Archive for the 'in the kitchen' category

February 5th, 2010

» somewhere

Momentous occasion: Wednesday night, I went to the grocery store. Okay, that’s not so momentous (I love the grocery store, particularly the banana section), BUT: when I got home, I cooked! Just a simple throw-stuff-in-a-pot soup and some pan-fried tofu, but it’s a start, and now my fridge is stuffed with leftover soup, and the beginnings of horiatiki and a Mexican skillet.

I’m trying not to hate February just because it’s February. Deep in the long grind of winter, no end in sight. Lately I’m dreaming hard of far-off places. (Well, not precisely: I’ve actually been having strange, troubling dreams since the end of December; topic for another day, though!) The Boy and I are going somewhere this year, and here’s the dilemma (the wonderful, overwhelming dilemma): where?

First constraint: time. When I went to Peru in 2007, I took 2 1/2 weeks off work, and — how to put this? — it was less than appreciated by my boss. I was basically told that would never be happening again. But everyone survived, I’m very good at what I do, and — well. Let’s call it a week and a half, no problem. (I’ve already taken, or will be taking, 7 of my vacation/sick days — and can I just take a moment to thank my last-August-self for knowing I’d really, really appreciate 6 days in St. Louis in January? Because I totally needed it. Anyway, leaves me 9 for the rest of the year.)

Second constraint: location. I really want to go somewhere neither of us has been before. The Boy is adorable and pretty fantastic all around, actually, so I’ve decided to forgive him for this, but: he’s been basically everywhere. All around South America (Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, etc), the Middle East (Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, etc), India, Thailand, China, Japan, etc etc. To be fair, this is MY restriction; and also, the world? Big place.

Third constraint: money (of course). I’ve been researching in a dreamy, haphazard sort of way the last few days, and have come up with lots of places that would be wonderful: Bhutan! Vanuatu! Outer space! (I’ve been informed that they’re not actually sending people to the moon — just into outer space.) But they’re rather expensive to get to and/or be in. All part of the balancing act; I have some money to go somewhere fabulous, but I’d also like to, you know, retire one day (and I have that small, not-inexpensive horse habit). And once you’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money and time getting somewhere awesome, what’s the point if you can only stay for a week or so?

And then it’s trying to figure out the time of year, because, confession: I want to be somewhere right now. I hate February here. Okay, so today it’s all Look at me, I’m a bright fluffy beautiful snow globe! But mostly there’s the wrath of EIGHTY-SEVEN BELOW and YOUR CAR GOES SIDEWAYS NOW! and riding outside is some far, impossible dream, and no one can remember what green looks like anymore.

So what I really want, right this second, is to be somewhere hot. I want SUN and I want to be baked alive. But I also don’t want to wait a whole year to go, so I have to temper that with knowing I won’t still feel this way next fall. Mostly, I want somewhere that’s going to take my breath away.

(And alas, I’ve gotten utterly distracted by work for hours and hours now. So I’m going to just post this, abruptly and as-is, or I know I never will.)

September 12th, 2008

» good things

I am, sadly, back from Maui, and hoping to get some time this weekend to gather pictures and videos to share, so we can all mourn together that we aren’t ankle-deep in white sand, snorkeling with fishies and turtles, or cavorting after guava in the rainforest. I’m a bit of a maverick vacationer and without just these right circumstances (an unbelievable deal on the condo, thanks to Bryce; my mom’s life-long dream) I probably never would’ve made it to Hawaii, and I would have totally missed out. It was another dream trip, another once-in-a-lifetime, and I feel so blessed to have shared this time with my family (among whose number we all count you, Bryce, in case you haven’t realized).

While I was away, autumn evicted the last traces of summer here in Minnesota. It’s been a tough week to return to, all chilly and grey, early dark, and I’ve found myself feeling a little surly about a season I usually love. But last night I was seized by this sudden need to cook, to make something hearty, something spicy, and I pulled out a bag of dried beans and my favorite Indian cookbook. A little while later I stood over the sink plucking steamy kidney beans out of the colander, fresh from the pressure cooker, and I resolved once again to ban canned beans from my cupboard. If you’ve never made your own beans, you’re missing out! They are a different creature entirely, so creamy and delicious, so themselves; you don’t know it now but canned beans have this edge of can-taste, this cloying sweet chemically hint, and after having fresh(-from-dried) beans you will always be a little sad about the taste of canned. (Of course I’ve made this resolution a dozen times at least and I always end up using canned sometimes because, I know, it’s just so easy! Especially in dishes where they’re not the main component, or where they’re masked by delicious chili-taste. But if you like beans in your salads, and you should because mmm, take the extra time to treat yourself.)

