Favorite Recipes #14 – Tzatziki Sauce

I’m leaving for San Francisco in half an hour so in lieu of a real post, here is another one of my favorite recipes. I promise to post something more substantial when I get back from my trip. Maybe I’ll even finish that third anniversary post, part two that I’ve talked about so much!

No list of sauce recipes would be complete without an entry for the delicious Greek condiment, tzatziki. I got my first taste of this pungent yogurt-based sauce at the Mad Greek restaurant in Baker, CA.  Having lunch there either on the way to or the way home from Las Vegas is one of my favorite parts of the trip. When I make tzatziki at home I usually serve it with Greek-type meatballs, but it’s traditional on gyros, which I haven’t attempted to make yet.

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dill
1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:
Once again, brace yourself for some complicated preparation…or not. Seriously, just mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Then put the finished product in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the flavors mingle. This recipe is easy to half if you’re making it for just two people.

Based on the sauce component of Taste of Home’s Mini Greek Burgers Recipe.

Conclusion

After five months of serious deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I am either extremely strong or extremely naïve.  Only time will tell which of those is closer to the truth, and I’m both excited and scared to find out.

iPhone 4 adventures

I took Monday off from work to recuperate from my week-long business trip, which turned out to be fortuitous because that was the day our new iPhones arrived! Being home to sign for them probably saved Dan or me a trip to the FedEx warehouse later in the week. I was eager to get my new phone working and silly me thought maybe, just maybe, I could just sync my new iPhone 4 with my laptop and it would be fully functional (even though this was highly unlikely due to the fact my old phone was an ancient Motorola Razr). Unfortunately attempting to activate my iPhone online caused my old phone to be disabled, while also failing to successfully enable my new phone. So in one fell swoop I had zero working cell phones. Even though the “phone” part of my iPhone wasn’t yet functional, I was hoping to test out the “camera” part, but that wasn’t working either! When I tried to use it, either the shutter on the camera software wouldn’t open at all, or everything would freeze within a few seconds of opening. I had no idea what was going on, but I was hoping there was a solution that didn’t involve getting a new phone. On Tuesday night I waited an hour at the AT&T store only to discover that all my iPhone needed to be a functional phone was a call to customer service for an over-the-air activation. I could have avoided the torture of the in-store experience if I had known! While at the AT&T store I purchased a case for my new iPhone to avoid the much-publicized antenna issues. And to ensure that my phone will be immediately distinguishable from Dan’s (once his is working, which is a much longer story than mine), I got a pink case. I’ve never been a fan of pink on cell phones, but I have to admit that it’s really easy to tell that it’s mine now. On Wednesday night I downloaded and installed the 4.0.1 iPhone software update, hoping that it would fix the problems I was having with the camera. It didn’t. Cue a trip to the Apple Store on Saturday. After practically stalking a couple of the salespeople for a while I finally got someone to take a look at my phone. I didn’t think it was a good sign that she hadn’t seen or heard about any other instances of the particular problem that I was having. Neither had the guy at the Apple Genius Bar when I talked to him. In a last ditch effort to salvage my iPhone he resorted to doing a complete software restore, but alas, my camera still refused to work. In the end, the solution to all my camera woes was an entirely new iPhone. The good news was that I hadn’t even had the old one for a week yet so I wasn’t losing much in the way of contacts or photos or anything else, but I still had to customize all of the settings again. But after all of that confusion, I am now the proud owner of an entirely functional (as far as I can tell) iPhone 4 and I’m very happy about it. For the record, Dan has been going through a much more trying process with his new iPhone so, despite all of my complaining, I am incredibly grateful that mine hasn’t been more difficult. I know your new iPhone 4 will be working soon, Dan!

First iPhone photo

Flounder

Until I get the second half of our third anniversary post written, here is a picture of the leather fish keychain Dan gave me as an anniversary present. “Flounder” is currently resident on the strap of my work bag so every day I get to look at him and be reminded of how cute he is. By the way, this is one of the first photos I took with my new iPhone and I think it actually turned out pretty well!

Quiet times

I started the following post in early June, but I was never able to complete it to my satisfaction. I decided to post it here in its unfinished state anyway because, even though my life is starting to get back on a more even keel, I still encounter these “quiet times” everyday, and writing about them makes the emotions easier to understand and manage.

June 9, 2010
The quiet times of the day have been my worst enemy recently. You know, the few minutes right after you wake up and the few minutes right before you fall asleep? I used to love those times because, unless I was having a particularly stressful day, they were calm and relaxed and content. But those times are not my friend these days because they’re just a chance for my mind to run amuck. If it wasn’t obvious from my posts over the past month, I’ve had a lot of negative things going on in my life this year and that doesn’t lend itself to many happy thoughts. So what does my brain gravitate towards when left up to its own devices? The bad stuff, of course. I’ve been accused of obsessing on the negative, but with the volume of it I have in my life right now, how could I not?

