Monday, September 17, 2012

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Things you'll need:

9 lasagna noodles, cooked
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and fresh pepper
32 oz tomato sauce
9 tbsp (about 3 oz) part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Ladle about 1 cup sauce (I used less) on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. Make sure noodles are dry. Take 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over noodle. Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.

Ladle sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and top each one with 1 tbsp mozzarella cheese. Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts. Makes 9 rolls.

To serve, ladle a little sauce on the plate and top with lasagna roll.

I used less spaghetti sauce ~ I think my jar was 26 oz and it was plenty ~ I like Hunts brand garlic & herb flavor. Didn't bother saving any for the "serving suggestion" of putting some on the plate first. It was fine just as it was.

I hesitated to cover it before baking, but I generally follow the instructions the first time I make something. After 40 minutes, the cheese was melted but not browned and not too bubbly. So I removed the foil and let it bake for 10-15 minutes more and then broiled it for a couple minutes. I like browned cheese!

Best helpful hint was using wax paper to roll on! Really worked well to combat the sticking issue.

I'm very much looking forward to making it with *ricotta cheese* next time! (For those of you who don't know, I grabbed a pint container of sour cream and didn't notice that it *wasn't* ricotta until the rolls were in the oven and baking and I was cleaning up afterwards! Same calories, tho)

All in all a REALLY yummy dish and only 261 calories per roll! That's including cheese and sauce and everything.

Some more photos...

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Black Keys and the Arctic Monkeys ~ Live at the Oakland Arena ~ May 4, 2012

When I go to concerts back to back and don't write about them right away I tend to get things mixed up... but I shall *try* to record my impressions accurately. So lets see.... I went to this concert with my sister, who goes by the screen name "Sadge", less than one week after I'd gone to see Coldplay with my son. Good thing I've already written about the Coldplay concert, tho. That helps.

Being a bay area resident for many years now, I've come to accept traffic as an unfortunate fact of life ~ and to love arriving at places early. Especially places as important as concerts. So we arrived a good hour to an hour and a half before showtime, but were well prepared to spend a bit of time comfortably in the parking lot ~ because hey, when we pay $35 to PARK... it only makes sense to sit a bit. No joke. $35 to park at the Oakland Coliseum Complex. What a rip off. But we knew it ahead of time and made our travel decisions advisedly.

I had brought my favorite tailgate munchies, rollups made with flavored cream cheese, avocado, pimiento, and spring greens... all rolled up in a fresh flour tortilla, with toothpicks holding together the individual pieces after being sliced into the half a dozen "bites" per tortilla that it makes. Yummers! Add to that a nice cold beer and I'm one happy tailgater. Oh, and Sadge had brought two Black Keys CDs along so we got to enjoy those there, too. It was a beautiful day for kicking it in the car... sun shining through the prism hanging from my rear view mirror, filling the car with late afternoon rainbows. Very nice indeed, actually.

We casually made our way into the arena about half an hour before showtime ~ and I've just got to say that I wish the security getting into concerts was a bit more standardized! Whether to plan for being practically frisked -or- having my purse barely glanced at would be nice to know ahead of time, know what I mean? ;-) I leave a (delicious, cold, and already paid for) beer in the car and then they wave me in with barely a glance... well, what a waste of money having to buy a beverage inside! A minor complaint, I know, but still. I'd like to sneak a beer in with me if I thought I could... but I usually don't even try. I guess they've succeeded in "training" me not to even try. More's the pity. But now to the concert...

So while I knew at least a little of the Black Keys music, I'd knew nothing about the Arctic Monkeys. I was all ears, tho, when they hit the stage and was happily impressed. They looked like such nice young men, clean cut and a bit older than I expected ~ no particular reason why I was expecting *anything* except for possible impressions from Yahoo!Answers' friends. I'd say they were aged early-to-mid 30s and "healthy" looking. Like they'd figured out that they wanted to make a living making rock music, not being "rock stars". They had relatively short hair, were rather buff, and played some straight up ROCK and ROLL ~ just like I like it. Enjoyed them very much. Great energy and engaging songs. And then, after a short intermission, it was time for the Black Keys.

I loved their stage set-up. Simple, with these HUGE old-fashioned light bulbs in reflective holders on poles behind the stage, and when they lit up, they'd be like flood lights pointing towards the audience ~ very bright ~ but when they'd turn them off, they'd slowly fade out and you could see the bulbs clearly. I don't know ~ hard to explain, but just really cool and old fashioned and simple. By the end, they'd brought out the lasers and cameras projecting on screens above the band and stuff like that... and there was even a disco ball at the very end ~ but all that's fairly de rigueur for concerts, so it's always nice to see something out of the ordinary.

