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Category: food (page 1 of 4)

Pumpkin Muthahfuckin’ SPICE

Yeah, it’s White People Month when this stuff comes back to Starbucks, you know it, there’s 800 variations of memes and pictures and squeals of happy happy happy on Facebook once the Heralded Return Of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, like the swallows of Capistrano, baby. Now, I appreciate my over-priced, delicious beverages as much as the above-average-income JoCo soccer mom, but it’s got to be “right” to fully enjoy it. And daytime highs of upper 70’s/mid-80’s ain’t it. For me, Pumpkin Flavored-Everything Season starts when I feel a chill letting the dogs out in the morning, and I see my first red blaze of autumn leaves. Our weather has been unseasonable since summer began – a milder, cooler version of last year, so much so that I really worked hard not to bitch when we got some hot weather, because days on end of 100’+ weather was torturous. Now we’re warming up and cooling down and warming back up so the tomatoes keep on putting out fruit and it’s almost October.

Sometimes I think about how lovely it would be to live in certain climates, where it never freezes or blisters hot, where it’s sweatshirt-and-shorts weather most of the time, and I think that while I’d enjoy it, I wouldn’t love it the way I love a true Fall. Fall is my favorite season of all, despite it’s symbolism of death and decay and ripe life coming to an end, (boy I can really put a damper on shit, eh?) But I LOVE IT. It fuels me and buoys up my mood. The smell of leaves on the ground, moistened by a fall thunderstorm, turning into compost that will re-energize the ground next year. Puffs of smoke from chimneys, the smell of wood in the air, it alerts the senses. Sounds around us change, the wind sweeps through branches and bring a shuffling of paper, the natural evolution from the velvety sounds of green leaves rustling in a summer’s breeze. As the humidity leaves, sounds become sharper, unmuffled by the damp air and heat that keeps windows shut and doors pushed tightly closed. Fall ushers in a return to cooking; soups and stews and warm dishes that take on the new flavors of squashes and root vegetables, complemented by the harvests of summer, transformed into jarred and frozen bags of produce that bring the brightness of summer’s hot sun to bursting flavor in chili, peppers and tomatoes taking on new forms. And it brings with a renewed desire to knit, to work with wool, to create and draw the calm from the meditative repetition of needles and yarn moving in unison.

So, Pumpkin Season, I realize you’ve “Arrived”, and I still love you, but you’re going to have to wait until it’s truly time.

Prepperville: Population ME

Not that kind of prepper, by the way; I don’t believe the US is going to descend into madness and all the utilities will be shut off while we have a new zombie-esque revolution. I’m talking about meal prepping for the week, and holy hell, it does take a chunk of work & here’s hoping it pays off!

Between yesterday & today, I’ve made a double batch of meat sauce (using frozen home-grown tomatoes and home-canned tomato sauce), chopped vegetables and ham for split pea soup (Crock Pot Monday!), assembled lasagna (tonight’s dinner), made 2 batches of pate fermente for sourdough French bread, two loaves to be baked tonight, one batch of pate fermente into the fridge to have with spaghetti later in the week; taco meat made/seasoned/stored, fresh spinach picked for the lasagna and the hot & sour soup with pork dumplings we had for lunch today, made a baked strawberry-cream cheese French toast for breakfast, and a cream o’ goodness chicken dish we served over spaghetti squash last night. I’ve run the dishwasher like a maniac and I prefer to clean as I go, so the kitchen isn’t too bad, just the mixer bowl to hand-wash and unload the dishwasher yet again.

Whew! I also prepped for the work week ahead, typing up all my notes on an evaluation for one project, and all my summaries for a presentation tomorrow afternoon.

Now, to wait for the cake to finish and to bake the bread. Oh, yeah. There will be cake. Followed by collapse. Prepping is serious bidness! I can’t imagine how much work it would take to prep for the apocalypse!

Shopping…Like Childbirth?

Because apparently if you don’t go out during the crazy for a few years, the mind blurs and the memories fade and you think, “It can’t be that bad!” I hear this phenomena applies to childbirth, so why not post-Thanksgiving shopping?

I didn’t go out on Black Friday. Or Black Thursday. I mean, sure, I’d love a set of $35 king-size, 600-threadcount sheets, but if that’s the only thing that appeals to me, I don’t see getting trampled, shoved or waiting for an hour worth the savings. I did, however, venture out on Saturday, primarily to go to The Olive Tree, to celebrate Small Business Saturday, and then… because it’s been months and months and months…. Joann’s.  My BFF Beth even screeched at me on the phone when I said I was headed there. “Don’t you remember your blog post?! That’s crazy!” Yes, I remembered it… vaguely. But I needed a few crafty things, and Joann’s was the destination, what with three coupons, one for 25% off my entire purchase. WHY NOT?! WHAT COULD GO WRONG?!