“Despicable Me” (Movie Review 3 of 3)

I seem to remember seeing previews for this movie about a year ago when we were at the watching the 2009 summer blockbusters, but I had no idea what it was about (probably because they were just teaser trailers). I had almost completely forgotten about “Despicable Me” by the time its release date rolled around, but something about the television commercials made Dan and me want to see it. Specifically, Agnes and the fluffy unicorn – take a look at an excerpt of that endearing scene here. So on the afternoon of the same Saturday I saw “Eclipse” with Melissa, Dan and I went to our local movie theater to see “Despicable Me.” Yes, it was opening weekend, which we usually avoid like the plague, but we made an exception since Dan and I were both going on business trips to DC the next week and we wanted to enjoy what time we had together. In the nine years that Dan and I have been together we’ve seen a lot of animated movies – everything from “Spirited Away” to “Lilo & Stitch.” I guess it became a habit after going to see “Shrek” on our first date. So what’s the verdict on “Despicable Me?” It was surprisingly good! Dan and I both laughed a lot and really enjoyed it. Even before the movie was over I decided that I have to get Dan a “minion” toy of some kind for his Christmas stocking this year. And even though we had seen practically the entire scene with Agnes and the unicorn in previews, it was still hilarious when we saw it in the movie. “It’s so fluffy!” And Julie Andrews as the voice of the mother? I loved it! I would highly recommend “Despicable Me” for anyone who is even remotely interested. Just go see it!

“Twilight: Eclipse” (Movie Review 2 of 3)

I don’t remember exactly when I jumped on the Twilight bandwagon (it was around the time Breaking Dawn was published), but as soon as I started reading the books I was hooked. Dan asked me once why girls like vampire books/movies/TV shows so much, and I had to think about it for a minute before I answered him. The way I see it, women are attracted to the idea of finding someone who is going to love them forever, and who better than an immortal vampire to fill that position? But that’s just my own opinion, so if any of my readers want to chime in with their own theories I would love to hear them. Since discovering Twilight my reading list has been rather heavily weighted with books from other series within the realm of vampire fiction – Vampire Diaries, House of Night, The Immortals , and Vampire Academy to name a few. Personally, I thought Vampire Diaries was horrible. (Although I must admit that despite my lack of regard for the books, I download the whole first season of the TV show from iTunes, but I’ve only watched the first two episodes so I can’t venture an opinion on the series yet.) Vampire Academy is my favorite series so far, not because of the plot because initially I thought the storyline was really cheesy, but because the main characters are so well written. I’ve always thought that if a book has great characters that nothing else matters, and Vampire Academy is just another example of that. But anyway, back to the topic at hand. I went to see “Twilight: Eclipse” with Melissa last Saturday morning and it was a lot of fun. Not only did she buy my ticket for me (thank you!), but since we went to the first showing of the day the theater was practically deserted. That was a bonus. I thought the movie was just OK, but comparing it to the other “Twilight” movies, it wasn’t half bad. I would only recommend it to people were are already fans of the books, but for those of us who fall into that category the movie was fun to watch. (Getting to see the trailer for “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” helped too. It’s my favorite Chronicles of Narnia book and I can’t wait for the movie!) Spending time with Melissa was definitely more fun, though. I almost never go out with girlfriends and she’s is fun to be with. Thanks for being such a good friend, Melissa!

“Shrek Forever After” (Movie Review 1 of 3)

Dan and I went to see the original Shrek movie on our first date in 2001 so this franchise will always have a special place in my heart. But after the disaster that was “Shrek the Third” I didn’t have high expectations for the fourth installment, and that was probably a good thing. Even though I wasn’t expecting much, I still wanted to go see “Shrek Forever After” with Dan, but I’m sorry to say that it was a disappointment. Better than the third movie (but really, what movie isn’t?), but definitely not as funny as the first one. “Shrek” was absolutely hilarious (and not just because I was on a date with the man of my dreams!), and “Shrek 2” was really funny with the introduction of Puss In Boots (plus, the “Holding Out for a Hero” montage reminded me of my junior year of high school when my ensemble Dolce performed that song, 80’s attire and all), so it’s unfortunate that the last two movies in the series were such a letdown. “Shrek Forever After,” while being a poor imitation of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” wasn’t totally devoid of humor. The scenes with chubby Puss In Boots made me laugh because he reminded me of my cat Bob. Bob isn’t quite as badly off as Puss in the movie, but he does prefer to be picked up to get up on a bed instead of jumping up there under his own power. I’m glad Dan and I went to see “Shrek Forever After” because of our history with the franchise, but I definitely won’t be rushing to buy the DVD when it comes out. For the record, we only own the first two movies on DVD – “Shrek the Third” definitely didn’t make the cut. We do, however, have about four Shrek Christmas ornaments. I just keep buying them because they remind me of our first date!

