19 December 2008

Holiday Baking Adventures, Part I

This time of year for me is one usually full of baking or the aching desire to bake. I had been craving Pannetone for quite awhile when I decided today would be the day that I fulfill that mouthwatering desire. The only card in the spoke of my baking adventure? Snow. Despite my love for snow and being snowed in, I find myself irrationally angry at the city of Pullman once I look outside and realize that my tiny little roller skate of a car will never make it on these hills until they actually REMOVE the damn snow from the road. (A little caveat here: the plows are housed across the street from my where I live, and yesterday they sat idling in the parking lot while the drivers played Wii in the office. Dude. Get out there and plow. Seriously.)

Without the ingredients to make the always lovely pannetone, I decided on a biscotti recipe for which I already had a recipe. The linked recipe below has been somewhat modified, and if you follow the linked recipe, consider adding the orange zest--it adds a very pleasant touch to an otherwise tame biscotti.

Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

¾ cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil
2 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
2 eggs
1 tbl. finely grated orange zest
1 ½ cups flour
¼ cup ground flax (you can omit this and increase flour to 1 ¾ cups flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ cup dried orange craisins
¾ cup pistachios (if unsalted, add an additional ¼ tsp. salt to dry ingredients)

1. Preheat oven to 300. Mix together olive oil and sugar, and then beat in eggs. Add almond and vanilla extracts, and orange zest. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients and add to wet slowly. The batter should be very stiff once the dry and wet ingredients are fully integrated, and then work nuts and cranberries evenly through batter.

2. Make two long logs out of batter (be sure to rinse your hands before touching the dough—it’s super sticky!) and arrange on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for around 30 minutes.

3. Remove lightly browned logs from the oven and remove from parchment paper to cool on a baking rack or other surface for at least ten minutes. Cut the logs into even slices (see photo). Reduce oven heat to 200 degrees and place sliced biscotti (on their sides) back on parchment paper. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until completely dried out.

The dough is pretty stiff by the time you get to this point, so if you're like me and miss playing in the mud by the time winter rolls around, you'll dig in with your hands!

Be careful to leave enough room between the logs so when they spread out in the oven they don't bake together.

Let the logs cool before cutting to avoid the crumb factor

Cut before rearranging on parchment paper for the second baking

The finished product--ta da! I love a nice cup of coffee with these babies in the morning.

07 December 2008

In which I eat meatloaf...again...

Classes have ended and all that's left to do is grade and fulfill some last minute duties before I can focus solely on the diss and writing projects that have been gathering dust in my office. So what's the perfect food to celebrate the end while fueling me for lingering tasks? Why, meatloaf of course!

I've raved about the culinary yumminess that is the Moscow Co-Op for some time now, and I'd have to say their meatloaves are my favorite. If I had the time, I would make my own but alas, I still do not, and husband still asks too many questions to make the dish on his own ("Honey, is this too much Worcestershire?" "Did I mix the meat enough, honey?"). This time around we tried the Gorgonzola and Sun Dried Tomato Meatloaf made from ground buffalo. Buffalo has been pretty cheap in these parts as of late, and at one point I found it was actually (on sale) cheaper than ground beef, pork or turkey.

While this meatloaf was smokier than other versions we've tried from the Co-Op, the combination of sun dried tomatoes and gorgonzola with meat was not their best. I'm still loving the Amanda's Bacon Ranch Meatloaf, which the meat manager informed us was his grandmother's recipe--they don't make 'em like they used to!

We also picked up a Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, which was EXCELLENT. Very rich and full bodied, but with a dish like meatloaf, it paired well and the texture didn't overpower the meat. In fact, despite its stoutness, it was less filling than Guinness or this very very very rich chocolate stout I tried once. I'd definitely drink it again, despite the fact that its import price tag is a bit hefty these days.

The other reason to curl up with a nice, tall stout? Snow. Lots and lots of beautiful Palouse snow. Perhaps I'll take up that task when I'm not grading papers (Think drunk dialing is dangerous? Try DRUNK GRADING!)