Well, I’m surprised I made it into the store, because the fun started in the parking lot. If a car has stopped, with its turn signal on, and is waiting for the oncoming car to pass so they can turn? Should the oncoming car just pull right in, turning in front of them? NOT IN MY WORLD, MOTHERFUCKERS.  So that set the tone.

Once I got in, I knew that there would be no fabric purchasing. Not that I’d planned on it, but fabric purchasing at Joann’s is certainly one of the inner rings of hell. They’ve rearranged to make a central place (outsmarting my old trick of “go to the home dec fabric department!”) but everyone stands around with their tickets and their 8 million fucking bolts of polar fleece, and the clerks announce the numbers…repeatedly, because some people just wander off because the universe, apparently, revolves around them. So no fabric. I needed some ribbon, thread, crafty things, beads, and a glue gun. I impulse-purchased some silicone molds because they’ll be useful for jello shots AND my upcoming cookie exchange, and found myself wandering the bead section for most of my time there. I almost (ALMOST) cut a bitch who thought she’d hang out in the notions aisle (by the thread) (and by the fabric cutting area, already jammed) and TEXT MESSAGE.  BITCH YOU IS IN THE WAY! She was also one of the passengers in the aforementioned car, so residual rage was at work. I ended up helping a lady in jewelry supplies, because she didn’t realize there was more than one aisle (good luck to her and her journey in life), and then I got in line. Fortunately, they were heavily-staffed, and the line moved quickly, so I got out of there with only a fraction of the surly I expected to have by the time I’d paid.

As for The Olive Tree, I would encourage anyone with a foodie in their life to give them a visit – they’re in Hawthorne Plaza (parking there is always entertaining, I got a great spot but when I was leaving, some old man almost took out my back end because even though I was halfway backed out, by god, he had to GIT SOMEWHERE NAO). They’ve got amazing flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars  (I got Rosemary-Lavender Olive Oil and Honey Ginger Balsamic Vinegar), smoked & flavored salts, lots of other local food purveyors sell their goods (I nabbed a bag of some of THE best toffee I’ve ever had), and they even do bonuses, like if you spend $50, you get to pick from a basket of small-size oils/vinegars to sample. (Persian Lime olive oil!)  We know the owners of the store through the ever-burgeoning foodie/gardener scene here in Kansas City, and they do great corporate gifts, gift boxes for the chef in your life, and are a font of knowledge on using all of their products. I can also safely say that I’ve NEVER wanted to cut a bitch while shopping there, which is like, the greatest ringing endorsement I can give during this crazy holiday season! (Seriously, though, they’re awesome. They need to stick around and be here 10 years from now. Go! Online order if you’re not local!)

 

Reclaiming One’s Youthful Spirit

Yeah, that’s what it’s called. We went out to The Brick last night, had a blast – caught the tail end of Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, saw our friends Hillary & Tommy perform in their band, “The Hillary Watts Riot”, and then our friend Camry was in the last band, “The Sexy Accident”.  Since the first band was slated to start at 9:30, I knew we had plenty of time to get there, so we went out to dinner at The Beacon on the way there. It’s weird to go out to dinner at 9 pm in the Midwest, and while I’d been pining for Chai Shai, their kitchen closes at 9. In any event, we had a great meal, headed down to the Brick, saw people, were seen, made new friends, had a great time just listening to music, sipping a beverage, people-watching. I also did an amazeballs job of parallel parking, if we’re recounting ALL the wins of the evening.

At one point, I leaned over to James and said, “OK, wearing a kilt is cool. Very cool.”

pause.

“But if you’re also drinking PBR when you’re wearing one, does it make you a hipster?”

He laughed, and while he couldn’t say if that particular formula was a hipster recipe, he did observe there were a number of hipsters around us. (In the wild! I felt like Jane Goodall.) I said, “Am I a hipster?” and he laughed even harder.

“No.”

“Why not? It’s because I’m fat, isn’t it. You can’t be fat and be a hipster, can you.”