Er — so I ended up making this curried kidney bean dish, with lots of spice (dried red pepper, cumin, coriander, etc) and ginger and tomato, and it was completely delicious, which is good because I have more, a lot more, in my fridge, along with the rice I made to go alongside it. I almost never make rice at home (I’m usually too lazy for rice) and dude, rice fresh out of the pan? So. Good. I kept snacking on bits of the cooling leftovers.

Anyway! When I started this post it was not to tease you about my vacation, or ramble on about dinner, but rather to share this funny and spot-on bit from an article about Johnny Depp’s newest film (it’s animated, to put it in context, though feel free to imagine it aaany way you like):

The movie will realize the dreams of thousands (nay, millions) of women worldwide as it casts Depp in the role of household pet. He’ll go on an adventure to discover his true self — which, I think, involves discovering he is Johnny Depp, commander of women.

May 7th, 2008

» more spring fever

Spring, dragging its heels all through April, kicking up snow, has finally arrived. It’s been a week of skirts and rainstorms and fresh fruit, and I’ve been loving every minute.

Bryce came for the weekend and brought me a box of the season’s first cherries. I love cherries even more than bananas, more than oatmeal, and I have been in raptures over these, have sat on the floor in the middle of my dim living room eating them by the bowlful and watching the latening twilight. They should soon be available here too, and I can’t wait.

On Saturday we did a little grocery shopping, and in the produce department were lured by a strange, fascinating melon, little bigger than my fist, bright orange and spikey, from New Zealand: the kiwano. (Not to be confused with kiwanis; this fruit didn’t strike me as particularly civic-minded.) I had a bit of a tickle in the back of my mind, like I’d read about it somewhere, but then couldn’t remember if it was this spiky melon or the starfruit, which I’d also never had, and further couldn’t remember if I’d read about it being delicious or disgusting. I’m glad I didn’t recall reading about Susan’s experience, though, because if I had I don’t think we would’ve spent the $2.99 on it, and after hours of entertainment we agreed it was well worth it, if only just the once.

Cutting into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I imagined it would be a little like a cantaloupe: the rind encasing a layer of fruit, with a center of seeds to be scooped out. What we found instead was a bright green mass of little gelatinous pockets, each containing a pale seed. I considered it for a moment, and then we turned to the internet (via Bryce’s Treo, since I don’t have the internet at home — and I know, I know, how do I survive? who tells me how to eat my fruit?). WikiHow to the rescue: you give the fruit a bit of a squeeze, pluck out one of the little fruit-globes (more appetizing than ‘sac’, I think), trap it behind your lips but in front of your teeth, then suck it in through your teeth, getting the fruit but leaving the seed. Spit out the seed and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Squeezing a kiwano is hilarious: it looks like an alien lifeform, all pulsing breathing little fruit-pods bulging and retreating. It will provide you as much entertainment as you want, because the thing takes forever to eat. Hours, literally. My jaw ached when I finally gave up on finishing my half. The taste? It reminded me faintly of a kiwi. If you like kiwi and are looking for that taste, don’t buy this fruit: buy a kiwi. This fruit is like a whisper of a kiwi, like a kiwi after a long intergalactic game of telephone tag; like a kiwi might be in a thousand years, just pre-apocalypse, when all sweet bright tart strong has gone from the world. It’s not bad — it’s just not particularly good. Fun, yes. Tasty, not so much. (We read some other reviews calling it bitter, which we didn’t find at all. It’s a little sweet, and it’s good at first, the okay taste bolstered by the novelty of eating it. That novelty, though, wears off after the first forty-five minutes.) I played with the flexible rind and the seed-goo for a good ten or fifteen minutes after I’d declared myself done eating. If you do get a kiwano, make sure you stay for that encore; we all have at least a bit of seven-year-old inside, so indulge.

