Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eggs and other Adventures.

We have less than 2 weeks to go until the wedding, but instead of freaking out or feeling exhausted, I am suddenly in the mood to try lots of new recipes. Maybe it's the fact that fall is coming, maybe it's that Nico is treating his sleep apnea and his happier, more-awake attitude is catching. Maybe it's the zoloft, or the fact that I read Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential recently and it's inspired me. Maybe it's that now I'm reading Amster-Burton's Hungry Monkey, or maybe it's just an avoidance tactic for dealing with the real stress of the wedding. I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it sure tastes good.

This morning I sous vide'd a couple eggs for breakfast. Basically it's poached eggs, but instead of dropping the egg directly into the water you make a little package of it inside some buttered and seasoned plastic wrap. It works! The poached egg comes out perfectly. There's a great tutorial on . But be sure you're using the microwave-safe plastic wrap. Don't ask me how I know.

And it turns out I love poached eggs. I've never had them before. I've never had any eggs where the yolk isn't thoroughly cooked. Uncooked yolk has always seemed kind of queasy to me; I even order my omelets well-done. So I'm very surprised that the runny yolk in a poached egg is, in fact, not bad. It's even, dare I say, good - mopped up with some buttered toast. Next stop: eggs over-easy.

On Friday I made boeuf bourguignon. Boeuf bourguignon! But I didn't make Julia Child's version, which is for the advanced class. Instead I made the easier, simpler but still Frenchy-French version that the NY Times covered here. I see that now the actual recipe calls for you to log in/register with the NY Times. If you want me to email you the recipe, I could do that. It's a good recipe. It takes a long time but it isn't overly fussy. When it calls for the stew to simmer for a couple of hours I transferred it into the crockpot, which was preheated on high. It simmered nicely and I was able to leave it alone and go do other things without worrying. And the stew itself was amazing. I've never had boeuf bourguignon before but with the first bite I immediately recognized it as the beef stew that I've been trying to make for years without ever quite succeeding. Fan-freaking-tastic.

I mentioned that I've been reading Amster-Burton's book Hungry Monkey. It's a sort of food memoir (with some recipes) about a man trying to feed his little daughter things that he and his wife might actually enjoy. I checked it out from the library based on the NY Times book review, and because I thought it might give me some ideas for things that aren't too hard to make and that Nico and I could both agree on. Nico's tastes are certainly more sophisticated than those of a toddler, but when it comes to spicy foods and vegetables he is definitely the picky one in the relationship. The book is a nice light read and the two recipes I've tried so far have been utterly successful. The Thai Shrimp Curry (p. 228) is infinitely repeatable and works even better with some chopped potatoes or squash and some frozen broccoli and cauliflower thrown in. I can tell it's going to become one of our winter-time staples. The Stacked Green Enchiladas (p. 55) were a novelty what with the stacking and broiling, and the tomatillo sauce was surprisingly excellent. In fact it makes me want to try growing tomatillos next year, since the quality available at the local supermarket leaves something to be desired. I'm also looking forward to trying out the recipes for pad thai sauce, duck ragu, larb gai, roasted parsnips, broiled teriyaki mackerel, thai salad dressing, Cornish pasties and potstickers. Whew!

Even Nico's been stretching his cooking muscles by making Irish sausage rolls with a mushroom sauce. This was also his first exposure to working with puff pastry dough and store-bought bread crumbs. It turned out pretty good, and he's going to do a repeat of it tomorrow. No complaints here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ready, Steady, Go

What a summer it's been. There is now less than a month until Nico and I get married, and I've spent a lot of this summer getting ready. We're pretty close to being done, it's mostly the small things and the things that have to wait until the last minute that we have still to do. Though make no mistake, those last-minute things are a big deal. Things like making all the cupcakes and making corsages and bouts. But we'll have family and friends here to help then, and I know we can get it all done.

We got our engagement pics back from the photographer this weekend. We had them taken two or three weeks ago at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library. A librarian getting her engagement photos done at the library, don't you love it? Yeah, well, this particular library has some great architecture and it's hard to turn down an excuse to go to Seattle. Here are some of my favorites:

Whew. I can't choose just one. Does that mean I'm vain?

