Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Since I was little - probably since I saw Swiss Family Robinson - I have dreamed of living in a treehouse. I thought it was a silly wish until I realized that many people actually do have treehouses in their backyards. They are personal retreats, artist studios, kids playhouses, and they range from the simple to the complex. In short, I really just hope I'm this guy when I retire. I've already promised myself that someday I will have one in my backyard too, but for now I daydream and I plan.....

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house

A street house, a neat house
Be sure to wipe your feet house
I not my kind of house at all-
Let's go live in a tree house.

Shel Silverstein

Monday, July 26, 2010

couscous stuffed bell peppers

I know I recently made Portabella Mushroom Tapenade Stuffed Bell Peppers, but today I decided to stuff my red bell peppers with couscous. I used this recipe as a base, but altered it a little bit.

2 large red bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
6 ounces fresh spinach
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
about 2 cups couscous (you will have leftovers)
8oz crumbled feta cheese
5 kalamata olives (these were delicious, and I wish I had added more)

I didn't roast the peppers beforehand like the recipe suggests, I just cooked the spinach in the olive oil and garlic, then added the feta cheese, olives, lemon juice and cooked couscous. Fill the red peppers with this mix and cook ~18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Don't forget how much spinach cooks down!

And then this, just a minute or two later:

These were a last minute decision (and a delicious finishing touch!):

The peppers just after I pulled them out of the oven.

Close up:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

picture this: life

If you took a picture every day, day after day and year after year, what would your life look like? Beginning on March 31, 1979, Jamie Livingston began taking a polaroid snapshot of his life. He took a picture every single day until he died on October 25, 1997, exactly 41 years after the day that he was born. After he died, friends organized his photos - 6,697 in all - and put them on display at Bard College. You can also view them here. These photos really moved me, to put it lightly. You can watch Jamie and the world change with each passing photo. There is a picture of the day he was married, and 18 days later, the day of his death.

I am reminded of a conversation my history professor had with our class my freshman year of high school. He started it off by asking us "what is time?" and then going into some long discussion about the passage of time and its affect on history, life, and the world. I don't remember the details of what we talked about, and at the time it seemed like a game of symantics. But oddly enough that question has stuck with me. "What is time?" I don't ever expect to have an answer, but looking at these pictures sure does make the whole idea of time a lot more concrete.

Intrigued by one-a-day photos? Join the bandwagon!! There's a whole group of folks who take a picture of their life every day for one year, and its called Project 365. I'm very intrigued by it, but haven't done it myself. You can get a whole lot more information here. Here's an example of one that I really like. And calling all foodies out there.....

Three words for this blog: adore adore adore.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

backyard barbeque

Whats better than grilling out in the backyard on a summer day? Not a whole lot. And when Tom suggested that we grill portabella burgers I replied with an emphatic HES!! (Tom's shortcut term for 'heck yes.') Here's the lineup:

Portabella Mushrooms
I marinated two large portabella mushrooms in creamy caesar dressing, soy sauce, ginger and dried basil. I usually just look for things in the fridge that look yummy and throw them in the bag, so feel free to go wild with your marinade. I marinated them for about an hour because we were short on time, but they become better and better the longer they marinate, but I'd say an hour would be minimum. After grilling them for about 10-15 minutes (depending on how hot your grill is), we put some thick slices of mozzarella cheese on top and let it melt. We grilled them on aluminum foil, but you can make your own best judgement on whether you should do that or not. **Portabella burgers are very versatile. You can think of them as burgers (Tom ate his on a bun) or as a steak (I ate mine with a fork and knife). Either way is delicious!

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Stacks

I also made some tomato basil mozzarella stacks (tomatoes and basil from the garden). Drizzle a little sherry vinegar over the top for some added bliss (balsamic vinegar is best but I didn't have any).

One of my favorite summer delights!!

Grilled Corn
To make the grilled corn, I peeled the husks back (don't take them off!) and removed the silk. After putting some butter, salt and pepper on the ears I covered them again with the husks. I then wrapped the ears in aluminum foil and grilled them for about 30 minutes (turn occasionally).

