Friday, November 30, 2007

Gift Tags: A Story

I always forget to buy gift tags for my presents, even if I have them on my shopping list. It's not a big deal if I have enough time to make them but sometimes I forget to do that too. One memorable year I spent Christmas Eve trying to remember which package belonged to who and writing down the recipients' names with a Sharpie right onto the wrapping paper. Everyone got the wrong gifts. I even opened a gift I had wrapped (forgetting for a moment that I wouldn't have wrapped a present for myself, duh). The family had a great laugh.

It's the best Christmas I've ever had.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Knitting and Reptiles Go Together...

...I think. Perhaps not but they seemed to define my evening.

Upon my way home from food shopping I saw three reptiles around my bedroom window- two frogs, a baby and an adult, and one lizard. The baby frog hopped away before I could get a good picture but I did manage to get decent ones of the adults (see above pics).

After making some BLTs for dinner (which I didn't think were interesting enough for a post of their own) I settled down for a bit of knitting. I happen to knit with very little, if any, thought as to what it is I am making. I suppose right now I'm making a scarf. I want it to be a gift but the friend in mind works in a professional environment and I suspect she might find it childish. But everyone needs a fun fuzzy scarf, right?

ETA: I forgot to mention what kind of yarn this is. It's two yarns worked together, both Lion Brand: Incredible in "City Lights" and Fancy Fur in "Electric Slide". I'm using sz 10 needles.

Hmm. I'll finish the scarf and see what my family thinks. Worse case scenario I'd find use for it, I'm sure. If i make another scarf with the same yarn but in a different colour I could make a striped pillow or rug...See, ideas never stop. By the way, one side looks a bit wonky but there's nothing wrong with the knitting. I was just too lazy to take a good picture.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to wrap presents, drop by the bank, and do some majour cleaning in the kitchen. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's dinner quite a bit: Cornish hens stuffed with rosemary and lemon, served with a garlic sauce and a rice pilaf. Mango sorbet with lemon slices finishes off the meal.

I can't wait!

Until next time,
<3 Jess

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oxtail Stew (Minus the Stew)

Rabo guisado, arroz blanco, habichuelas rosadas

A lot of the oxtail (rabo) recipes I see are for a stew; something with a few veggies, a moderate amount of liquid, and meant to be eaten alone. While this tastes well I've never cooked oxtail this way. I like the sauce to be thick and a perfect accompaniment to white rice and red kidney beans. I've been cooking it this way for years and it's one of my mom's favourite dishes. She's sick today so I decided to spoil her. I also thought to take a few pictures of the process as well as the final product.

I used a pound and a half of oxtail. The first step was to mix about three cups of flour, five tablespoons of salt, and two tablespoons of pepper in a plastic container (one I never returned to the neighbours heh) and made sure the oxtail were well covered.

In the meantime I let two tablespoons of butter melt in my stock pot. Once the oxtail was covered I added them into the pot, a few pieces at a time, until browned on all sides. I set that aside.

Into the pot I added in chopped onions, peppers, and garlic and let that sautee until caramelized.

The oxtail went back into the post along with 8oz of tomato sauce, beef broth, oregano, cilantro, parsley, an adobo mix, and a tiny dash of Worcestershire sauce.

It look pretty watery and...well, empty in the above pic but it's not. I bring it up to a boil and then let it simmer for a wonderful three hours. In that time the liquid has reduced to a thick gravy. I adjust salt and pepper to taste and then serve with the rest of the meal.

My dinner plate (no presentation; I was hungry!!)

Mmm Mmm Mmmm. This is a perfect stick-to-the-ribs kind of meal. Add in a nice salad and a cold drink, and you're good to go. To really up the ante on this meal I followed it up with a nice Dulce de Leche ice cream. My waistline gave up the good fight.

Until next time,
<3 Jess

"A Material Reflection" or "OMG I WANT THIS!"

I love surfing the net on my free time and I especially love looking at handmade, personal wares that someone clearly put a lot of passion into. Although there's nothing wrong with getting all your gifts at Target or worshiping big name brands (I happen to worship Nintendo, fyi). Here's a bunch of items and stores I'm fond of drooling over. I'm not actually asking for these things but sometimes taking a moment (or half an hour) to think of things you'd like (and posting them to your wishlist) is healthy . Besides, they make great gifts for anyone so keep these awesome places and their items in mind.

I adore the little pendants at this shop. They are photos or paintings printed on plastic and sealed for truly unique necklaces. My favourite is Almost Night [pictured at left]. Gorgeous.


