Archive | March, 2010

Leek and Mushroom Tart

31 Mar

I saw a package of gorgeous leeks at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago and knew I just had to get it.  They were green and tender, and totally cleaned already (I still split them in half and rinsed them well, since leeks have a tendency to be very sandy!).  So easy to use!

I happened to still have quite a few of the ingredients around from my goat cheese pizza (bet you didn’t know how well goat cheese and dried figs freeze!) and sort of played off the flavors in that recipe.  I wanted to make a tart, so I thought I’d just use a store-bought pie crust.  I will never make that mistake again – the pie crust was entirely too greasy and didn’t really hold up to all of the ingredients.  The topping, though?  Pure awesomeness.  I think I’d even venture to say it was as good as the pizza – and you could probably make it as a pizza just as easily.

Leek and Mushroom Tart

  • 1 tart shell, baked almost completely (I have a 10-inch tart pan, but if you have a smaller one your toppings will probably be better distributed)
  • 4-6 oz goat cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • a dash of each: lemon pepper, dry basil, dry parsley
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, halved, and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chopped mushrooms (I used dried and rehydrated chanterelles, but I wish I could have found fresh!)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 chicken thighs, cut very small (you could do this with one chicken breast too, but I like the chicken-ness…  you could probably do this without chicken, if you prefer)
  • 1 small yellow potato, sliced extremely thin and cut into pieces
  • 4 oz dried figs (yes, that’s the rest of the package!), cut into very small pieces
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

In a small bowl, mix together cheese, olive oil, and herbs until smooth.  Set aside.

In a large sautee pan, heat a small amount of oil on medium heat until it shimmers.  Add leeks and garlic.  Cook 2-4 minutes to soften.  Add mushrooms and cook 3-5 minutes more.  Remove from heat into a bowl.  Add fig and potato pieces.

Add chicken pieces to sautee pan and place back on heat until the chicken is almost done (it still should be pink in the center – if you cook it all the way through in the pan it will be overcooked in the oven!).  Add to bowl with leeks, mushrooms, figs, and potatoes.  Mix to combine well.

Layer your tart shell (my pie crust shrunk - hence, no sides)

Layer your tart shell, spreading goat cheese thinly on the bottom, then adding the leek mixture, and topping the whole thing with mozzarella cheese (I was second-guessing this, though – do you have any better ideas for giving it some structure and meltyness?  I really had a picnic in mind when I made this – so we could eat slices of it without worrying that it was all going to come apart – which is why I topped it with anything at all).

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.  You’ll have a thin, but extremely flavorful, tart.  We served it with a beautiful green salad and it was soooo satisfying!

Okay, I recognize that this doesn't really look all that pretty. But it tastes fantastic!

Curry Chicken Pizza

25 Mar

By now you know that I make pizza quite a lot.  It’s easy to get a ton of nutritious ingredients into an easy-to-eat serving, and there’s a lot of flavor.  And we love the basic “kitchen sink”-type pie (every veggie we can think of, plus a meat and a little cheese, baked together with a red sauce), but lately I’ve tried to get creative.

I made a beautiful goat cheese pizza in January (more on that in my next post – I recently used the leftover ingredients, frozen since January, to make an awesome tart) and was stunned by how much I enjoyed the departure from the norm.  I’ve also been experimenting with flavors (in a sort of fusion way), coming up with a curried turkey meatball that I served over pasta (weird, yes, but oh so good).  I had half of the jar of curry simmer sauce left over (in a baggie in my freezer – I typically make my own but I happened to buy Patak’s at the store and really really liked it), and some chicken thighs, and…  This pizza was born.

If you think about it, curry pizza is really not all that strange.  After all, we eat curry with nan bread all the time (and nan is a very basic bread dough with some clarified butter added to it).  But this was a fun twist on the expected, and incredibly flavorful.  We served it with spinach sauteed in garlic (I added some to the pizza and then made extra).