Oh hellooooo delicious wonder!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Time to assess where we are, and where we could be

Did you make 2010 goals this year? A list of things you want to change about yourself or improve upon? Its hard to believe that the year is half over now, but it is. So I invite you to take a look at your 2010 goals and see where you stand on them.

I almost never make new years resolutions, because I've always taken a negative slant on them (lose ten pounds, be more organized). But this year I decided to make a list of things I wanted to accomplish, and this really changed my mentality! For the first time, I'm actually excited about my goals, and anxious to do them. I think the trick is to choose things you genuinely want to do (rather than things you don't).

I've pulled out my list that I made back in January to see where I am:

1. Run Marine Corps Marathon (training in process)
2. Create blog and consistently update for at least 30 days (you're looking at it kid!)
3. Make homemade cheese at least once (I'm so embarrassed that I haven't done this one yet. Homemade mozzarella is actually quite easy to make, and I need to do this while tomatos and basil are still in season to make some tomato mozzarella basil stacks).
4. Go on a deployment (I'm set to be deployed to help with the oil spill at the end of August, so almost-check!)
5. Write 100 pages of something (I plan to participate in National Novel Writing Month in November)
6. Do my Spanish Rosetta Stones (another embarrassing one. I can't believe I haven't taken advantage of owning these yet - will do!)
7. Teach Barley to come while called (well, if I hold a piece of bacon in my hand I've got a pretty good success rate...... but other than that, this is nearly a lost cause)
8. Print pictures and make a photo album (I need to got on this one. So nice to have pictures in print form!)
9. Give blood (check!!)

What were your New Year's Resolutions/Goals? How are you doing on them? Any tips to share on how to follow through with your goals?

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Well all, I'm leaving on a jet plane today for the emerald isle. I sure will be enjoying myself, and I'll be back in a little less than two weeks. I've got a few thoughts typed up and ready to automatically post, so please do check back in the interim.

When I get back, I'll be sure to leave a post or two with a friendly mix of travel tips, fun foods to try, and the must-do's of Ireland.

Image courtesy of  The Woolley Farm

Monday, July 12, 2010

would you like mail from a foreign land???

Hello lovely readers! With great excitement I announce that on Saturday I'll be heading to Ireland with my fantastic parents and two lovely sisters!! Don't worry, I am banking some posts so that you'll still have a little reading material while I'm gone.

In this age of email and facebook and twitter, I know how rare a real letter with a real stamp in a real mailbox is. Nothing is more exciting than finding a postcard/package/letter in between the junk mail and the credit card bill. I've been so inspired by my friend Morgan, who has a fantastic zine that she mails out a few times a year (here is a great blog post about Morgan by Katherine Sharpe at She is such a great pen pal, and I always love getting stuff from her.

Image from pink sherbet

So if you'd like a postcard from Ireland, please send me your address and you'll have something in your mailbox in the next couple of weeks. I girl scout pinky promise that I won't share your address with anyone or send you horrible things in the mail - I would just like to share the real-letter-love with all of you. Send your address (or a PO box if that makes you feel more comfortable) to me at: danalynn [underscore] robison [at] yahoo [dot] com (removing all the things in brackets and replacing them with "_", "@", and "." respectively.)

Hope to hear from all of you soon!!

PS. Morgan you are most definitely already on the list - thanks for your continuous support of our USPS and for spicing up my mailbox so frequently!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

a not-quite salad for a not-quite fourth of july party

Last night some of my friends held their annual Not-Quite-4th-of-July Party. They made burgers and supplied a few kegs, and everyone brought a side dish. I wasn't sure what to make, but was tempted by a recipe that Giada made a few nights ago (click here). It looked healthy, refreshing and different (not to mention easy as pie - thought I don't find making pie to be very easy, so perhaps easy as a brownie mix or something). Since it was blazing hot yesterday (thought I did squeeze a run in there - score one for Dana!), I decided that an almost-salad that was both easy and refreshing would fit the bill.

