Wednesday, June 27

John Piper Books on Sale $5

I saw in a comment on Catherine's blog that the books in the store at Desiring God are on sale for $5! Check it out!

I have read and love: Desiring God, Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God, and Let the Nations Be Glad!. I have The Pleasures of God but need to read it. Other books that friends have recommended include Brothers We are Not Professionals and Future Grace

Sale ends tomorrow. The functionality of the site is touch and go.

The sale was extended to noon on Friday, and the site is working much better today.

Sunday, June 24

Mocha Marbled Coffee Cake

I made the following cake for my sister-in-law's baby shower. I made it once a couple of years ago but this time, implemented a couple methods from America's Test Kitchen, which they use in their chocolate bundt cake recipe. If interested, I could email you the recipe in Word.

Mocha Marbled Coffee Cake
Makes 16 servings

2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup boiling water

1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp cocoa powder

12 Tbsp butter (1 ½ sticks), softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 whole eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp instant coffee powder or 2 Tbsp espresso powder, dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups sour cream (regular or light)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare chocolate mixture by pouring boiling water over cocoa and chocolate, whisking gently to melt and combine. Whisk until smooth and shiny. Set aside.
  3. Prepare bundt pan by combining melted butter and cocoa to form a smooth paste with a fork or small whisk. Using a pastry brush, coat bundt pan with mixture, making sure to get in all crevices and far enough up the sides. Set aside.
  4. Using a mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined. Add vanilla and dissolved coffee.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour and next three ingredients (through salt).
  6. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Mix just until combined for each step. Scrape down sides and bottom.
  7. Put half the batter in a separate bowl and add the chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.
  8. Place 1/4 cup of the coffee batter in two opposite sides of the pan. Place ¼ cup chocolate batter in the other two parts; spread until they meet. Continue placing about ¼ cup of each batter on top of the other kind of batter, to create a checkerboard pattern. Spread to even out after the last of the batter is done.
  9. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with scant crumbs on it (but not doughy). Baking times may vary depending on your oven.
  10. Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes; turn out of pan. After the cake is completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar, if desired, or garnish each serving with whipped cream.

Saturday, June 23


Random photo from my file

I finally started and am sorta hooked on Lost. I've been renting the DVDs of season 1.

Monday, June 18

Second Annual Cooking Poll

Last year, I posted a poll for people to list their top 10 favorite ingredients. Knowing that tastes can change over time, I am going to list my 10 and compare to the list I made last year to see if there are any differences. They weren't in any particular order.

1. Garlic
2. Olive Oil
3. Salt: kosher and sea
4. Lime juice or zest
5. Balsamic vinegar
6. Piquin chiles (tiny, very hot dried chiles)
7. Parmesan cheese
8. Onions
9. Sugar

I just checked my old list, and three items didn't make it this time but ARE still favorites: coffee, cilantro and butter. How could I forget butter? I also checked my pantry...I have six varieties of salt! Oh man. And I have 10 kinds of vinegar.

Friday, June 15

Please, NO MORE

I have had enough. Of the house sparrow. That insists on chirping me awake. An hour before my alarm is supposed to go off. JUST because I have prevented him from nesting in my grill.

If he had a nest to build somewhere else, he wouldn't be on MY balcony, near MY window nearly all day chirping a high pitched chirp, starting at about 5:30 am. May I catch it and kill it please? Sounds extreme, I know, but after at least 10 different mornings in the last few weeks of waking up before my alarm during the work gets tiring. Thus I googled "how to get rid of house sparrows" just now and plan to figure it out.

In the meantime, I took the foil out of my grill to allow the sparrow to be busy building a nest. I will keep removing it and keep letting him build it if it will keep him quiet!! I, by the way, have a fan in my window on high, I have the other one shut, and I have stuffed a towel on either side of the fan to shut out more sound. Doesn't work!

It is particularly frustrating today because I've had a full week, am tired, got to bed an hour later than I hoped and then couldn't fall asleep for two hours despite being tired! I know many of you go on little sleep all the time, but I guess in living by myself and being used to getting a good night's sleep, it's frustrating to have it disrupted by something like a bird. A baby? That is worthwhile. Not a bird.

"Under federal law, House Sparrow nests, eggs, young, and adults may be legally removed or destroyed", according to this site. Waking me isn't the only offense. I have a feeling that the two nests resting on wires attached to my building no longer have eggs or baby birds in them and are not sparrow nests. It is very likely the sparrow has already gotten to them based on what I've learned about how house sparrows attack and mutilate other birds and eggs.

Wednesday, June 13

My Food Diary

I would like to put out a recommendation for My Food Diary. It's an online food journal and support center for weight loss. I have been working and stalling and working and stalling for years to achieve certain specific fitness goals, and MFD has contributed to the successes I've had. I'm now stepping up and focusing more seriously on reaching my goals this summer, and MFD is an essential tool for me. It has been a great resource to teach me how to eat well and track my progress. It's $9 a month, which I think is GREAT (compared to Weight Watchers $12 or so per week and you have fewer tools). The features include:
  • a very large database of foods, including hundreds of restaurants
  • the ability to add your own recipes by inputing ingredients, amounts, and number of servings. It'll then give you the nutrition data per serving and add that to your "Fridge", which is your personal database of foods you eat.
  • a body log, where you record your weight and measurements. It tracks it on a graph and lists how many pounds or inches you have lost, and how many pounds you have left to lose.
  • an active forum where you can post questions, get support and learn more tools and ideas. I am in a group of about 7 women whose motto is "deadly determined" to reach our goals, for our own health, fitness and long-term wellness.
  • a daily summary of how many calories you have left in the day to lose __ pounds per week and maintain your weight. It'll tell you "if every day were like today, in one month you would weigh ___" and it gives what date you'd reach our target weight.
How do you use it? Daily, you go to your Fridge, enter what you are eating or will eat, and it adds it to your diary for the day. It gives you a "smiley" on the summary page for things such as reaching daily amounts for vitamins and minerals (A, C, Iron, Calcium), high fiber, low saturated fat, water consumption, no dessert, and exercise. You get frowns for high sodium, no exercise, not enough calories, too many calories, and more.