But it hasn't been all wedding, all the time. I've been able to get some useful things done. My garden, for instance. It's done OK, not fantastic, but alright. I've gotten enough roma tomatoes to make a smallish batch of marinara, augmented with some basil I grew from seed. I'm going to freeze the marinara and save it for a pick-me-up on a bad day. I've also put some of my tomatoes and Anaheim chiles into a batch of my roasted salsa roja, which I canned in little half-pint jars. And I made three different batches of jam with berries from Spooner Farm stands. Also canned those. I like canning. In small batches, anyway. People say that if you've got your own preserves it's like having money in the bank. I disagree. I think it's like having sunshine in the bank. That along with the marinara sauce and a couple bags of chopped up rhubarb from a coworker's garden in the freezer and I feel almost ready for winter.

Which is good, because winter is coming. Oh yes. I like to say that in this part of the country fall starts on Sept. 1st. And it does. Sept. 1st this year saw us with rain and gray skies after a long stretch of sun. Now the trees are just starting to turn color. There are a couple of early maples here and there that are already almost completely yellow, but the others aren't too far behind. The first seasonal squash is also beginning to show up at the grocery.

And finally, Nico and I had a chance to get outside and play a little when Olympia had its first-ever Zombie Walk. We talked about using this as our engagement photo, but decided against it in the end.

Friday, August 28, 2009

At last the hellish experience of dress-fitting is over.

I just got back from my second/final dress fitting at, where else, David's Bridal. Whew. You know, going to try on the dresses was actually fun. My sisters were both in town, we got a great saleslady, and the dress seemed perfect.

That was last November. The dress has been hanging in my closet since January, and last month I went in for my first dress fitting. Alone. I had no idea what to expect but I probably should have based on the many people who've had bad experiences with DB. You see, I've gained weight since last Nov (Thanks, Genetics! Thanks, Sedentary Job, 2-hour Commute and Depression!) and, since I was alone, I needed help getting the corset-bra latched in the back. God forbid. My alterations lady was not happy she had to help me, and at one point she even muttered the phrase, "My God!" I admitted to her that I'd gained weight, although not so much that I couldn't make it into the dress or anything.

Now, I'm kind of an awkward girl. I'm introverted and I generally don't have very much to say to strangers. I'm bad at small-talk. But I also fear awkward silences with people in service positions. Maybe that's because I'm usually the one in a service position. So what do I do? I throw out all the fat acceptance rhetoric I've learned in the last year and a half and I make a fat joke. About myself. Because for some reason I think it's important for the alterations lady, who I've never seen before in my life, to like me. I wanted her to be comfortable even though I sure as hell wasn't. Never mind that this is her freaking job and I am a paying customer, never mind that she probably sees 50 brides a week and I mean nothing to her. Nope, I'll do anything for a laugh, even one at my own expense.

And she did laugh, a little. But the rest of the fitting was spent in uncomfortable silence and halting shop-talk. She told me she could let the dress out 2 inches since I'd gained that weight, and I chose a style of bustle. Not much else to say, I guess.

Fast forward to about an hour ago, when I went in for my second scheduled fitting. This time I was smart enough to have Nico strap me into the bra before I even left the house and it's a good thing I did because the alterations person this time around was a guy. And have you noticed that the women who work at David's Bridal wear, well, whatever, but if a man is working there he's always in a tux? Even the alterations guy? Seems a little incongruous to me.

So I dive back into the dress, stand on the little podium, get a quick tutorial in bustling then shimmy back into my street clothes all wrapped in a nice warm blanket of Awkward. At least this guy didn't comment about my weight, and neither did I. Although I did adroitly complement his well-executed bustle by telling him I didn't think I would end up stepping on it. He didn't laugh.

But now it's over. I think I deserve a glass of wine, and if I weren't so tired I'd probably have one.

Also today Nico and I had our engagement shoot at the down town branch of the Seattle library! Our photographer, Amanda, is totally awesome! She's so sweet and has so much energy. I can't wait to see how the photos turn out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Woodland Creatures

I think this is the darling that started helping itself to my garden recently. As my friend Jenny says, it's a good thing they're cute.

I've been spraying deer repellent to keep them from devastating my plants like they did last year. But poor thing, it looks so skinny. I kind of feel sorry for it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day Trip to Astoria

On Memorial Day we headed down to Astoria, OR to meet up with a couple friends, fellow Tucson-transplants Andy and Chiara. Nico was excited to make the pilgrimmage to the town where much of The Goonies was filmed. I was just happy to cross another thing off the to-see list and hang out in the sun with friends.

The first thing we did was head on over to Fort George Brewery for lunch and a couple beer samplers. We got to try each of the beers on tap and were most impressed by the Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale, the Nut Red Ale, and a seasonal brew, the Illuminator Doppelbock. Tasty beers, nice atmosphere, less tasty fish tacos. But I'd eat there again in a heartbeat.