What little I did know about the Black Keys was based upon a single viewing of a video on YouTube. I'd simply felt a kinship with them based on that and bought a couple of concert tickets! It's nice to be older and with a little more disposable income (finally) that allows me to go to shows simply because my interest has been piqued. They are kind of a 'White Stripes-esq' duo, with one person on drums and the other playing guitar and singing ~ and I loved the White Stripes too, so they had that going for them. They had a couple supporting musicians with them on stage playing keyboards and guitar, which filled out their sound very nicely.

Their set was split into thirds I'd say. The first and final thirds were with all four people playing, but they had a nice interlude in the middle with just the two of them. That was my favorite part. I always like when it's *just* the original creators out there on stage... so much more 'personal' and intimate. When only one or two people can imagine and create such beautiful music always just thrills and amazes me, and to be witness to it, likewise. And that was the feeling I had watching these two men. Some sweet and soulful songs were performed, and that the songs were about relationships was the icing on the cake. I honestly wish I'd bothered to get to know more of their music ahead of time... but now that I've got my sister's CDs on my computer... well, better late than never. Can't wait for them to come around again.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Coldplay ~ Live in San Jose ~ 4/28/12

Do you know the way to San Jose? Well I didn't, until last night. Oh, I guess that isn't entirely true... I've had lunch downtown with a friend who was staying there on business one time 20+ years ago... and I've toured the Winchester Mystery House (totally worth it)... but that's about it except for driving through now and again on my way to Santa Cruz or Monterey.

It's about 70 miles from where I live, and occupies the southern tip around the San Francisco Bay, and yesterday afternoon, armed with 3 maps and 1 set of personalized directions from a friend who frequents the Sharks hockey games, one of my sons and I set out for the HP (Hewlett Packard) Pavilion to see the rock band Coldplay.

I remember when they were just breaking big in the early part of the 2000s, and when they came to Shoreline in concert back then I was *DYING* wanting to go so badly. But it wasn't meant to be, what with Shoreline being even further away than San Jose, and $$$ tickets, and no one to go with... but of course, one cannot simply forget such disappointments. So when they came around again, and my son *really* wanted to go, I said okay, even tho I'd lost contact with the band years before.

There were two warm-up bands, The Pierces ~ two sisters, last name Pierce ~ *not* as is "body piercing" which is what I thought when I first heard their name ~ and Metronomy, a kind of a synth-rock band. Both very entertaining. I liked the "Heart-esq" sister band better, and my son liked Metronomy better. I wanted to buy The Pierce's CD afterwards but the line was too long at the souvenir stand. And it wasn't making very good progress. In fact, I stood in line for maybe 5 minutes and it didn't move *at all* and it was a really long line! So I bailed. But may look for their CD online.

Metronomy had cool bags on sale within my price range (cheap), but I've got enough bags, and Coldplay gave us all wrist bands to wear, which were a nice souvenir, so that was another reason that I wasn't too interested in standing in a long line... even tho I wanted a Coldplay pin, too. Guess I shoulda shopped before or during the show. But I digress....

When Coldplay was ready to come on, we were told to put our wrist bands on and that they would be part of the show. Wondering what they were going to do! Well, they lighted up and flickered at different times. Was like being in a huge bowl filled with multicolored stars... Very cool. And, they had these 'paper butterfly' cannons down on the floor. We were in the nosebleed section but a couple 'butterflies' drifted up to us, so that was nice.

Here are a couple videos from their concert of April 18th in Calgary, Canada. The first one is a favorite song, and when the butterfly cannon was first activated, and the second one shows what the wrist bands looked like all lit up.

Very cool "extras"... but, you may have noticed that while I was enamored of the gadgets and special effects, that I haven't had much to say about the music, and that's because I really haven't followed them since their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head ~ and while I *LOVE* their first album, Parachutes, they haven't really kept my attention since. Oh, I'm willing to give them more of a try, but just haven't. My son, on the other hand, has all their albums and then some, and is a very big fan... but I only knew a few of the songs.

