no where near one another. It's frustrating to say the least.

These pictures were taken on one of those far too few really nice days. It was sunny, but not too hot, and everything had finally turned that really green color of the warmer months.

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I finally decided to try my hand at growing herbs. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have a black thumb but so far the herbs are holding out. There is something deeply satisfying about having herbs growing on my kitchen window and being able to clip off a spring of rosemary whenever I want. Plus, buying the herbs in plant form cost less then ten cents more then buying cut herbs in the produce section. So really there's nothing to lose.

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Abby" 06/10

I go through phases where I tend to focus on one creative hobby at a time. Because of that, there are times when I go months and months without painting anything. After a particularly long "dry spell" it's always a breath of fresh air when I finally get inspired to paint again.

This is a painting I made for one of Ryan's friends. We went to their daughter's first birthday on Saturday and I made this as their gift.

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I'm not particularly happy with the way it turned out, but it's alright. There wasn't enough time for me to go through and make my usual small changes, but what can you do?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Orange Balsamic Chicken with Pecans and Sage Butter Pasta

I just realized that this is the third Rachel Ray recipe I've posted in a row. I promise it's just coincidental and I'm not a secret peddler of Rachel Ray goods. I also apologize for the ridiculously long name of this recipe. I don't think every single flavor needs to be in the title but what you can you do?

Anyways, I made this recipe the other night and I was pleasantly surprised. There are a lot of different flavors going on and I was a bit worried they wouldn't all work together. Plus, I'm not a huge sage person. Luckily, everything turned out super tasty.

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The pictures may not be the most enticing, but the combination of the sweet chicken with the sage and the pecans was amazing. I also think the chicken would also be especially good over some rice.

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I didn't have and chicken thighs so I used breasts instead. I also used regular toasted pecans instead of honey-roasted ones. I used thin whole-wheat spaghetti and I wasn't too fond of the texture. Even after under cooking the spaghetti, it still turned out too overcooked for my taste once thrown in with the warm sage butter. So I'd recommend sticking with regular whole-wheat spaghetti. I'm sure dried rosemary would be fine, but I'd definitely go for fresh sage if you can. It will make all the difference in a dish like this.

Would I make this again? Yes, but not with the whole-wheat pasta.

Orange Balsamic Chicken Thighs with Pecans and Sage Butter Pasta

Ingredients:

Salt and pepper
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, quartered
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3 cups arugula or baby spinach
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sage leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1/3 cup honey-roasted pecans, chopped

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and the pot.

2. While the pasta is working, in a large skillet, heat the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Sprinkle the rosemary on top and cook the chicken until crispy and brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter.

3. Whisk the balsamic vinegar and marmalade into the skillet, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the arugula.

4. In the pasta pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sage and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the pasta and pasta water and toss. Add the 1/2 cup grated cheese and season with salt. Sprinkle the pecans on the chicken and serve with the pasta and a little extra cheese.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Music Thursday

Wow, Thursdays sure do come and go mighty fast. (I didn't even realize I missed last Thursday's music post until Saturday!) Anyhoo, New Music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

Fire by Kasabian:



Decorate By Yuna:



Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons:



In The Next Room by Neon Trees:



American Me by Access Immortal:



Comfort by Deb Talan:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

5 Things I Don't Want to Forget

I actually posted these little pictures I made quite a while ago. I was bored at the time and I try to do something creative everyday. The question, "What are five things you don't ever want to forget," was a SoulPancake challenge.

Copy of Copy of bittbox3
I am surrounded by love

wishbone
A backbone is more useful than a wishbone

strength
It takes more strength to build things up than it does to tear them down

teach
You teach people how to treat you


I really needed to remind myself of this one today:

success

The success of others does not impede my own success


*Concrete pictures taken by bittbox.