Maybe part of being a hipster is caring a little too much about how you… present oneself, all the way down to what you drink and the brand of shoes? I dunno.  I did feel like I really needed about 3 large tattoos to “blend in”, that’s for sure. And the dogs were completely perplexed by our atypical hours – what is this, 2:30 a.m. and you’re just going to bed?

Well, they sure didn’t hold back at 6 am, 7 am, and finally I gave up around 8 am and hauled my un-hipster ass out of bed to let them out, make coffee & head to the garden to collect a basket of veggies to whip into a mega-breakfast scramble. Now, I bet on the cooking front, I can outpace any damned hipster there is. I sauteed home-grown garlic, onions, kale, peppers, tomatoes & tossed in some potato, eggs, spicy beef sausages & cheese for a smashingly flavorful, vitamin-packed breakfast.

Oh, and I had to take a two-hour nap before we could even go out. Definitely not a hipster.

Tomatoes in the News!

Our good friends, Todd & Julie, have photographed everything tomato-related, including plants, the finished product, James’ hands separating seedlings…. and this past Sunday, those photos were a major feature in the House + Home section of Sunday’s Kansas City Star! Along with an awesome interview with my husband, who doles out all the growing advice you can get regularly over on his blog.  Since the pictures aren’t online, I snapped the two full-pages with my phone:

 

As much as I detest sweating, I’m ready for some fresh, tangy, delicious, home-grown tomatoes!

Church of Stove

I got up this morning & hit the ground running!

James got a Weber smoker a week or so ago, and we had a turkey in the deep freeze, so we arranged to have our gardening friends Julie & Todd over to have a late afternoon meal. The turkey will be smoked, along with a large pan of homemade baked beans, and greens are simmering on the stove. Grandparents are also rumored to be showing up as well, so it will be a full table!

The beans are my first attempt – and a salesperson I was dining with on Friday sent me her recipe, as she also loves to cook & these beans are requested over and over again from her friends and family. I modified it a little bit (of course) by adding in some frozen Serrano peppers, and omitted the bacon because we had about half a pound of smoked pork butt that I chopped and added to the mixture. I doubled the recipe (of course) so hopefully these freeze well! Three kinds of beans – pork & beans, red kidney beans, and butter beans, plus ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar & mustard.  Here’s a shot of what didn’t fit in the pan:

Moving on from there (as I was cutting up onion after onion!) I sliced up some hot Italian sausage, and got that cooking with an onion. Added chicken broth, a huge bag of fresh spinach, and about five potatoes, cut into chunks. That’s simmering on the stove, and will get a last-minute addition of some half-and-half before serving. That’s going to be “early brunch”. Homegrown spinach is so fantastic!

On to the last onion… James went out in the rain and picked a giant tub trug of Siamese Dragon greens… basically a huge mixture of all sorts of greens, including bok choy, mustard/turnip greens, some crazy escarole-like fronds, and I started sauteing the onions and browning the delicious-looking smoked ham shank. I added a pitcher of water, a few cubes of vegetable bouillon, and got to work cleaning and stripping the greens from the tougher stems. Once a sink basin was full, in to the pot they went, and the process began again. Eventually, the huge bucket of greens compressed into a stockpot, where they will simmer all day – to be dressed at the table with some Serrano vinegar!

The house is redolent with savory smells… rain is falling outside, and it’s time for another cup of coffee. Enjoy your Sunday, no matter how you spend it!

 

An Open Letter to Andrew and Dan:

In the recent issue of “Kitchen Notes” in Cook’s Illustrated, you told us all how AWESOME it is to cook bacon this innovative way: put bacon in pan, cover bacon with water, turn on the heat and let it go! According these dudes, the water keeps the bacon meat from shrinking, and then as the water dissipates, you just let it sizzle and crisp up and ZOMG you have bacon like you used to have in your Easy Bake Kitchen Suite, only your real-life bacon is made of meat and not rubber! OMG! This is so not how it fucking works! Let me save you from this experiment! Right after I go choke these foodie dudes to death with a set of circular knitting needles.

Because what happens is that the meat bubbles along in the water, and it looks nasty-ass and foamy, but you think, ok, you’re essentially par-boiling meat, it’s going to do that, it’s MAGIC, remember, and then? The water cooks off and you don’t just float into nice-and-crispy with a Zoey Deschanel ‘I’m-so-twee’ skipping move, no, my friends, you now see the fat start to render and cook off the bacon. Which is what bacon does in a frying pan. But what did we have in the pan already? Yes? Are we following? WE HAD WATER. Have you ever accidentally gotten something with too much moisture into hot oil before, have you? Do you know what happens?

