The Kinky Green


The Market

Posted in The Social by Joy on May 23, 2011
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ExplodingDog.com

"I knew I shouldn't have gone out there but I did it anyway" by Sam Brown of ExplodingDog.com

I went out Saturday in Dupont with some friends. Had an excellent martini, and laughed my butt off.

Mainly at this guy:

Guy: What’s your name?
Me: Joy. Yours?
Guy: [Redacted]

[General pleasantries and whatnot]

Guy: (Leaning in close) I’m here to rock your world.
Me: Oh…
Guy: If you’re in the market for that sort of thing.
Me: Um, yeah, not really… Thanks, though!

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Sweet Potato Brownie Bites

Posted in The Environmental,The Occupational by Joy on May 16, 2011
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Sweet Potato Brownie Bites

Lately I’ve been battling my sweet tooth. This largely means I awake every day with a fresh resolve to conquer the urge to shove whatever sugary morsels are within arm’s reach into my mouth with abandon. With few exceptions, by nightfall I’ve generally had to admit my defeat.

It seems the allure of those chocolate chip cookies, or lemon wedges, or chocolate mint chips, or orange slices, or toffees, or ice cream sandwiches, or peanut butter cups, or, yanno, whatever delectable treat crosses my path is too much to resist something like 87.5% of the time (+/- a 12.5% margin of error).

So maybe it’s time to reevaluate my battle. Generally speaking, I’m ok with allowing myself a bit of indulgence. I eat well most of the time and am active enough to feel justified in a having a little treat now and then. The problems arise when those ‘little treats’ come in the form of highly-processed, unmeasured morsels. Then I’m dealing with the issue of both quantity and quality.

So yesterday, when I found a link to an article about hiding your veggies in your desserts, it hit me that I should probably stop fighting myself and admit that sweets are part of my life. At least, though, I can try to make my indulgences fall somewhat in line with the rest of my eating habits.

Enter: Sweet Potato Brownie Bites

(Recipe below as I prepared it. See link above for original.)

Servings: 24
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 2 per Brownie Bite

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup sweet-potato puree (or one medium sweet potato, boiled skin on, and pureed)
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two mini-cupcake tins; set aside.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Remove pan from heat, and stir in cocoa. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in sugar and sweet-potato puree, then egg.

Add vanilla to cocoa mixture. Then add flour mixture to cocoa mixture and stir until no traces of flour remain. Spoon into prepared pans; smooth the top. Bake until surface of brownies looks barely dry and an inserted knife comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature before serving.

First Great Salad of the Season

Posted in The Environmental,The Physical,The Social by Joy on May 13, 2011
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Weight Watchers Greek Lemon-Dill Grilled Chicken Salad

I found myself with a few minutes between career job and fun job Wednesday and used the opportunity to stop into the Farmer’s Market in Old Town.

On the produce front, only two farms were represented, neither organic, both within in a respectable range of distance. Both had beautiful products, and I tried to spend my $20 relatively evenly between the two.

From the first stand, I purchased sugar snap peas, two varieties of beets, dill, and a beautiful (greenhouse) tomato. At the second stand, I bought the most gorgeous head of red leaf lettuce I’ve ever laid eyes on and a ton of fantastic smelling strawberries.

I knew I was hosting Mrs. and Mr. P for dinner Thursday night, but I had no idea how I would pull together what I’d purchased to serve them, even as I pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store a mere two hours before their arrival. Rather than wander the aisles in a state of exhaustion tempered only by near panic, I did what any resourceful Southern hostess with half a fridge full of perishables, guests on the way, and a serious time impediment would do…

I pulled out my handy iPhone. (Okay. I admit it. I’m finally an iPhone-loving convert.)

With the forces of Apple and Weight Watchers united, I was blessed with an awesomely delicious, healthy recipe that was a snap to pull together, tasted fantastic, looked beautiful plated and afforded me the time for 15 minutes of beauty rest before my guests arrive.