They only played one song off Parachutes, and four or five off Rush of Blood to the Head... and the other songs, unfortunately, would not have inspired me to rush out and buy the albums if you know what I mean. And I found out later that fully half of the songs were from their newest album that they're trying to promote. Okay, so I get that.... they want to get people to buy their newest product ~ that's why most bands tour in the first place ~ but *half* the songs??? Overkill on the new stuff and without enough of the old stuff that I love so well. And they only have 5 albums, so I don't think I'm asking *too* much. But maybe I am.

I knew a couple of the newer songs, but the concert in general was a little slow in places, and a little boring in places ~ but hey ~ such is life. At least they had a good energy about them and some good rockin' times were also had. And, I could tell they were trying to put on a good show, which counts with me. I like it when the band all seems to like each other and be a cohesive unit with everyone into it. Maybe I would have enjoyed them better had I been more conversant with their newer music... but I wasn't. My son was perfectly happy, tho, so that was great, and the other young people around us were all having a great time as well.

So all in all I had a great time too... and some quality time with one of my 'adult children' (my current favorite oxymoron)... It doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Raspberry Chocolate Almond Crostata

The booklet that started it all....

Is anyone else highly susceptible to these inexpensive little packets of eye-candy?? Well I am. I think I have at least ten of them by now. This one caught my eye this week at the grocery store check out.

So paging through it later at home, I'm pleased to see that all of the recipes call for "few" and "real" ingredients. Not a bunch of name-brand, pre-prepared "stuff" like instant pudding and cans of pie filling. If fruit is called for, then it's real fruit. So that's a plus.

For my first use of this booklet I choose a recipe that looks and sounds KILLER: Raspberry Chocolate Almond Crostata.

Now I've never made a "crostata" before, but have seen them in other cookbooks and they are reportedly the easiest "pie" to make. No pie pans, no fluting the edges, no steam vents and no bubbling all over the bottom of the oven. It's a piece of flat dough that is then folded up and a little bit over whatever filling you're using, and baked. Simple enough.

I often like to follow a recipe exactly as written the first time I make it, but was feeling a little lazy, so when my husband and I stopped by the grocery store to pick up the ingredients that we don't already have on hand: some almond paste and jam, we also got a puff pastry pie shell. I *thought* that "puff pastry" and "pie shell" were basically the same thing. Oh I could see that the one was a bit "fluffier" than the other, but it was the only type they had that wasn't already in a pie tin and that's how the recipe described it so I thought, Why not? Turns out that they're not the same... but close enough I reckon... and such is life when you're too lazy to make your own! Unfortunately, being lazy has it's price. As we were leaving the grocery store I'm thinking, "Damn. This is already a $16 pie and I only needed three ingredients!" But to be honest, the pastry came in two parts and I only used one, and I still have a huge jar of raspberry jam leftover so it wasn't all that expensive, and the one fairly pricy item, the almond paste, is easy to make as I later learned when I looked it up in my trusty old "Joy of Cooking" cookbook. The ingredients are really only sugar and almonds. So, good to know for next time....

Here's the recipe (hope it's big enough or blow-uppable to see):

Simple, "real" ingredients:

...and pretty straightforward processes. Butter, almond paste and egg white in food processor:

Adding the melted chocolate...

And doesn't that look appetizing! Oh yeah, the crust. So I take it out of the package and let it thaw... but then I can't really work with it. It's square. I don't know how to make it round without trying to trim off the corners and paste them on around the edge? Whatever. I figure it'll be fine square.

Fold the crust over and add the raspberry jam... Forgot to take a photo with the almonds sprinkled on before putting it in the oven.

Moi? Licking the utensils?? Forensic evidence suggests, via dental records, that those *ARE* the teeth marks of the prime suspect ~

And out of the oven it comes ~ a
little puffy but it settled down.

And finally, the taste test ~

To tell the truth, it was a bit much. Even that tiny piece. But I guess that figures. Just reading the ingredient list should have clued me to that! lol The jam made it just a little too sweet, and I didn't even use the powdered sugar on top. Am thinking it would be good as a filling for chocolate almond croissants ~ and I *do* still have half of that puff pastry left... :-)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Portishead ~ Live at the Greek Theatre ~ 10/21/11

I'm beginning to feel like all my concert reviews sound alike.... because I love the music SO MUCH! But whatever. I go to concerts because it IS like a religious experience for me (I guess! lol ~ not being much of a traditionally religious sort of person, generally...)