BURNING HOT FAT EXPLOSIONS is what happens, that’s what. Good thing I didn’t do any tours of duty or it would have been ALLLLLLL torn up in there, what with the spattering cracks of pain and PTSD and the flashbacks and the napalm and the screams.

And, because your meat has absorbed water at varying levels, you will now balance hot burning fat explosions with the fact that parts of your bacon are charring while other parts are looking like parboiled rubbery white fat. So you try to hold the over-cooked parts out of the pan with your tongs, while the blubber tries to catch up, and you dodge esplodyness of epic proportions.

NOT FUN. Bacon, we used to be good friends. I know it’s not your fault. It’s the endless pursuit of foodiness and trying new things, but I’m never going to do it again and Andrew and Dan better never pop out into a back alley to get a quick smoke, because I’m going to be waiting. And maybe not with knitting needles. With a pan of hot bacon fat. We’ll all have matching arm scars!

Spiceh…..

James grew kale this year, for the first time – it’s lovely, sturdy, frilly, and I’d heard about all these kale chips, so I thought, hey, why not? Give it a whirl.
They’re terribly easy – you just tear out the thick stem, toss with a little olive oil & sea salt & throw in the oven at 350’F for 15 minutes. One recipe mentioned using some pepper flakes, so I grabbed the tub of smoked Thai chili peppers my MIL had brought us, sprinkled some over the fresh greens, and let the oven do the rest.

Should have washed my hands more thoroughly, it turns out – my bagel had a distinct afterburn, not something one normally gets from an Asiago cheese bagel, and that heat, combined with the fact my nose and corner of my mouth were EN FUEGO from an innocent face rub with the spiced-up hand, made me realize these weren’t ordinary chili pepper flakes.

Sensation confirmed after the chips came out of the oven. Delicious, though! And we’ll certainly be having more of them. I’m intrigued by the idea of crushing them and sprinkling on popcorn, too – with a little parmesan cheese. It looks like it can be prepared just like spinach, as well, which is good, since the spinach has run its course. My friend Jane puts kale in her smoothies all the time, thought she does have the mixer that makes things “disappear” – I’m a little skeptical about my two-speed Hamilton Beach retro-style blender doing more than macerating the leaves or chunking them up. We’ll see. For now, it’s just nommy salty-spicy goodness, with loads o’ vitamins!

 

Spinach Saturday!!!

Last Fall, James put in a bed of spinach – he watered it like crazy during the blasting heat, and then covered it up with agribond fabric (lets light & moisture through, but still protects from the elements – even a “real” winter, which we didn’t even have!) As the unseasonable weather allowed, he started peeking at it a couple months ago, and the beautiful dark-green leaves were dotting the bed. Then it just exploded! We cooked a few dishes with it last week – a  trumpet pasta with sausage, onions and cream sauce, an omelet stuffed with sauteed spinach & asparagus, and quiche this morning. Then he picked about 2/3 of the bed so we could put it up and have it later this summer:

Then I took over, and began blanching & ice-bathing all the greens. They really do cook down, so it seemed rather comical to have them go from MASSIVE SIZE ZOMG to five Foodsaver bags! But the bags are solid, heavy packets of good-for-you goodness, and will surely be a tasty alternative to store-bought.

Upcoming recipes are going to include a spinach pesto, some homemade pasta noodles (we’ve made them once before – lots of work, but worth it!) and I’m going to try frying up sliced garlic until it has a crunch, like I do for my pho topping, and then cooking a bunch of spinach with a dash of sesame oil & some chili garlic paste.  Popeye’s got nothin’ on us this Spring!  Here’s a shot of the quiche, shortly before it was devoured:

Mind over Maki

I get emails from The Pitch, and a few weeks ago, one contained an invitation to a “Sushi Slam” at Edokku out in Lenexa. The food challenge was to consume 10 sushi rolls (your choice) in an hour, 80 pieces. I immediately sent it on to my husband and brother-in-law, and J-Wo replied within minutes that he’d signed up.

I thought, “Why not? After all, if you don’t finish, you get to take it home, and they charge you, sure, but $31 for massive amounts of sushi is still a great deal!”

So I signed up, too.

And Sunday afternoon, off we went. We were in the second group (joined by Fox4 movie critic Shawn Edwards, who kept saying he was going to eat 80 rolls, which would have been nigh-impossible, but nobody corrected him.)  We were early, and we watched from a distance as they counted down the time, and then as people exited with their plastic plates of sushi, covered in saran wrap. “That’s gonna be you,” egged my husband.  Stubborn as always, I told him where he could shove it.