Try it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Greek Lemon-Dill Grilled Chicken Salad

Weight Watchers PointsPlus™ Value: 8
Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 18 min
Cooking Time: 15 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy

A fabulous Greek salad with a few tasty additions like chickpeas and fresh dill.

Marinade/Dressing Ingredients

  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, extra-virgin
  • 2 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried minced garlic
  • 1 tsp table salt, or to taste
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 pound(s) Chicken, breast, raw, without skin & bone, four 4-oz pieces
  • 2 spray(s) cooking spray
  • 4 cup(s) romaine lettuce, thickly shredded
  • 1 cup(s) canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup(s) roasted red peppers, packed in water, diced
  • 1 cup(s) English cucumber, sliced
  • 10 medium olive(s), Kalamata, sliced
  • 1/4 cup(s) crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp dill, fresh, chopped
  • 1/2 medium lemon(s), cut into wedges for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine water, oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper; remove 1/4 cup of dressing and place in a large zip-close plastic bag (or glass bowl).
  2. Add chicken to bag (or bowl) and turn to coat; seal bag (or cover bowl) and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining lemon mixture for dressing.
  3. When ready to cook, off heat, coat grill or grill pan with cooking spray; preheat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade.
  4. Grill chicken, turning as needed, until cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Place lettuce on a serving platter; arrange vegetables, chickpeas, chicken, olives and cheese on top. Stir dill into reserved dressing; drizzle over salad. Yields about 1 1/2 cups salad, 1 chicken breast and 1 tablespoon each olives and feta per serving.
For dessert, I served the fresh strawberries with a side of homemade whipped cream. While I was in the kitchen, I also baked my beets and simmered the greens in a bit of white wine I had on hand. Easy and de-licious go-tos for coming meals.

On Complications

Posted in The Emotional,The Social by Joy on May 12, 2011
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Dining Alone, Oil on canvas by Berc Ketchian

He: I haven’t had a vegetable in days.

She: You should eat your vegetables.

He: But I’m a mean cook.

She: Then cook some vegetables.

He: There was a girl. It got complicated.

She: Vegetables aren’t really that hard.

He: I need to learn to take care of myself. I’m a mean cook. I just can’t cook for one.

She: I’ve been cooking for myself for years.

He: That’s just sad.

She: Maybe… But it’s not complicated.

They Let Me Wield a Pickax

For the second time this calendar year, I got up early on a sunny Saturday morning, drove to a part of D.C. I’d never before visited, and met with a group of strangers who would later give me free reign to swing a pickax.

Two things to report here.

This is not me wielding a pickax. I'm pretty sure I did not look this cool.

1. In addition to brute strength, swinging a pickax effectively takes a lot more finesse than I’d imagined.
2. People let me use a pickax. These fools must be crazy.

The events, of course, were volunteer opportunities I found through the awesomeness that is OneBrick.org.

The first was at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a heretofore hidden (from me) gem of National Park glory. I haven’t been back to explore the site more fully, but I have every intention. I talked to one of the rangers, and, unlike *some* of DC’s finest public outdoor attractions (which shall remain nameless), things like flying kites and playing Frisbee are completely cool there. (Picnic anyone?)

Anyhow, our task for the day was to create French drains on either side of one of their greenhouses. The thought was that all the water from, uh, watering can run out of the greenhouse and into the drain to be whisked away, instead of pooling up in nasty puddles all along the perimeter of the house. The area we were digging was only dirt, so we got right in there with shovels and made a trench, laid some tubing, and then filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of rocks and pebbles to cover the tubing. Viola! French drain!

We were so awesomely effective that the park rangers gave us the additional task of breaking up a grassy area to lay the last bit of drainage tube for the final runoff. This is where the first pickax came into play for me. I managed not to chop my own head off and actually made some progress, alternating with a guy who seemed to have swung one of these things a time or two before. But, with no instruction, I didn’t realize how inefficiently my swinging actually was.