Curry Chicken Pizza

Curry Chicken Pizza

  • 1 extra-large pizza crust (use half of my basic bread dough recipe), par-baked (you could probably use Boboli for this as well, but it will be too much filling for one Boboli; if you want tips about par-baking, check my goat cheese pizza recipe)
  • 5-8 oz curry sauce (I used about 6 oz to cover my crust, a little under a cup; obviously you can make your own if you want but I went the lazy way – you can also make this as hot as you want but I like my curries mild)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced and carmelized (see my goat cheese pizza recipe for tips on how to carmelize onions)
  • 1 large sweet pepper (I used yellow for a pretty color contrast), cut into chunks and roasted (in the oven on 350 for an hour is best)
  • 6-12 cloves garlic, minced and divided in half
  • 8-10 brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups raw baby spinach, washed
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (you could use breasts for this too but I like the meaty flavor of the thighs)
  • 1 cup soft mild cheese (I was thinking of paneer when I did this, and using up some Mexican cotija cheese my husband had brought home; if you don’t have it or don’t want it, you can do without it, although you might want a little more mozzarella in that case)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

In turn, sautee the mushrooms and the spinach each with a touch of olive oil or butter and half of the garlic.  Season the chicken as you prefer (I rolled mine in a little granulated garlic, lemon pepper, and paprika) and sautee until the chicken has some golden color but is not cooked through completely.

Build your pizza.  First, spread the curry sauce on the crust.  Then add your chicken and veggies.  Last, your cheese.  Yup, easy!

Unbaked curry pizza (forgive the crappy lighting please!)

Bake your pizza in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until it’s golden brown and bubbly.  Remove from the oven (but try not to break your pizza stone like I did!) and serve.

YUM!

Basic Bread

23 Mar

This post has been several months in the making – I wanted to make sure I had as many photos as possible (although I gave up when it came to taking “kneading” photos – just too hard to do right!) and I wanted to make sure I thought of everything I could when it came to basic breadmaking.  I use this recipe all the time, and it’s really really easy to change up.

Now, I know that the ravioli recipe scared everyone…  But I’ve only ever made ravioli three times in two years (I helped my grandmother when I was a kid – and she used to make them all the time by herself).  Bread, however, I make at least once a month.  Sometimes as much as a couple of times a week.

Plenty of people get breadmakers for their weddings or for Christmases, but baking bread doesn’t require any special appliances.  Just a bowl!  My grandmother used to make bread all the time too, and her basic recipe was from Better Homes and Gardens’ red checked cookbook, believe it or not.  I still use the same one, with a couple of improvements:

  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (I buy it in bulk, because it’s a LOT cheaper, but you can also buy the small envelopes, in which case use 2 envelopes)
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (NOT hot – I can’t stress this enough – if you use hot water you’ll kill the yeast…  err on the side of too cool.  You want it to feel like warm bathwater, like you’d bathe a baby in)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar (I like using brown sugar or even honey when I make whole wheat bread)
  • 5-7 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt

Here’s what you do: add the sugar and yeast to a bowl with warm water.  Stir to combine (I usually add the sugar and yeast first, since they float on top of the water if you add them second). 

Mix together the water with the yeast and sugar and put it in a warm place.

Put in a warm place for 10 minutes (inside an oven that is not turned on, or on top of the stove, or in front of a warm window, or…  my grandma’s favorite place was the floor in the kitchen right next to the radiator vent… but then, her kitchen floor was spotless and she didn’t have any pets to stick their faces in it!).  I put my yeast and water on the stove – we have pilot lights that keep it nice and warm without being too hot.  Don’t skip this step, even though it’s not in a lot of the recipes.  It allows the yeast to get nice and warm and happy, and makes certain that you get as beautiful and fluffy a loaf of bread as possible.  I’d even go so far as to say that I’d rather you do this step than let the bread rest and rise after adding the flour.  It’s that important.