03 December 2008

Rest, comfort and about a million other things that are now foreign to me

After finally finishing what has felt like the world's longest exam period in history, yesterday I emerged exhausted but triumphant. I can now exclusively focus on my little baby, the dissertation. The days have been full of duties, some related to my own work and others related to teaching, grading, indentured servitude, etc. While normally I have a system for grading papers that is pretty foolproof, it's been difficult this semester to juggle the mounds of papers that always seem to grace my desk. After grading one pile, another appears to mock me incessantly while I struggle to get the laundry done, cook, and research/write.

Needless to say, there hasn't been much time for cooking beyond the generic frozen veggie/chicken breast/potato combo, and I'm excited to cease eating the same meal over and over and...you get the picture. The other upside to finishing the PhD exams? I don't have to eat snacks out of bags any longer. Whew.

I'd been eyeing this recipe for pumpkin lasagna for quite awhile, and I finally had the time this evening to accomplish more than boil water. After having used up all the pumpkin I bought for Thanksgiving dinner (one more post is coming on that front), I decided to make a lasagna to use up my leftover butternut squash.

The recipe called for sugar pumpkin puree, and since I began with uncooked, cubed butternut squash, I somewhat rearranged the directions. Beginning with some olive oil, I added garlic, then the squash, then about 1/2 cup of liquid to a pan, and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Once the mixture cooled, I blended the mixture (straining most of the liquid out since cooked squash retains a lot of water) and then added honey and brown sugar to the mixture (no measurements--just eyed it). While assembling the lasagna, I realized I'd need a bit more of the ricotta mixture than was called for since I adore ricotta, and ended up increasing the ricotta to a full cup.

This turned out awesome, and despite the fact I was bummed that I couldn't use pumpkin, I'm glad I substituted butternut squash. It's one of my favorite flavors!! Thanks for the recipe, Jessica!!

02 December 2008

Using and reusing the innards....

....er, of a pumpkin, folks. I love Thanksgiving, and I love fall recipes that call for pumpkin puree, but I'm often frustrated with the fact that it often means not using up a full can from the supermarket, or alternatively, a full batch from a REAL pumpkin. For Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin roll that actually rocked, but I had a lot of pumpkin left over. I AM NOT A BIG FAN OF WASTING FOOD. So pumpkin bread it is!! The following is a recipe for Paula Deen's Pumpkin Roll and a less celebrity driven Pumpkin Bread that tastes like heaven. Enjoy!!

From foodnetwork.com, courtesy of Paula Deen

Pumpkin Roll Cake
Please note: I didn't use the caramel sauce. It wasn't really necessary.

* 3/4 cup cake flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
* 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 6 large eggs, separated
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 1/3 cup golden brown sugar, packed
* 2/3 cup canned pumpkin, packed
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* Powdered sugar


* 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
* 2 tablespoons dark rum
* 1 cup whipping cream, chilled
* 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
* 6 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup English toffee pieces for garnish
* Additional powdered sugar, for garnish
* 1 1/2 cups purchased caramel sauce, warmed, for garnish


For the cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a 15 by 10 by 1-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice into a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until very thick. Add the pumpkin to the egg mixture and combine at a low speed until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and beat at a low speed until mixed. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. Fold into the cake batter, stirring with a spatula, until most of the white streaks are gone.

Spread the batter onto a baking sheet and smooth out. Transfer baking sheet to the oven and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 15 to 18 minutes. While the cake is hot, dust generously with powdered sugar. Loosen the edges and turn the cake out onto a kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the edge of the cake and roll up. Cool completely, edge down, for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

For the filling: Soften the gelatin in the rum. Stir over low heat until the gelatin dissolves. Cool. Beat the chilled whipping cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl until peaks form. Fold in the gelatin and 6 tablespoons English toffee pieces.

To assemble, unroll the cake and sprinkle with 4 tablespoons of English toffee pieces. Spread the filling over the toffee. Start at 1 long side of the cake roll and, using the towel as an aid, roll up the cake to encase the filling. Place the cake, seam-side down, on a platter.

Trim the ends of the cake at a slight diagonal. Dust the cake with powdered sugar. Spoon some warm caramel sauce and the remaining toffee chips over the top of the cake. To serve, use a serrated knife to cut the cake crosswise into 1-inch thick slices. Drizzle more sauce on each slice and serve.

Pumpkin Bread, adapted from this recipe

* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 cup whole wheat flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 3/4 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 1/3 cup orange juice
* 1 cup pumpkin puree

My topping:
2 tbl. brown sugar
1 tbl butter, softened
1 teaspoon finely chopped pecans
Instructions: um, mix???

1. Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, allspice and nutmeg. In a large bowl, beat together vegetable oil, brown sugar, eggs, orange juice and pumpkin. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
2. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.

27 November 2008

Thanks...giving...and cooking

Ian and I decided to try the free range organic turkeys available from the Moscow Co-Op (despite the price tag--I think I actually yelled "HOLY SHIT!!" in the checkout line) and we were not disappointed. The meat was really juicy and flavorful, and the texture was more....something than those turkeys you can pick up at any supermarket.

This year, like last year, I was in charge of cooking the full meal. Ian's parents had suggested eating at the local Idaho Thanksgiving meal in a hotel, and my Chicago sensibilities wouldn't let that happen. The year I did eat at the Thanksgiving feed I wanted to die...or find a hole in which to stuff the disgusting plate before me. I can't eat at a makeshi(f)t Thanksgiving, and I'd rather cook.

I boil my potatoes in chicken broth for flavor and reserve some liquid for the mashing process, and this year, since I overcalculated the amount of whipping cream I would need, I used up the rest in my mashed potatoes. I added the butter and all ingredients, Ian mashed...I let him take the credit... Marriage is about sacrifice, no?

I love making my own cranberry sauce (as compared to that jelly-like can concoction people often serve) and this recipe also requires no definite measurements. For every 12 ounces of cranberries, add 1/2 cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup of orange juice. Simple and tastes like cranberry...

I also made my mother's (er, grandmother's) stuffing, which technically isn't a stuffing since it isn't cooked inside the bird. I have long feared food poisoning since my little brother contracted salmonella from White Castle, and thus I cook everything with reservation and anal retentive care. My grandmother's stuffing is very dense, so it doesn't come out soupy like many dressing recipes:

1 lb. ground pork
Lots and lots of celery leaves (not celery, LEAVES--it's where the flavor comes from)
1 or two stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 loaves of white bread (I use whole grain white bread)
Lots and lots of sage (no measurement here--make it fragrant, make it abundant)
Black pepper (I like fresh ground black pepper and lots of it)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (or more depending on consistency)
2 tbl. butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a casserole dish with cooking spray. Tear bread into large pieces (sans crust) and then set aside. Fry up pork in a skillet, and once it browns, add celery leaves. Add celery pieces a few minutes later, then sage. Cook until crackling, or cook the crap out of it. Remove from heat and cool.

Once pork mixture cools, combine bread with two eggs and milk, then add black pepper. Add pork mixture and combine by hand (using utensils just doesn't work) until fully mixed. Transfer to casserole pan, and cut butter strips on top. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, and then uncover for 10-15 minutes.

Sweet Potato Casserole--aka my reason for living

Every year I end up Bogarting the sweet potatoes, and this is my favorite recipe for performing this action. YUM!

4 cups sweet potatoes, boiled or baked (I bake for the best taste)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
4 tbl. softened butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup flour
3 tbl. softened butter
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. If you're cooking a turkey, it should already be at this point. Cook a casserole dish with cooking spray. Mash cooked sweet potatoes with the eggs, salt (optional--I rarely do include salt), butter, evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly and add to casserole dish.

The butter should be soft but not liquid. Mix all ingredients except pecans together first, then add pecans. Cover the sweet potatoes in the casserole dish with the topping.

Cover and bake for twenty to thirty minutes, then remove cover for another ten minutes. Cool and serve.

Roasted Butternut Squash

16 oz. cubed raw butternut squash
2 tbl. olive oil
3 tbl. panko
1 tbl. fresh chopped Italian parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place butternut squash in a casserole dish and add ingredients in order, stirring with a spatula. Bake covered for fifteen minutes and remove cover for ten additional minutes, or until squash is tender.

Fancy Green Beans

1/2 lb. fresh French green beans (substituting others is fine)
1 tbl. walnut oil
3 tbl. sunflower kernels
1 tbl. Romano cheese in strips

Heat oil in a skillet and add green beans. Saute for two minutes and add sunflower kernels, and saute for an additional minute. Remove from heat. Add to serving platter to cool and shave Romano cheese on top of dish.

