Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Around the house...

Hello to all. Well, I'm at home again and I have a few minutes to think and write about our recent activities around the house. We apologize for the delay, but I worked almost 45 hours in four days (not on purpose) and then Travis was busy driving...his commute is three hours a day on average driving in and out of the city to get here.
God is helping us though! And, He is providing, as He always does. He allowed me a little more peaceful week to rest and recover yesterday afternoon and I have today off. Monday, before the rest came however, was another "push-up" day; I taught my fourth out of five target junior high schools for my nutrition outreach education project. We talk for about 40 minutes and do two physical activities-- one is standing double-leg squats and the other is the push-up challenge. Girls often have weaker upper bodies than men but that doesn't mean we should! So for all eight periods, I did the ten push-ups with the girls. But believe me 80 push-ups is a lot better than the 160 I do with the boys. Needless to say, it must be the adrenaline, because in high school I couldn't do two. I never thought through my curriculum until after I had done the first school-- and then I figure that if I do one school a month, I don't have to do weights all year for my upper body!
Other tidbits from the Ranch. These might be the last days of being here at the ranch, sitting at my wooden table staring out over the backyard. Travis and I are pursuing renting a place closer in town, as some of you know. But what we didn't anticipate is that we would end up almost buying one town home on Saturday...only to cancel our contract and start looking at other properties!
The market is at its lowest point, according to some of our expert friends (gotta love knowing all these smart people with all these great connections--I love my husband's profession right now!) and the time is ripe for those who are willing to make a leap. Even though we would have loved to be near our friends, the Spencer's, at South Mountain, we learned that we could apply for this program which would pay back about 80% of our rent for the first year. The only qualification is that one of us works more than 30 hours a week. That's me! The stipulation is that you pay your rent on time. Then at the end of the month, the foundation mails you back a percentage of your mortgage and interest and helps you to save for a "rainy day"--thus the foundation's name is The Rainy Day Fund.
Needless to say, we are very excited about this possibility, as we could (by God's good plan) accrue some equity, save more money than if we rent, and get to pick all the options we want in these little homes.
The homes are not full stand-alone houses. They are in the style of these new modern takes on "community" life-- several homes in one building. We are looking at a triplex-- a townhome of sorts where three homes are in one building. We get three (small) bedrooms, a two-car garage,
a kitchen to suit, a nice living space and everything two people could want in a neighborhood. The homes wouldn't be finished until the fall, so we are going to be searching for a short-term place close to town.
On another note, around the house, I (finally) got new vacuum bags. I had to drive to Outer Mongolia for them, but my family is devoted to the Miele vacuums, so I guess you could say, I did it for love. I also made a meal last night (that's three in two weeks for those of you who think I just "whip" up magical gourmet meals every night) of a delicious, hot Indian Curry Cauliflower Stew with Spicy Chicken Sausage. We also had a Jansen favorite-- Oma's Almond Cake.

I also want those of you who are suffering the bitter winds of January in colder parts of the States, that I have planted my spring flowers :) Enjoy a little taste of sunshine from us! (Even though its rained three times these two weeks and more is on the way!) I was able to pick up a bunch of pansies, a few snapdragons, a few yellow flowers I don't recall the names for and a primrose for under $20. That's my spending money for the month, but it is well worth it to be cheered by the sight of real alive plants and not the corpses of the perennials. Especially when the grass is brown and the trees are browner, your eye needs some green to rest on in Arizona.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Other Activities

What do you do when your vacuum needs new bags, you're not allowed to use your sink, your dishwasher, your washing machine and your dryer? No chores. So you sew. Shhh!!! Don't tell Zoe but this is her new blanket...This is the (belated) birth present for my friend's baby girl.

Beautiful Biscuits

Here's my recent (and only) meal that I cooked this week. Some may think that I pull gourmet meals together every night. But you're wrong. I cook. Occasionally.
But I had a surprise day off on Friday and I cooked up a delicious meal for a cold and rainy day. What could be better than Hot Turkey Tenderloin and Vegetables in a Herb and Butter Wine Sauce with Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits...
The reason: I have been reading Two for the Road, the book about road food, and they talk alot about southern cooking. Especially about hot rolls and buttery biscuits. So I had to try. We grew up on healthy foods, but once in a while my mom would pull out the cans of store-bought biscuits that would puff up so flaky and huge in the oven. Yum.
So I turned to Cook's Illustrated online. I subscribe to their website in order to access all of their scientifically perfected recipes. It is a source to turn to when you know you want "flaky" biscuits instead of "fluffy" biscuits, or "chewy" chocolate chip cookies instead of "crispy" chocolate chip cookies. Things like that.
And they turned out perfect. The trick is in the cutting in of the butter (very coarsely in thin pats) and then folding the dough in thirds like you would for puff pastry. It worked! Yum.

