I Cooked: Cumin-Spiked Pinto Bean Dip

Every year, Drew’s parents host a Super Bowl party, and every year, it’s hard for me to figure out what to bring, because Super Bowl snacks tend to be on the meaty side unless they’re chips. But what’s better than chips and dip? And what’s better than busting out Thug Kitchen to find a recipe?

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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cans pinto beans
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons lime juice

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Heat oil in a saute pan and cook onions for 4-5 minutes. Add one tablespoon cumin and all the cayenne and cook for about another minute, until fragrant. Let cool.

Add onions, beans, broth, lime juice and remaining cumin into a food processor and pulse until creamy.

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And that’s it! It’s crazy easy, and pretty tasty! Smooth and a nice little kick from the cumin. Don’t try to blend it unless you’ve got a strong blender, I made that mistake and dirtied more dishes than I had to. But if you need something to bring along to a party, this is simple and straightforward.

I Saw: January 2016

Starting off the New Year with a whomph….which is supposed to be a bad noise, in case you couldn’t tell. I had plans to do lots of movie-watching at the beginning of the month and ended up watching two.

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The Hateful Eight: 6/10

This was the first movie I’ve seen in a theater, I’m almost certain, since November 2012. There have been movies I’ve meant to see and then I just…haven’t until they’ve come out on video. But this one we went to go see with friends, and honestly? This is a lesser Tarantino. Like, much lesser. It was a tale of two halves…the first half of the movie dragged horribly. I think the point was be suspenseful and set the scene, but I mostly found myself wondering when it was actually going to start getting good and checking my phone to see how long I’d been in the theater. The second half was JAM PACKED and rushed and if it had balanced out, I think it would have been much more successful. Not Tarantino’s best screenwriting, and besides what has become the standard-issue Samuel-L-Jackson-in-a-Tarantino-movie performance and an actually very good turn from Jennifer Jason Leigh, no one really did anything worth writing home about. I was disappointed, in case you couldn’t tell.

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The Last Days: 7/10

It makes me feel really cynical to say this, but an easy way to get an Oscar is to make a documentary about the Holocaust. There are LOTS of Oscar-winning Holocaust documentaries. I’ve seen several of them. This one in particular features a group of Hungarian survivors, either mostly or entirely immigrants to the United States, who recount their experiences as they go back to the places they were: both their homes where they grew up and the concentration camps where they lived. It’s profoundly affecting, especially the portions with footage from the liberation of the camps and when the survivors try to find out what happened to their families.

Birchbox: January 2016

It’s only in the past few years that I’ve really started taking care of my skin…I always washed my face, obviously, but I never used sunscreen or moisturized for a LONG time. I’m naturally oily, and living in the humid-ish climate of Michigan and the very humid climate of Alabama, my skin was never dry or tight. But then I moved to Nevada and I noticed signs of aging for the first time ever, probably because it’s the most arid state in the country. Like everyone who reads beauty magazines and blogs, I know that the masters of skincare right now are the Koreans. So obviously, I snatched up the Korean Beauty Birchbox selection so I could get my hands on and try some of this stuff!

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Goodall Phytowash Yerba Mate Bubble Peeling: This was really neat to use, because I did feel a bubbling tingling feeling on my face as it worked. I didn’t know that I thought it made a difference in my skin, though, but I’ll keep using it until it’s done.

Goodall Phytowash Yerba Mate Cleansing Foam: This was a more basic cleanser…it had a little bit of a tingly feeling, and my skin felt pretty tight when I got out of the shower, so it’s definitely a strong cleanser. Good stuff, but not life or skin changing.

Goodall Waterest First Essence: I’ve never used anything like this before, and I honestly don’t know that I think it made much of a difference in how my skin looked and felt. It didn’t make my skin look worse, though, so I’ll use it until I’m out of it but it won’t be anything I feel a need to have for my collection.

Manefit Beauty Planner Cucumber Mask: This is actually the one item in the box I haven’t used yet…I’ve been really interested in trying a sheet mask at some point, but I want to “save it” for a time when I need a skin recharge in the middle of the day…an evening event, perhaps. I’ll try to remember to come update this once I have tried it!

RE:P Bio Fresh Mask with Real Calming Herb: I actually really liked this! Like most people, I’m fairly flushed when I get out of the shower. But I used this in the shower while I conditioned my hair and shaved my legs and my skin felt much more soothed, and well, calmed all day. I’ll keep using this until it’s out, and might even repurchase.