After ten minutes, your yeast will start to foam. If this doesn't happen, you need to start over.

When the top of the bowl is foamy, you can start adding the flour.  Add about 3 cups to start, with the salt, and mix in.  You can use a spoon, your stand mixer’s dough attachment, or your hands (guess which one I prefer?).  Gradually add flour, mixing it in, until the dough is ready.

What is ready, you ask?  The short answer, the one all the recipes tell you, is until the dough is “smooth and elastic”.  But it’s tough to know what that textural reference means unless you’ve made dough a couple dozen times.  The best way for someone who has never made bread before to know whether they’ve added sufficient flour is to keep adding until the dough sticks together in a nice ball.  When you touch it, it shouldn’t stick (too much!) to your fingers.  But if it looks really floury and crumbly, you’ve added too much (fortunately, you can just add a little water, a teaspoon or so at a time, until you’ve fixed it). 

Smooth and elastic

The recipe says 5-7 cups of flour because temperature, pressure, and humidity, as well as the texture and age of the flour itself, can all have an effect on how much flour is necessary.  Most commercial bakeries mix their bread in temperature- and humidity-controlled environments (typically warm and humid), so their recipes always work.  At home, though, the amount of flour needed for a basic bread dough always varies.  Like the temperature of the water, I’d err on the side of too little flour rather than too much. 

When you’ve got your flour worked in, you can go ahead and knead the dough a couple of times.  Kneading, at it’s most basic, involves pushing the dough down and away from you, folding it over, and pushing it again.  We knead bread dough to get the gluten (a wheat protein) inside the flour to activate.  Gluten is the building block that forms the “web” of little crevices in a good bread.  Obviously bread can be made with a a gluten-free flour – and you should be able to skip this step if you use one.  Just know that your bread won’t have the same texture if you use a flour that doesn’t contain gluten.  (Sorry, no photos of this step – too hard to take them with my hands in the dough!)

Another quick word on flour: you can use expensive high-gluten bread flour if you want.  But there’s really no need to, since this recipe works perfectly with all-purpose flour (wheat or white, although if you use all wheat flour your bread will be a little heavier – it’s a texture thing).  You can also use a mixture of flours – I like 2/3 white and 1/3 wheat (I think it gives the best “wheaty” taste with the best soft texture), but have made bread with wheat flour only and it works just fine.  I have also done a lot of experimenting and, for a nuttier texture, you can add all sorts of other flours (barley, soy, spelt, whatever you see in the health food store).  I would still use a 2:1 or even a 3:1 ratio of “regular” flour to non-white-wheat flour, though, if you’re adding non-white-wheat flour just for taste and texture.

Once you knead your bread for a couple of minutes, cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth and put it back in the warm place.  Set a timer for an hour and leave it alone.  When you come back, the bread dough will be puffy and yeasty-smelling*.  Uncover and knead again, cover and leave for 30-45 minutes. 

The same dough, after having been left to rise for 45 minutes

Come back and shape the dough (into loaves or rolls or…?) on a sheet pan or in loaf or cake pans and let it rise again for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 450.  It’s very important to have a hot oven, as it allows the bread to rise quickly and gets a good crust!

Shape the bread how you want it! (I also rolled the bottom of this loaf in cornmeal for crunch)

After the last rise, carefully put the bread into the hot oven.  If you jostle the pan(s), it will cause the bread to fall.  This is okay, but we want to minimize it.  Set your timer for 20 minutes if you’re making two loaves from this recipe.  If you’re making smaller loaves, or rolls, you’ll want to check them after 10-12 minutes (they should take about 15 minutes to cook).  Different shapes and sizes of bread take different cooking times, but in general a loaf will be done in 20-25 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when it’s golden in color and sounds hollow if you knock on the crust.

You know bread is done if it is golden in color and sounds hollow if you knock on the crust

Remove the bread from the oven, cool and serve (I like mine hot from the oven but it does benefit from cooling at least 10 minutes).