1. Purchase a 3 pound watermelon (about a quarter of a large watermelon). Cut off the rind and cut flesh into bite-sized pieces
2. Add 8oz feta cheese, cut up
3. Add about a cup of watercress (if you can't find watercress, arugula will work, and Paula Deen even has a recipe with watermelon and mint here).
4. Add some lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.
(This recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentis)

See how easy that is!! I thought it was yum yum yum, and Tom thought it was "interesting," but sometimes I think his sense of taste is suspect (shhhh don't tell). When we brought it to the party, Tom saw someone take a spoonful of salad and say "oh wow! watermelon salad, and it even has feta!" So thats your third party unbiased opinion.

A word of caution, however. This salad is best served right away (think of the difference between eating crisp cool watermelon and warmish watermelon), so may not be good if its going to be sitting on a picnic table for awhile.

And what are you going to do with all that leftover watercress? That's what I was asking myself, so I need to research some options. But here's a tried-and-true favorite of mine: Toast an everything bagel, and top with cream cheese, turkey lunch meat, and watercress. Yum!!

As for that not-quite-4th-of-july party, it was a blast!!

We had a great band (check them out here)

Awesome friends

Themed beer (see all that red white and blue?!)

Cute pups

And big smiles!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Heat - One, Dana - Zero. Rematch Tomorrow

Today I went running. At 6:00pm. When it was 97 degrees out. Call me crazy, but it was actually voluntary. I'm all signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon in our nation's capital on October 31, but the thought of training through the brutal Atlanta summer is daunting. I've been a little lackluster in the motivation department of late, so I decided to join the Kennesaw Running Group on Meetup.

I met a couple people this evening for a four mile run and nearly passed out from the heat, humidity, and my general lack of in-shape-ness. I had to stop to walk a few times, but the people I was with were really nice and didn't taunt me or make me feel terrible. I think that runners are overall a pretty nice group of people (but then again I am biased, because I believe that all people are inherently good.... but thats beside the point), and I think its because all runners have struggled at one point. No matter how good you are, there is always a point at the beginning where you wonder what the heck you've gotten yourself into. You think to yourself "but I ran 20 miles effortlessly back in 2008!" It doesn't matter. When it comes to running (and probably lots of other sports, but I wouldn't know because I've never been very successful at any of them), our bodies have a big ol' reset button so that if you take too much time off, you just have to start all over again. (Thats the boat I'm on.)

As I was walking home from my run today, I was thinking about the fact that sometimes in order to be a runner you just have to run. Here's what I mean. For a long time, I never thought I could run a marathon (or even a couple of miles). Not for any good reason, I just knew that going out for a 10 minute jog hurt every muscle in my body. I never really worked at it, I just knew that I wasn't a runner. And then one day I just decided to run a marathon. Not because I was a runner, but because it was on my list of things I would never be able to do. And I did. I ran during my summer in DC. I ran during the fall semester of my last year in grad school. I woke up at 6am every Saturday morning - forgoing many social invitations - to do my long runs. First 5 miles, 8, 10, 12, and 20. 20 miles. That felt pretty amazing. And when I was running the marathon, when I looked around at all the people cheering us on, when I realized I was the type to analyze the flavors of gu and the wicking power of different brands of socks, I knew then that I was a runner.

This revelation - that I was a runner because I ran, not because I felt like a runner - taught me so much about myself. Even when I am having a bad day and wish I was happy I remember that in order to feel happy I must just be happy. Not in a 'grin and bear it' type of way, but in a way where I actually become happiness itself. I truly believe that the way that we feel is a choice, and that our mindset will follow our actions. We really can choose the way that we react to any situation. And if you don't believe me just read this powerful book: Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl.

Rereading this blog entry, I sort of can't believe that I was thinking about all of this while I was running, which makes me think that I should keep running. I'm not sure where the next 114 days will take me, but I know that running 26.2 miles is just the beginning.

And so I begin. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Running, running, running.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mango Lassi

There are some foods that are second nature to us - we know their tastes, textures and smells. We've been eating them since we were little, and cooking them feels like home. We don't remember the first time we ate them, because they are part of our makeup and scream comfort (hence the term, comfort food). For me: mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, shepards pie, pancakes and lasagna.

