29 November 2010

Vegetable Tortellini Soup

The last few weeks I've been determined to make one dish before starting the work week that I can bring to work for lunches. Spinach & Artichoke pasta, anyone? This week I tried out a recipe for Vegetable Ravioli Soup I found a while back on delish.com. I modified it just a touch - cheese tortellini instead of ravioli, which didn't impact the flavor at all. The highlights - it's super easy to make, it's packed with veggies and it's so tasty I know I won't get sick of it eating it for lunch this week!

Vegetable Tortellini Soup

olive oil to coat the bottom of your soup pan
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
chopped onion (enough so that you have 2 cups total of chopped onion+red & green pepper)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
sprinkle of crushed red pepper
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups hot water (you could also use another can of vegetable broth)
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 cup (heaping) frozen cheese tortellini

Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your soup pan, turn heat to medium. Add your chopped pepper, onion and garlic mixture. Saute for a few minutes. Add the crushed red pepper if you're using it. I used just a touch, if you like heat, add more! Add your can of tomatoes, broth, hot water and dried basil. Bring to a rolling boil. Add the zucchini. Cook for 3-5 more minutes. Add tortellini and cook as long as the package says. Enjoy!

28 November 2010

Tofurkey - for Real!

If you're a vegetarian with a few Thanksgiving's under your belt, you'll feel me on this one. I've been a vegetarian for over 15 years and luckily much of my family is also meat free - makes family get togethers that involve food (let's face it, almost all of them do!) a breeze. When I was newly meat free and it wasn't as mainstream as it seems to be, the question about Thanksgiving would inevitably come up - "...but, what do you eat on Thanksgiving?" Like those of us who aren't eating turkey are going hungry on Thanksgiving while the rest of the country gorges on everything from sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Dude we can eat all that and there are some pretty good Turkey stand-ins to boot!

This year my cousins had been talking about the real Tofurkey and how the texture creeped out my cousin B. Cousin M thought we ought to try our own version of this meat free poultry stunt double. He mentioned it in passing late Wednesday night. I wondered if he had a recipe in mind. He said no, he was just planning on winging it. I'm pro-recipe, so I looked up a few recipes online. We ended up using one from vegweb.com as a guide and then somewhat winging it, since we got a very late start and were working with much less tofu than the recipe called for.

Here's roughly what we did:

3 packages extra firm tofu drained (we actually had one extra firm, one firm and one silken - not ideal from a texture standpoint)
poultry seasoning
dried minced onion
2-3 smaller portabello mushrooms chopped

Mix all the tofu in a food processor until smooth. Eyeball your spices and add them all to the tofu along with the chopped portabello mushrooms. We went for more spices, wanting more of a robust flavor rather than just the bland tofu.

Once everything was blended smooth, we spooned the mixture into a sieve lined with a clean kitchen towel (I'd suggest a smooth, thin one, rather than a thick textured one!), covered the top and placed a large rock on the top to help press the liquid out. The recipe we followed said to press for 2-3 hours, or overnight. We maybe managed 3 hours and there was barely any liquid in the bowl below the sieve. The towel was wet though, so I guess we got some liquid out.

Looks like a dip, but it's not! Tofu mixture in towel-lined sieve.

Towel-lined sieve, placed in a bowl with a rock on top.

Next, we shaped it into a log shape in a glass 9x13 pan and put it in the oven at 350. We mixed up the "glaze" in the recipe - basically red wine, balsamic vinegar and some of the same spices we used for the tofu mixture. Had we pressed the tofu mixture longer, the glaze probably would have worked a bit better. Our "log" sort of spread out flat. I believe we baked it for about an hour or an hour and a half. I sort of lost track!

Tofu log, ready for the oven!

The finished product. It's not pretty, but it's a tasty meat-free alternative to turkey.

