Monday, October 29, 2012

Something Cool That Italy Did

Obviously I think that food brings people together. That's why I cook for my friends so often. That's why I swap recipes with the internet so often that's why I have several sizes of jeans in my dresser. 

But, you guys, did you hear about Italy coming together over a bowl of risotto?

Okay, so there was an earthquake in Italy, remember? It struck the Parma region which is--you may have guessed--responsible for Parmesan cheese. Well, when the earthquake happened, "several hundred thousand wheels" of cheese fell from the shelves where they were perched to age and be undisturbed. That's a lot of cheese, right? Until you consider that each wheel weighs a good eighty pounds. That's a lot of cheese. 

So, now that the Parma region is recovering, there was an effort to make sure that everyone was aware of it. Using social media and other outlets, Parmigiano-Reggiano supporters sought to get the word out by alerting the country and inviting them all to sit down to dinner, together. At the same time. And do the same meal. 

The recipe was developed by chef Massimo Bottura--an adaptation on Cacio e Pepe (which is a favorite of mine and pretty much roughly translates to pasta with cheese and pepper). Apparently northern Italy is more rice-based and not exactly pasta based so he chose a risotto. And he switched out the cheese, which would normally come from Rome, to Parmigiano-Reggiano. So there's the whole country covered in this one dish.

And I thought this was such a cool idea. So I wanted to join in. Late. And in The United States. And completely differently because the Parmesan cheese that I have access to was probably made in, like, Cheboygan anyway. And I don't have four different kinds of pepper.  Also I don't feel like hand-grating 5 lbs of cheese into a pot of water and then not being able to use it until the next day. Maybe this is something ordinary for the Italians to do? I could research "Parmesan water" but I won't.

At any rate. I will put in the tiniest bit of support. And I will make risotto with cheese and pepper because it sounds delicious and say, "that's a really cool thing you did, Parmigiano-Reggiano supporters of Italy."

Let's eat risotto with cheese and pepper. It's a good night for it, anyway. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Accidental Sandwich

You know how sometimes you get to that point in your refrigerator when you're certain that you've got something to work with but you're just not sure what it is? And you don't have to be at work until 10 am and so you decide to make yourself a legitimate breakfast? So then you've got your mind set on breakfast but then your fridge says, "all of your go-to's are occupied for the moment. Might I interest you in something completely off the wall?"

You have eggs but you're out of sliced bread for toast. But you do have a bag of whole grain baguettes...
An egg and a baguette? Sounds kind of dry. What else?

Carrots, an on-his-last-legs avocado, kale salad, a few slices of mozzarella cheese, and about 600 never-used condiments. These are the things that greet you. It's like the Mystery Box challenge on Master Chef except that no one has to care about how this turns out except for me. So let's go for it.

I've made no secret of my love for avocado toast. So this morning, a fried egg sandwich married avocado toast and their love created a baby.

Accidents can be so nice.

I don't like mayo or anything slick involved in my egg sandwiches. It feels like too much of a mess. So in lieu of a greasy condiment, I mashed up the good bits of my avocado and I spread it all over my whole wheat baguette (which I had toasted in a dry skillet). Topped it with a slice of mozzarella and then topped that with  an egg that, while cooking, received a healthy dose of black pepper.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen: we have a delicious breakfast sandwich.

Have you ever unespectedly happened upon some delicious combinations?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When I am a Century and a Half

There's this one lady who comes in and she is about a hundred and thirty years old. And she does not annoy me like every other old person does. I think it's because she's so sweet. She keeps me occupied for ages and ages so I can't get anything productive accomplished. She has a broken leg and her niece, wheels her in. Her niece is, like, 70 or something. It's so funny for me to think of nieces as anything other than seven-year-olds. 

Usually older people are grouchy with me. It's not uncommon for someone to tell me that they just want to die already. This Lady, though, everything in the whole world is just lovely to her. When an older person says, "my vision is blurry" and I say, "well, you have macular degeneration and so you will have some spots that are not entirely crisp and clear", they get annoyed that I'm not able to solve their problem. But this one, now, she may forget that I said anything to her 30 seconds ago but at least she is gracious. She asked why her glasses are straight on her face but not straight on the table. When I explained that her face is not shaped like a table, she laughed and laughed and said, "I suppose you're right." No one ever laughs at that! I don't know why I still even use it.

She told me, "You know, I got home and saw that this case that you gave to me has a Made In China sticker on it and that just bothers me. Do you have anything that was made in the United States?" Are you kidding me? The majority of perishable fruit in the grocery store isn't even made in the United States! But I love her so much and so I went scouring our stock looking for something that didn't blatantly advertise that it was made in China. Her niece was, I can tell, embarrassed that I'm being made to go through all of the cupboards but I gave her a wink to tell her that I didn't mind. Most people cancelled their appointments, today, and so I really am free for the next two hours and happy to run around doing unreasonable things for grateful people. 

 I hope that when I'm a century and a half, then I'll look at the world like it's a beautiful, wondrous thing full of stuff that I can't wait to learn. 
This is what I saw when I walked out my front door this morning. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Putting Words on Paper

You know I started this blog years and years ago (you probably could go back to the beginning but I beg of you not to) because I liked writing. Not because I liked cooking or wanted to become internet famous (honestly, I didn't even know that was a thing--at one point I actually thought, "I wish people could make a living as a blogger but, alas."). I just really liked writing. And lately I feel like I don't ever post anything because I haven't made it a project or I haven't put enough thought into it or it's stupid. But, sheesh, I just really like to put words on paper. So I want to do that more and care less about it. Just spit it out whether or not it is deep or funny or comment-able.
So I found some random journal prompt site and I'm going to write the first thing that I find until my dinner is ready.