16 November 2008

The quest for the perfect yogurt

I hate yogurt. I hate the pseudo sophisticated blends I find at Safeway, I hate the "go-gurts" that have recently popped up in response to other consumers hating yogurt, I hate the tubs of bitter yogurt found in discount shopping markets.

I love Greek yogurt. I love the thick consistency, the rich flavor, the depth it adds to baked goods, and most of all, I miss having access to it. For a long time I didn't have ready access to it--graduate school isn't exactly conducive to luxury items. Once I found Fage at a reasonable rate (nonfat for me--my stomach can't take the full fate version) I also discovered the wealth of yogurt possibilities on the refrigerated shelves of the Moscow Co-Op.

I have decided I'm in love with the Rachel's line of yogurt. The co-op doesn't carry all of the awesome flavors they have to offer, but the best ones I've tried so far are the Plum Honey Lavender (not much honey, but the plum is pretty prominent and the lavender lives up to its designation as an "essence") and the Pomegranate Blueberry, which surprisingly and despite the two dominant flavors provides an excellent combination of pomegranate and blueberry. It isn't quite as thick as I like, but the lavender yogurt is like crack for me.

I also found amongst the refrigerated shelves of the co-op something I should not have found: coconut milk yogurt. The folks at Turtle Mountain decided that yogurt made with coconut milk would rope me into an obsession, and it worked. I am IN LOVE with the passionate mango yogurt, and floored that it's often on sale. Thick with a stir-able consistency, it's perhaps my favorite yogurt at this point.

14 November 2008

Beer is still food, no?

With a full list of blog postings and an extraordinarily long list of academic challenges ahead of me, I decided to post on something fun this time around: beer. Really, who doesn't love beer? Okay, probably a lot of people, including me until a few years ago.

The first time I ever tasted beer, I thought it was the most horribly vile concoction brewed by humankind. It was the sixth grade, and I was spending the night at my best friend Tammy's house. Her mother and stepfather tended to put back the sauce quite a bit, so the ice cold cans of Coors Light in the salad crisper were always present in case of a sauce shortage. We each drank a can slowly....for four hours. I don't even think we finished them. The next day I woke up early, took an extra long shower, washed my clothes, brushed my teeth, flossed and gargled Listerine. Upon returning home to my mother, her first words to me after a quick sniff were "have you been drinking?" Yeah. My mother was (and probably still is) psychic. It was enough to scare me off beer until high school.

Years later, I adore trying new brews but I often tend to favor the sexy ones and shun those that remind me of the worst joke I heard repeated at least ten times when I lived in Oxford. My second night in Oxford, an older British gentleman recited this joke: what's the difference between American beer and having sex in a canoe? They're both fucking close to water.

It was funny the first time I heard it.

Ian and I are big fans of the beer selection at the Moscow Food Co-Op, and we have been trying new beers every Sunday (yes, Sunday for those already objecting) for sometime now.

First up is Ommegang Abbey Ale. Ian and I both agreed it's pleasant and light enough for a dinner, but it's a bit too fruity for many palates. It would go well with a pork dish, Ian insisted, so I'm willing to try it again. Not sure I'd order this in a pub, but I liked the classic packaging.

Next up is Ale to the Chief! After one of the most extraordinary election seasons in the history of this country, this is my favorite. I'm not biased at all... Ian and I have been following the election faithfully and obsessively, and when my friends called from Grant Park on November 4th screaming messages of hope, joy and victory, I felt it was finally time to celebrate American (I don't do this much in my profession). I would recommend Ale to the Chief in a pub, but I can't say I would recommend drinking it with dinner. It's very heavy and very hoppy but completely worth the pucker face.

By the way, for all you Pullmanites, those glasses are in fact Pullman Lentil Festival pint glasses. Yes, for those of you not in Pullman, we "boast" a Lentil Festival. Not a joke, but I wish it was.

16 October 2008

Silence and redemption

Writing the PhD exams was not fun, but it's an excuse for my online silence. Pizzas, mac and cheese, and deli sandwiches are pretty much the only thing I've been able to muster over the past three weeks. In fact, I really haven't cooked, baked or arranged anything on a plate for three weeks. The pizza above was makeshift, and was made a few days before I began this shit-tastic process. The sausage, basil, cheese and tomato sauce were almost too much to handle, and at this point, I'm surprised I managed.