But then there are those foods where we can remember our introduction to them with acuity. We remember the first time we ate them, where we were and who we were with. For me: Mango Lassi!!!

A mango lassi is an Indian drink made of yogurt and mango, and is quite possibly the most refreshing drink ever created. It is thick, creamy (yet still light), and fantastically delicious. I hadn't though of making one on my own even though I love them so much, but today I saw my lonely mango sitting in the fruit bowl and knew that nothing would be more refreshing.

I used this recipe, and it turned out fantastic (I halved the recipe and didn't use quite as much sugar).

This has really made me think about the recipes in my rotation. While I love my old standbys - stir fry, pasta, eggplant parmesan, ratatouille - I know that I need to branch out a little bit. The mango lassi took almost no time at all and was so easy, so there is no reason I shouldn't have tried it before. From now on I'm going to note the foods that I really love - and go after them with gusto in the Robison Kitchen....

And since we've been discussing all things Home, let me post one of my favorite songs (thanks for the link Amelia!).

PS. I served up my lassi with a side of blueberries. Can you say heaven?

Travel Break: Conflict Kitchen

For this Wednesday's Travel Break, we go to a place I have never been, but that I like the idea of very much. Last week I read a story on NPR about a restaurant in Pittsburgh (the Conflict Kitchen) that only serves recipes from countries that the US is in conflict with. Read all about that here. I absolutely adore this idea for several reasons. First, though Italian and Mexican food is lovely, I know that there are other countries out there that have good food as well. And being the foodie that I am, of course I want to experience those flavors. Second, we tend to focus only on the negative aspects of other countries (such as Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea), even though learning about their cultures, traditions and delicious recipes(!!) would probably add a bit of delight to all of our lives. Point being: judge people from other countries based on their government just as much as you'd want people from other countries to judge you on your government (past or present). That's a bit of a poorly crafted sentence, but I sense through the computer that you catch my drift.

Anywho, I sure do hope I get to Pittsburgh soon so that I can try out a kubideh for myself.

In fact, I just had a light bulb moment of my own, and I think I'll be making my very own conflict kitchen-esq recipes very soon. Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

chickpeas take center stage

Yesterday was a blissful day at home, and when I thought of what I wanted to do with all that unclaimed daylight, naturally I decided to tackle a few recipes I'd read about earlier on On the menu: hummus, parsley tahini, lemon dressing and Israeli salad, all from 'Give Chickpeas a Chance.' And when I read these recipes, I knew I'd also have to make some pita bread to go with it. I didn't alter most of these recipes much at all, so I'll just post pics and any alterations I made.

Pita Bread
I didn't make this pita bread in a bread machine, so I did have to do some alterations to the recipe. The most important thing to remember is that SALT KILLS YEAST. You must proof the yeast (add warm water, yeast and sugar together until it gets foamy), then add the oil and then add all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

The yeast after it has been proofed

The dough before rising

Resting spot! (a warm spot is best)

After rising for a little over an hour and a half

The pitas after rising for 30 minutes

The finished product!

This recipe was pretty straightforward, but you may notice a new ingredient on the list. Tahini? If you've never cooked with tahini before, think of it as sesame peanut butter that has separated. Open, stir, and its ready to go!

And here is the finished product:

I have to admit that I didn't really plan ahead enough for this meal to make chickpeas from scratch, so I just used two cans of chickpeas to cut time. Also, note the garlic count. You could easily cut the number of cloves in half and still have enough of a garlic taste. Also, I don't know if my tahini measurement was off, but the hummus was runny when I was finished (but oh so tasty!).

I followed this recipe to a T, and it came out yum! (I used a jalapeno pepper)

Holy yum! This salad is amazing! I wasn't sure what an Israeli cucumber was, so I picked up some thin skinned seedless cucumbers and they worked perfect.

For my veggies, I used 5 radishes, a large handful of parsley and half a green pepper. This dish was absolutely phenomenally refreshing, and by far the most beautiful one that I made yesterday.

Here they all are together:

I was so excited about this dish that my hand must have been shaking when I took this picture, but at least you can see how I plated the food.

