Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shrimp & Couscous with Ginger-Orange Sauce

I love Cooking Light, (which is why I should probably renew my subscription), and when I was in college I made this delicious recipe that, four years later, I'd been hankering to try again ever since.  The recipe is for crunchy shrimp with couscous and ginger-orange sauce.  It has a semi-long ingredient list, but the actual preparation is not difficult, and Lennon has been not-so-subtly hinting that I should make it again ever since he got a taste.

Here it is, with notes on the few modifications I made:


  • 1  cup  orange juice
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2  tablespoons  reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  chicken broth (I used veggie broth)
  • 1  teaspoon  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1  teaspoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper   
  • 1  cup  uncooked couscous
  • 1 1/2  cups  chicken broth (I use veggie broth)
  • 1/2  cup  orange juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/3  cup  chopped green onions
  • 2  tablespoons  sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1  tablespoon  unsalted butter
  • 20  jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1  large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2  cup  panko (Japanese breadcrumbs - I used whole wheat bread crumbs)
  • 1  teaspoon  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2  teaspoon  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  tablespoon  canola oil
  • 2  cups  trimmed watercress (I used spinach)

1) Thaw the shrimp!  I forgot to do this in advance and practically had to boil the shrimpies in tap water while I prepped everything else.

2) Grate the ginger, chop green onions, cilantro, etc.

3) In a saucepan, bring 1 cup orange juice to a boil over medium-high heat; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 10 minutes). 

4) Remove from heat; cool completely.
5) Stir in 1 tablespoon cilantro and next 7 ingredients (through red pepper); set aside.  Note: I may have reduced the orange juice too much, but Lennon and I both agreed that more sauce would have been better, because it's delicious.

5) To prepare couscous, place couscous in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook 3 minutes or until toasted, stirring constantly.

Lennon in the middle of peeling mostly thawed shrimp.  We are cheap and bought the kind with exo-skeleton still on.  Quote: "I LUV SHRIMP!"

6) Add 1 1/2 cups broth, 1/2 cup orange juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. 

7) Fluff with a fork; add onions, almonds, and butter, stirring until butter melts. Keep warm.

Peeled and thawed shrimps. 

8) To prepare shrimp, combine shrimp and egg white in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Combine the panko, 1 teaspoon cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and black pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add shrimp to the bag, and seal and shake to coat. (I did not do this, I just stirred it all in a bowl).

9) Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; arrange shrimp in a single layer in pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until done.
10) Place 3/4 cup couscous on each of 4 plates; top each with 1/2 cup watercress and 5 shrimp. Drizzle each with 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce.

In the words of Julia Child, and many French people: bon apetite, (unless you're a shrimp).

Addendum: "This is the Lennon's favorite dish that Amanda-pants has made."    -- the Lennon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Red Sweater Performance

I rarely ever wear black, unless I know I'm going to be on stage.  Is that a secret attempt to look like a stage hand because I'm scared of the spotlight?  Perhaps.  But after my handy propranolol, center stage loses all of its sting, and the red gloves, er, cardigan, come out.

Dress: Francesca's
Cardigan: Francesca's (I love that store)
Beaded belt: Indigo boutique in Little Rock
Tights: Target (they already have a run! Arg angry face)
Shoes: Dillards
Necklace: from my mom's costume jewelry 

Michelle and her husband Matt were so sweet to come out and see me play - I kerplunked my way through most of the guitar parts, but I always enjoy singing at high volumes in front of staring people - especially if I've had a beer, or several, before hand, (this time it was only one).

Here are pictures of me looking silly.  Who looks good when they sing?  Oh, Beyonce.



I have to give props to Julie and Kevin of the BGC for setting up this fundraiser with Hangtown Grill, and to the other ladies who sang songs.  One of them has made me want to run out and learn Janis Joplin ASAP.

I got to leave work early to participate in the event, and it's odd being out on a weekday between the hours of 5 and 8PM now, as that's my busiest time at work.  I forget that grown ups go out and have lives during that part of the day!  Being in a restaurant at 6PM was sort of like getting to be a big kid just for the day.   

Now here's a non-singing picture of me so I can feel less silly looking.

Hm.  Somehow I don't feel better... but then I remember tomorrow is Friday, and all is right with the world.