My cousin and I did a ceremonial first bite at the dinner table - both a little scared it wasn't going to be any good. It didn't look pretty, but it tasted good! I was surprised and relieved. We'll have to get an earlier start next year and use all extra firm tofu rather than the mixture we used. It was so much fun though and I can't wait to try making this again!

26 November 2010


...having a wonderful Marquette time.

Since Wednesday, I've been in Marquette, Michigan, my mother's hometown and still home to some of her family. I've been coming to Marquette at least once a year since I was born and even more times a year in the recent past. Aside from the seven hour drive to get to and fro, I love coming here! My aunt and uncle have a beautiful welcoming home, which feels like my second home since I tend to stay here whenever I'm in town. When I was in Europe, meals lasted forever and were all about enjoying the people you were with and the food on the table, it's a lot like that here. The pace of life is always so chill and enjoyable. I love it!

Here's what's been so great about this visit:

  • Safe travels - no deer sightings, no snow or ice and no sleepiness on the way up. Hoping for the same on the return trip.
  • The warm cozy fire at my aunt & uncle's and an equally warm and cozy bed.
  • Cooking in a giant kitchen with family. My cousin and I made a "tofurkey" from scratch on Thanksgiving and it was a riot. I contributed to the green bean casserole he was making - from scratch, no can of mushroom soup in sight and I also made the vegetarian gravy. All in all, everyone's efforts resulted in a delicious meal on Thanksgiving evening.
  • Shopping on "Black Friday" that didn't involve any big box stores. We shopped local.
  • Bowling and playing Liverpool Rummy. My family has been playing Liverpool together as long as the "kids" my age could hold a fist full of cards. Of the many sites I found when looking for a link, none of them had the rules spelled out exactly how we play, which is funny. I bet any group or family who has played as long as our family has developed their own little quirks for the game. I couldn't conceive of playing it any other way than how we play!
  • Shopping again for a bit today with my mom and having a great long chat with her over coffee.
  • Not having to be anywhere in particular and just being able to relax and enjoy the day as it unfolds.
I hope you've been having a simply wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend!

20 November 2010


from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Deer in Headlights

(Image source unknown)

Always keep your wits about you. Just saying...

18 November 2010

Even Brighter Than the Moon

"...Ignite the light and let it shine..."

15 November 2010

Product Love

I'm always curious about what beauty products you girlies are using, what's working and what you're loving. I cleaned out one of my medicine cabinets over the weekend and with the newly organized make up shelf, I thought I'd do a post about the products I'm using. Well, some of them anyway, since most of what you see here is for my face. My eye colors, pencils, lip and cheek colors are all housed elsewhere. So follow the handy numbers to see what's what!
  1. My assortment of make up brushes. Most of them are NARS, which I got for free when I interned there back when the line was only a year old. If you peruse the link, you'll see that the brushes are not cheap. I've taken care of them (cleaning them regularly with a little Aveda Shampure and water) and they're still going strong. It's been nearly 15 years, so had I actually purchased them, it would have been a wise investment!
  2. Benefit's Some Kind-a Gorgeous in original. Benefit calls this "the foundation faker," which is exactly what I was looking for when I started using this about a year ago. I don't like to look like I've got make up on, and this evens out my skin tone beautifully. I love it!
  3. Aveda Dual Base in Linen. I use this more as a powder than as a base foundation, which is what it was originally made to be and how I originally used it. I've had this for a while. They now are selling "Inner Light Mineral Dual Foundation", which I haven't tried.
  4. L'oreal Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base. That's a seriously long name for a tiny product. I had been wanting to try a make up primer, especially for my eyelids since I sometimes find my eye color disappears during the day. I just started using it after hearing about it from K one night over ice cream not too long ago when it was still warm, so I feel like it's too early to weigh in with a verdict.
  5. Lancome eye color palette, which was a gift from my friend A awhile back. Four great colors, for a little extra eye drama when I need it. LOL!
  6. L'oreal True Match liquid foundation. I tried this out after seeing Kandee Johnson's video "Perfect Skin for CHEAP!" where she used it. It's funny that it's called True Match because although at the store it looked like the right shade, based on their little color chart, it's a touch dark for me. I've been mixing it with my moisturizer to lighten it up and so far I've been liking the result.
  7. L'oreal True Match Concealer. I bought this in a concealer emergency, my favorite Arbonne concealer (see #8) was back ordered this summer and I needed a stand in. I actually like it and use it when it the mood strikes.
  8. Arbonne Creme Concealer, light. I've been using Arbonne's skin care system for a few years and love it. This is the only Arbonne make up product that I have consistently used. It's got great coverage and the creamy texture dries down to a nice powdery finish. Little known Starr Fish fact, I am an Arbonne consultant. Although I now mostly sell to myself, my mom and the occasional friend who orders, I can hook you up with any of the Arbonne products if you're curious.
  9. Tooth picks from my orthodontist. I have braces, what else can I say?
  10. Loose NARS eye shadows. Secret stash of two loose shadows that were samples and no longer in stock. One is a great purple and the other is a yellowish gold. The store threw them in as a bonus when I was purchasing some other gear.
  11. Inspiration!
Any questions? I have one for you! While I was organizing this little shelf, I wondered do you girls stow all your make up in a make up bag or a drawer or some other situation? I've got gear kind of spread out - a little on the shelf you see, some more in the medicine cabinet door and a little more in the other medicine cabinet. Just curious how y'all arrange all your beauty products...