Then we were seated. A guy across from James looked at me and said, “You gonna do this?” and I said, “Yes. It’s mental.” He completely agreed. He kept talking, and I wondered about what might be going on, as he had major bags under his eyes and kept saying the same things over and over. (turns out, we later discovered, he’d smoked a big ol’ joint to get his appetite going.) His plate of sushi arrived, and I looked at it somewhat askance, as the whole plate was full of one type of sushi, and each piece contained fried shrimp. “Dude, that’s a lot of fried food. You gonna eat the tail?” “Hell no, I ain’t eatin’ the tails,” he retorted. Ooook. Good luck there, Cheech.

We were also instructed by the referee that if we chose to dip our sushi rolls into the saucer of soy, any remaining rice in that dish would need to be eaten. I immediately opted not to use my dish.

James’ plate arrived first:

Mine arrived last, so I didn’t get a picture of it. I had errantly ordered one roll that was gigantic and tempura-battered. Fuck. It was utterly delicious, rich, and warm, filled with eel and cream cheese and hell if I can remember what else. I had wisely gotten smaller rolls of simple maki – tuna, eel, etc. The timing began and we were off.
You get two plates – and while I thought it would go quickly, it didn’t. I judiciously took tiny sips of water to keep things lubricated, and tried to enjoy the process as much as possible. About 2/3 of the way through my plate, my husband has already finished his first, and is on to the second. He proceeds to win the entire group’s challenge by finishing in just over 9 minutes. Two plates of sushi. The ref was talking to him like he was trying to make a pass at him, all sorts of praise and complements, it was cracking me up. Apparently he was downing the smaller rolls two pieces at a time. He won a gift bag and a t-shirt, and then sat there and tried to encourage me.

Plate 2 arrived. The previous fried roll was here again, and it taunted me with it’s excesses of warm gooey textures. I plowed back in, grateful I’d eaten very little all day, and then it came down to the big fried roll, and a smaller roll. About 13 pieces. I almost stopped. I thought, it’s ok. $31 is fine. I was starting to get sweaty, and I thought of all those “Man vs. Food” episodes where I’d never fully comprehended just how fucking hard this sort of thing was. A few more pieces and then it happened. One of those horrible moments where your brain is fighting with your body. A sip of water. Rest. There was still half an hour, but as my husband reminded me, rice expands in your stomach, so the longer I waited, the harder it would get. He then hit on the magic solution that saved me: eat some pickled ginger. The crunchy bite cleared my palate, restored a little clarity, and with three pieces staring at me, I told myself paying $10 for each of those pieces was just plain silly at this point. And I polished them off, each with a piece of ginger on top.

For those of you reading this in horror, I completely get it. I was/am pretty horrified myself. I won’t repeat the event, or anything like it, ever again. There were some interesting social aspects to it, too. I’m a fat chick. Big fat chick. Dare I even say, good-looking, funny-as-hell, in-your-face fat chick, sure. And once people are around me and see and know more than the fatness, they tend to enjoy my company and see me less as just a fat person and more for all my parts. But society is just not so much on the fat chicks, and strangers are rude, and kids stare and say shit, and a grandma with dementia once announced to everyone in Price Chopper that That Girl Is Really Big! No matter the bravado and teflon coating, I’m well-aware of the hatahs.  So, there was part of me that felt a little like I was somehow fulfilling society’s stereotype of the fat person, and in participating, somehow adding to the stigma and therefore signing a blank check to insults and stereotypes.  And frankly, as someone who’s had a jillion issues with food and weight over the years, let me tell you how weird it is to have people shake your hand and high-five you…. FOR EATING. That in of itself spoke volumes to me about the messages I have gotten over the years – and the ones I give myself – about food. Nobody has ever said, “Wow, great job! You cleaned your plate!” LOL!

All-in-all, it was an experience. I learned that one really can eat so much food you reach the point of physical discomfort and you think you might involuntarily puke all over some stoned-out dude who also apparently hates fake crab meat.  (Oh, you THINK you’ve been there, after Thanksgiving dinner, but friend, unless you’ve done something like this in a timed event, it just isn’t the same. I thought that, too, and this proved me wrong 10x over.)   It also was interesting to see just how much you can use your mind to overcome pain, circumstances and focus on a goal, which is rather heartening when you think about applying it in the reverse direction.

And yes, I still love sushi…. in moderation.

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