Cute crocheted stuffed toys! These toys are made with original patterns by Ana Paula herself. Her creations caught the eyes of amigurumi enthusiasts everywhere and now you can pre-order her book, Amigurumi World, at and Borders. It's high on my wishlist, for sure.

Belle and Boo

These prints are adorable and for some reason always remind me of my grandmother. I'd love one or two of these hanging in my kitchen or bedroom. This one is called "Under the Mistletoe" and it's one of my favourites.

Not so handmade: Items that are mass-produced (some more than others). I still think are cool enough to give someone for the holidays.

Fred Flare

I remember shopping at Fred Flare online when it was a small shop with only five categories. A few years later and this site has grown, big time. It's still my favourite place to score funky accessories and home decor, including some old things I thought I'd never see again. I had a snow cone machine just like this one when I was a kid.

Illustory Make Your Own Story Kit

Now this is exciting! I've gotten this kit for a few kids and never been disappointed. Children ages 5 to 8 create this own story on the pages of the kit; they can draw, paint, and write whatever their little hearts dreams up. Stick the pages into the pre-paid envelope provided, send it off, and in three weeks you'll get a professionally printed version of the book. You can only write twenty words per page and it's a short book but that's okay; the kids can write their 500pg thesis when they're older.

Kozik Anarchy Tofu Robot

Isn't he adorable? Animal friendly AND liberal, how can you get any better than this? I'm dying to have one of these little guys on my desk. He's made by Spicy Brown toys and is a limited edition. You can also buy him from My Plastic Heart.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Every single person I know who owns this book raves about it. The recipes are tasty, easy to make, and look beautiful. But really, what more can I ask for from the people behind The Post Punk Kitchen?

And that's the list of really cool things I want. To see other cool items you can drop by Etsy which is essentially an internet shopping universe just for handmade, one of a kind items. Now that I'm done, it's your turn.

What would you like?

Until next time
<3 Jess

Monday, November 26, 2007

Being Organized for Everything Except Christmas

My planner open to this week

I pride myself on being a very organized person. As you can see from my agenda, I like to keep on top of everything whether it's sales, school activities, weekly menus, whatever. Embarrassingly enough I use a "Go Mom!" planner; aimed at the stay-at-home mother it has a daily planning section with a space to put meals on the bottom, to-do/to-call lists, medical, grocery, and school information sections, a place to put pets' vet records, a place to put household info (mortgage company, insurance company, etc), and a very large address book section for contacts.

To be honest, I was quite embarrassed when I first started using this type of planner two years ago. While I am essentially a "housewife", I have no children, I'm not married, and I'm in my early 20's*. Using this planner, even though I loved it, felt like I was one step away from spandex leggings and a teal minivan with too many bumper stickers on it. But I digress...

My point was that I love being organized to a point of embarrassment. By this time of year most of the presents have been bought, the last few are being made, many have been wrapped, and my neat little checklist dwindles down until the week before Christmas when I am done with everything and begin work on a menu fit for kings.

Not this year.

Yeah, that's right. I'm nowhere near done with gifts, I haven't even picked out what I want, nothing has been wrapped, and I haven't given a thought to Christmas menu other than the fact I'd like to cook pernil again. In fact, the most Christmas-y thing I've done is set up the tree and take the Christmas burro out of it's box.

Our Christmas Burro. Why do we have one? I have no idea.

At a time when Christmas is finally coming at me as fast as I can take it, I've slowed to a snail's pace and am taking it easy. I didn't even plan out Black Friday or stake out a shopping line spot for a sweet deal. Instead I wandered into Target at 5pm and walked out with Donnie Darko, Patch Adams, Say Anything's "In Defense of the Genre", Othello (boardgame) , two My Littlest Pet Shop toys, Baby Einstein toys, and a few other small goodies; in other words, pretty low-key stocking stuffers. Target was not as packed nor as chaotic as I thought it'd be but that's probably because I was there so late. The best part of the shopping trip was that the small cafe inside was completely empty; I bought myself a regular coffee and sipped away contemplating what to get the special people in my life before and then went back to ponder about NYC afterward. Christmas always makes me miss the city...but I digress.

I'd list everything I bought and who it's for but I think a few of my giftees read this blog (although they never comment...AHEM!) and I hate spoiling surprises.