Incidentally, any New Zealanders (or anyone, for that matter) have any insight on this fruit? Does anyone really eat these things?

Monday was gorgeous, and I stayed out at the stable for hours. After riding I tortured Ev with a very long bath, scrubbing all the little mud-dreds out of his feathers and picking the tangles from his tail. He was gorgeous when I left, silky-smooth and shining and smelling faintly of mint and rosemary (I’m using up the last of a bottle of my own shampoo on him). Tuesday afternoon it rained and rained, and when I got to the barn he was wet and gritty with mud. So much for the spa treatment.

When I got back to my apartment building I took a detour down the first floor hallway to fetch the mail, and along the way passed three young women sitting with a weensy newborn. (There seems to be a lot of loitering at my new apartment. In the afternoons there are always kids meandering around the parking lot or sitting in the stairwells or triking the sidewalks, off in their weird kid worlds. Yesterday I overheard one calling another her “homeskillet bighead biscuit.” I’ve never heard of such a thing before, and couldn’t quite figure out if it was name-calling or a term of endearment.) Anyhow, as I was just about to round the corner away from the little cluster, one of them looked up and said, “Oh! Do you race horses?!” And, I will admit, I love these little moments, these rare times when someone at the gas station or supermarket recognizes the boots, half-chaps, breeches, and strikes up a conversation. I do my patter about eventing, about Everett; and last night, yes, I pulled out the old cell phone and flipped it open to show off Himself. And explain that no, I don’t race him.

A few weeks ago S. and I, lamenting the weather, talked about moving somewhere warmer. Not seriously, but the thought crosses my mind from time to time. And today, Anjali posted about her scooter. Oh how I wish we had the weather to justify a scooter. Alas, summer isn’t even here yet and it already feels like it’s slipping out the door.

May 2nd, 2008

» planning

As I was drifting to sleep last night, pondering the state of my refrigerator, I realized all of the tidbits I had lingering there — a few green onions, a fifth of a block of tofu, some fresh pineapple, and half a bag of baby carrots — added up exactly to the Pineapple Fried Rice (good enough for caps, definitely) I’ve lauded before. It’s from Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai. I’m a big believer in this cookbook; I think I’ve bought more copies of it to give as gifts than any other book, fiction included. It’s worth buying for this recipe alone — the entire book will cost you about the same as ordering a plate of this in a Thai restaurant, and then you can make it yourself to wow your friends and neighbors. Especially if you take the extra few minutes to serve it in a hollowed-out half-pineapple. (…when did this turn into a sales pitch?)

I’ve just started listening to Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (briefly: a book about her family’s year-long adventure in trying to eat only locally-grown/raised food), and it’s an excellent time in my life for it. Spring is (ever) just around the corner, and I’ve recently been trying to get back into the swing of meal-planning and out of the habit of eating out, for the sake of both my waist and my wallet. Most of what I’ve been making at home lately has been just thrown together: simple salads and stir-fries and pastas, the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a plate of roasted veggies. And it’s all fine, but it’s lacking a certain satisfaction. I miss the completeness of my old process, of menu-planning and neatly-regimented shopping, the preparation and cooking and then apportionment of leftovers. My weeks now are lacking in structure; I come home from the barn hungry, prowling the cupboards, uninspired. I have fallen into a serious snacking habit.

So, back on track for spring. I’ve started getting up before work to exercise as well, and I think I’m nearly home-free on that being such an agony. I’m at the end of the third week today and I feel utterly exhausted — so much so that I took this morning off for the extra sleep and to give my aching muscles a chance to heal. In future, more sleep: check.

February 2nd, 2007

» compensating for something

I feel like I haven’t written a real post in a long time. Things have just been — busy. Insanely so. I only do the internet thing at work, and since work has been dizzyingly work-ish lately it leaves little time for nattering on about my goings-on and feelings and snacks and all. And I know you’ve just been fretting yourself silly for the last months wondering just what is it I’ve been snacking on.

So I bring you a random smattering of pictures I’ve had tucked away and have just recently rediscovered on my little thumb drive. And also a cook-along, if you’re so inclined.

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