See?  Easy peasy!

But you can always switch it up…  Try:

  • Putting an oven-safe bowl full of water on the bottom rack (or the bottom) of the oven.  I don’t understand the science of it, but it makes the crust more crispy!
  • Rolling, stretching, or pulling the dough flat and making a pizza (yup, this is a pretty consistent weeknight meal for us)
  • Cutting the dough into small portions (think smaller than your fist) and making shaped rolls or even hamburger buns
  • Cutting the dough into small portions, rolling and stretching them flat, and cooking them on a griddle or your pizza stone (they won’t get pockets like pitas but this recipe makes excellent flatbread to munch on with hummus!)
  • Adding an egg or two to the water after the yeast has proofed (this makes your finished bread more feathery and light, and adds some color and richness.  I like to add a little milk and butter with my egg to make a really rich hamburger bun, similar to, but not as salty/sugary as, the one found on Smitten Kitchen)
  • Using scalded and cooled milk with a touch of butter in place of  some or all of the water
  • Adding butter or oil to the dough
  • Adding cinnamon or other spices, or seeds, or fresh or dried herbs, to the dough (I wouldn’t reccommend sprinkling the top with herbs, though, as they’ll only burn)
  • Adding fruits or vegetables to the dough with the flour (just try to get them as dry as possible, since any additional moisture will create a sticky pocket)
  • Adding roasted garlic, or garlic sauteed in butter, or dehydrated onions, to the dough with the flour
  • Rolling or stretching the dough flat (1/2 inch or so) and spreading a filling such as cinnamon and sugar over it before rolling it and either baking it as one large roll or cutting the dough in sections and baking as cinnamon rolls
  • Rolling or stretching and then cutting the dough into small flat pieces and frying them in hot oil until they puff up (in my family, this is known as pasta fritta – although when we visited the town where my grandfather grew up we were served gniocco fritto, and it was exactly the same – and we either eat it with cheese and sausage or lunchmeat, or with jam, nutella, or sugar)
  • Adding several tablespoons of oil to the bread or cake pan and to the top of the bread before you bake it – you will, in essence, fry the bread on the outside while baking it on the inside, and it’s super-yummy.  I often employ this technique when I make foccacia – I’ll use a slightly sticky dough and a pan that is wider than it is tall and I’ll use my fingers to make indentations in the top of the bread, and then pour oil on the top for a nice crust.
  • Dividing the dough into several portions, flattening them out, and filling them with cheese, cinnamon and sugar, or jam, rolling them up and placing them close together in a shallow pan to bake like cinnamon rolls.
  • Making pockets with the bread – just flatten it out and fill it with meats or cheeses, pizza or spaghetti sauce, chicken, vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, fruits, or just about anything else you’d consider eating with bread, and then fold it over (like a ravioli!).  Use a little water and a fork to close the sides well and poke a small hole in the top to let the steam out.  If you’re using anything on the inside that must be cooked before eating (ie: raw chicken), I’d cook it at least halfway before filling.  Then bake on a cookie sheet (yum – calzones!).

The nice thing about having a basic bread recipe under your belt is that if you ever need something to serve with, say, that beautiful fresh salad, you’ve got it.  Want a fresh pizza?  You’ll never buy prepared crust again.  Want cinnamon rolls for Christmas?  No sweat!  The technique is the same, no matter what you’ve mixed in, how you’ve cooked your bread, or what you’re using as a filling (although filled and mixed-in breads can take longer to bake).  Your bread won’t last as long as store-bought loaves (no preservatives) and won’t be quite as light and airy (homemade bread usually has a closer crumb and is denser than store-bought) but your bread will taste exactly how you want it, and you’ll know exactly what’s gone into it. 