14 November 2010

What's Cookin'?

In terms of recipes I've actually tried making from the various foodie blogs I follow, Budget Bytes is on it lately with recipes that appeal to me! As you may recall, last weekend I tried her recipe for Honey Wheat Bread to great success. This weekend I gave another one of her recipes a try.

How much do you love spinach artichoke dip? I've never made it, but when I've had it at restaurants, you usually get a thimble full with four crackers or tiny toasts and they charge you $5-7. It's usually tasty enough, but super rich and I seem to recall quite salty. So Ms. Budget Bytes came up with a creamy Spinach Artichoke Pasta dish that is reminiscent of spinach and artichoke dip, but it's way better, because you can eat it as a meal! Actually it makes a ton, so if you're feeding a crew, you'll have plenty. If your crew is slightly smaller or you're a crew of one making it early in the week, you'll have plenty of meals to bring to work or school.

I didn't have the white wine she used, I used lemon juice instead. The lemon juice added a subtle flavor that counterbalanced the creaminess in just the right way. I can see how the white wine would have been a nice addition. I used slightly less garlic and next time would use the full four cloves she used. I also skipped the hot sauce, because I didn't have any on hand, but did add crushed red pepper.

Overall the recipe was super simple to follow and it came together really fast. This would be a great meal to make for an impromptu dinner party - get someone to bring a salad and someone else to bring a dessert and you've got a super yummy dinner with friends!

12 November 2010

Better than Drama

Here's the latest in Starr Fish land. I really wish I had more exciting things to share with you this week, but work has been mad busy and everything else just seems to be at this kind of boring, just cruising along point. I guess that's better than drama!

Seriously, you guys, as I started to think about what's been going this past week I wasn't coming up with a lot. With what I'm about to type, it will become alarmingly clear just how boring things have been. Without going into tons of detail, let's just say the cats have not been super good about practicing litter box etiquette lately and I've now learned by way of vet lab tests that they both have feline UTIs. Seriously, is this really my life? They were champs at the vet, but did not want to get into the carrier to actually go there. Both are now on a 14-day course of antibiotics (have you tried giving pills to a cat?!) and there's also special food now because Junior's pH was too high, which is not good. The food is supposed to regulate the pH.


In other news, I know you all must be dying to know what's going on with my teeth. Really, I can feel it through the interwebz! I am here to tell you, the teeth are still glistening and shiny with their braces, but they are getting close to where I want them to be. I had an orthodontist visit this week and just got rewired. Back in three weeks. Maybe I'll have my teeth back by Christmas? Maybe?!