Friday night was Portishead. After hanging out at the Yahoo!Answers website for several years and making lots of friends with lots of different tastes in rock music, Portishead had made it's way onto my radar a few years ago. I liked what I heard, but hadn't bothered to pursue it or get any of their albums or anything... but then a few months ago I saw that they were coming to the Greek Theatre. One of my favorite venues ever~ easy to get to & just an all around beautiful place to go to enjoy some music. So I bought two tickets.

I'm going to have to check my "Mo Music" database to see how many times I've been there, because it's a LOT. Before I was married with children, I was living in south Berkeley and then north Oakland (one and two miles from the campus, respectively) and volunteer ushering several shows per year, seeing tons of concerts, many of groups I'd only heard of and knew none of their music. So with that as my background, now, years later, I'm willing to occasionally take a chance on buying a couple of tickets to see a band that I don't know much about. And Friday night turned into one of those wonderful discoveries ~ a night filled with the kind of music that touches my soul. And it always does my heart good to see that I am not the only one! It was obviously a sold-out show ~ filled with like-minded people.

I went with my friend Gina. She drove (yay and thank you for that, Gina!). The two of us have been to several concerts together and we've sorta got it down. I don't like to spend good money on food that I don't like, so we've learned to get there early and tailgate. We make 'picnic' type food, snacks, munchies, beer and often something stronger, and when we get to where we're going, I'll jump into the back seat with my own center 'table' and drink holder and Gina will stay in the drivers' seat with her own center 'station', and we'll have a little car party. We parked a block away from the Greek, and actually had a 'view' from where we were parked. So kicking it in the car until pretty much the last minute was very nice and relaxing. Plus we got a nice little buzz on ;-)

When we walked into the venue it was only about 5 or 10 minutes until showtime. So we got another beer and found a great place to sit in the 7th row! A bit off to the side, but great seats nonetheless. Nice, friendly people around us ~ and the girls we sat beside said they'd been saving those seats (altho there was no jacket or blanket or anything on them ~ just two empty seats that we'd espied from above) but they said that their friends were late so they snoozed and loozed. No hard feelings.

The warm up band was named Thought Forms. Happy the guy sitting beside me knew who they were because there was no introduction for either band we saw that night... the musicians for both Thought Forms and Portishead would simply walk on stage, pick up their instruments, and begin playing.

About two minutes into Thought Forms' first song I had this overwhelming feeling that "these are my people". Very spacey, ambient but heavy music ~ with moaning rather than words (at least as far as I could tell) ~ but beautiful, beautiful, deep and sonic sounds. Two guitarists / vocalists and a drummer~ and I'll admit that I got a little mind-wandering when focusing on the guitarists/vocalists... but then, I started watching the drummer, and it was so reminiscent of Pink Floyd "Live at Pompeii", with the drummer ~ usually the guy just keeping the beat ~ as a full-fledged partner / an equal to the guitarists/vocalists. He was wonderful and gave the other two a framework to work within. *They* were wonderful. They made me think of a Pink Floyd / Tool / Cowboy Junkies sound. All favorites in my book. The drummer would eventually stop playing, and then the other two would sort of wind it down, and then the songs would be over. It was fun, different, and very enjoyable.

Then it was time for Portishead. Did I mention that I knew *none* of their songs? lol And here is where my music reviews all start sounding alike, because they were ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. There, I'll type in caps so that I REALLY make my point. It felt as close as anyone has come to seeing Pink Floyd in the however many years it's been since they broke up. Except with a single female voice on vocals ~ and a heavier, occasionally industrial sound coming from the "percussionist" who played drums, scratched on turntables, and more. So hearing Portishead put me into a 'Pink Floyd meets Tool and NIN' mindset, but with a Christine McVie-esq vocalist. She reminded me of a thirtysomething Christine physically, with her classic British looks and hair, but also reminded me of her because of the amount of heart and soul that she put into her singing. Every song had the emotional timbre of "Songbird"* ... but different. Original. Unique. Fabulous.

Six people on stage. Drummer, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, percussionist, and vocalist.

I came away from the show *in love* with them, and am now, finally, in the market for some Portishead CDs and/or DVDs.

*Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird" was likewise recorded at one of UC Berkeley's concert venues, Zellerbach Hall, as shown in the video.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Susan's Picnic Blanket

My dear friend Susan is an avid hiker and camper ~ and she has the coolest picnic blanket (which I've already duplicated for myself using a 30-year old poncho and a fleece blanket bought at the Goodwill store).

