Friday, May 1, 2009

Sometimes I feel like cooking, sometimes I don't!

Last week sometimes, I felt like cooking, so I looked up recipes. I picked the Chicken Wrap with Mango, Basil, and Mint from It turned out very good and it was fun to put together.

Here's the recipe:

For the chicken:

1 garlic clove
1/2 shallot
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces total)

Make the chicken: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Finely chop garlic and shallot in a food processor. Add basil and oil, and process until mixture forms a coarse paste. Stir in salt and cinnamon, and season with pepper.

Make a few shallow 1/2-inch slits on both sides of chicken; rub all over with the basil mixture.

Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake chicken until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely, then shred into small pieces; set aside.

For the Dressing:

1/2 shallot
1/2 mango, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Make the dressing: Finely chop shallot in the clean bowl of the food processor. Add mango, and process until smooth. Add the lime juice and cayenne, and process until combined.

For Assembling:

4 lavash breads (3 1/2 ounces each, I used tortillas)
1/2 mango, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick spears
8 fresh basil leaves
8 fresh mint leaves

Assemble wraps: Spread about 1/4 cup mango dressing in center of each lavash*. Top with chicken, mango, and herbs**. Roll up diagonally to form a cone.

* I like to make sure it's all over, not all in one spot.

** My pieces are a bit big for my tortilla, oh well... I like to put full leaves so you really taste the herbs.

Note: Wraps can be refrigerated, wrapped in parchment and plastic, up to 4 hours. It's 4 servings and there's only 2 of us, so that made for some great Bento fare the following day!

Last night I did NOT feel like cooking. I called my husband, offered for us to order out. We went at it back and forth, Indian food? Sushi? Thai? Do we take out, or do we eat out?

I don't feel like eating out. I've been moving furniture all day, I just don't. Then I got to think that if I'm not motivated enough to eat out, than I shouldn't eat restaurant food right?

Starting to feel a little guilty for being so lazy I went in the kitchen and looked for something quick and easy. I had leftover Bulgar, a couple of leeks, half a bunch of asparagus, zucchini, eggs, I had plenty of food in there!

Explanations won't be too precise as I made it up as I went. It turned out really good though!

Here's what I came up with:

Ok, the Bulgar bowl is ugly, sorry about that, but otherwise, for a quick easy meal, it's pretty neat right?

The soup is a Leek-Asparagus-Zucchini soup. I sauteed the leeks, then added asparagus (saving the heads) and then the zucchinis. Once it all started to brown, I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, a little cumin, and chopped fresh basil, chicken broth (just enough to barely cover), added a diced potato and simmered for about 15 minutes. I pureed the whole thing, added a few basil ribbons et voila.

For this frittata, I thinly sliced a shallot, sauteed that with the asparagus heads. I let the pan cool a little, while it did I mixed a whole egg, 4 egg whites, cumin and pepper to taste. I added that to the pan, added the cooked asparagus and shallot. I had leftover steamed zucchini slices already so I put them over the whole thing and decorated with basil ribbons.

I cooked the whole thing on the stove until almost set, then put in the over for about 7-8 minutes to finish setting.

The whole thing took about I don't know, 20 minutes? I shopped veggies and basil for the two dish together. It turned out really good, and satisfying.

So there, cooking doesn't have to be a big project, or even a big adventure, but it can be if you want it to be!

Be good n stuff!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stir-frying and a neat breakfast!

Last night I decided to try a stir-fry recipe that a friend pointed out to me. It turned out wonderfully and is something that will be done again in our place.

The recipe is to be found on Heidi Swanson's blog 101 Cookbooks, which is a favorite of mine. It's the Asparagus Stir-fry Recipe. If you have time, look through her recipes, they are great! Don't expect precise measurements, or directions, BUT it's an awesome place for original recipes.

So, it reminded me that I had not talked about stir-fry much. I rarely stir-fry with a recipe since to me, a stir-fry is a "take whatever you have a throw it together" kind of dish. Kind of like a soup. Still there are a few things that I've learned along the way (most of the time the hard way AH!).

