Weekend fun

Detroit Derby Girls

We enjoyed a fun weekend with friends, which included a fun Friday out, a trip to Detroit for a Detroit Derby Girls roller derby match & a birthday party, & of course time with our adorable puppy dog, Melody.

I love seeing the Detroit Derby Girls & already have my derby girl names picked out; so much fun!

Detroit Derby Girls


by Valerie | 01.30.11 | For Funsies, Princess Puppy Pants | No Comments »

Polenta with Veggie Ragout mod

Polenta & Veggie Ragout

A few years ago we made this recipe from Williams Sonoma. Since I didn’t have it on hand the other day when buying groceries I decided to modify it and experiment with it a bit. I added some shallots, we had them on hand and it’s a decision I think added nicely to dish. I also decided that adding some bell pepper instead of eggplant may make for a different take on the dish by adding something sweet to it. I am still on the fence on whether or not it was a good modification, I liked them but don’t know if it added anything to the dish. Also, I feel that my mistake was cutting them large, had they been sliced they would have been better dispersed through the dish giving them slightly more presence. But enough bagging on my own cooking, here’s the recipe:


  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 2 medium size yellow squash
  • 3 smallish zucchini
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes, with juice mostly drained
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of instant polenta
  • 3 cups of veggie broth
  • 3 tablespoons of  freshly grated parmesan cheese (+ some for topping if desired)
  • salt and pepper

For the ragout

Dice the garlic, coarsely chop the shallots or slice them, and cut the peppers into 1″ squares (or slice them as I suggest earlier). Wash the zucchini and squash; cut them into thin slices. In a large skillet heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallots, and peppers to the oil. Cook until the peppers begin to become a bit tender, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and zucchini and continue to cook until they begin to become tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add in the tomatoes and thyme (you could also add in some italian seasoning if you like). Bring everything to a slight boil/bubble, reduce heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

For the polenta

We use instant polenta and pretty much follow the directions. Bring to a boil 3 cups of veggie stock. Once boiling add in about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon butcher’s pepper. Reduce heat, or remove from heat. Slowly pour the polenta in while stirring the pot. Continue stirring for about a minute while adding in the parmesan cheese. Salt to taste.

Put it all together

Grab yourself a bowl, put a healthy portion of polenta in the bottom of the bowl. Top generously with veggies and enjoy.  Just one quick note, this makes the perfect amount of polenta for 2-3 people, while the veggies make for feeding more. Since polenta is better made that day the veggies will hold nicely as leftovers, I recommend making the polenta fresh for “leftovers.”

Polenta & Veggie Ragout


by Ryan | 01.30.11 | Recipes | 1 Comment »

Hit me with your best shot

4/52 Soothing Repetition by valatal

While this has nothing to do with Pat Benatar, it did seem an appropriate title for this post. As you may already know, photography is a hobby of mine & I often post many of my photos to my flickr account. One of the things I love about flickr is all the different photo groups you can join or be invited to join & submit your photos to. 

I was pleased to discover the MCP Project 52: Photo a Week group recently; the idea behind this group is that you submit one photo a week that fits that week’s theme – it’s fun, inspiring, & gets your creative juices flowing. I just joined last week, so I missed the first two weeks of the year; however, I’m really enjoying the challenge of submitting a themed photo weekly for review. The two photos here are those I’ve posted for weeks 3 (themed “Shades of Grey”) & 4 (themed “Soothing Repetition”). Happy snapping!

3/52 Shades of Grey by valatal

by Valerie | 01.26.11 | For Funsies, Photography | No Comments »

Happy birthday, to you!


This is our wonderful friend, Ken, & it’s his birthday today – so happy birthday to you, Ken!  Not only is he a dear friend to us, he’s a great husband to his beautiful wife Stephanie (the cutie with Princess Leia hair in the photo below!), owner of 3 very adorable pets (Bella, Boot-z, & Frankie), & he’s amazingly smart & talented. We look forward to celebrating with him this weekend!

Ken's BDay Party

by Valerie | 01.19.11 | For Funsies | 1 Comment »

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999


Ryan & I had a wonderful anniversary party on Saturday, January 15th to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary with our friends & it was a blast! Although we were both (& are both still) on antibiotics for a sinus infection, we had a great time dancing & laughing with some of our best friends.