Are you looking forward to the weekend?  Mine possibly involves rugby and sandwiches, and that's also a plus.

I'm Playing Guitar Live Tonight!

And my name is on the flier and everything... how cool is that!?

It's a fundraising event for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Austin, so use that as your excuse to come eat dinner at Hangtown Grill!

It's sort of a weird deal where you have to print and take in this flier to benefit the BGC.  The Facebook invite with times, etc, is here.

I can only play covers at present, but I hope that changes in the next several months.  I'm taking Mandy's intermediate class with Girl Guitar right now, and she also offers songwriting, vocal harmonies, alternate tunings, advanced classes... I want to take all of them.  I may take a break from guitar class after this session is over and work with a voice teacher, though.  Despite doing choir throughout middle school and Jr. High, I can't remember when to breathe, how to maintain a key... you know, just the important stuff. 

Anyway, here's a simple song I learned yesterday that I may play tonight, "An Attempt To Tip The Scales" by Bright Eyes, (although I don't think he even strums it when he does it, so this is the Amanda version):

I should really stop wearing pajamas all the time. Or, just record myself in the morning as opposed to midnight.  But that would also require waking up for the morning.  Dilemma.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The day before it snowed, it was warm and chilly, necessitating a light cardigan.  The day before that, it was warm enough for bare legs and short skirts.  What up, Austin? 

In anticipation of what seemed like an impending onslaught of spring, I wore a thin cotton dress with a bright cardigan to ward off the wind.  I also got to bust out my brand new, thrifted (thr-ew!) "F*** yeah, America!" belt from Thrift Town in Dallas.

Dress: $8 at Forever 21
Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft
Jeans: Citizens
Flats: Target
Necklace: Buffalo Exchange
Belt: $5 at Thrift Town

I feel patriotic just looking at this belt.  It would probably be appropriate to wear it the next time I visit my dad at Ft. Hood.  Or go to a rodeo. Either/or. 

Also in anticipation of spring, my birthday worms (thanks Dad and Carla!) finally came in the mail, and are set-up and munching so that I can hopefully have grow a hearty tomato and jalapeno plant on the back deck.

I never would have known what vermicomposting was if our Keep Austin Beautiful / Green Teens rep, Emily, hadn't brought one of their worm bins into school to show our kids.  The teenagers might not have taken away an urge to compost after the worms visited, but I certainly did!

The worms came when I was in Little Rock, and no offense to Lennon, but I don't think he set them up quite right according to the instructions.  But hopefully it will be ok. 

The "kit" is handy but seems simple enough to construct yourself.  I found this one on the City of Austin web page, and put it on my birthday wish list.  They are living in the closet under my stairs right now, but when it's warmer I will probably move them out back, although I'm worried about ants getting in and messing with my beloved worms. 

Anyway, I hope you all are having a lovely day!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Austin, Texas Got Snow, Finally.

So Dallas, Copperas Cove, Bryan... Shreveport, LA, all of Arkansas... all got snow this year, and we only had one measly day of barely flakes.  I have been bitter, as you may remember.

Until now! 

I woke up this morning to Eirik yelling "Guys! Guys! Look outside!  It's snowing!  The flakes are so big they look like feathers!"  I ran downstairs; Lennon rolled over.  When I got outside, I saw this glorious scene:

Good gracious, there was a lot of snow, and it was sticking!  I had an 11 o'clock meeting I did not want to drive to, and lucky for me it was canceled.  Unlucky for me, AISD was not.  So I got dressed and ready to go outside and take pictures!  Warmth may not have been my ultimate goal in this outfit, but amazingly, I wasn't cold  It might have been that I was wearing three shirts and a sweater.

Skirt: Fossil
Knee socks: Target
Boots: Hunter
Oxford shirt: J. Crew (I'm wearing two shirts under it, so I was well layered).
Cardigan: Land's End
Locket: Grandma's
Scarf: Grandma's

I took a video when I first went outside, because I was that excited.  You can tell by Eirik's face that he was equally in glee.  And I ended up being right about not going to work - all after school activities were later canceled.  Now I get to sit here and do weekly numbers reports in my jammie pants, (my favorite work attire).