I've also delved into Pullman "cuisine," which is hilarious given my options. I try not to be a snob, but our fanciest restaurant serves Costco pot stickers, so it's really more a matter of learning to be tolerant of things that make you go hmmm.

And then there's our sushi. We clearly don't have the Seattle advantage, but our sushi house in town, Toyko Seoul, gets some excellent fresh fish and artfully presents it when I'm dying for something not from Costco. I have to say I've been fed best by the folks at Toyko Seoul.

I would blog more, but I'm not feeling very well, and after this whole process, I feel as if I might do something unappetizing. One of these days I'll recover from all of this. Baby steps.

30 September 2008

Book titles

I've been tagged. I must comply. This is the greatest meme. Ever. I'm going to go ahead and omit the Penguin History of Greece and D.H. Lawrence's short story selections since they aren't honest to goodness titles.

Here's my sentence based on books currently on my shelf.

"She remembered the time when studies of hysteria and the writing of the disaster brought her the audacity of hope, but lately the water music in her ears has dictated the terms when broken glass floats, and led her into one hundred years of solitude."

16 September 2008

Fall foraging

I'm really quite taken with the deer in my little valley. There are 7 this season, three more than last year at this time, and it seems to me that they look much healthier than last season as well. During July and August of 2007, the babies didn't venture away from mom for very long, perhaps only long enough for me to search frantically for the camera, but this year they have been much more trusting of my camera fumbles.

Last Saturday before making the long drive to Lewiston for work (I sometimes wonder why I have a million jobs at once...) I sat on my back porch sipping coffee and enjoying the company of the baby deer. Three of them foraged slowly and gracefully under the pear and apple trees behind my yard while I desperately attempted to capture their beauty on my Nikon. The above pics are my attempt at demonstrating the beauty of my valley. It's too bad I'm not very tech savvy...

I imagine these little foragers will be around for quite awhile. I've been throwing my veggie scraps back there for awhile now!

02 September 2008

One reason I will miss summer.....

.................heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil

26 August 2008

Pork chops with tomato and onion "stuff"

So I know I'm supposed to have sophisticated terms for cooking, and I know I should have "tags" for sides and main dishes I cook, but I just can't get used to calling anything "compote" or "salsa," knowing full well I mean "stuff that covers the meat" or some other configuration of that phrase. I also realize that my students now have access to this blog, meaning I must come up with other words for compote or salsa that do not involve "s" words....
Tonight was a great one, albeit one laden with computer flubs and strange flickers from the blue-screen-of death-beyond. In honor of the great first week of school I have had thus far, I made pork chops.
I know what you're thinking. Why pork chops as a celebration? Especially if you bought said pork chops at WinCo, where most meat is full of fat and very cheap. Well.....I have a fondness for pork chops. It's a comfort food, and I had a recipe burning under my cooking apron for many days.
In the above picture: pork chops and tomato-onion-basil "stuff," whole grain mustard glazed potatoes, and 'Romano' Italian broad green beans from the ever awesome Moscow Farmer's Market.
Pork Chops with Tomato-Onion "Stuff"
4 pork chops, preferably a little thicker than a deck of cards
2 tbl. olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
3 heirloom tomatoes, diced
4 tbl. fresh chopped basil
2 cloves garlic
1 tbl. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1. Season pork chops with salt and pepper (pork should be at room temperature). Heat 1 1/2 tbl. oil in a skillet and add onion; cook until tender and transfer to a plate. Add pork with remaining oil and cook until.....well, cooked. Remove and transfer to a plate.
2. Return onions to skillet. Add tomatoes, basil and garlic, cooking until tomatoes are tender. Add balsamic vinegar and stir through. Remove from heat. Add tomato-onion-basil mixture to pork chops.
Mustard Glazed Roasted Potatoes
4 red potatoes, diced
1 tbl. olive oil
2 tbl. whole grain mustard
Salt and Pepper
2 tbl. Italian parsley, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss potatoes with olive oil and whole grain mustard, and place in casserole dish, adding salt and pepper to desired proportions.
2. Bake potatoes for 30 minutes, or until tender. Note: I cover my potatoes for thirty minutes and then return them to the oven uncovered for about 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Remove from oven and add Italian parsley. Toss to coat.