"Write about what one would see in your closet right now."
If you opened up my closet door, you would find a laundry basket that has never held any laundry--only miscelaneous junk from "the move" three years ago. Clearly these things are very important to me and can not be parted with. Or... laziness. You would see a sweatshirt on a shelf that is a perfect fit width-wise but strikingly short and yet, I can't seem to get rid of it because I just really like the royal blue color. There's an air mattress that I can only assume has at least one hole, an old microwave which belonged to the previous tennants and I just didn't feel right about tossing out. It's becoming clear to me that, when I moved in, I hoped that this would be some sort of incinerator rather than an actual closet. I remain hopeful.

You'll also see about 35 hangers with about three in use for garments. One is a Halloween costume from last year that I worked so hard on but will never wear again, one is a blazer that my sister gave to me but which I can not bring myself to wear out, and a top that I have only ever worn to every job interview I've ever had since graduating from college. It is silk and features a pretty obnoxious geometric pattern in blues and greens and yellows. It sounds hideous, right? Well I still don't know if it looks good or not. All I know that I bought it with the expressed intention of leaving an impression whether good or bad. I kind of adopt the "any attention is good attention" when it comes to job interviews. 

I have such high hopes every time I do my laundry. I feel proud of myself when my unders get stashed into the dresser drawer rather than just kept in the laundry basket. But when things actually get hung up and placed into the closet, I always have that fleeting feeling that I must really have my life together. And I keep it up for exactly 36 hours before my guest room just turns into "the dressing room" and the guest bed becomes "where we keep clothing items". There's not a decent mother alive that wouldn't shake her head at this. I can't blame her. Was I raised in a barn??

Dinner is served.
Have a lovely night.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Kendall Can Go to the Grocery Store (Alternate title: The Procurement)

For background on the series, Kendall Can, you can go here. Living on your own for the first time is awesome and weird and you realize all the things you don't really know that much.

Let me just tell you that grocery blogging is about as exciting as it sounds.
There's the list of things to buy, list of things to photograph, the taking of notes, the sending and receiving of incidental texts and the mental management of, "...I'm probably forgetting something." I swear to Cosby, this particular trip to the grocery store would not have been possible without my iPhone and my new favorite app, ShopShop. I know what you're thinking, "I could just write down my grocery list." Sure, but how many grocery lists get written and then forgotten on the coffee table. And then, how many of you leave your phone at home when you run out to the store? I don't know the math, but I'm sure the overlap is minimal and incidental.
Oh, I love the way that feels!
This trip to the grocery store is mostly about basics, deals, and things that may have gone overlooked. Okay, my personal trip was for a more advanced homemaker but everything that was documented was about basics, deals and overlooked things.
We will discuss the creation of a grocery list at a later date. In the mean time, here we go.

First of all, get the reusable bags! Here's the thing about saving the planet, it's great for people who don't even care about saving the planet! (Not that I don't care about saving the planet, I just understand that sometimes it can be difficult to see big-picture.) If you, like me, make a competitive game out of trying to make only one trip from your car to your house with hundreds of pounds of groceries, this will up your chances of winning significantly! Seriously, I bought $45 worth of groceries and my skilled check-out-lady, Lucy, got everything into two bags. TWO! And when you have this boss-level greeting you before you can make it into your living room, you will respond with a heart of gratitude.
So you've got your list with you, you've got your reusable bags and you're driving to the grocery store. I recommend that on the way, no matter who you are, you try to listen to Passion Pit's, Little Secrets. It just will give you a good, I've-really-got-my-life together vibe. But that might only work for me. If I could get a sampling of people to try that out for me, I'd be interested to know the results.

When you get into the store, try to stage your plan of attack so that you end at the freezer section. Not only because it makes scientific sense, but also because when you have a cart full of stuff, already, you'll be less likely to throw in all of that expensive, gross, pre-made food.

I like to walk around the perimeter of the store, first, and load up on produce, fresh meat, bakery stuffs.
 Produce section: First, get whatever is on your list. Then grab a few fruits that you know you like. Apples, who doesn't like apples? Strawberries? This way when you're watching Fringe and feel like eating something sweet, you can eat an apple (which provides you with protein, fiber, and deliciousness) instead of mindlessly gnawing a box of pop tarts (which provides you with diabetes).
Meat section: This place has intimidated me for ages and so I have avoided it as much as possible. Meat always seems so expensive! But people like it so I think you should probably buy it if you ever want to eat it. If you're confused, just look at these two things:
There is .82 of a pound of meat in this package. That doesn't mean too much to you, probably, so round it around to kind of nearly a pound and then think about how a decent-sized hamburger is about 1/4 of a pound and then you think, "all of the meat in this package will make not-quite four meals and it costs not-quite $4.00, is that worth it to me?" And then if you're like, "Yes, a dollar a meal is a good price", then (wrap that puppy up in the provided plastic bags so that it doesn't leak or something) toss him in your cart. This was worth it to me so he came home with me.
If you can't find any of that meat that is affordable to you (and trust me, I've walked away from this section several times), then walk a little further and you will come upon something that I only recently discovered.
If you eat just one of these sausages for a meal (which both the FDA and myself recommend because no one should ingest that much sodium in one sitting), then each little weiner dude is fifty cents! If that's not worth it, I don't know what is. I know, you're thinking, "I'm not going to eat only one sausage for dinner." And I don't fault you for that, we'll get to sides. We'll get there. Particularly potatoes. I could (and very well may) dedicate an entire blog post to the very subject of potatoes.
Bakery Section: Okay, in all reality, you should just avoid this section. Go to the back of the store where they keep the day-old rack. That bread is just as good, it's just cheaper. Keep it in the fridge and it will last for about a week and a half (maybe, I'm so bad at estimating time).

