Monday, January 30, 2012

McCall Ice Festival

I went to the McCall Ice Festival yesterday.  Yes, we drove 2.5 hours both ways to walk around downtown McCall for about two hours, but it was fun to check it out.  I also was not feeling awesome from the previous night of mimosas and jager, so I took the liberty of spending most of the trip sleeping.  Big thanks to my friends who did the driving!

The Ice Festival includes 33 ice sculptures, a street fair, and plenty of other celebrations throughout the week. We didn't see all 33 - I think that would require a map or pro skills at navigating downtown McCall.

However, we thoroughly enjoyed the street fair, minus one major disappointment.  Upon seeing a lady with a delicious looking bloomin' onion, my friends and I looked at each other and knew we had to have one.  Stupidly, we assumed she must have gotten it from the trailor she was standing by, so we proceeded to order "onion rings."  Yes, we should have known but that bloomin' onion shut down all senses.  Imagine our disappointment when out comes normal onion rings, no bloomin' onion, and more importantly, no bloomin' onion sauce!  Even worse, we walked about twenty feet farther and found the bloomin' onion trailer.  Oh well - we still enjoyed a delicious foot long corn dog.

Here are some photos of the sculptures.  Jurassic Park won first place and that is the majority of the photos.

And here are a couple pictures from the trip up to Bogus Basin last weekend:

We were in a car with slightly cloudy windows so I couldn't get the best pictures, but you get the idea.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Thing-A-Day starts on February 1st. It is basically a pledge to do one thing per day, and that thing can be whatever you want.  Some examples are cleaning a room every day, painting your nails every day, cooking dinner every day, painting every day, etc.  It is a way to get yourself involved in something you enjoy and make a strong commitment to being creative.

It is also really cool because there is a collective blog where everyone posts what they are working on.  Not only do you make things yourself, but you can enjoy the fruits of everyone else's creativity.  

It is also quite challenging because one thing per day is very time consuming.  I really do think this will be fun, though, and I want to make it a priority for the month of February.

For my Thing-A-Day, I am going to do molecular gastronomy.  I want to make a new recipe each day.  I got a molecular gastronomy kit for Christmas, but I haven't had a chance to make anything.  Thing-A-Day will be the perfect excuse to get acquainted with my kit, and will allow me to explore all the possibilities of molecular gastronomy.  

I anticipate I will be making tidbits like this:

  • Custard ravioles
  • Mint caviar
  • Raspberry ravioles
  • Spherical tzatziki
I will be beginning with a kit my parents got my for Christmas from Molecule-R. I think you could probably assembly your own ingredients for cheaper, but this is great because it gives you a little bit of everything.

My kit comes with five different additives (ten packets of each):
  • Agar Agar
  • Calcium Lactate
  • Sodium Alginate
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Soy Lethicin
  • The kit also comes with five pipettes, one slotted spoon, a set of measuring spoons, a syringe, and three silicon tubs, in addition to a DVD of 50 recipes. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bogus Basin

Today, a group of my friends and I are heading up to Bogus Basin.
My friends are very excited for snow.  I am not. I don't think I have ever gone skiing without my Dad (maybe once or twice?).  We ALWAYS went with my Dad and it just seems like a fun family activity to me, rather than a friend activity.  It would be like celebrating Christmas with a group of friends and without your family.  It just doesn't feel right.  Not to mention always skiing with Dad means never having to pay for a pass!  Now that I have to pay for myself, skiing is even less appealing.

My current excuse for not skiing is I don't have my skis and I don't want to rent skis when I already have some.  However, I haven't tried my skis on in four years, so we will see how they fit when they finally get them.

Today I am accompanying another non-ski/board friend whose husband is part of the group boarding.  We are going to check out the lodge and pretend to be snow bunnies while the rest of them ski.  I am interested to see how Bogus compares to Crystal.

Everyone is excited the mountain is open finally (it took until about now, January, for it to open) but the base only has 47" of snow, which I don't think is very much. In comparison, Crystal Mountain currently has a full foot more of snow (59") at the base. 

If you asked me yesterday, I would have sworn Crystal was open something like 7:00 am - 9:00 pm and Idaho was a bunch of babies for only being open 9:00 am - 4:30 pm.  However, I just looked it up and apparently Crystal is only open 9:00 am - 4:00 pm.  How can that be?!  I swear we used to wake up at the crack of dawn and come home much later than four....I guess maybe we took the last lift up at four, then had to come all the way down, take off our gear, wait for the shuttle, and fight traffic back. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rachel Ray's Cajun Chili

I have had this Rachel Ray Cookbook (Yum-O) since high school:
The recipes all sound great, but for some reason, I never seem to make anything out of her cookbook (one reason may be the multitudes of cookbooks I have to chose from).