Are you a Will Arnett fan? Although the entire cast on Arrested Development was amazing, he was one of my favorites as Gob. I happened to catch his new show Running Wilde this week and it was pretty funny. I had a couple of actual LOL moments. David Cross, who played Tobias on Arrested Development is in a few episodes too! If you haven't seen it and are looking for a new show to check out, give it a go over on hulu.


I wish I could edit the Sunday Secrets on postsecret.com for a few weeks. I'm always bummed out that there aren't more each week. I know the creator of the site receives thousands of secrets each week...he should post more!

08 November 2010

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

This weekend was chock full of fall smells in my kitchen! I started with the bread, but a Starr Fish cannot live on bread alone. I have this habit of starring recipes in my google reader and then never thinking about them again or never actually considering the possibility of giving them a try.

Dinner A Love Story featured a quick recipe for "Butternut Squash Soup with Apples." Sounds delish, right? Perfect for a cozy fall weekend! It sounded almost too easy to make and the her pictures made me want to reach my spoon through the screen to steal a taste. I had to give it a try.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apples
1 small/medium onion (I used half of a larger one) chopped
olive oil
pinch of thyme
1 tsp curry powder
pinch of cayenne (optional, I included it and it was tasty!)
salt & pepper
1 butternut squash, halved, seeded peeled, chopped into cubes
2 apples, peeled, chopped into chunks
1 carton of vegetable broth

I had most of the ingredients already, just grabbed a butternut squash and some extra apples beyond those I'd want for snacking this week when I was at the grocery store. While I was waiting for my second loaf of bread rise, I prepped my butternut squash and apples and set them aside. Then chopped up the onion.

Hello, butternut squash!

Apples and butternut squash chunks, prepped and ready to go.

In a soup or stock pot over medium heat, drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of the pan, add the chopped onions. Stir occasionally until translucent. Add salt (I eyeballed a small mound in my hand, about a teaspoon) & pepper, a pinch of thyme, 1 teaspoon of curry powder, and your pinch of cayenne, if you want a bit of heat like me. Stir around for a couple minutes to bring out the soul of the spices.

Add your prepped butternut squash and apples. Pour in vegetable broth and a good pour of cider. I added probably a half cup. Your squash and apples should be pretty well covered. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender, I'm totally jealous of you and you can use it to puree the soup right in the pot. If you're like me and have a regular blender, you'll want to puree the soup in batches to get a nice smooth consistency.

Before the blend = chunky.

During the blend, getting smooth!

I served this soup with a little taste of sour cream, but use your imagination and garnish as you wish. DALS suggested walnuts, chives and creme fraiche Sour cream did the trick at Chez Starr Fish!

07 November 2010

Honey Wheat Bread

I've always been a little wary of baking any bread that has yeast in the recipe. All the recipes I've read seem so daunting. Believe me, there have been a ton of recipes not made over the years, as I read cookbooks and cooking sites and blogs for fun! What if the yeast is old and the dough doesn't rise?! Then you've done all the work and there's no bread-y reward.

Sometimes, in life and in baking, you just have to say "I'm going to do this, what's the worst that can happen?" That's what I did in attempting this Honey Wheat Bread recipe I found on Budget Bytes this week. With all the great step-by-step pics, I felt pretty confident I'd be able to conquer my yeast bread-baking fear.

I'm happy to report that the first loaf went so well, I decided to make a second loaf! It's my mom's birthday today (Happy Birthday & much love to you, mom!) and I joked with her a few weeks ago that I was going to get her a bread knife for her birthday - she totally needs one. So when I decided to give the recipe a try, I thought, "if all goes well, I can give her a loaf of the bread with the knife for her birthday." I couldn't not cut into the first loaf, so the second loaf went to mom! The second loaf turned out even better than the first, so practice does, indeed, pay off!

