Valentine’s Day Surprises

20140214-valentines-surprise
Garrick and I have been together over ten years and every Valentine’s Day he gets me awesome flowers and I get him some kind of gift. I am very satisfied with this routine, I love flowers for their aesthetic value. As long as I don’t get red roses with baby’s breath on Valentine’s Day, I am more than content with just getting flowers. I have nothing against red roses, I think they are a great gift sometimes, but I find them too cliche on Valentine’s Day.

A few weeks ago I found white topaz and rose gold earrings on Groupon and decided they would be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for me, so I bought them with Gar’s money and shipped them to him at his work so he could give them to me today. This plan was wicked awesome. I wanted jewelry and I would get jewelry without having to hint or nag. Also, I knew for sure I would like the jewelry and, most important, they were affordable.

However, something happened that I didn’t expect. I got my earrings and I’m super happy with them like I knew I would be, but I also got a lot of other stuff. Yay! Don’t get me wrong, I would have been utterly and completely happy with just my earrings but awesome flowers and a handful of other jewelry is really cool. Besides my earrings, Gar got me a beautiful bouquet of pink roses and tulips, a glass heart and gold flake necklace, hand-painted pendants and charms of some of my favorite books, and an extra white gold chain for the pendants. Now I’m wishing I had done more for him than frame some of his rare Deadpool posters (Deadpool is a super awesome Marvel comic book character if you didn’t know). But we are both very happy today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Julie’s Pasta Sauce

20140213-pasta-sauce
When you make your own pasta sauce, a simple spaghetti dinner night is transformed into something far more appealing. This sauce is so simple and so tasty: bright, sweet, and with a lovely toasted earthy flavor. I also love that the sauce remains bright red in color.

Usually when I make my own sauce it’s a simple Marinara. I sweat out garlic and onions with some Italian herbs, then, I reduce a little red wine and add peeled, crushed tomatoes with salt and sugar. However, this week when I decided to make spaghetti for dinner, I called my fiancé’s mom Julie, to find out how she makes her amazing sauce. I love Julie’s sauce for many reasons but what really stands out is it’s brightness in flavor. The sauce has a tang similar to the brightness of citrus but without the sourness. I was surprised to find out how incredibly simple it is to make it.

Start by toasting 8 or 9 cloves of garlic, as described in my Toasted Garlic post. After your garlic is toasted, add a large can of peeled, crushed tomatoes (Julie recommends Hunt’s) and a pinch of salt. This sauce does not need to be simmered over time, just warmed. After everything is stirred together it is as good as it will be the next day.

It was funny to think back to when I didn’t know what was in Julie’s sauce, because I would have guessed it was more complex than it is. However, the toasted garlic and the olive oil give it a perfect complexity of flavor. For those of you who are not the biggest garlic fans, I would still try this sauce. The garlic flavor is very present, but it’s not overwhelming.

Toasted Garlic

20140212-toasted-garlic
I’ve toasted so much garlic, usually in butter for my mashed potatoes, that I am well aware of the dangers of burning it. Here’s my number one tip: don’t walk away from the garlic as it cooks, and stir it almost constantly. To get started for a Marinara sauce, put about 3 healthy tablespoons of a good extra virgin olive oil into a skillet on medium to medium-low heat, depending on the stove. Next, add enough finely chopped garlic to mostly cover the bottom of the skillet. I used about 8 or 9 cloves of garlic, which is good for a large pot of pasta sauce or a family-sized serving of mashed potatoes. I was using kind of a large skillet in this picture, so my garlic didn’t completely cover the bottom. Just be sure to spread your garlic out on the bottom of the skillet, so that it all cooks evenly. The garlic needs to be toasted until it is a light golden brown, as shown in this picture. It’s very easy to burn your garlic, and once it turns a medium to dark brown it becomes bitter and will ruin your meal.

Check back tomorrow for a simple pasta sauce recipe using toasted garlic, it’s one of my favorites!

Vegan Chili Palmer

I just realized that I had to let you know one way to make your chili (or my chili) super awesomely vegan! All you have to do is replace the ground beef with Garbanzo beans that have been mashed into very small pieces. The garbanzo beans are great, they keep the chili hearty and add a great texture to the dish. I think masa is especially good to add into vegan chili. If you are buying your masa, just make sure you get the good old fashioned corn, water, lime stuff and not some strange kind of tamale masa with lard in it to almost kill your vegan mother on her birthday like I did. Enjoy!