Once you've got fresh food, then you can go into what I just now dubbed, "Preservative Island". Let me remind you that this is not a trip to the grocery store for the healthiest eaters on the planet. This is a reasonable trip to the store for someone who has recently entered into the world of adulthood so let's not pretend like this person isn't going to, at some point, be looking for the Spaghetti-o's or the Kraft macaroni and cheese.  You know, I can remember a time when macaroni and cheese cost less than a quarter. Those days are gone, my friends.
Let me take you to a little section, though, that is a more grown-up version of macaroni and cheese. That's right, the Rice A Roni section. It's the San Fransisco/ McPherson, Kansas treat.
I mean, look, it's a dollar and you have more than one serving in there. Let's say there's two servings in there, add one of your 50 cent sausages and *bam* you just ate dinner for a dollar! I don't know if this is how your brain works, but this is how mine works and it makes me feel a lot better. I think about what I can get at McDonalds for one dollar. I mean, a McChicken is yummy and everything but... eh.
So, sometimes in life you think "I want to have lasagna for dinner" or something and it's all very thought out and organized and you make a list of all of the ingredients and then procure them. And sometimes you get home from work and you're like, "Crap! I'm hungry now." And you'll need to lean on something that has already been procured. And in that instance, it's good to have a box of Rice a Roni. I'm not suggesting that you eat this every day, though.
Other things, I always keep for those "oh crap" moments: a box of pasta and a jar of Prego in my cupboard. A bag of frozen chicken in my freezer (I'll tell you later about how easy it is to make dinner with frozen chicken). And a bag of potatoes in my potato drawer (not everyone has a potato drawer and I feel really bad about that).
I also, when I'm thinking about it, grab all of the non-perishable ingredients for making the simplest pot of chili. This is, for me, the gastronomical equivalent of stuffing a five dollar bill in the pocket of your coat before you put it away for the season.
 You're really not supposed to eat canned tomatoes because apparently they give you cancer or something? But it sounds like everything gives you cancer but everything else prevents cancer so maybe if you do it right, you'll even out? I'm really not sure (does anyone else feel like this post has gotten way too long?). I buy two of each diced tomatoes and chili beans (sometimes I get black beans or a can of corn--it's your dinner, do what you want), one can of sauce and one tiny can of tomato paste. You COULD use all fresh ingredients but this is intended to sit in the back of your cupboard until one day when you're like, "I am really in the mood for chili".
When I, one day, do actually make this chili I promise to give you the full recipe. In the meantime, if you buy these things, just wing it. And toss in a packet of taco seasoning. It's beans and tomatoes. What could go wrong? This is my kitchen philosophy.

Now, let's talk about those taters.
TWENTY CENTS A POTATO!! You can cut those up and bake them in the oven and, bam, you have french fries (How much is a bag of frozen french fries? Like four bucks.) If you eat a baked potato with that sausage you should have bought, you just ate dinner for SEVENTY CENTS. Yes, this is blowing my mind. Why are we not buying more groceries?! You can make a baked potato in the oven (just scrub it first) in an hour or you can make a "baked" potato in the micorwave (not that I recomend this--I don't recommend microwaves at all, but you're going to use it anyway) in three minutes (just scrub it and poke a hole in it first).
You can cut it up in squares, boil it for about 7 minutes, drain off the water, add some butter and a splash of milk and mash it up with a fork and you just made yourself some mashed potatoes. How easy is it to make mashed potatoes? Well I just gave you the recipe--in one sentence. You can do this, you guys!

Let's talk about, specifically, the Dillon's store. I like to go here because they put things on sale and they don't do that at Walmart (in our tiny town, we have two choices for grocers). Granted, some things are more expensive but really not everything. And they put stuff on clearance. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't recommend that you buy a lot of food on clearance. But you can use your discretion, probably. I would stay away from on-clearance dairy unless I'm for sure going to use it that day (it's a mental block for me, it may be okay for you). Veggies, though, I always buy on clearance. Mostly because they're vegetables so I'm going to use them soon anyway and also because you can get introduced to new things.
Do you see what we're looking at, here? That's purple cauliflower. The next day, I cut it up and roasted it for lunch. It was delicious. Tasted exactly like cauliflower.
Choosing the right check out person is imperative. If I can help it, I stay far away from teenage boys because they, generally speaking, don't really give a crap about whether or not my bread is on the bottom of a ten pound bag of groceries. You don't want the oldest lady in the world, either, unless you just have all night and no ice cream. My check out lady was named Lucy. She was fast and had been doing her job for years and years and years and she packed my bags like a hero. Cans on the bottom, potato chips on the top, all the cold stuff packed together betwixt the layers. And, as mentioned before, got my next two weeks worth of groceries into two reusable bags.

Now, go home, put every thing away and revel at your full pantry and try not to eat everything all at once.

Do you ever stash money in your coats (sometimes I put it in books) for you to find later?
What are your grocery essentials?
Are there any recipes that I've mentioned here that you really want me to expound upon?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Series: Kendall Can

I've been friends with Kendall since he was 6 years old.