First thing to remember is that a stir-fry is all about preparation. You need to make sure that your ingredients are dry, you want to stir-fry, not steam. You also want to make sure that the size your cut your ingredient into will insure an even cooking.

Here I am cutting Tofu:

Another thing about Tofu is that you want to drain it and press it well. Wet Tofu is mushy tofu, and there's nothing I hate more than mushy tofu in a stir-fry. Yuck!

Draining, well, you drain the water... DUH! Pressing takes a little time, but it's totally worth it.

1- I put my block of tofu on a few layers of paper towel, folded the paper towel over to cover the tofu, put a heavy book on top or a plate.

2- Turn after about 20 minutes, let sit another 20 minutes or so.

3- Remove from the paper towel and cut into shapes. It's also a good prep to marinate tofu to bake!

So after this hopefully helpful tofu lesson, lets get back to stir-frying:

Note that not only do I prepare everything in advance, but I have everything within reach. That's very important because once you start, everything happens really fast!

I use a non-stick wok because I want to use little oil (I do use some though!) and I hate cleaning. it's that simple. Purist will say that you need to use a "real wok", to them I say whenever you offer to come and clean for me, I will.

Cooking is where the magic happens, your wok has to be hot, and things need to keep moving.

You don't want to overcook the vegetables, they just have to be crisp tender which is why you usually cook the meat/tofu first, and then take them out, cook the veggies, and add the proteins back in at the last minute.

So there you have it stir-frying for the clueless (like me) who didn't know a thing about it. ;op

I cannot leave without bragging a little about this morning's breakfast. I've been in an oatmeal phase, but today I just didn't wanna. I looked in the fridge and found inspiration in there.

Here's my breakfast:

Looks neat doesn't it? It's nothing fancy, leftover couscous, chopped spinach, red bell pepper, and a lightly scrambled egg (which was supposed to be an over-easy egg, but shit happens He he he).

It was delicious, and I think pretty. I just had to brag a little!

Be good n stuff!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Wednesday!

It's Wednesday and I got to go back to the Farmer's Market at the Civic Center. As much as I love the Embarcadero Farmer's Market (Tuesday and Saturday) at the Ferry Building, it's not a place that I can afford to shop at every week. After asking a few people, and looking it up on, I decided to give the "Loin Market" a try.

I got myself a new smaller basket (easier on the bus), added a Trader Joes Shopping bag (those are the BEST!) and off I went.

Now the Civic Center is pretty much in the Tenderloin. Today I walked from the Weight Watchers Center on 1st street to the Farmer's Market. I swear you walk on Market Street, and it's like 5th Street is a gateway to another world. A very sad messed up world. San Francisco has two speed, full tilt and not going anywhere. :o( I could go on, but that is not the subject at hand here...

Back to the market:

That's about the nicest spot in the entire thing. Yeah the place stinks a little, some dude is selling live chickens from the back of a truck, and the fragrance coming out of that truck gives a whole new vibe to the neighborhood.

The first two times I went (these pictures are from the first time I went actually) I went in the morning, every stand was full, the crowd was very nice and tame. Vendors were happy and willing to talk, explain, make some deals... If you can, go in the morning it's much much nicer.

Today I went in the afternoon, just before closing and found a very different market. There were a lot of homeless people begging and getting in troubles. There was also more people who were there just to hang out. Lets just say that the food wasn't the center of attention. There were also a LOT of pickpockets hard at work.

Doesn't sound too interesting does it? I love the place! Just need to go in the morning. The prices are a lot cheaper than the Embarcadero (or the Sonoma County Farmer's Market I must say) and you find a lot of produces that aren't that easy to find usually. Lemon grass in huge bunches, some sort of squash that I have no clue what they are.

I like this little herbs and vegetables plants vendor. So funny, if you're buying, you can't find him, if you aren't, he's all over the place!

My husband's ideal hangout! The Mushroom stand! They have everything and anything there. I haven't bought anything yet (cause my husband won't LOOK at mushroom, much less eat them), but I'm planning on experimenting a bit soon.