21 August 2008

Technical Difficulties

Stupid computers. I've never been too computer savvy (I still call those little sticks that replaced the floppy disk "magic sticks" and I got a D--the only one I might add--in computers when I was in college) but our laptop has gone crazy with adware and spyware (is there a difference between the two??) so I'll be offline for a few more days until we can completely fix the problem. Once we do, I suppose it won't matter because I'm buying a new laptop in a few days!! Yay for new stuff!!

16 August 2008

Moscow Farmers Market or, why Moscow is way cooler than Pullman

There are a million reasons why I prefer Moscow to Pullman, the first of which is the eclectic mix of people in Moscow. While most of Idaho looks pretty much the same all over citizen-wise, Moscow is full of artsy folk and hippies that make the farmer's market a great place to people watch. This week square dancing, next week a live jazzy band. Just one street over are year-round produce stands, sustainable living stores, precious gem shops and fair trade coffeehouses. Just two blocks over is Moscow Co-Op, otherwise known as the only place I've found on the Palouse that sells Fage and other culinary treats. Right next to the square dancing people? One of the best French restaurants I have ever experienced (barring the places I've eaten at that were actually in France of course).

Pullman couldn't possibly compete with the awesomeness of Moscow, and so I find that I'm drawn to Moscow on weekends and during my free time. I'm not much of a hippie (unless hippies wear crimson lipstick, heels and pantyhose) but I feel more at ease there. If I could, I'd live in Moscow, but my state funded teaching assistantship prevents me from residing there....

One of the stands I love. They had some awesome tomatoes and I couldn't stop eyeing the beets despite the fact that I'm not much of a beet fan.

Only $18 dollars later I stocked up for a week of fantastic feasting. Clockwise from the red tomatoes are corno di toro peppers, 'Romano' Italian broad green beans, yellow tomatoes and blue potatoes. More loot/porn below.

One of my favorite breads, the Miche at Artisan Panhandle Bread (no website that I could find) is awesome and makes an artful presentation. Good thing I stocked up on olive oil!

Beautiful and aromatic Thai lemon basil and green peppers

15 August 2008

Link it

Check out this hilarious post on Grocery Guy's blog. I laughed out loud for about five minutes after reading this, perhaps because I am one of those annoying liberal arts people he speaks of, and perhaps because I thought the exact same thing the first time (and every time thereafter) I attended a social event in Pullman and saw the "diverse" community here.

14 August 2008

Clean out the fridge quiche

I didn't get a chance to blog this before our vacation, but I ran into somewhat of a time crunch once I realized I had no idea where I had packed away our luggage. With almost every major airline charging for the first checked bag, I had to make sure I could find the perfect carry-on suitcase out of the sea of broken-zippered, ripped fabric contraptions I have somehow never thrown out.

I also was faced with the perennial conundrum: how to eat everything in my fridge so as not to have to throw it all away. In the past, I've come home to curdled cream, moldy bread and all kinds of disgusting, and quiche seemed like the perfect way to use up all those eggs.

Since it's a hodgepodge of ingredients thrown together all at once, I don't really have a recipe (unless of course, you find yourself in the situation where you have precisely the same quantities of food in your fridge as I did at that moment). I did, however, blanch the veggies before including them in the pies and I used a mixture of eggs (only four in two pies!!) and fat free half-n-half (usually reserved for my morning coffee) as the basis for the meal.

In the process of this pre-vacation fridge ritual, I was quite pleased with my waste-not-want-not skills over the last few months. It only took one meal to clean out the perishables, and the only items left were those that withstand the test of time (butter or Romano cheese anyone?) I come from hearty eating stock in the Midwest, and when I saw my mother's fridge it reminded me how much I used to waste. Two open bottles of olive tapenade, really old leftovers, a variety of cheeses that weren't consumed at a steady rate the whole time I was there, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables that had seen better days...I knew I got this hoarding behavior somewhere. When I stocked the entire kitchen to the brim, I was always confounded by a sense of anxiety once dinner rolled around. What to eat??!! Just as looming a question as how to eat the entire contents of one's fridge, I would inevitably pick a few ingredients and then proceed to eat an unsatisfying meal.

