Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Alison Hein.
Enough with this winter already! Snow, ice and an iffy furnace have caused the chill to permanently settle into my bones. So, I decided to start the day with a little extra heat, in the form of petite and piquant jalapeño peppers. These little green jewels can pack a surprising amount of kick, so strew them with caution if you are sensitive to fiery flavors.
Whole wheat tortillas stuffed with a tangy Mexican cheese blend host the fresh, fragrant jalapeños. Serve these quesadillas straightaway as an aromatic starter or snack, or breakfast-ize them, as I did, by enhancing with a gob of fluffy scrambled eggs. A dollop of sour cream mellows the spice, while a smidge of fresh chopped tomatoes and cilantro enhance the Latin flavors and add dramatic color.
So fight back – bundle up, cover up. Or fire up – a breakfast in bed guaranteed to melt some ice.
1 jalapeño pepper
1 whole wheat tortilla
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup Mexican cheese blend
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon milk or cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon sour cream (or queso fresco)
1 tablespoon diced fresh tomatoes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a small baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Wash jalapeño pepper. Slice off stem end. Remove seeds and ribs with paring knife. Slice pepper into thin rounds and set aside. Place tortilla on a flat work surface. Brush lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle about two-thirds of the cheese on top. Strew about two-thirds of the sliced jalapeño on top. Fold tortilla in half. Brush again with olive oil, and sprinkle the remaining cheese and jalapeños on top, retaining a little of each for garnish if you like. Fold tortilla in half again to form a quarter round. Brush with remaining olive oil. Add a sprinkling of cheese and jalapeño on top, if you like. Place in preheated oven, and bake until cheese is melted and beginning to bubble, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Cook eggs while quesadilla is baking. Melt butter in small, heavy pan over medium low heat. Break eggs into small bowl and whisk well with milk or cream. Add eggs to heated pan and allow to cook slowly and gently. Stir and lift frequently with wooden spoon to avoid sticking. Season with salt and pepper.
Place quesadilla on plate. Spoon eggs out gently on top of quesadilla. Top with sour cream, chopped tomatoes and cilantro. Serve with hot sauce on the side, if you like.
Makes 1 serving.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The books I want to discuss today are so rudimentary and without plot that I won’t even call them by name. Let’s say book #1 is called Mass-Produced Board Book That is Basically Advertising and book #2 is Simple Short Stories about Dinosaurs. What makes these two books the best books I have encountered is that they are the first ones that were read to me by my son. No nudging, no help with sounding out a single word. I know that kids his age read; that’s just a thing they do. But seeing him use the keys in his own mind to decode these books made me melt with pride. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter a whit what the books were about. (Though I must say, if they made easy reader books about Doctor Who, I’m certain his reading would skyrocket!)
What matters is hearing him stitch the letters into sounds, the sounds into words, the words into sentences. If you have a child, no matter the age, tonight you should go sit in his/her lap and make him/her read to YOU. It’s a wonderful thing. Even (especially) if you have a surly teen who is not into the whole parent/child thing anymore 🙂
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are not terribly accustomed to snow. So when six inches fell last week, much of the city was as good as paralyzed. Quick trips to the local doughnut shop and grocery store aside, we remained housebound for several days. What do you do when trapped in a house with two stir-crazy adults, one stir-crazy five-year-old and two stir-cats? Watch movies. TV shows. ANYTHING. EVERYTHING. Maybe we should have watched Stir Crazy with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. I love Gene Wilder. But you know what we watched instead? TOO CUTE. It opens with a warning to viewers that what they are about to see is just so gosh-darn cute they’d best be prepared. For CUTENESS.
Cute animals are very big; just ask any person who has used the Internet in the last five years. This show, from Animal Planet, capitalizes on this in a vaguely informative way. Each episode centers on to litters of cute animals: kittens, puppies, and so on. We learn about their species (they’re always pure-bred) and about what it’s like to be a puppy from birth until adoption. Cute animals are not really my thing but my boy can’t get enough. His voice hits such a high pitch when confronted with this unbearable cuteness I’m surprised the windows don’t shatter.
So there you have it. If you need a good “educational” fix of furballs, tune in to “Too Cute” which is available streaming. Happy adorableness!
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Continuing through my bathroom remodel, which continues to surprise me in terms of how complicated and expensive redoing a small bathroom can be, I wanted to share with you a little design feature that I am going to incorporate into my master bedroom/bathroom: the barn door.
My bathroom renovation brings up a lot of design challenges, particularly because it is a small space and the plumbing for the toilet and shower cannot be changed. The way my bathroom was originally planned, the entry door (entered through the bedroom) opened inwards. While this layout made it easy to go between the two rooms, it took up too much of the precious space inside the bathroom. Worse yet, the door opened across the shower door, which meant that you had to enter the bathroom and close the door behind you before you could enter the shower. Talk about an inconvenience!
