What’s been cooking…

September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

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Without the use of Alex’s beloved camera (it has an error message that we need to get checked out), it has been harder to think it worthwhile to document our weekly cooking. However, I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with cooking recently, so, pictures or not, you are going to get a record of these experiments:

Picnic sandwich on ciabatta loaf with bologna, salami, pesto, artichoke hearts and havarti cheese
Lemon Crumb Bars

The above two items I made for Alex and my anniversary date to see Planet Earth: live! at the Hollywood Bowl.  The sandwich was made by improvisation, the lemon crumb bar recipe can be found here. It was quite easy, and they were delicious.

We had our friends over for dinner one night, and I had fun with the following recipes:
Goat Cheese Empanadas. For their July issue, Real Simple had a section featuring three-ingredient recipes. These had goat cheese, placed into store bought pie crust, baked and served with store bought salsa. Some things need to be simple. Alex actually made these while I worked on the main course.
Chicken with Olives. Thank you, Pioneer Woman. This was delicious (If I do say so myself). The chicken was quite moist and the olives complimented the flavors nicely. I served it over brown rice.
Blueberry Ice cream. What I love about homemade ice cream is that it is easy to make and loved by many.  Often ice cream recipes are only 3-4 ingredients, mixed together and placed in the ice cream maker which does its thing while you get on to more pressing chores. I also added chocolate chunks to this ice cream — what can I say, I tend to think things only get better when you add chocolate.

Random experiments:
Strawberry and Chocolate Gelato. Supposed to be Cherry-Chocolate Gelato. Fresh & Easy’s jam selections are limited. The flavor of this was not.

Moussaka. Greek dish. Eggplant, ground beef, cinnamon, Parmesan, bechamel sauce. It might sound strange, but it was quite good. Alex and I made a real supper of it with salad, french bread, and some red wine.

No-bake lasagna. Being the first time I made lasagna, I decided to do an entirely nontraditional version that was also less time intensive. This lasagna alternated layers of typical lasagna noodles with cooked zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and ricotta. I also threw in a few pieces of salami to add some flavor (for me) and “meat” (for my husband). As the title indicates, this lasagna does not need to be “popped in the oven.” Fresh and yummy.

Spinach Quiche with whole wheat crust. This was made on a Saturday night, out of a need to use up extra milk, cheese, eggs and spinach. I had pepper-jack cheese on hand, so there was a nice spicy kick to it. The simple, laid-back, yet strong flavors of a hot quiche really hit the spot, especially since the weather had become cooler that evening.

Pork Chops with Gruyere Polenta and cherry tomatoes. This was dinner for this week, or for at least two of the nights. In recent years I have come to really enjoy polenta, particularly the fine-grain version cooked fresh on the stove top (rather than the pre-cooked, shaped version). I still am not the biggest fan of pork chops, though I continue to try them when they are a part of recipes whose other parts look delicious. I love cherry tomatoes and eat them by the dozen.

Finally, Alex’s parents gave us a hefty supply of apples and plums from their fruit trees in Fresno. Even if each of us ate one apple and one plum per day, we might not have made it through them in a month’s time. Hence, the three recipes listed below:
Plum and Apple Sangria
Peach and Plum Shortbread
Plum-Apple Butter

Next-up…
Preparing for the Supper Club meal we will be hosting on October 23rd. In case you aren’t aware of the fun involved in this group gathering, the Supper Club requires a minimum five-course meal prepared for 8 people and themed around the book chosen by the couple who hosted previously. Alex and I will be experimenting with and choosing dishes centered around Wendell Berry’s Nathan Coulter. Tonight we are going to go out to a southern restaurant in Los Angeles called Tart (for inspiration) and then to Barnes and Noble to peruse the cookbooks. Wish us luck.

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Three things that are funny, one that’s absurd.

September 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

ONE. Our forest green honda. It has tinted windows, a large dent on the drivers’ side door, and a subwoofer that takes up half the trunk. In its current parking space, a tree consistently seeps pollen on it so that 1) it is embarrassingly dirty two days after its washing, and 2) it attracts ants, who happen to like this pollen and crawl all over the hood and roof (also embarrassing, hoping no one sees the bugs crawling all over your car). One of the only bugs I fear is ants. Today when I was driving with the window down (because there is no air conditioning), I imagined lots of tiny ants flying onto me. Also, it is impossible for me to get out of the car in any elegant manner (it being so close to the ground), which is made even more complicated by the pencil skirts I wear to work.