IPKN Flash Cream Radiant Primer: This gave my skin a dewy glow, but less is more here. I noticed it had a bunch of sunscreens in it and primers are supposed to go all over your face, right? Well yes, but I had to pat some of this off with a tissue, because I was VERY glowy. I did wear this without anything over it, so it might be matted down a little if you layer foundation.

TONYMOLY Delight Tony Tint: More red lip stuff to play with, yay! Except this just refused to stay put and slid around on my lips A LOT. It got tossed after one try because it was such a pain to deal with.

I Baked: Maple Yule Cookies

When I was little, we’d always make gingersnaps for Christmas. I’ve been making gingersnaps out of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookies for Christmas cookbook since I was a little girl. Never any of the other cookies, just those ones. I started feeling nostalgic for my childhood cookie recipe book before the holidays, so I went over to Thriftbooks and picked up a used copy (in perfect condition) for like $4. I love that site so much for used books, you guys. If you follow the embedded link, you can get 15% off your first order (and I get a coupon too!) Anyways, I decided to do something different, to find a new recipe from the book to see if the other ones were any good. I settled on the Maple Yule Logs, but I lack the patience to make actual logs, so I just made them into normal rolled cookies instead.

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3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
3 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

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In a large mixer bowl, beat butter until softened. Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and maple syrup and beat well. Add flour and beat until well mixed. Cover and chill for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove and cool.

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And these were really good. My grandma, who was a bomb-ass baker on account of my grandpa’s sweet tooth, always recommended doubling the spices…which there weren’t really any of here, so I doubled the maple instead for extra flavor and sweetness. And they were really good! They had a nice mild maple taste and were a big hit at the Christmas party we usually go to, which is always gratifying. The only bummer is how expensive actual maple syrup is. Which you should spring for, for these cookies anyways. It’ll keep for a while and you can bust it out when you want to feel extra fancy for breakfast. This was also the first time I got to use my new KitchenAid mixer (thanks Mom!) and it was AWESOME. I’m totally the type of person who gets excited about kitchen appliances now and I am okay with that.

I Ate: Laughing Planet Cafe

Drew likes to compare our neighborhood, which is in kind of the trendy area of Reno, to a little Portland. I prefer to compare it to Ann Arbor, because I’ve never been to Portland and don’t know what it’s like. One of the cool things about living in a kind of trendy area, for me, is that places there tend to be aware that vegetarians exist and menus will accommodate more than just tons of meat with a token veggie dish and some salads. Places like Laughing Planet! Which, by the way, does tend to favor Drew’s argument, because it’s a Portland-based chain.

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If being incredibly vegetarian-friendly weren’t enough for me, Laughing Planet would have had me at the dinosaurs on the table. I’m a sucker for dinosaurs because I’m a 12 year old boy in my heart. Besides the dinosaurs, Laughing Planet has a small-but-efficient space, with a place to order your either eat-in or take-out right inside the front doors, with enough seating (every time I’ve been there anyways) that you’re able to stay if you’d like. No matter what, the food is prepared quickly and is ready in a very reasonable amount of time. This is a hippie-dippy-crunchy-granola kind of place, so lots of organic/non-GMOs if that’s what you’re into, and just good food if that’s not really important to you. I had a Bollywood bowl, and I wish I’d read closer because they use their cilantro-lime sauce in that as well as many of their other bowls and cilantro tastes like soap to me. So while I had a huge amount of food, I kind of had to pick around the sauciest areas to eat what I could. Don’t worry, I was still really full afterwards. I had more than enough to eat with PLENTY left over.

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Laughing Planet Cafe is located at 650 Tahoe St, in Reno’s Midtown area. There’s a very small parking lot, but plenty of available street parking nearby. Prices are very fair (burritos run $6-7, the generously-portioned bowls run about $7-10). There’s a very decent beer menu if you’re ordering in. Recommended for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike!

The City on The Bay

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Our annual holiday work retreat trip is usually at the beginning of December, but this year the boss man was out of the country, so we waited until January to have it. Which was actually great and we decided to do it like this every year…holiday crowds have dissipated, prices have gone back to normal. Now I’ve been really vocal about how great Reno is, but I won’t pretend that it’s not a big plus that Reno is super close to one of the best cities in the country: San Francisco. Which is where we spent the weekend a few weeks ago.