Unfortunately, Susan's blanket is TRASHED. I mean stains that are never going to come out. Ever. It's old and has been used on probably a weekly basis for *years*. Even after repeated washings, the ground in dirt and spilled sardine juice (she and her husband's usual picnic lunch), are just a part of it. She has despaired of ever being able to find a new one to buy again... and I know she's looked.

The first time she pulled it out, I was thrilled and amazed at the simplicity and design of it, with rip-stop nylon on the outside and cotton flannel on the inside. Very lightweight. The nylon keeps the damp off you and nothing much sticks to it... and the flannel is so soft.

When I told her recently about the one I made for myself she flipped! That's when she told me how hard she'd been trying to find a new one. So... for her birthday ~ which is right around the corner ~ I made her a new one.

Enjoy the photos :-)

With my little buddies :-)

Folds & rolls up nicely

Unrolling it

On a queen sized bed

Turned the nylon up around the edges

Reinforced corners

Rolled up again

Attached ties

Next to a check register to show the size

Looks pretty comfy :-)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I never paid much attention to Eddie Vedder...

It's true. For while I absolutely love Pearl Jam "Ten" and have recently been turned onto "Vs." and love it also, that is pretty much the extent of my 'Eddie contact'.... until the night before last that is.

Monday evening found me and my friend Gina in our best black pants / white dress tops / sensible black shoes / and ~you guessed it~ black jacket, standing with the rest of the similarly dressed ushers in the entryway of Oakland's magnificent Paramount Theatre. To be an usher there, one must take the tour, offered one Saturday per month for a fee of $2. Gladly done. Several years ago, we wanted to work David Gilmore (I mean seriously, wouldn't you?) on a Sunday night and timing was perfect for a quick tour & usher orientation the day before. Since then, I've worked several shows there. The last one, tho, seems to have been THREE years ago! (Melissa Etheridge) Oh, I've been there since, but as a paying customer. So it was fun to put the penguin suit back on and check out a freebie for a change.

It was a sold out show, so we were expecting a busy time. And we like the balcony as far as assignments go ~ so we were at the very top of the house during the warm up act, Glen Hansard. You want to talk about some exciting music? Glen Hansard KICKED ASS on his guitar, singing, every eye in the place on him and paying attention. I'd never heard of him *except* he's the star of the movie, "Once" ~ a musically themed movie with him as a very talented busker ~ which I've seen once (no pun intended ;-) So that was great. And since most of the people were happily in their seats by about halfway through Glen's set, my aisle captain says, Why don't you just grab a seat? :-) Okay! And that was it ~ I was off work.

Gina got off work shortly thereafter so during the time between acts we boogied to the bathroom and changed into /normal/ clothes, got a beer, and sat down to relax in one of the sumptuously appointed hallways for a cocktail. I had some amaretto in a little flask in my bag ~ TOTALLY one of the perks of being an usher ~ no one searches your stuff ~ and I had a couple clear plastic cups.... just like they use there. Happy hour! I love a sweet liqueur chased by a cold beer. The bell sounds... it sounds again, and people are running into the auditorium.

We couldn't look for empty seats until everyone was in theirs, so we just hung back a few minutes and then moseyed in. I'd spied a couple empty seats up near where I'd been working... and Gina knew of a few, too ~ but they were up so high! And the rules there are very specific regarding cutting in front of a customer to get to an empty seat~ NOT allowed. Looking around, here and there, we saw two empty seats on an aisle and grabbed them, and ~ joy of joys ~ no one ever came by to tell us we were in their seats. So yay!

And then... Eddie proceeded to blow my mind. The music that came out of that ONE man was simply amazing. His playing was beautiful and powerful, combining these higher pitched guitars and ukuleles with his deep gravely and soulful voice... A beautiful thing. Two full hours of it. I was familiar with only a couple of the songs, but was enthralled and engaged the *entire* time. And for several of the encore songs, Glen came out and joined him and it was ~ perfection ~ their voices like angels, their playing sublime.

Just a couple songs from the very end, with Glen out on stage where he'd been playing bass or accompanying Eddie on rhythm guitar or just singing... they did something that I have never seen done before at *any* concert. The two of them walked out beyond the monitors and the microphones, past the electronics, pedals and lights ~ Eddie unplugging his mandolin along the way ~ to the very edge of the stage. Standing there they sang a song, with the mandolin the sole instrumental accompaniment, *completely* unplugged. Every person in the theatre was silent, listening. Explosive applause followed.

Yes, I had a good time. I think everyone else did as well.