TWO. Our trash man. Every time we leave for work on Tuesday morning, the landlord has kindly brought out the trash cans. These are neatly placed to the side of our parking spot, so that we can easily back out our car and head off to work. Every time we return from work that same day, we find the three trash cans spaced a yard apart from each other, ENTIRELY blocking BOTH parking spots we have been given, and making pulling in to our parking spot (without getting out to move the trash cans) difficult to impossible. I don’t know what we did to the trash man, but he is exacting his revenge, one week at a time.

THREE. The fact that we live across from a fire station.

ABSURD. How long it takes me to make decisions, and the number of times I change my mind while doing so. Today, I wondered around Cost Plus World Market for 45 minutes looking for cushions for our dining room chairs. I held 6 cushions in my arms, walked back and forth across the store to the various locations for cushions, scattered the cushions on various tables to see how they looked against the wood, asks the sales people whether the 14 different types of cushions they had in the store were all they had, walked next door to Target to look for cushions, realized their selection consisted of one small shelf of mismatched cushions, went back to World Market, resumed the process, chose a cushion, walked around the store with it once, put it back, chose another cushion, walked around the store twice, put it back, called my mom for advice, tried to think of any other friends I could call for advice, panicked, bought a bar of chocolate, refused to let the sales reps take any of the six cushions I was holding to the front because “I was deciding between them”, and finally ended up taking home two mismatched cushions so I could “try them out.” When I approached the register with these two mismatched cushions, the salesman looked at me and said, “Couldn’t make up your mind?”

Right man. Like I needed you to tell me that.

Ten things I learned from my husband

September 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

image credit: http://weheartit.com/entry/44556

1. How to not panic when writing a college essay. This involves not being afraid of the hard work, but also sending the paper off to loved ones for some editing. When you’ve hit a wall, stop working, get a cup of hot chocolate, and watch an episode of something on Hulu. (Also, when I (memorably) panicked sophomore year, he sat with me for two or so hours to help me rethink my argument. This we call “woo-ing”).

2. How to be curious in a way that reading satisfies, and how to be glad when your husband decides that library books are as satisfying to his curiosity as those purchased on Amazon.

3. How weather works. No, really. These things are fascinating to me, and he has a good enough memory to recount all the details he learned in 7th grade science class. Once when we were driving up the coast, I asked him why the temperature was cooler outside then it had been earlier that week. He proceeded to tell me about moisture, humidity of the air, cold and hot fronts, wind directions…and then entertained my questions about earthquakes, tectonic plates, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis.

4. The history of Rome. and England. and Israel (the latter he has repeated to me time and time again, without frustration and only the occasional laughter at my inability to hold historical facts in my head for longer than 4 days).

5. Food fact number 1: Sometimes, simple tastes are better – like vanilla ice cream. and bacon. Me, I would want to mix these flavors together. Experiment. Alex prefers them independent from one another and at the appropriate times of day. (Not that he doesn’t sometimes eat ice cream for breakfast).

6. Food fact number 2: Sometimes, simple tastes are not better. One day at the school cafeteria, Alex suggested we exchange preparing breakfast for each other. In an attempt to introduce me to a new creative concoction (since he knows I like these sorts of experiments), Alex brought me a nice bowl of sticky oatmeal and cantaloupe. These foods, while nice on their own, are quite bland when slopped together. I did not eat the oatmeal. (Poor guy). But I did laugh at him and think him cute. (Poor guy).

7. How to be moderate.

8. Patience… partly from his tendency to run a little late, but more from his example (See #1, 3, 4).

9. Kindness. Gentleness.

10. Life isn’t perfect – you can still have joy. Joy doesn’t come despite imperfection, it comes alongside imperfection, because joy is unrelated to our perfection or imperfection. Joy is about the grace of God in our lives, therefore take joy in the Lord in the midst of an imperfect life (this one I am still learning).

For the love of fall.