My first thought to remedy this problem was to have a pocket door installed; however, there were some major negatives to this approach. Since building code prohibits many condominium dwellers from installing any flammable materials, like wood, inside the wall, I would have had to get a custom pocket doorframe fabricated from metal (read: expensive). If the cost of the pocket door frame itself wasn’t enough to deter me from the idea, I would have also had to relocate light switches and electrical outlets installed on the inside of that wall (read: more expensive). Thankfully, my designer had a great idea: install a barn door on the outside of the bathroom. Brilliant!
I scoured the web to learn everything I could about barn doors. What I learned is that no two barn doors are alike, and its really an excersize in creativity and personal taste. One big thing I did read up on before finalizing my decision was the pros and cons of using a barn door vs. a pocket door. Below are some quick bullet points of what I learned:
- Noise. Barn doors and pocket doors both do not provide as much noise insulation than regular doors, and barn doors offer the least due to the gaps between the door and the wall. If you’re using a barn door or a pocket door for a room next to a high traffic area in your home, you may want to consider other options. My bathroom is tucked away in the back corner of my apartment, inside the bedroom, so noise issues weren’t a big concern for me here.
- Cost. Barn doors can be more expensive than pocketed doors due to increased cost of the door and the track hardware it glides across. There are some really clever DIY solutions for making a barn door on the cheap, but I wanted something that would really stand out and enhance both the bedroom and the bathroom. Plus, a metal frame pocket door was going to be much more expensive than its wooden counterpart, so the price difference really wasn’t that much for me.
- Design. Barn doors are more in-your-face than pocket doors, and some people are not fond of seeing the exposed track system on the outside of their wall. This is more of a personal preference, and I actually like the rustic style. That said, barn doors come in all shapes, sizes, and colors – so there is a lot of flexibility in finding a door that suits your décor.
- Other considerations. With a barn door, you will also need an empty space on the wall adjacent to your doorway for the barn door to slide over when the door is open. This can be tricky in smaller rooms, and the space needs to be a bit wider than the doorway itself. You’ll also want to reframe your doorway or just have drywall edges if you’re using a barn door. This helps create a slicker look and makes it look like the barn door was meant to be there, not just an afterthought.
Feeling a bit more educated about barn doors, I headed over to Houzz to browse the galleries for some inspiration. One thing I noticed that really made certain barn doors stand out from the others was the use of reclaimed, or at least distressed, wood. Reclaimed barn doors can be very expensive though, and I wouldn’t have been saving much money vs. going with a pocket door. Thankfully, I found a local carpenter who takes apart old barns as a hobby and turns them into reclaimed treasures. I met with him, and we agreed that he would build me a custom barn door at a reasonable price. I think the fact that the door would be going into a reclaimed building (the building used to be, and still is to a certain extent, an old train station). I’m still waiting on my door to be finished, but am very excited about getting it! You can expect to see some photos when the project is complete.
Post by Alison Hein.
If there’s one perfect day for serving breakfast in bed, it is, of course, Valentine’s Day. Well, it’s right around the corner, so now’s the time to start thinking about making a festive morning meal for your special someone.
For starters, pull out a tray. Then dress it up. Try linen napkins, a red rose, a tiny goblet of fresh berries, a love note, or even your dear one’s favorite newspaper tied up with golden ribbon. If you have a shocking red plate, by all means, place that front and center. Now, what to put on the plate? For just a couple of dollars, you can purchase a heart-shaped egg ring – a thin metal band in the shape of a heart, reminiscent of a large cookie cutter. Simply set the ring directly in a heated frying pan, drop a cracked egg into it, then let it cook a couple of minutes until the white is set and the yolk is glossy and golden.
You can use the ring to make accompanying heart-shaped toast, if you like. Or cook up some bacon first, then fry your heart-shaped eggs in the rich, salty drippings. Or, use your rings to make a few heart-shaped pancakes. Use your best judgment to tailor the quintessential breakfast in bed for your loved one. Then, don’t be upset when your heart gets broken. 😉
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Heart-shaped egg rings
2 slices bread
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
Use the heart-shaped egg ring to cut out two hearts from the bread slices. Set aside while cooking eggs.
Heat a heavy frying pan over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and butter, continuing to heat until butter is melted. Crack one egg into a small bowl, making sure the yolk is intact. Place a heart-shaped ring in the frying pan, then carefully pour the egg into the ring. Repeat for the second egg. Season liberally with salt and pepper. If you like, baste frequently with the oil / butter mixture to accelerate cooking time. Cook until whites are cooked through and yellow centers are still soft, about 2 to 3 minutes.
While eggs are cooking, toast bread. Place toasted hearts on a warmed plate, then top with the sunny side up eggs. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 serving.
You can find heart-shaped egg rings in local kitchen specialty stores, or on many popular websites, such as Amazon.com