Anniversary Party

We are so blessed to be surrounded by such amazingly talented, kind people & are lucky enough to have a close relationship with them as dear friends too. Abigail made a beautiful & delicious recreation of our wedding cake (white cake with pineapple filling, butter cream icing, & fresh berries on top) & she made carrot cake cupcakes which was what we had for our groom’s cake (vegan & gluten free at that!) for the party. Everyone brought delicious food & drinks to share; Jen & Walter brought a huge, hand-sculpted tin foil swan filled with veggies & dip & our gift was wrapped up inside many layers of tin foil (since the 10th anniversary gift is traditionally tin/aluminum), how creative! Jennifer & Gabe, who just so happen to be professional photographers, brought their camera & took lots of great photos. One of Ryan’s very talented grad students, Erik, brought his DJ equipment & had us dancing all night; we ended the night with Prince’s 1999! Lisa Waud, of Pot & Box, did the flowers for our event – we also held the party at Pot & Box.

To top it all off, our dear friends Mo & Adrian flew up to visit with us just for the party all the way from Vegas & it was wonderful to have them here to celebrate with us; they were in our wedding 10 years ago too, which made it really special! They were pretty worried about the cold, being from El Paso & living in Vegas now, but they survived & as Mo said to me, “-2 (which was the temp at one point over the weekend!) = love.” We love them for suffering through the MI cold to spend the weekend with us!

Thanks to everyone who’s supported & loved us these past 10 years of our marriage & I am so looking forward to many wonderful years filled with many wonderful memories to come!


by Valerie | 01.18.11 | For Funsies | 10 Comments »


Ryan & Val

As of today, January 13, 2011, Ryan & I have been married for a decade; 10 years seem to have flown by & I couldn’t be happier! Tonight, we’ll be celebrating by treating ourselves to a nice dinner out at Eve & we’ve planned an anniversary party to celebrate with our friends this weekend. I look forward to many more decades married to the love of my life!

Ryan & Val

by Valerie | 01.13.11 | For Funsies | 2 Comments »

Beans and Rice: the Crusades edition

Beans & Rice

I wanted to title this dish Bloody Moors and Christians, since it is loosely based on the cuban dish Moors and Christians, but felt that no one reading that title would really want to eat it. And given the fact that there is no real blood in this dish I felt it might let those fans of other blood dishes, such as blood pudding, down. This dish is inspired by Pope Urban II who in the First Crusade asked the Christians in Spain to not join the fight in the Middle East against the Muslims, but to take arms against the Muslims in their own country. And so began many bloody campaigns with estimates of death totaling 300,000 to 600,000 throughout Europe. So with that history lesson in mind this tomato-based dish inspired by Moors and Christians came to fruition.

  • 1 1/2 tbsp of butter, or whipped non-hydrogenated oil
  • 1 purple onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of course ground black pepper
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 pan roasted jalapeño
  • 2 cups of long-grain rice
  • the juice and zest of 2 limes
  • salt

In a pan over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds. You know they are close to finishing when they become very fragrant. Remove from the pan and using a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder, or the bottom of a glass) crush them up into a coarse grind. Add the butter to the pan and heat to medium heat. Once melted add the onions and garlic and sweat for a few minutes. Then add the dried oregano, pepper, and cumin. Cook until tender. Add the beans and the tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. At this point you can either transfer the ingredients to a slow cooker on low and let simmer for several hours (like 6 or 7) or let simmer longer in the pan as you prepare the rice and other goodies. I used the slow cooker because I wanted things to stew for a long long long time.

In a pan heat up some olive oil to medium heat. Add the jalapeño to the pan whole. Fry it on all sides until they start to brown and the jalapeño becomes tender. This is just a faster method roasting peppers instead of on the grill on in the oven. When finished, place in a paper bag to steam for about 6-8 minutes. When finished remove the seeds, if you want to, and dice the pepper.

We have a Zojirushi rice cooker so I just prepared the rice as directed. Feel free to choose your own method of preparing the rice in this dish.