Thanks NPR (and for these great recipes!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Portobello Mushroom Tapenade Stuffed Bell Peppers

Happy Friday everyone! For this evenings recipe I made a bit of a gamble with my recipe and it really paid off. I've been looking at a tapenade recipe that looked yummy all week, but wasn't sure what to do with it. I decided I'd just throw it in green peppers, bake them and call them dinner. Here's the recipe:

*This tapenade recipe taken from the ever-wonderful The Healthy Hedonist
Portabello Mushroom Tapenade
2 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed, cups chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t ground cumin
2 T tomato paste
2 T soy sauce
3/4 cups walnuts (the recipe caled for them to be toasted, but I skipped that step)
black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 bell peppers

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, tomato paste, 1/2 t salt, and soy sauce and black pepper. Saute a few minutes more. Put the mixture in a food processor and add the walnuts. Process until the walnuts are broken up (my food processor didn't do the job, so you may want to chop these before adding them if your food processor is also less than stellar). Mix the parsley in. Stuff the mixture into two bell peppers, and put them on an oiled dish. I cooked mine for 20 minutes, which wasn't long enough to fully soften them up. That was ok with me - I prefer my green pepper a bit raw. I would guess it would take about 30 minutes to soften up the entire pepper, but watch yours so you can take them out when they are just at the perfect doneness.

All of this.....

Will end up in these.....

But first it must be cut up and sauted.....

Put in a food processor and mixed with walnuts and parsley.....

And stuffed and baked......


Wait a minute Dana... You sure do seem to be featuring a lot of vegan recipes. Whats the deal?
You can read all about this temporary diet change right here. Why temporary? Because I love food (hence the blog), so I try not to limit myself too much. Everything in moderation, thats my motto!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Dinners: Something for Everyone

Not too excited by my vegan plan to make spicy black bean soup last night, Tom headed to the store and bought ingredients to make his special: pasta surprise. And so we got to cook together, one of those simple delights that makes you give thanks for Wednesdays.

Spicy Black Bean Soup
2 T olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 bell bepper, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1.5 cups black beans, soaked and drained
6 cups water
1.5 t salt
14.5 can diced tomatoes
2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
2 T sherry

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions, celery and green pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano, and cook for a few minutes. Add the beans and water and cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partly covered until beans are tender. Now, the recipe states that this will take 1-1.25 hours. After this amount of time my beans were still pretty firm. In fact, after four hours they still weren't nice and soft. So I mixed in all the remaining ingredients, transferred it to a slow cooker, and left it on low all the next day. When I got home I mixed it all up with my immersion blender and it was yum yum yum!

This is an interesting soup (in a good way). I had never cooked with chipotles in adobo, and it adds a really nice fire roasted flavor - much different from the black bean soups I've made in the past.

I put it in a bowl, topped it with my pseudo guacamole (avocado, salt and salsa) and a spoonful of plain yogurt.

This recipe was taken from the always wonderful The Healthy Hedonist

Tom's meal looked even more delicious. When I asked him for the recipe, he was hestitant and told me, "its a surprise!" But he agreed that I could share the recipe with you all, as long as I mention that it always changes each time. And here is his recipe, exactly as he told it to me.

Tom's Pasta Surprise
16 oz some kind of noodles
2 jars alfredo sauce
1 lb chicken, cut up
1/2 bag crinkle cut carrots
couple heads of broccoli, broken apart into edible portions
sun dried tomatoes (quantity to your liking)
1 can marinated quartered artichoke hearts
1 clove garlic

Cook chicken halfway, then add the vegetables and steam (covered). Cook noodles. Put noodles in a big tub and put the chicken/vegetables on top and then put the sauce on top and then mix it up into surprise bliss.

Doesn't that just look delish? It really is good, and can definitely be altered to your liking.

Side by side we cooked our meals, battled for the best pots and the prime stove burners. We created two completely different meals, each one suited to our own liking. Just goes to show that a mostly carnivore and a mostly vegan really can survive harmoniously in the kitchen.

Do you and your significant other cook together? Bake together? Order pizza and watch a movie together? I'm always intrigued by the food customs and eating habits of other people, so do share with the rest of us......
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