Eirik went back outside and took his own video.  At first it made me want to fall asleep because it's quite peaceful, but then he starts to talk, and peace is replaced by laughing at him :)

Big Poppa E takes on the Austin snow:

And then we had to take more pictures, because that's what you do when you've almost forgotten what snow looks and feels like.

I look like an elf.  Visiting a gnome, (they had the beards, right?).

Bella looks wistfully towards the door, thinking we are insane.  Lennon enjoys buying hats that emphasize his ears.  I like forced couple pictures in various elements.  Next: hurricane.

Now Bella is just looking ticked.  

Ok, maybe it's actually cold out here.  So let's walk to Which Wich.  (Which we did).  

The End.

Julie Powell's Memoir "Cleaving"

I finished Julie Powell's second book Cleaving while I was in Little Rock.  Like most of the people who have contributed to her success, I have an inexplicable fascination with her.  The obvious reason must be because I see myself as a near-thirty, semi-adrift, wanna-be writer with growing worries as to when the grandiose plans of my youth are planning to bear fruit... just like Julie in Julie and Julia

Perhaps I should be more worried by the fact that I enjoyed Cleaving because I also saw myself in this completely different version of Julie Powell: an attention craving, outside approval seeking, game playing manipulatress (yes I made that word up) with membrane-thin concentration on carefully chosen projects to try and distract from incessant wants, (wants damaging to both the wanter and the wanted[s]).

While the book was odd in that it goes from butcher shop to recipe to love affair to marriage to repeat to "oh, hey I'm in Buenos Aires!  And Nairobi!  Or some such place..." and back to butcher shop, I still found it intensely readable.  Proust it is not, but sometimes I don't want Proust, I want cake.  This was cake, and for that I congratulate her. 

My disappointment in the book  was the lack of revelation or epiphany at the end.  Another character calls her "zen-like" in her attitude towards herself, her husband, and their various infidelities, but the cause of that one-ness with the world wasn't spelled out for me beyond a single sentence where she says she is not bothered by her husband's lover, as she gives the girl props for having good taste in men.  Her lover issue is resolved in that the guy disappears, an apparent pattern.  Where's the catharsis!?  The take-home lesson!?  The applicable insight I can use to move past being like the Julie of the first few hundred pages of the book!?

Maybe she's saving it for the next memoir...

The guts and gore of the book, (it is about butchering, partially... I had to know what I was getting in to), were particularly uncomfortable for myself, a vegetarian, to read.  While she tried to describe the beauty and delicacy of meats, her descriptions of pulling apart animal muscles at the seam, cows hooked to ceilings, and depressed pigs being shot between the eyeballs and stabbed, really just affirmed my commitment to an avoidance of livestock. 

And possibly affairs.  If anything, she reminded me that nothing is worth the drama, the heart ache, the lying, the everything associated with betrayal.  

To counter-balance this book, I have started reading Elizabeth Gilbert's (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) new book Committed.

Three chapters in and I'm already questioning my OCD need for high-security protected personal space, my tendency to title my life-chapters by the names of the boys I dated at the time, and I can have a great laugh at people claiming that marriage is "biblical" and "holy."  I guess I need to read my new testament a little more closely.  Apparently, the apostles claimed God didn't like the marrieds with all their sex and babies!  Unclean!  Ha!

Ok, back to my book.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Home Again Home Again, Dancing a Jig

After many hours of driving, seeing lots of family, mourning a legacy, seeing familiar faces and corners of the globe, I'm home in Austin, and I do love this city.  While Little Rock may be my harbor, Austin is certainly a place I wake up every day glad to have moored in.  It's also nice to be home with my puppy and my boy, although I'm not so excited to see my tiny, shared closet.

...And by shared, I mean I have the top shelf, 3/4'ths of the hanging bar, and all of the floor space except for an egg crate, where I have banished Lennon's shoes - someone please cut us a deal on a bigger apartment with walk in closets.

I picked up this cabbage rose skirt while I was gone, and came home to see another blogger wearing it, and in a much cuter manner than I am!  While I look sloppy in comparison, (I was on a car trip, I hope for some leeway), I have loved Kristin's style since I first stumbled upon her blog, so I'll take it as a good sign that I purchased a shared piece.     