I have a few ideas of what I would like for Christmas but everything I can think of, I find a reason I don't need it. I'm working on a blog post of gifts and stores I find cool but I don't think I'll ask for anything on that list. Times are a bit tough since no one is the household works* at the moment so I've taken to spoiling the kids. And let's face it, I'm not a kid anymore. My "Go Mommy" planner says so.

Until next time
<3 Jess

PS: *At some point I'll probably give a quick rundown about myself and where I come from, why I'm here, who I live with, what I do, etc etc. My insanely boring life story; coming soon to a blog near you!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

T'was the Day (Way) After Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Table

Clockwise from top: Roasted Turkey with herb butter ( inside is a sausage, bread and picadillo stuffing). Yellow rice with pigeon peas. Sauteed green beans tossed with baked sweet potatoes, roasted garlic and balsamic vinaigrette. Gravy (in small individual ramekins). Herbed Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Cranberry and Orange Sauce (in red goblet). Coquito (in green pitcher). Brown Sugar and Honey Ham. Not shown: NY Style Cheesecake. Carrot Cupcakes. Bread. Cheese platter. Bruschetta.

Herb Roasted Turkey

I slow roasted my turkey from 6am 'til almost 6pm; close to twelve hours of slow heat and a lot of moisture. I had, seriously, one of the juiciest turkeys I've ever made. I couldn't even take it out of the rack because it started to fall apart when I tried to move it. I had to serve it on the rack! It ruined my table atmosphere and took up precious room but I'm not complaining.

Brown Sugar and Honey Ham

Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes

I ended up not serving all the food I thought I would which is good because no one showed up. Actually, my aunt, her husband, and her child did show up but they had already eaten at someone else's Thanksgiving dinner. No, I'm not bitter about that at all. This just means that A) I'm glad I didn't serve more food than I did and B) I'll have some leftovers (normally my leftovers only last me until the next morning). I was bitter that my aunt and uncle made terrible guests and really irritated my little brother who ended up leaving the dining room and spending the rest of the evening in bed. Ahh, family. Gotta love them, right?

I made up for the subpar Thanksgiving by making some killer sandwiches from the leftovers and my family (well, my household) fixed up the Christmas tree. I did indeed venture out on Black Friday but it was much later in the evening and I only picked up a few smaller items like DVDs and toys for the kids. The rest of the holiday weekend was spent lounging around and cleaning the house. Tomorrow I will begin decorating the outdoors for the holidays. Fun fun fun.

Now if only I could plan what to cook tomorrow. I'm thinking a fettuccine with marinara sauce, steamed lemon pepper broccoli and...and...aww bloody hell. I'm too tired to think of anything to cook. Oh...on second though I think I'll make oxtail soup. Yes. Oxtail soup. *licks lips* Picture and recipe tomorrow, perhaps.

Until next time
<3 Jess

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tropical Beef Stew (A Poor Man's Sancocho)

Tropical Beef Stew

Beef, plantains, yams, cassava, and spanish pumpkins simmered in a broth made from stock, sour orange juice and spices.

Although this is close as hell to a Dominican Sancocho (seven meat stew) it only has beef in it therefore I'm just calling it a beef stew. I don't have a recipe for this (I just threw all this stuff together randomly to fabulous results) but look I will post my sancocho recipe sometime next week. Enjoy.

T'was the Day Before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving menu

Excuse my messy penmanship; I wrote the updated menu this morning at two in the morning just before falling asleep clutching a recipe for biscuits and dreaming of lumps of dough dancing to the nutcracker suite. Incidentally I just realized I left biscuits off this menu though I plan to make them..sneaky, yeasty bastards.

The checkmarks next to the dishes indicates I've made it already, the dash means I'm going to be preparing it completely or partially today and the x means it gets cooked completely tomorrow.

Thanksgiving is also our Christmas tree decorating party; after a good meal my whole family places ornaments on the tree in between playing board games, the wii, and watching family movies like "The Grinch" or "Nightmare Before Christmas". So that means I have to take down the tree and ornaments from the closet and sort through them. Actually, I think my mother and brother will be doing most of the household stuff on my to-do list, which I am grateful for. Truthfully I shouldn't be sitting on my ass and blogging when lots has to be done but every girl needs some downtime.