Didn’t work out

I was supposed to leave work today with the satisfaction of finishing what I came on this business trip to do. I was supposed to be able to move my flight back to Los Angeles from Sunday to Saturday. I was supposed to be packing and getting ready to go home tomorrow, but it just didn’t work out. I’m reminded of Murphy’s Law because anything that could go wrong today definitely did go wrong. It felt like the universe was conspiring against us because not only did we unwittingly sabotage our own efforts to finish up our work today, but we were also victims of circumstances beyond our control. As my shift progressed, each problem that arose was more ridiculous than the last, and eventually our ability to work around them just wasn’t enough to save the sinking ship. There’s a reason we build extra days into our travel schedules and today was a prime example of when we need them. So I’ll go to work tomorrow morning, tie up all the loose ends that were left from today, and then get ready to go home on Sunday. I can’t wait.

Third anniversary (part 1)

Sebastian

Dan and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary on June 23rd and I wrote several posts in honor of the occasion, but so far I haven’t written anything about the anniversary itself. That’s going to change right now!

I got home from work around 6 PM on June 23rd to find Dan already there, setting up a wonderful anniversary surprise. Our kitchen table was covered with gifts, the most conspicuous of which was a large hanging plant with red flowers that took up most of the available space. It was a fuchsia, which turns out is the flower associated with a third wedding anniversary. (Strangely enough, the color fuchsia isn’t associated with a third wedding anniversary – that would be white or jade green.) It was a sweet gesture, but an ugly plant. Even Dan will agree with me on that. It’s currently hanging on the wooden frame on our patio that was assembled to hold the ice luge for our Halloween party last year. (We really need to take care of that. I can’t believe it’s been there since October.) Besides the fuchsia, there were two small gift bags on the table – one from Swarovski and the other from Coach. The bag from Swarovski contained an adorable crystal crab charm (see photo above). Crystal, it seems, is the modern third wedding anniversary gift because “the way light dances off the multifaceted surface…is a gentle reminder of how a couple in a meaningful marriage can touch the lives of others.” It’s cheesy, but Dan went to a lot of trouble to find something crystal for me that wasn’t ridiculous, like a vase. Since I’m a child of “The Little Mermaid,” I named the crystal crab Sebastian, and I found a home for him clipped to the outside of my purse. He’s just so precious, and I love seeing him on my purse every time I leave the house. The bag from Coach contained a cute leather keychain in the shape of a fish. Leather is the traditional gift for a third wedding anniversary because at this point in a marriage “a couple is aware of the durability of their relationship,” and leather possesses the same enduring quality. Dan said he had to go to three Coach stores to find something made of real leather, and I was touched that he went to so much trouble. Continuing the Disney theme I named the fish Flounder and put the keychain on the strap of my work bag so I can show him off every day I go to work. I’m impressed that Dan found such perfect anniversary gifts that were applicable to how long we’ve been married, but weren’t strange or awkward. I gave Dan some Jeffrey West cufflinks as an anniversary present and he loved them. That didn’t surprise me since he had them on last year’s Christmas list, but I wasn’t able to get them for him then. Cufflinks in the shape of skulls might seem like a strange gift to celebrate a marriage, but I don’t think the reference to death matters so much if he likes them. The ultimate goal of a present is to make the recipient happy, so I think I succeeded there. After the gift-giving I went upstairs to get ready for our anniversary dinner. I wore my favorite black dress from Ann Taylor Loft that my mom bought me back in 2001 when she was visiting me in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving – Dan and I had been dating for about six months at that point. Also, I wore my wedding ceremony shoes which had been sitting in their box, practically ignored for three years. They are really pretty, fairly comfortable, and looked great with my black dress. They even still have red stains on the soles from the rose petals that the florist scattered all over the Hotel del Coronado Vista Walk for our wedding ceremony! I need to wear those shoes more often. But getting back to dinner, Dan and I arrived at Melisse in Santa Monica at 7:30 PM to find that our table had been set with a “Happy Anniversary” card and two little boxes of chocolate truffles. Yum! Dan and I had never been to Melisse before, but we had high hopes because it had been rated the second best restaurant is LA last year by Los Angeles Magazine. And we were not disappointed. Melisse is the fanciest restaurant that Dan and I have ever been to together (I was glad that I had dressed up) and they had a pretty intimidating menu. We opted for a version of the tasting menu, which included four courses – a starter, a fish course, an entrée, and a dessert. I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember what Dan had for dinner because I was too focused on my own food, but I have no trouble remembering how absolutely delicious my own meal was. My starter was mushroom risotto, my second course (in place of fish) was white asparagus with sautéed mushrooms in a very buttery sauce, my entrée was veal prepared three ways (each more delicious than the last) and my dessert consisted of four different chocolate concoctions (it was called Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate). Unfortunately I had a pretty bad stomach ache by the time dessert was served so I wasn’t able to enjoy the abundance of scrumptious chocolate, but Dan assured me that it was very tasty. Despite the stomach ache, we had a wonderful meal at Melisse and a great anniversary in general. And the best part was still to come because we were driving down to San Diego to spend a night at the Hotel del Coronado that Friday. It was a great trip, but I’ll save that story for another post.