Chili Palmer

20140207-chili-palmer
I named this chili “Chili Palmer” because I like the movie “Get Shorty” a lot. It’s based on one of Elmore Leonard’s best stories and I never get tired of watching it.

4 dried guajillo chilis, stems removed
4 dried arbol chilis, stems removed
1 chipotle pepper (optional)
4 garlic cloves
1 15oz. can of sloppy Joe sauce
1 28oz. can of whole tomatoes
1 lb. ground beef
Salt to taste

This bright red chili is very easy and very tasty. This recipe will make a medium to hot chili. If you prefer a milder chili, don’t add the chipotle and replace a few of the arbol chilis with red bell pepper.

Boil all of your chilies and garlic in about 4 cups of water until the dried chilies are completely softened. Put all the chilies and garlic into a blender or food processor with a few cups of the water and blend until smooth. Combine the chili mixture, sloppy Joe sauce, can of tomatoes with juice (smash the tomatoes into pieces with your hands or cut them into pieces on cutting board if you don’t like smashing things with your hands) into a large pot and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the ground beef. I prefer to use a ground beef mixture that is 10% fat although 20% fat would work as well. Occasionally stir until ground beef is fully cooked and salt your chili to taste. If you like beans in your chili go ahead and add some cooked or canned beans at the start. Allow the chili to lightly simmer on a very low heat for at least an hour.

I used this chili mixture on Super Bowl Sunday to put on top of Frito corn chips, cheese, diced white onion, and bacon. In the past when serving the chili on its own I’ve added about ¾ of a cup of masa (I buy my masa from a hispanic bakery mostly for making corn tortillas) to add another layer of flavor to the chili. I’m also a big fan of experimenting with different chilis from time to time. Finally, to use up my left over chili the next day, I put it over black beans beans and brown rice.

National Pet Dental Month

20140204-natl-pet-dental
February is National Pet Dental Month. I spent a good amount of time researching and writing a pretty awesome article for work about some important things that everyone needs to know about pet dental health. I would like to share some things about your pet’s teeth that I think are important.

If you want your dog or cat to live a long, healthy, and happy life you must be aware of and address their dental health. Most pets over the age of three suffer from painful and inflamed gums due to infection. Infection under the gumline can spread to the liver, kidneys, and heart. Pets mouths should not smell like they just got done eating all the poop out of the litter box or something worse. Daily teeth brushing is freaking awesome for your pet and it can end up saving you A LOT of money.

Not all people can brush their pet’s teeth, I totally get that. Ask your veterinarian about other options like oral rinses, special foods, and treats. Not all treats, especially dental health related ones, are created equal. Animal bones can can splinter and cause tears in the stomach or intestines and possibly cause intestinal blockages. I’m not even going to go into why I think non-anesthetic dentals suck (and are often illegal) because there are so many reasons. Finally, I am not a veterinarian and will not and cannot offer medical advice for your pet.

Anywho, happy National Pet Dental Month! I hope you found this helpful or interesting. Some days I get too busy or forget to brush my dog’s teeth. I can’t brush my cats’ teeth, they try to shred my face. My goal for this month is to not miss one day of brushing… starting tomorrow. Enjoy this picture of Loki loving on his poultry flavored toothpaste.

Sucky Bowl

20140203-sucky-bowl
Super Bowl XLVIII was the most unexciting Super Bowl I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I’m a San Diego Charger fan for better or for worse, but I was quite happy to see the Seahawks and the Broncos in the Super Bowl this year instead of the Patriots and so and so or the Ravens and so and so. I didn’t care too much about who won but I wanted to see a good game. I imagine that most people just want to watch a good game, even if their team isn’t playing.

The most intriguing thing about Super Bowl Sunday this year was when I watched a Great Pyrenees puppy inadvertently kick a ball into the end zone during Puppy Bowl X after tripping over it. This was the first “kicked” field goal in Puppy Bowl history. Being the proud and vain dog owner that I am, I posted this picture of my dogs on Instagram with the puppy bowl hash-tags, to have a chance of having them be featured on air. I immediately regretted posting the picture because I know I could’ve gotten a much better one, with the cats and maybe a prop in the picture too. I asked Garrick if I could post a better one on his Instagram so I could double our chances, but he said, “No” and “Why don’t you post another one on your Instagram?” Then I said, “No (frowny face), that would be weird.”