So the Market goes all the way to Market Street. The closer you get to Market, the higher the price. It's really funny, the oranges go from 65 cent/lb to $1.25/lb as you go.

The stand you see on the left here (above) is my main stop. Not sure his stuff is organic, but it's cheap, and tasty, and the guys working there are easy going (again, better in the morning!).

Here's what I bought on my first trip! All that for about $20 and I could have saved more, I didn't know the different stands.

So, this market is my weekly stop. Yes it's dirty, stinky, and the crowd there is... original, but the prices are unbeatable and if you go in the morning, the vendors are very helpful and "happy".

I also like that the vendors aren't pushy, and that the crowd isn't impatient. I like to pick my own veggies and take my time choosing, that's part of the fun of going to the Farmer's Market. At the Ferry Building, you get the memo pretty quick to either buy or get out of the way.

Warning: If you go to that Farmer's Market, check your belonging. Also, stay away from the fountain as it's a hangout spot for the "Loin crowd".

Be good n stuff!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

So we moved...

So we moved, and survived! I've been meaning to post about this for a month now, but I needed to take a breather from everything, work, blogging, thinking... Everything!

This week is back to reality week, so I thought I'd start with catching up on my blogging!

We moved from a 2 floor, 2 bedroom condo in Rohnert Park to a 1 bedroom flat in San Francisco. Sounds sad doesn't it? We LOVE IT. We're close to the beaches, in the neighborhood we both love (Richmond District rocks!) far away from the traffic, but within walking distance of everything. I think it's the best decision we've taken since we got married!

This being said, it doesn't mean it was an easy process. I'm still shocked at the amount of stuff you can accumulate in 5 years. It was ridiculous.

We had planned to move in June, but found an apartment in February (in by March 1st!) so we had to pack in a hurry. It was pretty traumatic, but we did it. I think the pets are still recovering. Here's Grace and Leo trying to comfort each others amid the madness:

We hired movers, Corrib (a bunch of Irish guys, with lovely accent), and the did a fantastic job of emptying the house, and bringing everything up to the 3rd floor apartment. The poor guys wouldn't believe the amount of books we had!

We were happy to "be moved" until we looked around our little apartment. Here's what it looked like after the movers left:

To say that we were intimidated by the pile of stuff is certainly an understatement. I had hoped to be all done the following night. Yeah right! We still have a few boxes left...

One thing we had decided on from the start was to get ourselves drawer dressers for our clothes. The one we had were Goodwill leftovers, and they were as much of a pain to work with as they were ugly. So we ordered from Sears. What we got was nice and fine, but the packaging was HORRIBLE. We're still finding those little freakin' Styrofoam balls everywhere. I'm sure Leo has been pooping them all month.

I'm sad to say that the company making those dressers is from Quebec. We usually have a little more pride in our work back home!

The pets have now adjusted to the new place. It's too small for Leo to burn his super-hyperactive self, but he's slowing down gradually. We do play with him a lot.

Grace is loving San Francisco. We go to the beach regularly, she walks more in a day here than she did in a week in Rohnert Park. I take her everywhere with me. She's now very used to waiting for me outside shops and markets. She sits quietly and don't even jump when bus go by.

During the move she did have a few nervous moments. She finally crashed when we found her beds and cleared a space for them. I think she slept like a whole hour straight!

Gaya has moved many times in her 11 years of life. When I lived in Rimouski (Quebec) we used to move twice a year almost every year!Then all the way to San Francisco (pretty much coast to coast), then Sonoma County and now back in the city. She didn't enjoy it, but she was up and about, exploring the new place in no time.

Leo is another story. My little hyperactive, fearless monster is the one who took the move the hardest. It didn't help that at first we were getting annoyed with his antics. After a few days I realized that the poor fuzzball was actually really stressing out.

From that point on, I made a special effort to give him a lot of play time and cuddle time. I think it really helped. He's now well adjusted and has made peace with the new place. He still runs like an idiot, but that's Leo being Leo, not a nervous reaction anymore. He's not even a year old yet, I'm not expecting him to slow down anytime soon.