Once all the ingredients are ready add the bean mixture and the rice together along with the jalapeño, cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Chow down and feast on the blood spilt on your rice in true Christian spirit! Enjoy!

by Ryan | 01.10.11 | Recipes | No Comments »

Roasted Pepper and Corn Chowder


It’s times like today, in which I am busy fighting a sinus infection, that I crave a spicy bowl of comfort soup. The spiciness helps open up the nasal passages, the warmth of the soup soothes the sore throat from post-nasal drip, and in general a bowl of warm soup on a cold day is your stomach’s equivalent of a hug. So that I don’t drone on about the gory details of sinus infection, because I know that is the best thing to talk about when discussing food, here are the ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp of butter or whipped non-hydrogenated oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded
  • 1 purple onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 stick of celery including the leaves diced
  • 1 small jalapeño diced, seeds optional (add seeds if you want it spicier)
  • 1 russet potato peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cups veggie stock
  • 2 cups yellow corn kernels, frozen or fresh, we just used 1 package of frozen corn kernels which was just over 2 cups
  • 2 red bell peppers (roasted and chopped)
  • 2 poblano peppers (roasted and chopped)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp butcher’s pepper
  • 1 tsp of Miracle Blend, or as our friend’s call it Beezy’s Salt
  • olive oil or vegetable oil
  • additional salt to your taste

First get the peppers roasting. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet coat the peppers with the oil of your choice. Place in oven for about 25 minutes or until the peppers start getting browned and the skin is puffy. Rotate 2-3 times to ensure even roasting. You may need to take the poblanos out earlier because they are a bit smaller in size. Once they are roasted, place in a paper bag to steam and cool a bit for about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the bag, remove the skins and seeds, and chop. Set aside for later. You can start this before you start making the soup and let them roast as you do the rest to speed up the process of things.

In a large soup pot heat the butter over medium heat. Once melted and heated, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, corn, potato, and jalapeño in and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Remove about 2+ cups of the soup and place in a blender to puree, or just use an immersion blender and blend to a consistency of your liking. Add in the roasted peppers, herbs and seasonings, salt and pepper. Give it a good stirring until the ingredients are well mixed. If you need to season a bit more feel free to season to your taste liking. Serve and enjoy.

by Ryan | 01.09.11 | Recipes | 2 Comments »

We’re not Quaker, but these are some good oats!


I got hit with a nasty cold this past week and, being the amazing husband that he is, Ryan offered to make me some homemade oatmeal. I have to say that most of the oatmeal I’ve had has been the single serving kind in the Quaker Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack, so I was pretty excited to try his homemade variety and I was not disappointed; I like my oatmeal with apples and cinnamon and brown sugar, so that’s exactly how he made it and boy was it tasty!


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup soy milk (add more milk if it’s too thick)
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • cinnamon
  • brown sugar
  • honey
  • 1 tsp Earth Balance/butter
  • pinch of salt

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt to the water. Add in the oats and cook to the consistency of your liking; we cooked ours for about 8-10 minutes. Add in soy milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and honey (we added about 1 tablespoon of honey); sweeten and spice to your liking – I like extra brown sugar in mine.

To make the spiced apples, in a microwave safe bowl add in 1 teaspoon butter, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon and mix these together. Place in microwave and cook until soft; we cooked these for about 2 to 2.5 minutes. You can add allspice or nutmeg to this mix as well, if you’d like a different flavor.

Once the oatmeal is cooked, put it in a bowl and top with the spiced apple mix. Serve and enjoy!

by Valerie | 01.08.11 | Recipes | No Comments »


Sick: A Still Life

I don’t mind the cold & snow outside – I actually think that it’s lovely out when there’s a fresh fallen snow – but what I do mind is that I’ve come down with a cold & it’s awful. I’m miserable & have been this way since New Year’s Day. I think I’m improving finally, slowly but surely, & am hopeful that after this weekend & lots of rest I’ll be feeling much better.

I’m keeping my hopes up & I think that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak; speaking of light, I snapped this lovely photo of the sun setting outside my window yesterday afternoon. Have a great weekend!

Orchids & sunset

by Valerie | 01.07.11 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

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