Which brings me to last Saturday. Our group joined a boatload of other folks to help Casey Trees plant 60 new trees at Alice Deal Middle School. These folks were super organized, but I suppose when you’re planting hundreds of trees in a season and relying primarily on volunteers, you have to be. They started out by giving us a safety speech and tools demo.

This is a pickax. If you’re right handed, hold your left hand at the bottom and your right hand at the top. Pick a point in the ground, and aim for it. Move your hand down the handle as you swing. When it’s in the ground, lift it up to loosen the dirt, don’t pull it toward you. The wide end is good for grass. The pointy end is good for rocks.

It was at this point that I had my first small epiphany about my pickax work several weeks before. Rookie mistake: I made hard work even harder by not working with the tool’s strengths.

Later, when we were working diligently to plant our allotted three trees on a steeply sloped, grassy, rocky area, I watched as one of the Casey Trees employees made long, swift, smooth swings to break up the grassy, rocky slope before him. He made it look so effortless. There was a grace to his method. Never breaking rhythm. Always hitting his mark and making progress.

The next time someone said, “I think we need a pickax. Anyone want to try?” I volunteered for the task. The guy made it look so easy, and I was newly equipped with expert advice on how to hold, swing, follow through. By the end of the day, I thought, I’ll be swinging like that guy.

The worn-out One Brick group after planting with Casey Trees.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s not that I didn’t make any progress. It’s just that it wasn’t pretty. As I huffed and puffed, I never found anything resembling a rhythm. Sometimes I’d set the swing up and let it down, only to have the tool bounce off the grass or rocky soil without making much of an impression. Sometimes, I’d miss my mark entirely, hitting the tarp above the hole. Sometimes I’d forget to use the leverage of the handle and waste effort digging at the soil with the wrong tool.

At the end of the day, we got our trees in the ground, and I felt like I’d done enough work on my biceps and triceps to justify a workout-less day. But I never did learn to swing a pickax gracefully.

Life Edits: Take 1

Posted in The Occupational,The Spiritual by Joy on May 9, 2011
Tags: ,

Coming home Friday night, approximately 14 hours after I passed through the front door in the opposite direction, I was all but dead on my feet. Sometime after collapsing on my bed in a near-gelatinous heap, I focused enough to realize I sat staring, unthinking, at the space approximately 2 feet in front of my face.

Do something productive, the eternal motivator within urged.
Only if it doesn’t require physical or mental dexterity, the work-weary majority of my mind countered.
The shoes, the annoying little know-it-all threw back.

Sigh. The shoes.

Have I mentioned I’m moving again? Such an enormous change is going to be quite the shock to the system at the end of July. (I mean, it’s only move number 15 in the last 11 years.)

Back to the shoes. Moving always gives me good reason to get around to that otherwise neglected “spring cleaning” type business. I’ve decided to try to be preemptive with the scaling down this time around, in part because I’m getting antsy about the move but can’t do any serious apartment shopping yet as it’s too early to know availability. And in part because I don’t particularly care to lug the stuff I’m not going to keep to yet another location before lugging it somewhere else to get rid of it.

And an easy place to start is with the shoes. I spent a few minutes going through my closet and pulling anything ill-fitting, particularly worn, dusty with disuse, or unlikely to be worn again. I came out with 20.5 pairs

Shoes for donation.

Bye bye, shoes

of shoes for donation or the dump.

Twenty point five. Sheesh.

(That .5 is really pissing me off at the moment. I wore that shoe – and its mate! – on Tuesday. What the hell happened to the other one in the interim??)

When all was said and done, I took a quick count of my remaining shoes. The tally? 44.

Forty-four!?!

So, on Tuesday, I had 65 pairs of shoes???

I think it’s safe to say I have a problem. Particularly because I’m planning to reward myself for this edit with permission to buy some sandals for the summer.