My dad and step-mom spoiled me with food and frozen yogurt today in Copperas Cove, and then I rushed home to get to ride bikes with Lennon in the beautifully warm weather before the sun disappeared.  Now our window is open, the fan is on, and cool air is coming through the closed blinds.  It's so delicious I don't even want to go to sleep and risk missing it.

Skirt: Target
Shoes: BGBG
Lion Tee: Edun from Nordstrum Rack
Cardigan: Gap
Necklace: Buffalo Exchange

 Trying to display my frozen yogurt masterpiece while my dad photo bombs this iphone shot.

Remembrance of Things Passed: Prescott, Little Rock

I drove to Little Rock on Wednesday, getting in at 11:30PM, to attend my great-grandma Grady Faye's funeral on Thursday morning.  To me and my cousins, she was Grady Faydie. Just like I didn't know she was my step-great-grandma until college, I also didn't know that Grady Faye was her real name, I thought it was her grandma name, (we like to make up our own, my grandmother is Gramadear).  The funeral was in Prescott, the small town where my grandmother was born and raised.  She said it used to be thriving when the railroad brought it lots of people and business, but the highway has since diverted both commerce and visitors.  Compared to how it used to be, she said it's practically in decay.  Seeing historic main streets and store fronts abandoned and falling into disrepair, as well as hundred year old houses that are begging for new paint, roofs, foundation work... is a sad testament to how architectural history is often treated.

My Grady Fadie knew something about style, though.  She went out in a pink casket, with pink roses, wearing a pink suit with hand-sewn pink sequins and beads on the collar and cuffs.  If I wasn't terrified of caskets over cremation, I'd do the same thing.

Cremation is an odd thing, though.  My mother was cremated, and it has left me with a sort of "lost" feeling as to where to "visit" her, as there's no real grave.  There's the place where the ashes were scattered, and a shared plaque, but it's not really the same.

Gradie Fadie is being buried beside her first husband.  A few hops up, my blood great-grandfather and great-grandmother are buried side by side: August and Thelma.  I never met either of them, but I have great-grandma Thelma's Prescott High School class ring, a perfect fit.  The date has rubbed off the front except for a barely visible "19," but her maiden initials are still clearly visible inside the band: T.P.H.

I also have my grandmother's Prescott High School class ring, and my mother's Parkview High School ring.  It makes me regret not getting my own class ring, as it will leave a gap in the collection.

This was Grady Fadie's house, and sadly, I will probably never see it again.  She moved in when she married my great-grandfather August, and my grandmother was born in the Prescott hospital and raised here until she left for the University of Arkansas and married my grandfather.  She said the back den used to be a screened in sleeping porch for hot, Arkansas summer nights, and several of the trees surrounding the house are pecan trees.  Grady Fadie used to give me ziplock bags full of the pecans that fell to the ground.  The house is ninety years old.

After the funeral, we skipped the typical deli tray luncheon and went to Maxine's Diner.  I had to get fried okra, because aside from loving it, Grady Fadie used to make it for me.  My Aunt Carol and I split this gigantic piece of coconut cream pie.  She had to hold it up to her face for a size comparison.

Before leaving my grandmother's house in Little Rock, (my grandfather is still alive, but he's in a nursing home), I pulled this dress out of the closet in my mom's old room.  My grandmother made it for her to go to a formal dance when she was in high school, and the lace details were made by great-grandma Thelma.  For some reason, this dress has always fit me, even though my mom's wedding dress most certainly did NOT when I tried it on back when I was engaged.  I love it, and Austin is a city in which I could actually wear this, where as I would feel people were looking at me funny if I wore it in Little Rock.  My grandmother is going to shorten the skirt so it hits at my knee, and I can't wait to wear it.

I'm now back in Texas, but am staying over night at my dad's house in Copperas Cove. 

This is only the second time I have been back in Little Rock since I moved.  Little Rock has the affect on me, where I have a memory tucked into every corner and crevice of it's cityscape, so that I feel as though I own it.  I can tell you how everything looked twenty years ago from personal memory, as well as up to sixty years ago from family stories.  I spent time with friends, with Michael, with family, in what feels like every building, parking lot, street light... it makes everything feel as though it is mine, and makes me unafraid of any space. 