I wanted to find a classic chili recipe, so I figured Rachel would be a good person to start with.  I chose her "Cajun Chili with Scallion Corn Cakes" recipe.

However, I should say up front I did NOT like the results the first day.  I didn't start to really enjoy this chili until day two, and then something changed and the chili was delicious. So if you are planning to make it for some event (Super Bowl Sunday?) then I would suggest making it a day or two in advance.

I also made a few adjustments, so the first section of ingredients is what Rachel calls for and the second set are what I added.

See BELOW Cajun Chili recipe for Scallion Corn Cakes - these were my favorite takeaway from making this meal.

Ingredients for Cajun Chili:
1.5 pounds lean ground pork
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
4 shakes cayenne pepper sauce (Frank's Red Hot or Tabasco)
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 bottle of beer
1 can (14oz) crushed tomatoes
handful chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt, to taste

First of all, I think using half of a vegetable is a waste because odds are I will be eating chili for the next week and will have nothing to use the vegetables in.  Also, more vegetables means healthier chili, so why not? I used the WHOLE onion, red pepper and green pepper.  I could also only find a 28oz can of tomatoes, so I used all 28 ounces.  I used the entire bunch of cilantro. 

The only "use the whole thing" I would be careful about is the beer.  I used a whole bottle of beer and it definitely had a distinct taste.  Like I said above, this mellowed out after a few days.  However, if you are serving immediately, definitely be cognizant of how much beer you use.  Maybe just drink the leftover while you are cooking.

I also added:
Another Tablespoon chili powder
1 minced jalapeno
MUCH more Tabasco (and I don't even care for spicy things)
1 lime
half cup quinoa (note that if you don't use the slow cooker method, you will want to cook your quinoa first and then add it.  My quinoa wasn't fully cooked until the morning after I used my slow cooker)

Instructions for Cajun Chili:

1) Heat a big pot over high heat (I used a deep set saucepan type pan, but a pot would work too.  Use whatever you want to make the chili in).  Yes, use high heat.  I was scared but it worked.

2) Add your pork to the pot.  Season with chili powder, cumin and cayenne sauce.  I couldn't believe this is called Cajun chili and only called for four dashes of hot sauce.  I added plenty more while cooking and it didn't taste hot at all.  I don't even like things spicy but kept adding hot sauce.  So my point is add your hot sauce to taste.

3) Brown the meat for 5 minutes.

4) Add onion, garlic, celery, bell peppers, jalapeno, and lime juice.  Cook, stiring/shaking the pan, for 3 or 4 more minutes.

5) Add the beer and stir everything together, scraping the bottom to get the burned bits.  Add tomatoes and cilantro, plus quinoa if using (remember, pre cook the quinoa if you are not going to use a slow cooker).  Bring to a boil and season with salt.

Essentially, your chili is done here.  However, I then added the whole mixture to my crockpot and let it cook overnight.  I don't know the difference in taste, but it turned out great.

Rachel's Scallion Corn Cakes:

1 package Jiffy corn bread mix
1 egg
2 scallions (I prefer more like 4)
Butter/vegetable spray

Follow the instructions on the jiffy box for making corn pancakes, but add scallions to the mix.  I bunched my scallions up and used scissors to cut them right into the bowl.

Then, depending on what occasion and who you are serving, make the appropriate size scallion corn cakes.  For instance, if you are serving a lot of people small servings, make small corn cakes.  If this is a meal for your family, make them larger.

The way I like to eat them is the crumble them up into the chili and mix it in.  However, if you master the art of pancake making, I bet you could make them look really pretty and masterfully display them on top.

Either way, I GREATLY prefer the corn cakes to corn bread.  I am not sure exactly why - maybe the texture?  They taste awesome and are really easy to make. 

When cooking mine, I did about 3 minutes on the first side and two minutes on the other side.  Be careful though...the smaller you make them, the quicker they cook and they get easier to burn.

To serve my chili, I melt in cheese, add sour cream, and crumble in a corn cake.  Voila!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Clothes

I have been doing some online shopping to treat myself with some of my Christmas money.  I am really starting to like online shopping because I am a huge bargain shopper.  Online shopping lets me stake out what I want, keep an eye on it, search for coupon codes, and think about my purchases.  The only thing I don't like is the element of surprise - Will it fit?  Will I like it?  However, I have been finding methods of online shopping that help mitigate these issues.