Two for the Road

I have just finished my new favorite humorous food book... Two for the Road. Find it on the side bar to look it up. If you have never read Jane and Michael Stern in Gourmet magazine, you are missing out. Their books are hysterical because of all their adventures in "road food". Their job is to drive around the country and find restaurants in out-of-the-way places in America and write about them. The last chapter was so hysterical, I was dying laughing in bed the other night. Here's an excerpt from "In the Bondage of a Chef". I know it's long, but it is hysterical.
The setting is a small Southern town where they go to a restaurant that has won awards...but when the arrive, it is empty and they are the only two customers, and of course, well known as food writers....
Shrimp and lobsters notwithstanding, JAne hates fish. She can scarf downthe occasional Mrs. Paul's fishstick, or something deep fried and served in a basket covered with lots of French fries and coleslaw, but fish that tastes like fish, expecially half-cooked fish modern, is the stuff of nightmares.
Fortunately, Michael likes fish. "This is good," he said merrily, forking up Dyvina's little treasure form the plate. "I think the sauce is some sort of mango thing."
"Have mine," Jane offered.
"Ah, you like it!" said the waiter as he returned to whisk away the plates. From a tray he had parked on a nearby stand, he swirled another course down in front of us. "Enjoy!"
More fish. This one had blue flesh instead of pink, and its sauce was an ominous mauve.
"S*@t," Michael said when we were alone. But he dutifully ate it and then without being asked, reach over and plucked Jane's portion off her plate.
"What's in the sauce? Blueberries? Plums?" Jane asked.
"All I know is that we didn't order it," Michael said.
The waiter appeared again. He had a bounce to his step. "And this...." he said, taking a dramatic pause, "is a special gravlax that we serve only twice a year."
"Lucky us," Jane said.
"What do we do now?" Michael said when we were once agian alone with the unwanted dish.
"Leave it to me, "Jane said, upending her large, elegant place and sliding the gravlax into the napkin on her lap. "Give me your plate, " she commanded. She dumped the other serving of gravlax in her lap, twirled the ends of the napkin together and walked to the ladies ' room.
She soon reappeared and sat down with a smug look on her face, but no before grabbing a fresh napkin from a nearby empty table and spread it on her lap.
The waiter appeared again, and again, both times with fish, then with a helping of very rare duck breast fanned out on an enormous platter with sliced figs.
Like a jungle cat lying in wait for its prey, Jane followed the waiter's entry into the dining room, her eyes locked on the two plates he carried. As soon as he disappeared behind the swinging door, she snatched another napkin from an adjacent table, plopped the fish into it, and walked briskly to the bathroom.
"That was fast" the waiter commented to Michael as he glanced at the empty plates.
Alone in the ladies' room, Jane whipped open the big linen napkin and dumped the oversized fillets into the bowl. She hit the flush lever, but instead of disappearing, the pieces of fish stuck. Water began to back up toward the rim. Jane flushed again, and for a moment the water seemed to swirl downward. Then, with a great gurgle, the fish formed a massive bolus and the water surged up, over and onto the marble-tiled floor.
Jane peeled off her silk blouse, stuck her bare arm deep into the toilet bowl, and began pulling hunks out, flushing and reflushing until, with a mighty gulp, the toilet emptied itself. Using every paper towel in the ladies' room, she did her best to wipe the overflow from the floor, washed her hands, put her blouse back on, and returned to the table looking damp and pale.
"Could we have the check?" Michael asked. "My wife is not feeling well."
"Dyvina will be so disappointed. She has many more dishes for you to try."
"I'm sorry, but we really have to go" Jane piped up, with desperation in her voice. "Let's get out of here before someone goes in the bathroom" She then whispered to Michael.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lasagna Recipe

By request, here's the recipe for the lasagna I made the other night. It is a standard lasagna recipe, just assembled differently. The other night I made my own sauce, but you could use a good quality jarred kind and get the same results.