He does stop every once in a while, and generally in the weirdest places. That's him hiding from the commotion when we were opening boxes and putting stuff away:

As for us we really are happy. I've been roaming the Farmers Markets, enjoying shopping at Chico (produce market) and the other little markets around. I've hit Kamei and Ichiban Kan more than I should have but I'm loving this.

I'm also walking a lot more and spending a lot of time outside. Strangely I didn't do that in Sonoma County. Here I can breathe!

My husband is happy as can be. I don't think he ever got used to Sonoma County, he hated it and has been dreaming of coming back from the time we settled in at the condo. He even had his breakfast at Joes the first week I went to work my Sunday am meeting!!!

We wake up to the sound of the fog horns, the smell of the sea breeze and the bangs and clangs of Leo slowly destroying everything we own. What else can we ask for? He he he

Be good n stuff!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A picnic indoors!

Have I mentioned anywhere that I'm moving? This week is moving week, I'm spending the week loading my little car with whatever will fit, driving it all the way to San Francisco, and once there, taking it all upstairs.

After I'm done with that I clean another part of the apartment, and come home. Now it might not sound like it, but it's a LOT of work, and it's pretty depressing to do alone. After I complained enough, my husband took the opportunity of a car problem, to come along and help me out today. We did a lot of work, all that is left is washing the floor!

At dinner time we decided to order Indian food. The owner of Great India must have dollars sign in his eyes knowing that, not only we're back in the neighborhood, but we're a block closer than we used to be!

My husband went and got Indian food, came home and realized he had forgotten to get forks! Oh No! You can't eat curry without silverware now can you? So he had to head back out, walk down to Cala(don't know what it's called now, to me it's always been and always will be Cala Foods!) and buy us a box of plastic ware. Seen on the right of the following picture:

Nice set up huh? We eat in style even when we don't have furniture yet! Tablecloth and everything.

Well the story is, I felt so bad that he had to go back, and I knew he felt crummy for forgetting, so I decided to put things together so that we'd have an indoor picnic! We had the picnic basket with everything (except forks and spoons!) so I got creative.

Interesting legs on that table don't you think?

I did miscalculate a bit because I wanted it all ready when he came in so I made my "table" a little too high. It didn't bother him much of course, he's tall, but I had a hard time eating with such a high table.

Mmmmmmmmm Great India food.... It's not excatly eating "thin" but it's mostly healthy (except the ghee!) and it's soooo good...

Here's how I did it. It's an old truck I used to carry my sweaters! I put it on boxes, et voila! Instant picnic table!

Nothing is too good for the working class! We had fun, and I think he really appreciated it. ;o)

Be good n stuff!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Announcement - Announcement - Announcement

Hi Everybody!

Between my laptop being down, the apartment hunt, and now packing, I have been unable to post on either blog.

I have made a few Bento Boxes (though not many) and have been up and about, but I will get back to my regular schedule hopefully soon.

At the worst, I should be done moving by the second week of Mars. I'm hoping to be able to get back to posting before that, but that hopefully.

Keep on keeping on!!! I will soon be sharing my San Francisco adventures!!!!

I am so excited! Be good n stuff


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What would a member say?

Like most people in the USA, we're feeling the bite of the housing melt down. I don't deal well with money. I don't know a thing about it, I don't like it, I'd be much happier if we could just exchange stuff like the cavemen... I know...

For the last few weeks I haven't been sleeping very well. I turn things in my mind all night and try to find solutions to problems I really don't understand. Last night I decided I would sleep in this morning to make up for the lost sleep.

I actually fell asleep pretty quickly, which is a miracle for me, and slept for a long time. Forget about sleeping in though. 4:30am, I'm wide awake staring at the ceiling. "What if we're making a mistake? What if we take the wrong path? What if we lose everything? What if I have to give up my dog?" I was working myself up to a panic so I decided to get up.