September 9, 2010 § 3 Comments

Yesterday was the first semi-chilly, drizzly day in Los Angeles. This means that it was 68 degrees, and I saw students all over campus wearing knee high boots, leggings and baggy sweaters. Two things in this life I cannot get over — 1. the fashion sense of a college student, and 2. the quickness of those living in extreme climates to don clothing suited to the weather that is opposite to their typical weather experience (example: the propensity of a midwesterner to wear flip-flops as soon as the weather turns 50 degrees ). When I went to Oxford, I participated in both of these phenomena – so eager to wear cozy clothing once in a non-southern california enviornment, I also was encouraged by (a) my college fashion sense, and (b) my interpretation of the “funkiness” of british style, so that I readily layered sweater upon long-sleeved shirt upon scarf upon tights upon skirts, all varying in pattern and color, without hesitation or remorse.

Today, though my fashion sense is slightly more cultured (or so I like to think), I felt inclined to put on my new brown leather boots and pull the tweed skirt from the back of my closet. I still can’t resist the pull all southern californians feel to “celebrate” the colder weather with attire that feels a bit out of place when the morning fog burns off and it turns out to be 80 degrees that afternoon.

But I don’t care.

_____________

Lovely and romantic: two words that come to mind when I think of fall — the daylight escapes a little bit earlier. Yesterday on my drive home from work the trees and fields in parks were golden-green, rather than the more light-saturated kelly green of summer evenings.

The colors of fall are rich and beautiful, turquoise and crimson and plum and forest green. The popular textures of fabric (wool, tweed, corduroy) are warm and cozy.

So many of the activities that take place in the fall hold memories from past years. Whereas the months of spring and early summer pass without many “annual” events (aside from Easter and Memorial Day), fall is the time for going back to school, for crisp apples, for halloween parties, fall sports, warm soups, the joy of an hour more sleep when we “Fall back” for Daylight savings — all the while the days are shortening as we head into Thanksgiving, Christmas and “winter.” (sorry, L.A., I just can’t take that word seriously around you).

Yes, fall is precursor to the dive into winter, which will lead to the next spring and the warm, long days of summer again. Perhaps it is the cycle of seasons that allows each to be beautiful. We can acknowledge and perhaps appreciate the bitterness of winter because we are looking forward to the thawing of spring.

I do think all seasons have their own glories. But to me, fall recalls beauty of a type I forgot existed. Each time autumn comes it catches me off guard; I am surprised  by its beauty and wonder at it and relish it.

Chester, the Cockroach: the extermination

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

About a week ago, Alex and I came home from visiting his parents up in Fresno. As we approached our doorstep, we noticed several cockroaches lying about. It was still light outside. These were dead cockroaches.

There really isn’t much to say when you’ve named a cockroach and given him a personality and then discover that he is dead. Not just dead, murdered. Exterminated. I thought I might be a little sad. I’m not.

I do continue to look forward to the day when Alex and I can have a real pet – a dog. Here’s what needs to happen before we can get one:

1. We need to move to a residence that allows for dogs. This might mean we need to move to Canada, since Ontario has had a law since 1990 that bans apartment owners from discriminating against animals in lease-terms, and other provinces are now fighting for “Fluffy’s Law” too.

2. We need to set up our 401ks. I am not going to invest in a dog who has CONSTANT NEEDS and will drain my bank account for many years — not until I have financial stability and security, man. No, but really, dogs cost money.

3. We need to decide on a breed. (Current leanings are towards larger dogs, like retrievers and labs, although I still have a soft spot in my heart for Beagles ever since my childhood dog (Frisky, the Beagle) passed away on December 18th, 1998. Frisky was the typical beagle who liked to bay and chase rabbits, although when he finally caught them, he would just lick them. The rabbit would be trembling, shaking, and there would be Frisky, happily panting and licking the poor thing. Also, Frisky liked to cross the street to the junior high and steal food from the students. Once he ate a piece of cake off a teacher’s desk. Another day, he came trotting (trotting? do dogs trot?) up our driveway with a package of hotdog buns in his mouth. Frisky was twice the recommended weight for beagles his height).

4. We need to decide on a name. I guess this could wait until we actually have the dog. But I am one of those types who likes to have a list of 10 possible names a year before I am ready to purchase said animal. So, yes, we at least need a smidgen of inspiration before we are ready to take the dive. Or maybe I will just work on becoming more free-spirited.

So while Alex and I continue to wait for the lodging, funding and unity of decision necessary to buy a dog, why don’t YOU tell me about some of the animals you have, used to have, or would like to have someday? (This is my attempt to begin brainstorming names. Participation is appreciated).

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