Today's To-Do List:


Place turkey in cold water to ensure it's fully thawed
Season turkey and let marinate in fridge overnight
Roast garlic for mashed potatoes
Prepare gravy (minus thickening agent)
Wrap sweet potatoes in foil to roast tomorrow
Mix glaze for ham
Infuse extra virgin olive oil with rosemary and thyme for bread dipping tomorrow
Prepare picadillo (seasoned ground beef)
Toast bread for stuffing
Thaw sausage for stuffing


Press table linens
Wash platters and serving ware
Set up Christmas tree
Bring down boxes of ornaments
Recharge camera batteries
Recharge wii remotes

My to-do list tomorrow is huge and organized by hour so I'm not even going to get into that. I'm also going to take a moment tonight to manicure my nails (which as a cook just means making sure they're clean, unpolished, and short), do my hair (neat bun), and go to sleep early!

Here's hoping tomorrow goes well.

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Tease

Coquito (tropical eggnog)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Buzz Lightyear is the Victor! (Coquito Helps)

Buzz Lightyear: Disney Sorry

Today was an eventful day. My cousin came over so i could watch her during the Thanksgiving day. We played plenty of Disney Sorry; i was both the blue AND red team and won. Thanks, Buzz!

Preparations for Thanksgiving are well under way. Today was spent making a thick turkey stock for gravy, cranberry sauce, two cheesecakes, and spice mixtures for the meat. I'm very excited about the menu I am serving on Thursday. Hopefully it all goes off without a hitch and everything comes out tasting fine.

I got a bit of a surprise today. A friend of M had a three month old kitten he couldn't keep due to his rental agreement. My mom took her in and brought her to me. I've named her Misfit (or Missy (Me-see) for short). She wasted no time climbing over everything and acquainting herself with my library.

Mmm, vegetarian cookbooks!

She has thankfully adjusted quite well to the other animals. Her favourite game so far seems to be "Grab Poco's tail and run." Very amusing for Missy, not that amusing for Poco. *raises glass of coquito*Here's to having eight furry babies keeping you warm.

Until next time,
<3 Jess

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pernil (Roasted Pork)

Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)

There is no meal I love better than a pernil. When I was a child I paced in and out of the kitchen the entire six hours it cooked. When I was vegetarian I dreamed about it. When I cooked for two I hoped for an army to suddenly appear at my door and demand a good meal. If I was ever to commit a heinous crime and had my choice of a last meal...well, you see where I am going with this.

Roasted pork shoulder is a traditional family, and Puerto Rican, dish. Usually served for Christmas or special occasions it is always accompanied by yellow rice, good rum, and great friends. I've been aching for an reason to cook one and I finally got it when Kyle made the Dean's List. As you can see in the picture above it turned out scrumptious. Below is my recipe for a ten pound bone-in pernil. Boneless works just as well just remember that you might have to adjust the mojo accordingly. Sour orange juice can be found in the hispanic/mexican/ethnic aisle in your grocery store. If not available, mix 1/3 cups of lemon juice with 2/3 cup of orange juice. I also advise letting the pork shoulder marinate overnight in the mojo but this is not necessary.

Pernil Asado

8-10lb pork shoulder, pork butt, or picnic roast
12 cloves of garlic


12 cloves of garlic
1/4 c bitter (sour) orange juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoons ground black pepper

In a food processor, mix all the mojo ingredients into a paste. Taste and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. Put aside.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Fat side down, make several deep stabs into the pork shoulder (I make about six). Stick a peeled garlic clove into each stab. Rub about 1/3 of the mojo into the shoulder making sure to get some into the pockets (the stabs you just made).

Turn pernil over so fat side is now up. Stab pernil in the same manner as before and stick a garlic clove into each stab. Rub 1/3 of mixture into the pockets. Now score the skin on top in a diamond pattern (see picture above) and rub rest of mojo all over the shoulder. You want some on the top, the sides, etc. This is what makes a very tasty chicharron or cuerito (crunchy skin). Marinate overnight. If you don't have the time, continue with recipe as follows.

Place in a heavy roasting pan and cover with foil or lid. Roast at 325F for six to seven hours, until shoulder is brown and tender. Raise temperature to 450F, remove foil, and roast for another 15 minutes to let skin crisp. Alternatively you can put it under the broiler if you have one.

Let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with warm potato salad, yellow rice, and lots of rum. ¡Buen Provecho!

Where To Find My Writing

If you look over at my labels I don't have anything for my writing. No I haven't stopped or gotten rid of anything, I just never used this blog for creative writing purposes. Since I don't intend to transfer all of those posts here (that would take days) I will link to two places you can find my work.

The first is my defunct writing blog Ink to Bark. I actually really liked having a writing blog but I find it hard to keep it updated. For now it will stay up so anyone wanting to read old posts is free to do so.