First and foremost, JCPenney Ship to Store! I just did this for the first time, and it was fantastic.  I wanted these Worthington Welt Pocket Pants.
I couldn't find them in the JCPenney store, and they were only $22 dollars online, so I decided to go for it.  Here is the key - I picked Ship to Store as my shipping option.  Shipping is *free* and they call you when your package arrives at your select JCPenney store.

When you go to pick it up, you go to the Catalog/Customer Service area, which is guaranteed to be tucked away in some obscure corner.  You need your phone number and the credit card with which you purchased your item.  Then you get your goods!

The best part is I got my pants, went into the dressing room, tried them on, and was able to return them immediately.  I was sad they didn't fit, but it was so easy to return them.  All I had to do was hand them back to the sales associate.  Shipping was free and he refunded my credit card.  The only inconvenience is it will take a few days until my card is refunded. 

By the way, these pants are fantastic, especially for $22.  They are made of a really comfortable fabric and the cut is really great.  My problem was the pants were WAY too big.  Other than that, I would recommend anyone purchase them.  If you do, though, go down a size.  I don't think you can find a better or cuter pair of business pants for $22 anywhere.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Salad with Seeds

I was feeling lazy tonight.  So lazy, in fact, I was trying to decide between orange juice or a fruit smoothie for dinner.  I decided chopping and dicing was out of the question, but I hadn't eaten many vegetables during the day (just a handful of snow peas as part of breakfast) so I decided to make a salad.

I would say I have mastered the art of amping up a salad with herbs and I can make a mean salad dressing.  However, I never ever use seeds!  I saw a recipe in Cosmo (February 2012) for a salad with seeds, and I decided that would be the perfect way to go - delicious, filling, and no chopping.

I used pumpkin seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds.  Fennel was new for me.  I always hear them using it on Iron Chef and Top Chef, but had no idea what it tastes like.  It tastes like a spicy licorice flavor - really tasty.  However, if you aren't used to experimenting with new flavors, you might want to go easy on the fennel until you get used to it.

I got my pumpkin seeds from the snack part of the grocery store - where they have corn nuts, peanuts, etc.  Not the best place, but if I didn't feel like chopping you better believe I didn't feel like digging around in a pumpkin for seeds!

I used 1 teaspoon fennel, 2 tablespoons sesame, two tablespoons poppy, and about 3/4 of a packet of pumpkin seeds.

Toast them over medium heat on your stove top until they start to brown and smell good.

Then, fill your plate with spinach.  I didn't feel like making a dressing either, so I drizzled my salad with a bit of olive oil and ate it with a half lemon on the side.  I also added salt and pepper, as well as some mushrooms I had in the fridge.

The verdict?  A nice new way to enjoy a spinach salad.  One warning though.  Check your teeth after eating! You will have seeds all up in your grill, so make sure you don't want around unaware :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fruit Smoothie and Face Mask

Today is a very special day, so naturally I wanted to celebrate it in a special way.  No, not any sort of national holiday...but the return of Desperate Housewives and Pan Am!!!

In order to celebrate, I did a few things.

First, I pushed my couch back against the dining room table, giving me plenty of floor space.  I covered the ground with my white comforter, added five fluffy pillows, and my favorite Vandal blanket.  Then I lit all five of my candles to allow me some light even with all the overhead lights turned off.  I made a big comfy nest to lay in and watch TV.

Then, I whipped up a face mask I got from the February edition of Cosmo. 

4 strawberries
Half of a banana
2 slices papaya - remove seeds
2 Tablespoons yogurt (use Greek - it will make the smoothie portion much better)
1Tablespoon honey
Quarter cup sugar - use less if you plan to drink it like I did and want it to be healthy.  I did 2 Tablespoons or so

Blend all ingredients together.  You will find this makes quite a bit.  I am not sure if Cosmo intended this to be a face mask for a whole gaggle of girls or what - there is enough for at least 20 faces!  Rather than throw the rest of my mixture away or save it in the fridge, I decided it was delicious and tasty, so why not eat it for dinner?

Put the blended smoothie into the freezer for at least 15 minutes but not long enough to freeze.  You just want to get it cold so it tastes good and feels even better on your face.

When ready, remove the smoothie from the freezer, put on a headband, and pull your hair back.  Smooth the mixture all over your face and leave on for 15 minutes.

Pour the remainder into a fancy wine glass, decorate your glass with a papaya slice and strawberry, then sit back and enjoy. Desperate Housewives and Pan Am not required but highly recommended.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Okay Back For Real

So back on Monday was a bit of a lie - this week was way busier than I thought.  My boyfriend ended up visiting Tuesday and Wednesday, I worked til at least 8 two nights, and I went into work this weekend.  It has been busy but enjoyable.  Now it is Saturday and I am done at work and my apartment is clean (okay just the living room and kitchen, but that counts) and I finally have some free time! 