 A week or so ago, he moved into his first apartment. Later that night he posted something on Facebook about how now that he lives alone, he'll need to go shopping and/ or feed himself. As a woman who has been living all alone for three years now, I find this inspiring. I think I'm going to add a whole new series to this blog all dedicated to young and independent living. I am naming it "Kendall Can". And if Kendall can, anyone can. :)

Today... Kendall Can Cook: Buttered Noodles (Noodle Doodles courtesy of Katherine G. Hurl)

I know, I know, you're a 19 year old fellow and society tells you that you're worthless in the kitchen--a slave to Ramen and Froot Loops unless and until you con a woman into making food. I assure you, that's not the case at all. Stand up for yourself. Stand up... for masculinity!!  I'm not saying you need to learn a bunch of kitchen skills, either. You can impress/ feed yourself and others really easily.

First things first is stocking your kitchen with essentials.
As far as utensils go, you can get surprisingly far with a pot, a skillet, a strainer and a spoon. I bought all of mine from thrift stores. Go to Salvation Army (but not Goodwill due to questionable business practices) and run to the kitchen section (this is where I bought all my plates and bowls and coffee mugs, too). A pot should be big enough to boil four cups of water, a skillet should be big enough for a slice or two of bread and your strainer should not be rusted out (you can get one of these at walmart for about a dollar so I am not opposed to buying a new one that isn't filled with petrified pasta remnants).
Then go to the grocery store. I'll give you a more detailed account of how to go shopping in a later post but for now, you're going to spend about $6.00 and get yourself enough food to eat at least four times.
Get a box of pasta (any kind--it's the fun part), a pound of butter (for Pete's sake--real butter), and Parmesan cheese. (Upgrade options: parsley and/ or red pepper flakes)
Take all of these things home, put the butter and cheese in the fridge, wash the crap out of your used dishes and then assemble as such:

I'm running on the assumption that your pot is as big as mine and that you already have salt and pepper in your home. If your reality is different from my assumptions then for goodness sake, buy salt and pepper. And if your pan is smaller than mine, mentally cut everything in half. The important thing to remember is that it's just food and if you ruin it, your mom doesn't live that far away and would love to hear the story of how you ruined Buttered Noodles.

Fill your pot with water. Not all the way to the top, but certainly past the halfway point.
Heat that water on high until it starts to boil. Congratulations! You can boil water!
Insert pasta. When I make pasta in a my-pot-sized-pot, I put about half the box in and I have a fair amount of left overs. Frankly, it's really hard to know how much pasta to cook.
Use that spoon to stir your pasta immediately after you put it into the pot. That's your one expert cooking tip. If you don't, it'll get stuck to the bottom and sides of the pan.
After a few minutes, fish out a piece of pasta. Blow on it and then eat it. If it's got some crunchy bits, keep cooking and repeat this process until there are no more crunchy bits. If there are no crunchy bits, continue.
Turn off the burner.
Pour the pasta and the water into the strainer. Let it strain.
Put some butter (I don't know, cut off maybe an inch of a stick of butter--because you're using real butter that comes in sticks) into the pan. Toss in a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper (this is where you could add the upgrades as well), pour the hot pasta back in and stir it all up so that butter is all over your pasta.
Top with Parmesan.
Grab a fork.

You didn't buy a plate today so you're going to have to eat it out of the pot. That happens sometimes.

(Upgrade option that will make your mother proud: when the pasta is almost done cooking, throw in a handful or two of frozen veggies into the boiling water and finish as usual)

Next time... Kendall Can Buy Groceries

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weather and Peaches and Blueberries

Cold weather can't come soon enough. I just recently read an article about how the number of Black Widow spiders have greatly increased since last winter never really got cold enough to do them in for good. The good news: they rarely go indoors and only like to attack you if you're attacking their babies. So if you're going after a spider nest, do it with a can of something flammable and from a mighty distance.

It's back to being a hundred degrees, outside. This weekend was a nice little reminder that we will get through this and Autumn will fall and we will cuddle in the chill once again. Yesterday it even rained for most of the day (or at least had a drizzely feel to it) and I felt like coming home and listening to Bon Iver and wearing a sweater and eating potato soup. And I did. Even though it was still 80 degrees.
One morning, it was in the low 70's. I opened the windows and the cat couldn't decide which sill would be her perch. She's gone so long without them that she tried them all out until she settled in her favorite. Always the one in the living room, behind the purple chair, where she can watch the driveway and pretend as though she couldn't be bothered by the lives of the neighbors. Even though she's secretly fascinated.

Last summer, I was introduced to roasting vegetables. This summer I gave fruit a go.
 Peaches + blueberries + the tiniest squeeze of agave + 400 degrees = something both purple and versatile.
I don't want to make time go faster and I like to think of myself as a woman who revels in living in the moment. But as a woman who also lives on rainy, overcast, drizzely days, this Kansas drought is taking a toll on my soul. I would dance, I would pray, I would wash my car if it would make it rain. Good, soaking rain. Good fill-in-all-of-the-cracks rain.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beautiful Morning Light

My kitchen window faces the east and mornings in there are gorgeous.
Yesterday took me to the farmer's market where I found a few ordinary things (that snakey looking cucumber and 3 tomatoes).  But I was really hoping for some fun and colorful things. So I went to the Jubilee Market (to which I will dedicate an entire post, later) and came home with purple and yellow carrots, a huge radish, yellow bell peppers, hot peppers, banana peppers, tomatillos, rainbow chard, purple kale and my new favorite. Do you see those yellow looking dudes that the snakey cucumber is wrapped around? They're white cucumbers. And they are crisp and sweet and downright delicious.
I gave these guys a bath in the morning sun. Some of them will become salads, some will become stir fry and some will become pico de gallo.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pizza and Kindness

Ryan took this photo when we went home a few weeks ago. I just wanted you to see it.