I know what I'll do, I'll cook us a big breakfast, that will make us feel better. I started down the stairs thinking eggs, cooked ham (we don't have bacon) toast, the whole thing.

I stopped in the middle of the stairs, what the hell was I thinking? What did we talk about last week at the meetings? How is food going to solve our financial problems? Make us any wiser? How will getting fat help me find a job?

I sat on the stairs, Leo the monster kitten got in my lap, and I started looking back at the last few weeks. I've been doing that a lot, the whole "this will make me feel better", or "I don't give a crap, I deserve it". Not enough to gain weight or anything, but it's a slipping slope, and I'm slipping fast. This is not working, what do I do?

"What would you tell a member?" I always ask myself in such situations. Honestly, I have no idea. I have a few platitude, automatic responses that apparently don't mean all that much cause they aren't helping me. I don't have all the solution, all the wise words. I just don't.

"What would a member say to another member?" Hum, now that's a different question. 4:45am, sitting in the stairs, on the edge of a binge, trying to figure this out, what would a member say to another member? "Get your ass to a gym, and work it out. Then you'll be able to think clearly."

You know, that's probably what my peeps on the message board would say too. I looked downstairs and my net bag with my board and pull buoy was hanging from the closet door. I'm going for a swim!

I swam hard for over 45 minutes. At some point all I could think about was "Pull, pull, pull" I knew I was pushing too hard, but it felt so good. I love swimming, it's like moving meditation. I was able to empty my mind, work out all the negative energy. My arms are hurting, my legs and hips are hurting, I'm worn out, but I feel calm, ready to face the world.

I can't control everything, I can only do my best, but I sure can take care of myself so that I'm ready to hit the ground running when things start moving.

The leader doesn't have all the solutions, but the members sure do!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A New Look!

Well dear readers, here you have it! Willow's Home finally got it's very own look!

I have wanted to give Willow's Lifestyle and Willow's Bento Box a look that is my own ever since I started them, but I needed help.

It took some nagging, but Mister Willow (actually my husband Dan Ross) finally decided today that he would sit down and do it. The spice background and the spice lettering are made from a photo I took and that Dan transformed into lettering and background.

There will be other upgrades and creations as time goes by, but the basis of what I want my blogs to look like is there. Finally!

A great huge loving thank you to Dan for taking the time to do it (and putting up with me in the process ;op).

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sushi Bowls, Oh my!

Doing some reading, I found out that you can buy very decent precooked unagi frozen at Asian market. My husband and I both LOVE unagi, so I stopped by the little market in Petaluma called "New Asian Market" at the North end of McDowell (by the OSH hardware store).

I bought all sorts of stuff there, I always do, and came home to make sushi rolls.

I put the brown sushi rice (get that at Olivers! in Cotati) in the rice cooker, and started looking at what I had to work with. I had plenty of nori, vegetables and of course a big pack of unagi.

I had two problems though: 1- I was too tired to bother with rolls; 2- in rolls, it's hard to really taste the unagi enough to know if it's a keeper.

Instead I decided to make "sushi bowls". I've made sushi bowls before to treat myself for lunch, but my husband had never seen them so I thought I'd surprise him with it.

I seasoned the rice the same way you would for sushi, 1/3 cup of rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp miring and about 1-2 tsp salt for 3 cups of uncooked rice. I mixed the whole thing, and then was ready to start with my Sushi Bowls. Here's how I made them:

I measured 1 cup of rice in each bowl (using my measure-rite system from Weight Watchers, I'm such a nerd LOL).

I dumped the rice in there, but then I used my spatula to spread it gently in the bowl.

While the rice was cooking, I steamed thin carrot sticks and edamame (Trader Joes)I had leftover. I added a little mirin to the water to give the vegetable some taste. I added cucumber sticks after I was done steaming.

I spread the vegetable on the rice trying to spread the colors.

I added nori strips mainly for color, but also because I like the "fishy" taste of nori.

See? That in itself could be a very nice vegetarian Sushi Bowl wouldn't it?