The dense, beautiful texture of homemade bread

And it takes a little time, but you can have a small quick loaf to the table in under 45 minutes (keep it sticky, add a little extra yeast if you can, let the yeast proof before you add the flour, but put the loaf directly into a hot oven for about 20 minutes after you mix it – you won’t get nearly the texture you would if you let it rise for hours and kneaded it to death, but it’s still awfully nice on a Sunday morning!).  You can also freeze and refrigerate the dough (although you definitely want to let it come to room temperature before you use it, or it won’t cook all the way through, and sometimes it can take hours!).

I know you’re probably sick of hearing tips, but I have two more.  First, if you want your bread to rise as high as it possibly can, slash it through – just before you put it in the oven – with a cerrated knife (in an “x” pattern, or in diagonal slashes, or in whatever other design you prefer.  This lets the bread rise as much as it possibly can (not to mention making a pretty top crust!). 

Bread slashed on the top for maximum rise

My second tip is to get a pizza stone.  I know it’s an additional expense, but the crispness you get from a pizza stone is unmatched.  I usually put my bread (or pizza) on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 5 minutes (so that it sets up) and then place it directly on the stone (I find that this gives me the best combination of fluffy texture and crispy crust – sometimes when I take a risen dough out of the bowl and put it directly on the stone, it falls quite a bit before rising again because it’s been jostled too much) to cook the rest of the way.  Your pizza stone should just be wiped down after each use with a damp towel; it looks sort of disgusting after you bake umpteen pizzas on it, but it’s perfectly clean and extremely useful!

Yup. Pizza stones look nasty but work great!

*What if my bread isn’t fluffy and yeasty smelling?  Most of the time, if your bread doesn’t puff up, you’ve used water that is too hot.  The best advice I can give if your bread hasn’t puffed up and doesn’t smell sort of like beer and fresh baked goods is to make a slurry of yeast and water.  1 envelope of yeast to about a 1/4 cup lukewarm water (not cold, but not any warmer than room temperature).  Let it sit for a few minutes to activate the yeast.  Then gently knead it into the bread, trying to ensure that you have a consistent texture throughout (I once did this and ended up with threads and pockets of yeast going through my dough…  not tasty).  Let it rise for another hour before using.  And don’t stress out.  It happens to even those of us who have made hundreds of loaves.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

18 Mar

I grew up HATING Saint Patrick’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against the Irish, or the day itself.  But it was the one day I knew for sure that all I would end up eating was potatoes.  Because my family would go to our Irish friends’ house for dinner and get traditional corned beef and cabbage.  My parents loved it.

Me?  I thought it stunk.  Horribly.  Tasted like boiled socks, too.  I apologize to anyone who actually likes it the traditional way – all boiled together for hours – but I could never stomach the stuff.  I’d walk in the house, take a big whiff, and gag uncontrollably.

Let me assure you, I was an incredibly picky child (I was the one to pull cheese off the pizza crust before I’d eat pizza – and I’d only eat the crust).  But this loathing continued into my adulthood.  I have never, ever wanted to eat corned beef and cabbage, and even just last week I was telling my husband that I’d make it for him, if he really wanted it, but I refused to eat it.

Enter Trader Joe. 

I was shopping yesterday (hungry, of course) and saw the display for their corned beef.  I figured I’d just taste it.  It didn’t smell horrible.  I took a nibble.  Hmmm…

It was salty and vinegary and slightly spicy.  And stringy in just the right way.  And good.

Not at all like the corned beef I remember – it used to be so tinny, and sort of like a big salt lick, and dry.  This was complex and beautifully balanced, tender and flavorful.  And YUMMY.

Darnit.

I bought the smallest piece I could find (not small – just under two pounds, fully cooked – and more than $12).  I still wasn’t convinced enough to buy the two cabbage pack, but I called my husband to tell him that if he wanted some on his way home he should buy some.

I went the easy way, with the cooked piece of corned beef, mostly because I didn’t know how long it would have taken to correctly cook a raw piece.  This only needed to be warmed before eating.  I made boiled potatoes, tossed in butter and parsley, and green beans.  Hubby was in charge of the cabbage.