Don't misunderstand what I'm about to tell you, I am the happiest I have ever been in my adult life. But I feel so out of control of myself. I wake up when I wake up. I eat whatever garbage happens to be most easily accessible. I run primarily on feelings, emotions, impulse. I play Draw Something--incessantly. I have not done anything even remotely resembling exercise in months (unless you count the fact that I sometimes walk the two blocks to the coffee shop). I have a lot of good ideas but nothing that I've been able to follow through on. My list of hobbies is growing larger and larger despite the fact that I put little to no energy into completing anything. I haven't blogged regularly in weeks--which I know is an absolute heartache to you.

I just did my dishes for the first time...
... in two weeks.

I need to take control of myself and I'm going to start by going back to a habit that I had when I felt the most in-charge of my body, of my attitude, of my emotions. A few years ago, I spent about six months as a vegetarian. There was something about being so active about what was going into my body, that gave me the confidence to know that I could be active about other things in my life as well. It was during this time that I exercised five times a week, went on long walks, wrote in my journal every night. I had a very good handle on myself and I was proud of the woman that I was. I felt strong.

So after I did my dishes, I made lunch.
Zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, feta and caramelized onions (all from last week's trip to the Farmer's Market) on a pizza crust. It feels good to create something. It feels good to fuel yourself on the fruits of a neighbor's labor. It feels good to be good to yourself.
So be good to yourself. Treat yourself the way that you expect others to treat you. Feed yourself well, offer grace to your mind and to your thighs, say kind things to your features and be grateful for the body that takes you places and keeps you alive and allows you to see and hear and taste and do not take those senses for granted. Respect yourself and I'll respect myself and we'll end up doing one another favors.

XOXO Libby

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ingredients and Content are Two Different Things

This Forth of July we decided to go super traditional and have Korma Coconut Curry for dinner. I must say that it was great. I'll get to why in a minute but let me confess, right now, that I don't know how to cook Indian food. I have one jar of curry spice in my kitchen that my little sister left here when she lived with me and I have never used it. I don't know how. I find it intimidating and as long as stuff like this exists, I feel like I don't really want to/ need to learn the fine art of Indian cuisine. Is it lazy of me or do I just not feel like messing with something that is super yummy (to me) even if it's not completely authentic? I still haven't decided.
Steam your brown rice while you're watching Sherlock Holmes, saute mushrooms and onions and green peppers (later add in some frozen shrimp or chicken or tofu or not) and in about 15 minutes (minus the 45 that it takes to make rice), you have a completely satisfying, Forth of July appropriate ("appropriate" is relative) meal for you and about three other people (depending on how many veggies you add to stretch the sauce).

Here's something that I think I want to say, though, about food. It doesn't have to be fancy to be important. In fact, a lot of what makes a meal memorable and beautiful has nothing to do with the ingredients as much as what's going on around there.
Like this past weekend was wonderful. Ryan and I went back to small-town Kansas where we grew up. We drove through dirt roads and he told me stories of when he was little, we drove through our home town and talked about where our old friends lived. It was a weekend of nostalgia and I won't forget the way that we surprised his grandma by staying the night and, since stores are at least a half hour drive away, she dug through the pantry to make us super simple chicken salad sandwiches on white bread with pickle relish and mayo. And it was delicious. And it meant a lot to me. And I felt really, really happy.

So my coconut curry was 80% done for me. That's okay. It was delicious and the jars make perfect drinking glasses and I was sitting on the couch with someone who loves me very much and these seemingly little things make me very happy. These days.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Let's All Eat Avocado Toast for Breakfast

Your new favorite breakfast. It's not the most photogenic thing you'll make in your kitchen but it is a delight for the senses. It looks so pretty in person.
The only reason that I'm including a recipe is so that you'll see how insanely easy/ delicious that it is. You will love it unless you're that one guy who tasted avocado for the first time ever and didn't like it but based on the nonsensicalness (totally a word) of the idea of not wanting to marry an avocado, I'm fairly certain that this was a YouTube hoax.

2 slices whole grain bread
1/2 an avocado
teensy weensy little bitty sprinkle of salt

Toast bread.

While bread is toasting, slice your avocado. I like to slice it up in little bitty cross hatches so that when it comes to applying it to the toast, it's more like a spread.

Which leads us to spreading it onto the bread. Do that.

Sprinkle with the teensy weensy little bitty sprinkle of salt.

Fall in love.

And there you have your new favorite breakfast*. It is precisely sixteen times better than toast with butter--which just so happens to be my second favorite way to enjoy toast. And I really like toast.


*In addition to breakfast, I also had this for lunch. Topped with a bunch of chopped up tomatoes and cilantro.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Try New Things

Last weekend, my friend Kellory invited me and a few other ladies to a design swap. It was a lot of fun but intimidating as I needed to google "design swap" and ended up at this article on Design*Sponge which made me feel really excited and also really flattered. I think Kellory has incredible taste and design is kind of Staci's thing. I've always had a style-crush on Kendra and Lisa, too (now you know), and so I felt pretty special to be invited amongst such creative ladies. It was fun to get together and hang out and do something different from what we're used to. All you have to do is bring a few things that you're tired of looking at, sit around and talk and "shop" and nom with your friends and then you get to come home with something new! It's perfect. I got some stuff I'm pretty pumped about.
I got this smoke glass bowl. Banana not included.
I got this piece of fabric that fits my little window perfectly.
 I got some other things but they just didn't photograph well. One day.