But I had something else to add: Unagi! I bought it cooked but frozen, cut the pack in 2 and put one part back in the freezer for another time. I put this half in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 F to thaw it out.

I put it on the rack so that it wouldn't get "soggy" at the bottom. I HATE soggy fish, eeeewww.

I put the unagi on the cutting board and cut it in pieces.

I am very neurotic about both portions being the same. I grew up with 2 brothers and to this day I expect my husband to say "You got more than me!!!". He would never I'm sure, but...

So I cut it in half lengthwise, and then made the pieces the other way. That way each gets half.

I placed each piece in the bowls and tried to spread them in a pretty manner. I was getting hungry though, so it got less "fuffy" as I went.

Here's what it ended up looking like. Cute huh? It was just delicious! Honestly, it was also easy. I have a Zojirushi fuzzy logic rice cooker, so it's pretty much "put the rice the water and forget it". The unagi was precooked, and the rest is just cutting and steaming veggies!

If you clean your rice cooker right away, the rest is nothing really.

I had leftover rice, so I made onigiri that I broiled and frozen for bento use later on. Here they are:

So that's today's adventure, it was easy, it was interesting and it was just delicious! I love when it works!

Be good n stuff!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A good start to 2009

Happy New Year!

If I have one "motto" for 2009, I think it will be "Keep it simple but effective". I'm tired of trying to do everything all at once and ending up doing nothing. Ever feel that way?

So, no big challenges, no grand plan to reinvent the wheel. We have a new plan at Weight Watchers and I'm approaching it as a new member. I'm reading the plan, following the plan as written without any attempt to "better the plan".

I've also started a major decluttering of the house. It's the second time we do it, and this time it's for real. We plan on moving this year, so I'm pairing down what I own to the minimum. It's so refreshing to let go of stuff and just go back to the essential! I love it!

I'm also simplified my cooking a lot. I got to the point where cooking meant 2-3 hours in the kitchen, to the point where I wasn't enjoying cooking anymore.

I've been trying now to cook once for at least 2 days of food. This started with a need to save money, and now honestly, it makes my life much easier.

Here's a few sample of my "cook now eat a few meals":

Barley Pilaf:

Thursday night we had a vegetarian attack. I made a Spicy Barley Pilaf that I served with roasted asparagus and zucchini slices.

The following day we ate the leftover barley with sandwiches.

I know, barley with bread, carbs galore, but see? that's what I mean by keeping it simple. I wanted bread and barley, I had bread and barley. Counted it, end of the story.

Last summer I would have felt the need to cook something complicated because you just can't have bread with barley. Guess what? I did, and I survived!

Caribbean Drumsticks
and Vegetable Rice:

Saturday we had a lot to do so early in the morning I prepared everything to make Caribbean Drumsticks in the crock pot. I went to Costco and put the chicken to cook when I came back.

It cooked all day smelling just heavenly.

When we started getting hungry, I threw chopped onion, carrots, celery and red bell pepper in the chopper attachment of my immersion blender. Minced all that and sauteed it a few minutes in a pan.

In the meantime, I microwaved Trader Joes frozen brown rice. Once the vegetables were softened (2-3 minutes of cooking) I added the rice, a little bit of broth, salt and pepper.

Dinner! With about 10 minutes (or less) of preparation.

I had leftovers of both the chicken and the rice. I also saved the cooking juice from the chicken. With that and the jalapeno chicken sausages I bought today at Trader Joes I was planning on making a soup later this week, but my husband had a great idea:

I sauteed 2 sliced sausages in my pan, added the cooking juices from the chicken last night, the rest of the chicken and 1/3 cup of edamame. I cooked that covered for about 2 minutes, added the rice, mixing well, a little broth, covered again and cooked for another 2 minutes.

I served that with green salad and baby carrots:

The chicken and rice mixture was pretty spicy, so the simple cold vegetables were a good "neutral" to eat with it.

We still have half left for lunch tomorrow. So with 1 crock pot recipe, we have 3 meals!

So simple and uncomplicated is the rule, and so far we're enjoying it!!

Be good n stuff!