From the Fresh Starr Fish Kitchen, a few pics of Honey Wheat Bread baking process. That's butternut squash soup in the bottom right photo - check back in, I'll be posting the recipe tomorrow!

If you've ever wanted to try baking bread, head over to Budget Bytes and give her recipe a try.

05 November 2010


Who doesn't like a little reward for a job well done? Or maybe it's a pay off for doing not much of anything, a reward that's been earned and carried forward from a time gone by? I've got stories of both. Just two little reward story tidbits from living life as a Starr Fish this week.

With the abundance of Halloween candy and the full snack box at work, I've been playing a game with myself to encourage more water drinking and less candy eating. I start the day with a full 32 ounce Nalgene water bottle. The rule is that if I finish my water I can have candy or a snack from the snack box! So far so good this week. I've finished my water and been a responsible snacker.

Our company just wound up its United Way Campaign. Sometimes, I'm not so good on follow up that involves paperwork. That turned out in United Way's favor recently. If you contributed last year via paycheck deduction and did nothing this year in terms of handing in a form or going on line to adjust your contribution, your contribution from 2010 just continues for 2011.

My generous heart and lack of follow through earned me the right to wear jeans during the month of November, a fact that dawned on me earlier this week when I saw lots of people wearing jeans. My company is business casual and usually only allows jeans on Fridays when you've donated to the charity of the month, so jeans all month will be interesting. I don't even own that many pairs of jeans - and haven't even worn them since I realized the jeans bonus. It will be a nice option.

Do you give yourself rewards or buy yourself little treats for doing something good, enduring an extra tough work week or accomplishing a goal you've set for yourself? I do and believe heartily in it. The treat doesn't have to be extravagant at all (mine usually aren't!) - sometimes for me it's just making sure to get that coffee at Sbux when my mind says, "wouldn't a coffee be nice right about now?" We all deserve a little something just for being ourselves!

What nice thing might you do for yourself today?

04 November 2010

This I Believe

I had the opportunity to hear Dan Gediman speak last night at Aquinas College. Mr. Gediman is the executive director/producer of This I Believe, a non-profit organization that collects and shares people's core belief essays. You've probably heard at least one of the essays on the series that was a mainstay on NPR's All Things Considered for many years and currently can be heard via podcast, on the Bob Edwards Show (either on satellite or public radio), and right on ThisIBelieve.org.

The event at Aquinas began with a short introduction by Aquinas president. He introduced five students who then read their This I Believe essays. One was funny, an ode to the Aquinas College cafeteria. Another was on silence. Another on cancer. Another on taking risks. The final speaker read his essay about prevailing against all odds. His essay, in particular, touched me the most because it included a story about running. He was born too early, weighing just over two pounds. Both he and his mother were not expected to make it. They both did, against all odds. He's lived his life with cerebral palsy, which affects the muscle movement on one side of his body and causes him to walk with a limp.

He shared about being teased in middle school for being different, but then spoke about how things changed in high school. He was encouraged to run on the cross country team. The team embraced him. Even though he admitted to never winning a race, basically finishing long after his teammates and runners from the other teams, he kept running. Against all odds.

As he was finishing the final race of his high school running career, his teammates doubled back to run the last quarter mile with him. When awards were given out to the winners, they had a special award to share with him. All his teammates took off their warm ups to reveal t-shirts printed with his name - they decided to change the name of the race to bear his name from then on, honoring his perseverance.

He's not running now, but as a runner I can only imagine that the experience of pushing himself, connecting with his teammates and competing against all odds is something that will stay with him the rest of his life. His story brought tears to my eyes.

After hearing the students read their essays and hearing Mr. Gediman speak about the origins of This I Believe, I've been thinking about writing my own essay. I'm still mulling it over, but don't be surprised one day if you read mine here or hear it one day on This I Believe.

What do you believe?