And of course we brought food. Kendra asked for my recipe for the Avocado Chicken Salad that came with me and so I guess this whole post is for her. I just kind of made it up as I went along and since I still had all of the stuff in my kitchen, I just re-made it so that I could remember what I did. Here you go, my friends.
The end result of this recipe is something akin to what might happen if a bowl of guacamole and a chicken salad sandwich made a love child. Lots of avocado, lots of cilantro, lots of happy feels. I used 1/2 a rotisserie chicken but I would imagine that if you didn't want to stand at your counter for fifteen minutes with two forks, shredding breasts and still wanted a very similar result, canned chicken or any leftovers you may have after grilling out would work just as well. Okay, so here we go:
2 T. chopped cilantro (or more if you love cilantro like I do)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup sour cream (greek yogurt would be an excellent substitute)
2 T. milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded chicken
1 avocado (diced)
1 roma tomato
1/2 red onion
lime juice
More cilantro for garnish
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine your sour cream, cilantro, garlic and salt and pepper, add milk to thin out the dressing. Add the chicken and stir it all up so that the chicken is completely coated. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour or overnight if it's more convenient. You want the dressing to get kind of soaked up into the chicken.
When you're nearing serving time, dice your avocado, tomato and onion all about the same size and sprinkle with a good amount of lime juice. Stir it all up with the chicken and dressing and serve to your friends on sandwiches or wrapped in lettuce leaves. If it's a little dry, add in a little more milk or juice. There are tons of add-in's, too. I thought bacon would be delicious but I wasn't interested in adding to the fat content or firing up my stove, so it was left as-is and that was really good.
Of course if you take this to a picnic, keep it chilled so that no one gets food poisoning and dies because, seriously, who could live with that?

Have you ever been to a swap? Book swap, clothing swap, design swap?
Everyone has their thing, what weird stuff do you throw into chicken salad?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Farmer's Market Fare

I've never cooked a fresh green bean in my whole entire life.
Even now, I'm just guessing at it. Due to my choice to be in lack of sufficient internet connection in my home, I'm being forced to just use my own noggin.

I snapped all of the stemmy bits off of the beans because I've never seen stemmy bits in a can. I trusted this impulse on account of the fact that it made me feel very much like I should be sitting in my apron on a front porch with a mixing bowl betwixt my knees. I sliced the red onion and covered the two with a vegetable stock that I made last week and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Or until the onions lose their purple. I don't know exactly how scientific that is, though. Something tells me that it wouldn't take long.
My younger sister and I went to the Farmer's Market in McPherson on Saturday. I'd been lobbying to go to the Wichita one for several days but we decided to stay home. Honestly, I'm a tad embarrassed of my expectations. I went in anticipating disappointment. I expected to see a few ladies selling loaves of bread and cinnamon rolls and maybe a few vegetables here and there. What I saw, though, was a bounty! I went home with so much produce: sugar snap peas, new potatoes, Red Candy Apple onions, purple romaine, and two pounds of green beans. I only had to stay local to get the produce that my neighbors planted--and excellent produce at that. And every dollar that I spent went directly into the hand of the farmer who spent all that time pulling my potatoes out of the ground. Or, more accurately, every dollar went into the hand of the kid of the farmer. Those kids probably had a heavy hand in pulling onions, too, though--if they grew up anything like me. I remember sitting on the porch with my mom, topping strawberries and dumping them into huge freezer bags, staining our fingertips that brilliant fuchsia color. Or one time, splitting pea pods and shooting their contents into a metal bowl. It's really amazing the work you have to go to for the tiniest amount of peas.

Before I put the onion in with the beans, I took a huge bite of it. I was so excited by its name Red Candy Apple--I assure you, it was still very much an onion.
 The Farmer's Market, combined with a recent trip to my mother's herb garden, left me with all of the ingredients needed to make my first recipe from the June 2012 issue of Bon Appetit! So along with eating only fresh, neighbor-grown food, I'm taking care of 1/3 of my monthly goal. So, along with my green beans, I had New Potatoes with Dill Butter.
The recipe couldn't be simpler--begin with baby steps.

I can't wait to get back to the McPherson Farmer's Market, either. I have my source for fresh eggs, bread and tons of vegetables for the entire summer.

Is there an ingredient that you've never cooked with, before? I'm thinking about delving into the world of fresh beets, next week but I don't know if I've got it in me. Thoughts?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Things are Quiet Here and I'm Asking Your Opinion

If the story of my life reads like a book, this chapter begins thusly:
Once she realized that they really weren't coming back, she set about organizing the refrigerator.

I know that we'd been talking about it for months, now. Years even but it happened over the weekend: my brother and sister-in-law and their three beautiful kids moved away from me. I speak of this personally because, for crying out loud, this is my life and everyone in it is a supporting character, right? Okay, false. But if you don't watch yourself it can feel like that really easily.
Uncle Andrew with Amos and Penny on moving day

I'm just saying that a big chunk of my everyday life has been altered. No big deal, really. It happens a thousand times a day all over the world.

But when they were moving, I got 98% of the contents of their refrigerator (Andrew got the full jar of Claussen pickles--damn him!) and I just took everything up to my fridge and shoved it in. There are a LOT of condiments in my apartment, is what I'm saying. Three. Bottles. Of ketchup. I think we need to have friends over for a chicken nugget/ french fry bar to get rid of some of this stuff.

So when it was all said and done and I was sitting in a very quiet apartment, I just went into the kitchen and pulled everything out and then put it all back in. I took a "before" picture so that I could take an "after" photo but they looked so similar that it was kind of dumb to do that. Or mention... Derp.

My apartment is lacking in background noise for two reasons, one being that the apartment that once held five (not quiet) people is now completely void of human life (don't worry, it will be filled up again before the end of the month--today). The second being that the internet connection was in their name. So, since Saturday, my house has been a Facebook/ Spotify/ Pinterest/ Gmail free zone.