He sliced it in thin ribbons and added a TON of garlic (about 6 cloves of garlic for one head of cabbage), and used our wok to stir-fry it until it was just barely softened (not mushy – it still had a lot of crunch – but mild).  I took just a tiny portion to start with, and then added more.  It was SO good – especially mixed together with the corned beef.  Totally untraditional (um, wokked with garlic?) but super good.

It was strange, to enjoy so much what I had previously shunned.  But it was a lesson that, if cooked properly, just about anything can be incredibly tasty.  Of course I didn’t take a photo.  But I’m sure I’ll be making the cabbage again (and the uneaten corned beef is in the freezer – so it will make another appearance too!).

A Lifechanging Experience

17 Mar

I’m hoping this post doesn’t bring a ton of weird people to my blog by accident…  I can see it now.  Ah well, this is too important to pass on posting.  If you’re a guy friend of mine, I’m sorry in advance – just ignore the post and move on!  It’s definitely a girl thing! 😉

Today I went in for a bra fitting.  A proper bra fitting.  I actually went for two, for curiosity’s sake.  And it was a lifechanging experience.

I have known for a long time that I was wearing the wrong bra size.  I don’t want to get graphic about it, but suffice it to say these puppies weren’t being held up or in by the cheap store bras I had been buying.

There aren’t too many places where a girl can buy a decent bra bigger than a D cup – and most of the time if you need something bigger than a C you’re limited to a very small amount of ugly neutral ones.  I’ve found some online stores, but with shipping (and shipping back, if the bra doesn’t fit right), I don’t know that I can justify ordering without trying them on first.

Luckily there are two stores in San Diego that specialize in bras of all sorts of sizes.  I’d been into one of them before our wedding to get a bustier, since I needed something strapless, but even though I knew about both I could never really take the time or spend that kind of money. 

A few weeks ago, hubby and I were watching a BBC documentary about women with big breasts (it deals with reduction surgery, etc. – not pervy at all) and during the part where they were dealing with bra fittings he turned to me and said, “hey, your bra fits like that” (they were showing an example of an ill-fitting bra).  I agreed that it did.  “You should go get fitted,” he said.  When I told him that “good” bras started around $50 and went to upwards of $100 (some even more), he told me that it was too important and I needed to go, and to only get a couple if I felt like they were too expensive.  Yet another reason to love my husband.

Even so, I kept forgetting or just not being in the mood.  Yesterday I went for a shopping day with my little sister (to use up her Christmas gift cards – my big splurge was on a $2.50 Old Navy tee shirt to throw on, since I’d spilled sauce on my shirt at lunch) and she saw the signs in the Fashion Valley mall advertising Intimacy (one of the two stores) and suggested that we could go.  By the time we used up her gift cards, I was too pooped, so I declined.  But I woke up this morning, determined to make it there today.

Now, before I continue, these are just my experiences at the two stores I visited; I didn’t get any free stuff (hardly!) or special treatment or anything, and the stores don’t know I’m blogging about them (in fact, I didn’t have any plans to blog about it beforehand).  I just wanted to share!

I stopped into Intimacy (between Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, on the bottom floor of Fashion Valley mall) and was struck first by the fact that there were almost no racks.  There were pretty bra and panty sets hung on the walls like decoration, and there was a swimsuit display, but it’s not the kind of store where you go pawing through sales racks.  I was a little worried about this – I’m not much of a boutique shopper – but I figured I was here, so I’d just go for it.

I was asked if I had an appointment.  Um…  Appointment?  No, I was walk-in.  (Why would I need an appointment on a Wednesday morning?)  They were actually very accomodating, but I guess that I was supposed to know to make an appointment.  Anyway, file that away – if you can, call ahead.