But ahoy! I have reformed my anxious ways and learned to plan my meals on Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee, curled up on the couch with my dogs and cat. I've come to cherish those quiet mornings and to really relish the effectiveness of planning. Only once in a great while do I find myself in need of a grocery run midweek, and it's really saving me some much needed grad student dough. Driving to Moscow (7 miles) once a week pays. As a point of reference, I bought lettuce in Moscow for 49 cents while it was 79 cents in Pullman. Imagine the price gap between more substantial purchases and you've got a lot of money that I can put toward paying off my damn car (sigh.).

Thrifty shopping aside, I tip my hat to the criminal genius who convinced me to sign my auto loan when I was in college. Damn car.

11 August 2008

One long Chicago hiatus....

I've been on a kind of hiatus from blogging. It's just as well since I've been gathering "research" for further food blogging. I don't think I have ever been so happy to be home in my entire life. After deboarding the plane from Minneapolis to Midway, I started galloping around the airport like a toddler, and then promptly forced husband to eat anything and everything unhealthy and tasty we could possibly consume. So what did we eat? My old standbys, or foods that I can't possibly find on the boring west coast. Harold's Chicken Shack? Check. Capri Restaurant where even the mob give their blessing? Absolutely. Bucho's Mexican, where the Lalo's name still rules? Consumed. Portillo's, home of the world famous dipped Italian beef? Hell yes. And the list goes on.....

On the plane to Chicago, I prayed for a good thunderstorm, and I have to admit I was a bit blown away by the tornado/microburst that we were caught in during the Cubs game. I'll post about the craziness later. Suffice to say my thunderstorm craving has been met.

Now that I'm back in Pullman, I am suddenly consumed by an overwhelming sadness. I have never been so homesick in my life. Above are a few pictures that remind me....I don't have to live here in the middle of nowhere forever. I always have a home.

29 July 2008

Cuddling and gardening...but no inventive cooking

So despite the fact that I want to cook, I have time to cook (well, kind of...ok, not really) and cooking in summer is generally more enjoyable because of the garden bounty, I don't have any interesting dishes to report. Instead of thinking up elaborate recipes or even baking standard pies....I've been cuddling. My dogs, Zander and Zelda, are serious about cuddling, and given my newlywed status so is the husband. Rather than fight the urge to cook I have given in to the comfy cuddle. It's been a wonderful week. As is evident from the above picture, Zander the giant golden retriever is about four times the size of moi, and his cuddles are not only serious but seriously debilitating. If you don't feel like hugging him, his 120-pound frame will sit on you. She may be smaller, but the same goes for Zelda--she will lick you into submission. Ah, the joys of being a pet parent.

Gardening has been easy. Even the baby hens and chicks that I just planted a month ago (above) have created fruitful offspring. While my tickseed decided it was time to pack it in, pretty much every sedum crop in my yard has bloomed. It's funny how while it's time to say goodbye to some plants, it's time to feel excited for those who have just come out for summer bloom. It's a sad thing to watch a plant bloom and wilt, and another to watch them emerge for their short albeit beautiful lifespan. The tomatoes are growing at a crazy rate and maturing every day. Basil is thriving now that I've moved it to an earwig-free zone in the greenhouse. I have a feeling homemade spaghetti sauce will be a beneficial breeze this year....

The yucca bloom (above) has refused to die. According to my sources, this plant was supposed to cease blooming about two weeks ago, but just the right amount of sunlight and organic fertilizer has saved its life from...well...death.

The other reason no inventive dishes have found their way through my kitchen walls? Kitty introductions. Johnny Cash the Cat in Black is a new addition to our family, and Ian and I have been working hard to ensure that the pitty-boo doesn't eat the kitty-boo. Unfortunately terriers are predisposed to lunging toward and biting prey, so twenty to thirty minute "visits" in the living room are all we can offer to poor Johnny. I don't think he minds however--I read in the extra bedroom (also known as his kingdom) for hours each day and he is a pretty solitary cat anyhow. Worrying about his successful inclusion in our family has taken a tremendous toll on me, but I think the picture above demonstrates the progress we've made with introducing and ensuring his safety.

It's too bad that right after this picture was taken Zelda lunged at and was beaten up by poor Johnny. It's also too bad that Johnny feels at ease around Zander enough to trust him....he doesn't seem to want to protect the kitty against pitty-boo vengeance. The resilience of our cat amazes me, while the stubborness of my dog saddens me. Good thing Johnny Cash is tough....