Right now I am listening to Adele through my iPhone on my new Phillips speaker my parents got me for Christmas - it sounds great.  I am drinking fresh apple-pear-lemon juice I just made in my new juicer I got for Christmas (thanks Santa/Mom/Dad!) and I also have a new magazine I just got in the mail today. Life is go0o0o0o0d!!!

With some of my Christmas money, I decided to buy myself two presents - Lancome Hypnose Doll Lashes Mascara in So Black! and Lancome Limited Edition Spring 2012 Collection Eye Palette Eye Brightening All-In-One 5-Shadow and Liner in Rose Coquette (whew, thats a mouthful). 

Lancome makeup isn't cheap, but is my favorite when it comes to mascaras and they have the best foundation I have ever used.  It is also really fun to buy, because you usually get 4 or 5 samples for free with your order.  I decided to splurge and buy some fancy eye makeup - I use mascara every day, so this sounded reasonable to me (however, the same logic does not apply to other necessities - while yes, I do wear a bra and underwear every day, I do not justify their purchases in the same manner and can't stand having to shop for them!).

I bought my mascara at the Dillards makeup counter.  It was $25.  I hadn't realized it smells slightly of roses until I read the reviews, but yes, it does have a bit of a rose smell.  I think it might bug some sensitive eyes, but it didn't bother me at all.

The mascara has 4 star reviews for effect, performance, value and texture.

One of the main complaints I was worried about is people said this mascara is super clumpy.  I have not found that to be the case.  However, I think people are having this problem because they try to do the standard two or three coats of mascara.  With this mascara, it is really important to only do one coat.  I take my time and repeatedly brush through my lashes until they are exactly how I want them and then, hands off!  Another coat does NOT work well at all.  Therefore, this is not a good mascara if you like to have a day look and a dramatic look and you try to achieve that by layering on more coats.  It is a great everyday look though, and also strong enough to wear at night if you aren't looking for too much drama.

Interestingly, I didn't like this mascara at all the first time I used it and a lot of other reviewers said the same thing.  I am not sure why that happens.  Maybe it is expectations?  After using it about two times, I have grown to absolutely love it (as do other reviewers). I am not sure if it conditions lashes each time, making me like it more over time.  I am not sure if I finally mastered the correct way to apply it, which is why I like it so much now.  Who knows.  All I know is if you get this mascara, give yourself a few days.  Don't be disapointed and toss it in a drawer or return it.

I knew I wanted the Rose Coquette color of eyeshadow because I always read about pink being a trendy color for eyeshadow, but I have never owned anything other than a very light, shimmery pink color.  I thought this would be a good way to be adventurous and if I didn't like the pink, I would at least like the shimmery brown highlightere and light pink base coat.  Unfortunatley, Dillards AND Macys were both out of the Rose Coquette color!  I had to order it online.  It sucked I had to wait so long for my package to come, but it was a blessing in disguise because I got five free samples.

This eyeshadow is great because it has five colors that go excellent together - black liner, a light pink basecoat, a pink lid color, a shimmery brown highlighter, and a dark brown crease shade.  My very favorite is the brown highlighter color - it has the perfect amount of sparkle and can best be described as a "sandy" color.  I also love the light pink basecoat.  Even if I am not wearing much eyeshadow, I always even out my eyelids with a base color (usually a neutral tan).  This light pink evens everything out, brightens my eyes, and isn't obvious.  It has one of those "I know you did something but I am not sure what" effects.

The pink I am still iffy about.  It is a pretty bright pink.  I was expecting more of a rose color.  However, with a third of my lid darkened in the corner with the brown and the other third highlighted with the sand, it does look awesome to have a pop of pink in the middle.

Here are the free samples I got with my order:
  • Small Color Design Groupie Shimmer Lipstick

  • Absolute Premium Rx Replenishing Cream
  • Absolute Ultimate Rx Replenishing and Restructuring Serum
  • Absolute Night Premium Rx Night Recovery Cream
  • Absolute Eye Premium Rx Eye Cream
It will be fun to try them out in the next few days.  I am always weary of eye cream though - I got some Estee Lauder Eye Cream a few years ago for Christmas.  After eagerly applying it at night, I woke up with a rash all around my eyes.  Horrible! Now I have to spot check everything (apply it to a tiny part of my face and wait 24 hours to see what happens) and the anticipation kills me.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back tomorrow

Holidays have been wonderful but busy...I will be back tomorow with plenty of tasty foods to eat.  In addition, you can see some of the amazing drinks I have been making in my juicer!

Also can't wait to make this scarf.  My mom gave me a kit for Christmas.