I filled out a survey – just what I needed, what size I was wearing, etc. – and they introduced me to a fitter.  She was very nice, showed me into a room, and told me about their method.  Apparently they don’t use measuring tape; they look at you and try to figure out your size, fitting you into bras as they go.  Yes, you read that right.  They look at you.  In your current bra and not in any bra.  This was not something I could have done seven years ago (when having my first gyno exam made me want to break out in tears and crawl underneath the exam table).  I don’t imagine most of us are too comfortable having another person (especially a stranger!) seeing our boobs.  But you’re forewarned now – and it’s totally worth it – so relax as much as you can.  I know hearing, “they’re trained professionals” doesn’t help too much, but they are trained professionals.

Anyway, I got past the momentary “ick!” and the fitter left to find me some bras.  She came back in with the cutest blue lacy thing with bows!  And she put it on me (lean forward into the cups, then stand up as you’re strapped in…  too bad I can’t do that for myself – I’m a ‘clasp in front and twist around’ girl) and IT FIT!  And it felt GOOD!  She showed me how the center part of the bra is supposed to be flush with your breastbone, and the underwires against your abdomen.  Yes, I know, I should know that.  But it’s been so impossible to find a bra that fit me correctly that I just didn’t believe it could be.  Especially not in a pretty pale blue lace with ribbons.

She tried on some other styles – some fit, others were just a hair off – and then put me in a sports bra.  I swear I’ve never worn such an amazing contraption before.  I felt like I could run a marathon (and I don’t run, in large part because of the boobs) and never worry about bouncing.  And it was comfortable (and moisture-wicking, she added!).

She left me in the room to contemplate the choices available – in all, six bras plus the sports bra fit me like they were made for me.  I looked at prices and almost fell over.  I’m not sure that they’re totally justified – for all that they’re European and special lace and all that.  The sports bra was only $47, but everything else was over $100 – one was even in the $175 range!  I couldn’t justify that kind of spending!  In the end, I left with one regular bra (the one that was the most versatile and the most comfortable, not to mention the most affordable at $116) and the sports bra.  They did tell me that I should wear my bras 2-3 times before washing, and always let them “rest” a day, and if I did that, they should last me about 5 years.  Which is actually much better, in comparison, than my $30 bras that last me a few months before stretching out or ripping or disgorging themselves of their underwires.  But $175???

I decided to head down the street to The Enchantress, where I’d gone before my wedding for my bustier.  The Enchantress is located on Camino de la Reina, across the street from the Target in the Mission Valley mall (in the Mattress Discounters center – it’s easy to miss it if you don’t know where it is).  In contrast, this small store is PACKED with bras and lingerie and fun things to paw through, and the owner is very quirky and very friendly (I think you should probably make an appointment here too, but I doubt you’d be made to feel guilty if you didn’t).  Don’t misunderstand me – they know their bras – it’s just a different atmosphere.

Anyway, the fitter who helped me there didn’t need for me to show her my boobs – which would be a definite plus for a lot of people! – and was a little more hands-off (the fitter at Intimacy would adjust them in the bra if she felt they needed it).  I didn’t mind either approach, really – they both seemed to work really well – but if you’re a little squeamish you probably want to visit The Enchantress first!  I didn’t tell my fitter at The Enchantress that I’d just been to Intimacy (I just wanted to see what she came up with, not to worry about what anyone else thought), but sure enough she came up with a similar conclusion as to my size (although again we proved that every bra is different – some fit better than others).  She brought me a darling light blue bra with pink flowers dotting it.  I almost keeled over from the cuteness!

I bought that one – for $76 – and a neutral one – for $56 – from The Enchantress.  Overall, her bras are far more affordable, and I couldn’t see any real difference in the fit.  I don’t know how their life cycle will be, but I think that you can probably count on them to be about as durable too.  I didn’t see any sports bras at The Enchantress (although I know she does sell them, and nursing bras too), so I’ll probably still buy those at Intimacy, but I think I’d go for two of The Enchantress’ bras over one at Intimacy, just based on price.  Intimacy did have some more sexy styles, and offered free alterations for the lifetime of the bra (which could be a real deal).