The second is my EditRed profile. I am still a member and will be updating this often as well as participating in challenges, commenting on others' work, etc etc. If you're an ER member drop me a line so I can add you to my reader list.

Any new writing will be posted in this blog and under a " my writing" label. Anything that is not written by me will be under some other label ("literature" perhaps).

Until next time
<3 Jess

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Material, New Look

In case you haven't noticed, WiF has a new look; a nice mellow background colour and font that is easier to read. I think it's a nice change from the black and red, which is proof my teenage angst has run its course.

Furthermore I've decided to make this my blog of choice. All my other blogs are on hiatus and feature links to this one. I'm just too absentminded to keep switching back and forth to post in each one. My real life is obviously not that separated so why should my blog be? From now on this is my blog, everything you've never wanted to know about me in one smart, little Google feature. I have used the nifty labeling add on in order to make sifting through my posts easier. If you want to look at just cooking, click on "cooking." If you want to read my writing, click on "writing." (Truth be told I don't have much writing on here...but that's for another post).

I hope this makes my blog easier to read. If anyone has any suggestions or just wants to say hello, leave a comment.

Until next time
<3 Jess

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Herbs, Spices, and Condiments- Oh My!

I take great joy in my kitchen. It's not state of the art, it's not huge, and it's not fancy but it suits me just fine. With Thanksgiving just a week away I've been spending all my spare time in my favourite room of the house pouring over cookbooks, reorganizing shelves, and purging what I don't use anymore (C'mon, we all have that one kitchen gadget we bought and never used...).

Last night, on whim, I decided to organize my spice cabinet. Yes, that's right, my spices have their own cabinet. It wasn't working very well, however; in order to find one spice I had to go through countless bottles wasting time and energy. I couldn't find my spices and I ended up with duplicates. I have four bottles of white vinegar! Clearly something had to be done. After a day of planning (and failed attempts to sleep) I was up for the challenge.

First thing was to empty my spice cabinet. Um...yeah. That was a mess. Then I had to throw out the stale and/or unused ones. I took a picture of what was left.

Spices, Before Organizing

I found plastic bins at the grocery store (3 for $0.94!) and got two sets. I split them by cuisine since that seems to be the easiest way for me to remember where something is. Also, I can now just grab a whole tray and pull it down without having to sort through countless bottles. My bigger items (like the vinegar and soy sauce) I've put in a drawer.

Newly Organized Condiment (and Tea) Drawer

Newly Organized Spice Cabinet

Now I have everything within reach while I am cooking. A happy cook makes for good meals, dontcha think?

Until next time,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Forty Six (Yonjuuroku) Days Until Christmas!

I am excited. Really excited. I'm already buying gofts and planning both the Thanksgiving and Christmas menus. Honestly, I dunno who is doing the "family" Thanksgiving; there always seems to be a tug of war within the women for it. But regardless, I always host some kind of celebration either on Thanksgiving or the following weekend.

It is tradition for me to cook a massive meal (I mean massive) while the decorations and tree are put up. The first presents are also placed under the tree on this day. This year's menu is sure to be a real doozy. I'm not sure how many people are coming but if everyone in my family plans to come I will have fifteen people to feed. Not a huge amount, actually. I'm used to huge parties with thirty family members or so...but this isn't a "I miss NYC" pity post so none of those thoughts *shakes head*. Anyway, this year I'll be cooking a turkey, a spiral ham, lasagna, yellow rice, mashed taters, gravy, green beans, a green salad, stuffing (two kinds), and some desserts. Oh and appetizers and a snack tray. Hmm. Oh and of course coquito will be served. *licks lips*

I cook more traditional Puerto Rican food on Christmas: A roast pork shoulder, some potato salad, arroz con gandules, pasteles, un asopao...aye dios mio. ¡Ahora tengo hambre!

Anyway, I need to go hide some gifts and then practice some Kanji. RANDOM JAPANESE UPDATE: Learning the Kanji blows. I don't think my brain can handle learning a thousand characters right now. The hiragana so far has been fun though. In fact, learning the meaning behind the kanji is fun too. For example, did you know the kanji for telephone is the kanji for electricity and the kanji for talk combined? Electric speaking...sounds like a band name.

Until next time <3

New Pictures on Flickr

Lilly Being...Lilly

Go see the new pictures I uploaded a few days ago. If you have Flickr, add me as a contact to see the ones of my family.