Let me tell you--I love it. I am loving it.

My time has become very intentional. Granted, I still have a kitchen full of dishes (though I did manage to take out the garbage and clean the litter box yesterday) but not doing the dishes was a choice that I made. I chose to watch movies rather than dishes instead of saying, "I really need to do the dishes but let me just check my email first" and then getting caught up in mindlessly clicking through a friend of a friend of a friend's wedding photos for 30 minutes before realizing that I'm still running water in the sink. I do that--all of the time. I am a terrible steward of our natural resources.

So, Ryan went ahead and set up internet in our house and is willing to give me the password but so far I haven't asked for it because I like this new little routine. I've been in the habit of waking up at 6:30 (sincere thanks to my noisy nieces and nephew for this) for about a year, now, so I spend my mornings reading, journaling, writing letters, mailing them (!), and listening to music that I own. I have listened to my Over The Rhine albums on repeat for hours and hours. I can't get enough of Willoughby or She or Suitcase. Every time those songs end, I just play them again. Now that I think of it, once you listen to those songs, it probably sounds like I'm going through a horrible break-up but I assure you that's not the case. I just think Karen's voice is so pretty and I have unreasonable fantasies that I can sing like her.

I've liked not sharing every single thought that comes into my brain via Facebook. I've liked having the time and energy and thought to write in my journal and keep my personal life kind of personal. It's a habit that I want to keep up, I think. I know it sounds ironic--writing a blog about not sharing so much on the internet, but I can be selective here. This is an exercise in self-control.

So, I brought my laptop to the coffee shop this morning at 6:45, ordered a large skim, coconut latte and started writing to you. I have a lot of ideas for my blog and I'm putting pen to physical paper about those.

I love to cook--we all know that. And I want to bring this blog around to that direction more. But I'm also a real cheapskate and so I tend to buy the same ingredients over and over again because I know what's inexpensive and I know what works but I need to branch out. I want to experiment with new ingredients and I want to take great photos. There are a few food blogs that I follow simply because the photographs are astounding. So, in the interest of branching out, I got a subscription to some new magazines, including Bon Appetit (ignore the fact that the only reason that I remember how to spell that because it basically says "ape-tit"--I am such an American) and I have a goal to make at least three recipes from each issue that comes out and I'll write about them. And I'll take pictures. And we'll all get better and better at what we like to do.

And my friends are just gonna have to be guinea pigs. Who wants to volunteer?

In fact--let me let you into the driver's seat: Here's the table of contents from the June issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

I'll make whatever you want. Go to that link, find something that sounds delicious and I'll make it for you (provided it's reasonable and I can get the ingredients in my very small, Midwestern town). The first person to respond with a reasonable request ("reasonable" will be determined by myself), gets dinner. Even better if you live locally--but if not, you at least get a shout out.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Small Towns, Tiny Cobblers, and My Blog Crush

Fact: there is not one blogger that I feel like I can relate to more than Hilah.

A Pronto Pup stand comes to our little town once a year when we celebrate what is called "All Schools Day". I don't understand the purpose, point or history behind All Schools Day. All I know is that there's a parade, a Queen and King get crowned, I get a day off of work because it is considered a local holiday and there are Pronto Pups. Ten points to living in small towns!
Photographic evidence of the adorableness of my town.
Feat: my niece and sister-in-law with the Girl Scout float
But for the past three years that I've lived in McPherson, I have yet to have an opportunity to eat a Pronto Pup. Last year I was out of town, this year I was sick, and the first year I just didn't know any better. That first year, after realizing that there were Prontos to be had and that we'd missed out, Ryan and I went searching the internet for homemade corn dog recipes. We found Hilah and I think we've both had a sort of a crush on her ever since. I even thought about hooking her up with a friend of mine at one point until I realized that I have never met Hilah in person (only been weird over the internet) and also she lives in Texas. The very coolest part of Texas (according to the internet), but still. Texas.
I like Hilah because she cooks like I do. Throw a little of that in there, add some of this--or don't, your call, sing songs while you're mixing away. She knows what she's doing, though, and that's how we differ. She knows the names of things, and actual techniques. For the longest time I just said, "You know, like you're making cream gravy but with butter instead of sausage and before you blah blah blah..." but I was really talking about a b├ęchamel. Thanks, Hilah.
Hands-down, though, the recipe that I use of hers is her peach cobbler. It is my favorite. I almost always have the ingredients on hand for when friends come over and I've never added or changed anything to her recipe (which is a rarity for me). 
Until this morning. I woke up bright and early at 6:00 am and I had it in my mind that I absolutely had to make this cobbler--but in muffin tins. Could it be done?
Yes. Yes it could.
Unfortunately this (supremely not-awesome) photograph is the only picture I could snap as the lighting is not great, today. It's a dark, overcast morning. But it's hot. You know the type. 
At any rate, my breakfast consisted of one of these little guys, a splash of milk, the rest of the strawberries, and a hard boiled egg.
I want you to go see Hilah's video, and so I won't give it to you in full here but I will link it to you. Though, I will tell you about the adaptations that I made.

The recipe says to put butter in your baking dish and put it in the oven to melt it. This is key. No, you can not substitute for oil spray--I've tried it. No, you have to use the butter. You don't have to eat it all but you do have to use butter.
So I buttered the insides of my muffin tins, filled the batter about 3/4 of the way up, and then dropped in little hunks of apricots and strawberries.

Mine baked for about 25 minutes. They probably could have used another five minutes just to brown them up a bit but I will tell you that these were fully cooked and, if you let them sit for just a little bit of time, hold their shape when you run a knife around and pop them out of their little spots.