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Since it’s only about a 4 hour drive, the Reno office just drove instead of flying. Which is a totally great idea…we can carpool, we don’t have to worry about getting to the hotel from the airport, etc. Except that we’re having a real winter this year, and of course there was a winter storm in the Sierra. Which is great! Yay snow! We need every last flake and then some! But I was definitely glad we were in our office manager’s Jeep taking on that weather, because it was pretty gross. We stopped at Sudwerks in Davis on the way in to celebrate a coworkers’ birthday, and then got back on the road to head to the Westin St. Francis in the city, which was a great place to stay: right in Union Square! Friday night we wanted to stay close to the hotel, so we ended up going to Bartlett Hall for dinner and beer. My kale salad was legitimately amazing, but the beer was only so-so and the service about the same. We tried to have a bar night at The Tunnel Top, but it was super crowded so we ended up leaving pretty early and sleeping a lot.

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Saturday morning, Drew had a plan for breakfast. He wanted to go to Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, which he’d had before and said was amazing. By the time we got up and about and down there, though, it was an hour and a half wait. I wait an hour and a half for no food, so we ended up two doors down from the hotel at the Brasserie 398. I had some really fantastic chocolate chip pancakes and a mimosa, and we had a lovely breakfast experience, so I’d recommend it if you’re in the area (it’s a little on the pricey side but not terrible). We had until 2 before I had to be back for our company meeting, so we strolled through Chinatown and you know how I know I picked the right fiance? He took me to City Lights Bookstore and bought me a book. I have the best guy, y’all.

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After the meeting, we all went to get ready and then headed out to Kokkari for Greek food. It was delicious, the wine and food was incredible and I had way too much of it, and then some of us went out dancing and I had probably a little too much in the way of fun. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have an incredible job and work with amazing people, and I am very lucky and I know it. And it’s lucky that I sleep so poorly when I drink, because if I hadn’t gotten up to chug water everytime I awoke in the middle of the night, I probably would have been in even worse shape than I was and I was not in good shape at all on Sunday morning. We made it back to Reno in three and a half hours and I went down hard for a nap. If you don’t need a vacation from your vacation, you haven’t had a good time, right?

I Cooked: Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Squash

I try to be an equal opportunity cook…obviously I don’t cook anything I won’t eat myself (which means no meat), but I also try to take Drew’s tastes into account because he’s eating this stuff too. He’s not super into quinoa (which I love), but he does like Mexican spiced things, so when I found this recipe, I figured a little of column A for me and a little of column B for him.

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2 squash
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 handful of mozzarella cheese
1 can of pinto beans
1 cup of salsa
2 pinches of salt
2 pinches of cumin
2 pinches of chili powder

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F).

Prepare the quinoa according to package directions.

While the quinoa is cooking, slice the squash in half length-wise and use a spoon to scrape out the centers to create two squash canoes. Throw the scraps from the center of the squash into a bowl.

Brush the squash halves with olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of salt, cumin and chili powder over them.

Roast the squash halves, skin side up in the oven for 10 minutes. While roasting, add the quinoa, black beans and salsa to the scrap bowl of squash. Then mix in a pinch of salt, cumin and chili powder until well-blended.

Take the squash halves out of the oven, spoon quinoa mixture into the halves, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and roast for another 10 minutes. Enjoy!

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And this was a solid if unspectacular dinner. I subbed in yellow squash for zucchini like always…this was like the ONE week my Safeway didn’t have enormous GMO squash, of course, but it worked. I also subbed in pinto for black beans, so whatever bean of choice is the one you want, I think it’ll work just fine. It tasted good and was very filling, and pretty easy to make in the scheme of things. Perfect for a low-key weeknight dinner!

I Went: Reno Recycled Furniture

When Drew and I moved, we found ourselves with an extra room in our apartment to put things in…and we decided we wanted to replace the La-Z-Boy that Drew’s parents had given to him when they were done with it that had started to literally fall apart (like, the staples in the fabric of the arms were starting to poke through and had gotten me more than once) with a dual recliner sofa because I am a 50 year old man inside and that’s what I wanted. So how do you add a bunch of furniture items to your place without dropping a million dollars? Reno Recycled Furniture.

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Reno Recycled Furniture is what it sounds like: used furniture. Their items are usually pretty decent quality, but they do sell stuff with dings in it (our desk, for instance, has a couple bumps in it and our dining room table has a well-loved surface)…nothing that’s falling apart or makes you think “what a piece of junk”, but things that are in acceptable but unglamorous shape. There’s also stuff that looks brand new. And prices generally match…the nicer something is, the more expensive it’ll probably be. They have all kinds of furniture: dining room, living room, bedroom, office…we even got ourselves a lovely little wooden bar in fantastic condition for $100, less than a bar cart from Target. And for fabric items, they heat treat everything so that you don’t have to be worried about bedbugs.