Lasagna -- serves 12

1 box ruffled lasagna noodles, boiled and drained (lay them out on wax paper to dry)
1- 22oz part skim ricotta cheese
1- small bag shredded part skim mozzarella cheese (~3 cups)
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced with coarse salt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 T. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 cups spaghetti sauce
Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a 9"x9" square glass or metal pan.
Mix the cheese filling together well, reserving 1/2 cup of cheese for top. Spread an 1/8th of a cup of the cheese filling on each of the noodles ( I used a medium Pampered Chef scoop for this process to make it even and easier--and it portions out almost perfectly) and roll from one end up to form rolls. Set aside. Continue spreading and rolling until you have filled all the noodles.
Once finished, begin standing up the rolls in the pan, fitting them together tightly.
Pour remaining sauce around the sides of the pan and in between the rolls as much as possible. Sprinkle with reserved shredded cheese. Cover with aluminum foil. (I put two large pieces of foil under and up the sides to prevent overflow issues).
Bake for 1 hour at 375 or until middle is hot. Remove top foil and let cheese brown, about another 15 minutes.

A New Inspiration

I am reading a new book for Book Club called "Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee". Thanks to my mother-in-law for buying my book, which I am devouring. What a wonderful, inspiring book! Two quotes I have loved already:
My heart which is often so cold and so stupid, seemed completely melted within me, with such a view of His wonderful, wonderful love for sinners that I almost believed. I had never felt it till then. Such a blessing is worth toiling and wrestling for a whole life. If a glimpse of our Savior here upon earth can be so refreshing, so delightful what will it be in heaven!
Another one that I love:
I know myself to be perfectly helpless. I cannot promise to do or to be anything; but, I do want to put everything else aside and to devote myself entirely to the service of Christ.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Early morning muse

So it's early. Yup. It's 5:21--- and I actually got up! I have had to work these past few days early, starting our day at 6:00 am. So in a few minutes I am going to jump into my car and head on down a very dark Chandler Heights. No sunrises yet. It is dark here until 7:30a and dark at 5:00p. The short days of winter.
In order to make up for this early rising time (4:30) I am sipping my coffee from my favorite big mug and eating a delicious bowl of Berry Oatmeal (oatmeal made with sweetened frozen berries-- yum! and lots of fiber too!). Somehow because of God's amazing grace, I am enjoying getting up this early. I think that 4:30 might be easier than 5:30. Five o'clock hours seem to slide right into 6a.
So here a quick shout-out to our dear friends to just say hello and good morning. Have a great morning filled with the grace given to His beloved children. Our prayers are with you (esp Brett for his chemistry test... imagine...a 10th grader taking an AP Chemistry exam) that all your needs will be filled by our good and glorious God.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Odd Occurences

Did I mention that my mom and I doubled up again? When I called her on Friday, we were talking about what we were making for dinner. She said, "O, I made bread today"; and I responded, "O really, so did I." Then I said, "Yeah, I had to stock up my freezer for lunches again now that Travis is back to work, so I decided to make lasagna." There was a pause. A moment of silence. She said "No way. I made lasagna for dinner too". So there you have. One brilliant mom and one well-trained protoge thinking alike.
This time however, I decided to try my friend Becky's way...apparently her mom rolls her lasagna noodles and then stands them up in the pan. This works fantastic for crowds because there is no waiting for the lasagna to cool before cutting-- it is already in portions. This I thought would work for feeding a hungry husband too. So I boiled the non-bakeable noodles and then rolled all the noodles with cheese as pictured below. It worked great and it tasted amazing. I haven't had lasagna in goodness knows when (more than a year and a half). I normally don't eat it because of my wheat intolerance/cheese intolerance, but I couldn't resist last night. And since I know that if I am really hungry, it doesn't affect me as much, I was basically shaking before dinner, I was so hungry. O but it was worth the wait. The creamy herbed (low fat) cheese in homemade sauce that was perfectly spiced, flavored and aged...ahh. Italian heaven.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


We miss the has been covered for almost three days now. I realized when I was back East that the gloominess wasn't something I was meant to endure any longer. When we do have cloudy days here, you realize how much you miss the cheerfulness while it's cold. And yes, for you Phoenix-sceptic peoples....we do have winter visit us every year. Today it is highs of low 50s. That's cold for most here; cold enough for me too. Yesterday I went on a long run and it started to rain-- the lack of precipitation is something I miss more so.
But we did have more "sun" than we expected these past few evenings. On Tuesday, Travis took me to his new office downtown and then to the Phoenix Suns game. My first pro basketball experience was great. After a long absence of any live basketball viewing, I loved it. Then, by suprise, we were offered more tickets on Thursday night, Travis' birthday. We saw LeBron James play against our Suns, and fail miserably in his effort to dominate.

The games are very exciting and well-produced. On another funny note, I noted a funny observation. As I looked around, almost all the women were dressed to the nines on Tuesday night. They had their designer bags, their tight jeans, their big and sleek hairdo's...the works. I told Travis this and also felt oddly intimidated by the dress code. On Thursday I knew better so I tried a little harder than the tennis shoes/cords I had been wearning post work.