I ate two and then ran the rest down to my sister-in-law so that I wouldn't eat what is, essentially, an entire cobbler. Serve these hot for desert and scoop a little bit of ice cream on top or throw some wheat germ in with the flour and justify your breakfast.


Thursday, May 24, 2012


I had Katie over for dinner, tonight. I'd been craving a BLT something fierce and once I realized that I had all of the ingredients for said sandwich at my home, it was decided.

I got so excited. I came home and started cooking bacon--slowly--over medium heat. Anything worth having is worth waiting for. And bacon is worth waiting for. I think that BLT's are one of the prettiest sandwiches in the animal kingdom and so I knew I wanted to photograph it and I wanted to blog all about it. Blog about the deliciousness of simple ingredients, the crunch of perfectly cooked bacon, the juice of a (mostly) seasonal tomato. Work was slow, so I pretty much thought about it exclusively for a good twenty minutes while I stared at the wall. I decided to borrow Ryan's camera, which is much more fancy than mine and take photos every step of the way.

But something happens when your friends come over and stand around you while you crisp bacon in a skillet and slice tomatoes and a multi-grain boule fresh from the bakery section of your local supermarket. You start talking and catching up and pouring drinks and learning that you either took a pivotal misstep in the Mint Julep recipe or you just really don't like them. And you laugh. And the bread gets sliced, mayonnaise gets spread, lettuce, bacon and tomatoes get piled up and promptly devoured and nary a photo gets taken. And that's alright.

Because you need to talk to your friend, anyway.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Rare, Feminist Rant

 For the most part, I've been mostly transitioning over to fun, un-ranty things on this here blog. Lots of photos, lots of food, lots of how-to-do-stuff stuffs. And I do like that but there is always, will always be a chord in me that, when plucked, will send me singing until my voice is heard. And this is a lovely platform for singing. Except not singing. Mostly just ranting. I'm annoyed to say that it was an email forward that sent me into a tizzy. Usually, if I ever get an email with even one "FWD:" in the title, I'm hesitant to open it but if there's two, then it promptly gets deleted. But I started a new job, recently, and I get so few emails in a day that I decided to just open this one from a sixty-year-old co-worker (who, by the way, immediately after hitting "send", ran into my office and said "did you get my email!?"
Sub-rant: Nation, when you send someone an email, you don't have to, then, find a way to let that person know that there's an email waiting for them. I know there is because gmail gets this handy little (1) in my task bar and alerts me that there have been recent developments. This notification is sufficient. I do not need a visit, text message, Facebook alert or an old-fashioned telephone call to alert me of its presence. Do we understand?
 I gestured at the charts on my desk and asked if it's important. She said that it wasn't something I needed to get to right then, but I should check it out before I left for the day. So, while she watched, I opened up this email forward that read, "Neck Exercises For Women" featuring tons of exclamation marks and comic sans and blinky, probably virus-ridden icons that I mistakenly thought died with Myspace. Following were dozens of photos of hard-bodied, shirtless, greased up men--each photo flipped on its side so that you have to tilt your head to look at it properly (hence the "neck exercises", I presume).
She said, "So? Pretty funny, huh?"
Uncomfortably, I suuuuuper fake-laughed and said, "Have I been complaining about my aching neck that loudly?"
She hooted and laughed and went out to the other girls and said, "See, she wasn't offended!!"
Record Scratch

This was some kind of test to see what kinds of emails it's okay to forward to me? Wait! I want a do-over! DO OVERRRR!!! If I get to pick, I pick zero email forwards but I would choose "Obama is a Muslim" emails over naked-men any day! At least if you send me emails about how gays cause all the natural disasters, I know that you're just a crack-pot and I can dismiss you. But greased up hunks? If the genders were reversed, you can guarantee that women would be all up in arms. But since I'm staring at man nipples instead of lady nipples, it's hilarious! (?) I can not so easily dismiss the objectification of any person. 

Why do humans exist only to get into the pants of one another?

The Feminism of our great-grandmothers gave us political equality. The Feminism of our grandmothers gave us work-place equality. The Feminism of our mothers gave us the right to choose to stay at home or go to work (a war that's still being fought--mostly on the internet and amongst ourselves which only suits to distract us from current problems). And the Feminism of my generation is working damn hard for the reigns to their own reproductive and sexual rights. And this is awesome! This is wonderful and this makes me proud. It should make anyone proud because at the center of it all is not the idea that women want to be better than men or even that women want to be equal to men. It's that humans want to recognize the dignity in one another. No one ever started out higher than the other, so how did we get to this point?

It is gracious and kind and loving to make dinner for yourself and for your family and your community. It's gracious and kind and loving to go to work and provide a life for yourself and for your family and your community. Neither is not a chore or a duty or a job that needs to be passed off on anyone. Does a man not appreciate a clean coffee cup in the morning as much as a woman does? Is a woman not a skilled accountant? The idea that a man is doing the dishes in order to turn on his wife is still degrading. Do we not understand that? Why don't you just caption it, "Honey, even though this is where you belong, I'm going to climb down from my mighty throne and take care of it for you so that you can spend your time getting all excited about the sex you owe me." When did sex become the driving force in everything? Why can't people be kind for the sake of kindness. For the fact that sometimes life is difficult enough notwithstanding the dishes that need to be done.

But I guess the question is, how do we want to get our equality? Do we want to drag everyone down to a place where we're all barbarians who exist for our own pleaseure just so that we're all on an even playing field? Or can we start to look at every person as dignified, deserving, human beings and maybe find a way to pull each other out of the ditch?

That is all.
Thank you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Photo Journal