When Lennon and I go to Dallas, he says the same thing about it and Grand Prairie.  He drives down the streets wide-eyed and relaying stories about every inch of street he's traveled.  I suppose I do the same thing in Little Rock. 

Do you have a town or place like that?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good & Bad News

I got this wonderful Valentine in the mail last week from Sam!  It was so cute and had such a sweet note that I had to share.  It's now on my bulletin board over my computer and it reminds me why I love the blogging community.

In more good news, I also found these last weekend at Buffalo Exchange:

I haven't owned cowboy boots since I lived in Texas in the third grade, so I felt weird trying them on and walking around the store with my blue jeans rolled up.  At first I decided against them, but when I went to re-shelve them, I just couldn't do it, so they came home with me.  They were $25.50, and at the register the clerk told me they were really nice, nailed in (??) boots (tags still on!) and should have been priced higher.  Score!

So when I wore them I felt like this:

Although I tried to tone it down to be in public:

Boots: from Buffalo Exchange
Skirt: free from Beauty Bar Clothing Swap
Beatles shirt: from a boutique in Little Rock
Long sleeve tee: J. Crew
Cardigan: Gap
Butterfly necklace: Dallas Buffalo Exchange 50% off

The sad news is that my great-grandmother died yesterday at 94 years old in Prescott, Arkansas.  But I don't know if this is really sad, because 94 is quite stellar, and she had a great, healthy run.  I hope I make it that far!  Sadly we don't share a gene pool as she's my step-great-grandmother, but I didn't even know that till college. 

So as soon as I hit publish, I'm headed to HEB for pumpkin seeds, work to finish up my time sheets for the week, and then hitting the road for an eight hour drive to Little Rock.  I probably won't get in until midnight - my high school curfew when I lived with my grandmother (great-grandma's step-daughter) my sophomore year. 

There's no wireless there, and I'll be busy with family, so I apologize if I don't visit or comment on blogs for a few days.  But I'll be back this weekend and hope you all enjoy the same sunshine I'm seeing right now!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dallas World Aquarium

While I think its proper name should be the "Dallas Indoor Rain forest," I had a great time today at the Dallas World Aquarium with Lennon.  We spent our Valentines Day sleeping in, eating waffles his dad made us for breakfast, (lunch), visiting the giant crocodile and his friends, thrifting at Zola's and Buffalo Exchange, and eating way too much at the original Spaghetti Warehouse in the West End.  He even bought me flowers - by accident - but I'll still count it.  Can a Valentines Day be better?

I also got great advice from my teacher friend Cat in Japan: if you get into a fight, start singing instead of talking, because it's harder to be mean and on edge if you're singing your grievances.  Now we are watching the Olympics with his dad and what do you know is on - pairs skating!

I didn't take a proper outfit photo - so here is me standing in front of jungle foliage in the giant green house.

Dress: from Buffalo Exchange
Boots: from Buffalo Exchange
Long sleeve tee: J. Crew
Cardigan: Target
Necklace: olive branch & dove from Little Rock
Purse: Target circa four years ago

While I enjoyed the aquarium immensely, I left disappointed thinking it lacked a sufficient amount of 100% aquatic life.  It beats the pants off of the D.C. National Aquarium, but it falls short of the Boston Aquarium with it's cylindrical tank that stands as the pillar around which all of the exhibits wrap.  The Boston Aquarium also had a jelly fish exhibit when I was there, turtles bigger than me, and at least ten tanks on every level.  Dallas - no hard feelings - just change the misnomer, and maybe don't charge $20 when I can see an indoor rain forest at the zoo for cheaper.

Enough talk, here are my pictures:

The shark tank was a walk through tunnel.  I had a difficult time taking pictures, so I decided to give up and take a video.  The best part is the smiling sting ray with big eyes and a bigger nose that glides by at the end.  And if it isn't immediately clear from the video, the whole place was ridiculously crowded.

The sea otters were sadly absent from their pen, and the video below, (filmed by a lucky visitor in 2007), may explain why.  I have unofficially titled it: "Escape from Ott-Catraz!"

I hope you all had a fabulous day, and if not, then I hope tomorrow makes up for it.  Check out Gala's 100 Ways to Love Yourself if you need some help making your day better, (even if it's already bursting with awesome). 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...