The fridge starts out empty when you sign up. Over time, you'll add the foods you eat, like milk, cheese, etc. You can put anything in your fridge - ANYTHING. If a brand or type of food isn't in the existing MFD database, chances are the company's website publishes the nutrition data. If you have the nutrition label from the package, you can quickly add it to your fridge.

With the recipe building feature, I am able to add in the decadent desserts I sometimes make in order to know how many calories a slice contains.

The system doesn't let you eat too few calories without warning you. You are supposed to eat the calories you earn by exercising. Why? If you are already on a 1400 calorie diet to lose weight, but you burn 500 that day with exercise and don't eat those calories back, you essentially net 900 calories, which is way too few to be healthy and to lose weight in a healthy way. Your metabolism will slow and your body will store what you eat once it enters survival mode at that calorie level.

It works when I use and stay in my calorie range and log my food intake. The times it doesn't work = user error/failure, not method error. I know that not everyone is like this, but I believe I will need to be mindful on a long-term basis about what I eat in order to be fit and healthy. It's a good wake-up call to see how calories quickly add up without really realizing it.

The only downside is that a trial period isn't available.

Saturday, June 9

Oh That Sparrow!

I identified the type of sparrow that is lurking around my balcony - a house sparrow. What I also learned is that they attack other birds! Maybe you knew that. They seem vicious, and I hope they are not attacking other nests that are near my balcony! The stories are sad.

My Bounty

I finally cut the lettuce which was growing in my railing box, and there is a lot of lettuce! I intend to take it to our fellowship dinner tomorrow for a sandwich toppings. My balcony is a great place to grow vegetables since there is full sun and no bunnies to nibble.

Also, my nasturtiums have made great progress from their early days as a seed:

Lastly, I am quite familiar now with the sound of Angry Sparrow who is likely irate that there is a Piece of Foil in the grill where his Nest belongs. He woke me up a couple times this week before 6 am. I hear you. This is still MY home, not yours, bird. You also shouldn't hang out long enough in my grill so that some "waste" is deposited. However, the two morning doves lounging comfortably on my balcony are welcome. So are the precious cardinal couple who feed each other birdseed.

Wednesday, June 6

Th Ancho-Lime Marinated BBQ Chicken went swimmingly with the couscous and vegetables I made yesterday. I grilled the chicken tonight and had some of the couscous leftovers. I loved it! So flavorful, healthy and complimentary.

After removing the chicken from the marinade, I boiled the excess in the microwave instead of discarding it, and I basted it on the chicken as it cooked. I might add some brown sugar to the rest of the marinade that wasn't used today (I made a whole recipe but used a portion for one breast of chicken).

Tuesday, June 5

More Recipes

I prepared the marinade from a recipe, Ancho-Lime Marinated BBQ Chicken today and will use it tomorrow on boneless chicken breasts. I was drawn to it for the lime and ancho chile part and need to restock some spices soon from Penzey's. I've been improvising with my lack of vanilla extract by scraping some vanilla beans for a couple other recent recipes.

Tonight, I am having the third grilled vegetable dish from my post below and hope it turns out well! I also made the recommended side dish, Onion Raita.

My dinner was delicious and so flavorful! I made Grilled Vegetables & Chickpeas w/ Couscous. The accompanying side dish tasted great with it. I made some changes to the vegetables. I don't care for zucchini, so I left out that and the yellow squash and used only onions and red and yellow peppers. Also, I added ground red pepper, an extra tablespoon of lemon juice, extra salt, some lemon zest, and a crushed clove of garlic. I would definitely make this again and look forward to the leftovers. It's so healthy too! I didn't make any changes to the Onion Raita, and it was handy to grill the onions together for both recipes.

What I've Been Doing

Since I haven't blogged much, I must be doing something, right?

Besides working, I have been:
- visiting my family in Oregon
- missing Ryan who is in Colorado & Wyoming for the summer
- talking on the phone and writing letters to Ryan
- being more intentional about exercise and eating
- fellowshipping with many women over email
- editing and enjoying my photos from Oregon
- tending the flowers on my balcony
- adding more blogs of my friends and acquaintances to my Google Reader. I now have 16 and it sure makes it easier and faster to see new blog posts all in one place.
- enjoying the fellowship and instruction of bible study (John's Epistles)
- thankful for the wisdom and discernment God has been giving me and the great sermons I've been hearing
- watching ticket prices for trips to Oregon (Sept, Nov & Dec) and San Diego (Oct)
- realizing my prayer life still needs work
- wondering when my Verizon wireless overages will end

Besides working, this summer I will/hope to:
- reach my fitness goals for the first time EVER
- attend Beethoven's 9th Symphony with Danila
- see Ryan at Synod in three weeks
- see my pregnant sister-in-law in three weeks
- enjoy fellowship with the small, all-female mission team coming to North Hills in July (Hi Shannon!)
- fly to Kansas for a few days in August to meet Ryan's family
- fly to Oregon in late August with Ryan to spend time with my family

The birds are still attempting to build a complete nest in my grill. But I'm bigger and use the grill for cooking.

Books I'm reading or recently read: Passion & Purity; Tom Clancy's Splintercell Checkmate; The Robber Bride; Matthew; Luke