I ended up with four bras – each a different size (36H, 36HH, 38 H, and 38I).  Because I bought them based on correct fit, not the size on the tag (like jeans, the size doesn’t really tell you much).  I am SO happy (even though I feel like I spent SO much!).  I had been wearing an F-cup bra.  That’s several sizes too small.  Which meant I’d get spillage – a “double boob” look that’s just never attractive.

My new bras have vaguely cone-shaped cups and look incredibly huge, but I don’t look any different in the mirror (except that I don’t get double boob!).  I sort of feel all strapped in, but in a really good way – like there is actually a ton of support, not only in the cups, but across the back (where these bras fit me far lower than any other bra ever did).  I’ve been wearing my new bra for a few hours now and already I feel like I’m standing straighter and feeling less pressure on my lower back.  It’s a HUGE difference!

So the moral of the story is to get a bra fitting!  DO IT!  It feels a little odd, but it’s the most awesome feeling to wear the right size bra.  Most women don’t know what their proper bra size is – we usually wear too big a band and too small a cup – and don’t realize that they could feel so good.  I knew I was wearing the wrong size, but it’s still a surprise to me how incredible this is.  Even if you only go to feel how a good bra should fit (and don’t buy one of the expensive ones), everyone should go get a fitting.  It’s truly lifechanging!  So what are you waiting for?  Go now!

Do you like photography?

12 Mar

Specifically nature photography?  Are you a flower geek?

Okay, probably not.  But I am.  So I started another blog (not to replace this one, but as a totally separate thing so I can do the personal stuff and the recipes here and do the photography stuff there).  I know I’m no professional, and I know I’d probably do better with a more expensive camera (oh, digital SLR cameras, why must you be so pricey?).  But I started this site nonetheless.  I hope you’ll go and check it out!

http://inbloomsandiego.wordpress.com

What a relief!

11 Mar

I’ve been in a ton of pain this week.  Last year I had major issues with stomach acid and had some major recurring pains.  I was really scared that I had a chronic problem but my doctor diagnosed me as just having an overproduction of stomach acid, caused by a pH imbalance.  I had had a bad case of the stomach flu that apparently really messed me up.  I took some acid reducers for a while and stopped having problems every month.

Enter this January, when I got a nasty sinus infection after weeks of fighting the flu.  I called my doctor’s office to get a prescription for an antibiotic.  When I found out that it was something I’d never taken, and had a list of side effects longer than my arm, I was worried.  Of course I argued with my doctor, who told me that this was the one to take for a sinus infection and wouldn’t change the prescription.

Until I called the office three days later.  I was having every side effect known to man.  And none of them good.  I got the prescription changed but the damage was done.  My pH was officially screwed up again.

I’ve had two bouts with this stomach acid thing since mid-January.  It’s the same symptoms as last year, and I’m sure it’s the same problem.  I’ve been downing antacids this week and eating as blandly as possible.  Which is no fun.  And I’m back on the medicine the doctor gave me last year.

I went to the grocery store this morning to get some water and bananas and I really wanted to pick up a pineapple.  I figured it would be too acidic for me so I didn’t pick it up.  Later on in the day, one of my neighbors (the Earth Momma who knows all kinds of natural healing) asked me what was wrong.  When I told her, she actually suggested pineapple, and said it’s got all sorts of digestive healing properties.  I looked it up on the internet, and saw several confirmations, so I went and bought one.

I’m still feeling some acid pressure, but my whole esophagus isn’t burning the way it has been for the last two or three days.  As soon as I got some pineapple down, I felt a definite relief.  I’m still planning on taking my medicine (sigh) but I am feeling better than I have.

Which makes me wonder: did my subconcious know that the pineapple would help?  I rarely buy them, so it was definitely out of the ordinary to want to.  Was this an example of intuitive eating at its core?  Or was it just random?  I’ll probably never know, but I’m sure glad I talked to my neighbor!

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