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Reno Recycled Furniture is located at 780 S. Virginia St in Reno, NV. This is in the Midtown area. Prices are reasonable for used stuff and quality is decent (they do have some new items they stock as well, but almost everything is used). There is a delivery fee, but it’s fairly reasonable if I recall correctly (I think it was $60? But we bought quite a lot of furniture so it was super worth it). Everyone we worked with there was friendly and helpful and I’d definitely recommend this place for used furniture in the Reno area.

D+G: 5 Months To Go

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Another frustrating month in wedding planning! Here’s the deal: after the vendor that I’d mentioned last time gave us the thumbs-down, Drew spoke to someone he knew through his job (she’d helped out with a major event of theirs) who works for one of the downtown casinos. She said that she’d love to talk to us about having our wedding there and told us to call her after the New Year so we could get together for drinks and figure it out. She also mentioned she’d give us a good deal on room rates. Obviously, we were really interested in that, and Drew was confident that this was going to work out. The first week back to work after the first of the year, he called her and left her a voicemail. He sent her an email. He called again. He called her personal cell. Just when we were ready to give up on them, she called back and left a message for Drew while he was at work with apologies and said to call her back and we’d get something scheduled. It took longer than it should but we FINALLY have something scheduled with them for tomorrow evening. This gives me not-great vibes, the whole “taking a million years to get something as simple as a meeting scheduled because of poor communication”, but at this point, we’ve waited this long so we might as well meet. We’re also setting up a meeting with one other potential venue.

DONE

  • Nothing. I don’t even want to talk about it because I’m so irritated about the whole thing

TO DO

  • Venue venue venue: Will be done by the end of this week, so help me God.
  • Dress hemming: This keeps falling off my to-do list and needs to not. Taking it in when I get back from going to Michigan this weekend. Luckily it’s just hemming, no other alterations are needed.
  • Book DJ: One of Drew’s parents friends knows a DJ that’s open on our date who’s supposed to be pretty good. We really need to get this locked down, so I need to get his info to get in touch with him, which I’m going to do this week.

I Cooked: Saffron Risotto

Before this, I’d never cooked with saffron before, and was intrigued by what the fuss was about. It’s the most expensive spice in the world! And I’d made faux risottos, but never actually tried a real one. So when I found this recipe, I figured this was two birds with one stone.

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350 g (12.3 oz) Arborio rice
a pinch of saffron
1 large onion, very finely chopped
1 glass of good white wine (not acidic, this is very important!)
150 g (5.3 oz)  freshly grated Grana Padano cheese
125 g (4.4 oz) good quality fresh butter
1 litre (33, 8 fl oz us) hot vegetable broth

For vegetable broth

1 large carrot
1 large onion
1 celery stalk (also use the leaves, if you have them)
salt and pepper to taste

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1. In a large pan, prepare the vegetable broth. Wash, clean and roughly chop the vegetables, then fill the pan with plenty of water and cook the vegetables until tender. Season with some salt (do not exceed), then sift the broth and remove the vegetables.

2. Sauté the onion in 80 g of butter, over a low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

3. Add the rice and fry for a few minutes over a medium heat, then pour in a glass of white wine and stir. Stir until all the wine evaporates.

4. Lower the heat and add the hot broth (a little at a time), stirring constantly. Let the broth evaporate and continue adding the broth and stirring, until the rice is creamy and properly cooked. During the cooking time add the saffron (diluted in a little bit of warm vegetable broth).

5. Turn off the heat and add the finals ingredients to the risotto. Add the rest of the butter, 3-4 tablespoons of grated Grana Padano and season with salt and pepper (taste it and season only if needed), then stir and cover with a lid. Let the risotto rest for a few minutes and serve.

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I screwed it up pretty early in the process. I’d read the instructions beforehand, obviously, but once I got cooking, I was trying to cook first and didn’t read as closely as I should so I just went and dumped ALL the liquid in the rice at once and not in the nice smaller portions you’re supposed to. Can’t really undo that one.  And I’m not quite sure how it happened because it was on the stove for an hour submerged in liquid, but the rice was underdone. OTHER THAN MY FAILURE re undercooked rice, though, this ended up coming out pretty decent. With really only saffron to season, it tasted flavorful. I am going to try to make an actual, not messed-up risotto at some point, because I like them when other people make them so I want to learn.