I realized that this arena is the only central event in Phoenix. Other than the malls and a few spread out restaraunts, there isn't any better place to be seen in Phoenix than the sports games. This is such a different mindset than the East. This kind of "shine" at the Suns game will be something I hope you can chuckle at with me.

Catching up...

Catching up on our lives here...After a couple weeks more of being back, we are still adjusting to Travis' new job, my added work hours and now we are starting to take some time for all those extra things. I finally got to do a little extra cleaning that had been waiting patiently for me and some organizing of the craft closet after the Christmas elves blew through.
And we've realized we have not posted a single picture of our trip back East!!! Due to a fortunate(?) accident, Nora booked tickets to DC, and then to DC again instsead of a return flight, so our stay was extended from 10 nights to 12 nights. This left us plently of time to do all sorts of fun things like seeing more of our family after the craziness of the holidays and see some friends. We want to thank my sister for most of all-- she gave up her bed for us and slept in Brett's room the whole time.
We had such a wonderful time with my parents and siblings, and of course we had a great time with my mom's extended family. So here are some pictures showing some of the things we did.
One of our favorites was the jazz club Emily took us all to the Tuesday before New Years-- we saw Amhad Jamal at Blues Alley downtown. My favorite moment was when Brett said of the pianist, "Man, what I would give right now to see his hands!"
The requisite FAMILY pictures...always a tripod hunt!
Cooking! Our favorite! Christmas evening walk in the rain.
Christmas Breakfast morning favorites: broiled grapefruit

Nora with Grandma The siblings
One of our traditions is to use Christmas crackers, a pull-apart tube that pops when you open it. It always contains a little toy, a joke or funny saying and a paper crown...thanks to Geoffrey, our British friend, we've this tradition for many years.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ultra Cool News

Just a quick note to let the world know that Susan Jansen, my trendsetting mom, has a blog...check out her link in my Favorite People & Places sidebar.
I have to brag that she is the original gourmet mom. Way before gourmet or organic or foodies were even named, she was cooking from our favorite cookbook of all time, The Frog Commissary, which had recipes in it like Chicken Satays with Peanut Sauce in the eighties. Not to mention, but she has been cooking with healthy oils, whole grains and legumes (that's right, Lentil Casserole) since the seventies. We cannot forget either that she has been cooking from magazines like Gourmet and Bon Appetit for seventeen years. Famous dishes in the Jansen household that company request over and over were begun way before the Food Network was an idea. Did I ever mention that she raised me vegetarian until I was two? No wonder some of my favorite foods still are things like avocado and fruit. She has been a true pioneer on all fronts: healthy, creative foods for, like her blog says, over 9000 meals (give or take a few). What a lady! What a foodie! Isn't she ultra cool? I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year's

Travis and I must begin this year with an overflowing thankful heart-- we had a wonderful time with our friends on our first anniversary celebrating New Year's Eve. We could not be more grateful for the invite to Jim Hubeck's home for what appears to be a favorite tradition among our friends. We were indoctrinated into "Morris the Moose", his tale of a moose who wanted to be a reindeer, and his Shakespeare reenactments-- this year we did two scenes from Macbeth--on top of a wonderful spread of wonderful food and a themed "sparkling"wine tasting.

Chanelle did appetizers-- delicious crispy Stuffed Olives, a Sauteed Mushrooms with Thyme over crostini and a Brie en Croute--which paired so well with a dry sparkling brut. Then we moved onto our main course of Joes' BBQ with one of my new favorites for the year, a sparkling Shiraz. Then for dessert, the piece d'resistance, came out of a cookbook, Pure Chocolate, that Emily and I drooled over about two years ago called Triple Chocolate Pyramid that was a chocolate almond cake with milk chocolate buttercream layers and dark chocolate sliced on a diagonal to form a show-stopping pyramid.

Now we all knew it was going to be rich but it was also decadent and gave us that little pep we needed to get us through to the wee hours of the morning. Travis and I especially needed it as we had the farthest drive home of anyone, and we stayed to help clean up afterward. We got home around two but had a wonderfully delightful time.

For the rest of the day we are in a holding pattern until our friends join us for a Dutch tradition of donuts called oliebolen which roughly translates "oil balls" but pack a punch of delicious flavor that far exceeds the scary name. There is no way that we are going to eat all those cinnamon-sugar donuts filled with raisins, apples and lemon and orange zest. We truly would be oil balls ourselves if we didn't share.

We wish you joy on this new year and we anticipate wonderful happiness for you all in Christ Jesus our Lord. Travis and I both feel as if we have never been happier in our lives...needless to say, we cannot wait to spend Year Two together in our life together.