Next we went up to the roof of the Hotel Elliott for one of the best views of the city. The Hotel Elliott is a renovated 1920's hotel and they keep their rooftop open to the public. Made me wish we'd driven to town the day before so we could've spent the night there. Here are some views:

After that we wandered around downtown for a while before walking over to the Captain George Flavel House Museum (with a quick stop in front of the Goonies-featured County Jail so Nico could take some pictures). The Flavel House was built in 1885 for one of the richest and most-respected families in coastal OR at the time. The grounds have been renovated and most of the house has been renovated as well. We took the tour and then relaxed for a while on a stone bench beneath one of the large old trees.

Then we drove out to one of the beaches closer to the mouth of the Columbia before heading over that rediculously long bridge to the WA side of the river, then on into Longview for some surprisingly good Thai food.

And no matter what you may hear, I really didn't get that sunburnt.

Mostly it was just a great day of exploring and catching up with friends. A little beer, a little sun, a little history. An adventure. The good kind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Something Old (warning: soppy)

I've been giving some thought to buying myself a nice handmade hankie off etsy for the wedding. I have a soft-spot for quaint old-timey things and I figured if there was ever a time I could justify buying a lacy hankie, this might be it.

While I was browsing the myriad of handkerchiefs etsy has to offer I stumbled over a few that had been stitched into baby bonnets. Wait a minute, I thought. I HAVE one of those.

So I dug through my old trunk and I found my baptismal gown from when I was a wee one. And with it I found this strange little baby bonnet that I knew I had seen before, covered with lace and ribbons:

And with it there was a card with a hand-written poem. The hand-writing is, I believe, my mom's. Or possibly my grandma's. Neither of them are with us anymore. The poem itself was written by god knows who, as it is the same poem that accompanied the hankie-bonnets on etsy:

I'm just a little hankie
As square as square can be
But with a stitch or two
They make a bonnet out of me.
I'll be worn from the hospital
Or on the Christening Day
Then I'll be carefully pressed
And neatly put away.
Then on the Wedding Day
So, I've always been told
Every well dressed bride
Must have that something old.
So what would be more fitting
Then to find little old me,
With a few stitches snipped
A wedding hankie I will be.

When my mom packed this little bonnet away for me almost 29 years ago I'm sure she thought that someday, when the time came, she'd be the one to dig it back out for me. She didn't know that she wouldn't be around when that day came. She just tucked it away, a good wish for the future.

And now I'm the one who's remembered it and found it and snipped away the complicated little stitches. I have my wedding hankie, I have my Something Old, and I have the quiet little wishes my mom pressed and set aside for me all those years ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The arithmetic of the damned

8 hours of sleep + 2 hours of getting ready in the morning + 1 hour commuting + 8.5 hours of work + 1 hour commuting = 3.5 hours in which to have an actual life and fulfilling relationships each day.

Not enough time.

What's your damnable arithmetic?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Things that make me feel at home

1. Wearing flip-flops all weekend
2. Iced coffee
3. Breakfast taco
4. Having friends over for dinner
5. Cab Calloway songs
6. Whiskey drinks
7. Having breakfast outside
8. When the apartment is clean
9. Hot sauce
10. Growing chiles
11. Mexican candy
12. Squeezing limes over my food
13. Leisurely trips to the bookstore
14. Knitting
15. Target
16. Plant nurseries in the spring
17. Coffee shops
18. Hot sunny days
19. Singing in the car
20. Talking about college
21. Hearing my nieces and nephews
22. Recipes that involve rhubarb
23. My grandma's farm
24. Ceviche
25. Swimming pools
26. Cicada songs


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Garden In

I thought I would be smart this year and get my garden started early. Last summer my chiles never ripened, but I thought that was because I didn't plant them until late June. What I didn't understand is that, really, in Western WA spring is too cold and summer is too short for chiles. Or so I'm told. This year I've got 3 tomato plants, 3 chile plants, mint, basil, cilantro and hops. The hops haven't come up yet, but everything else is lookin' gardeny!

Sprouting basil and cilantro:

Mint for the mojitos (everybody needs a mojito garden):

I've got a lovely pequin chile plant that I'm hoping to overwinter in doors this year. I grew one of these from seed once in Tucson:

And finally I've got a thai chile, 3 tomato plants, and an Anaheim chile. Yeah:

They may not look like much now, but check out the Russian red kale my neighbor planted for me. That's shoulder-high:


So. How's your garden growing?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rhubarb Cobbler & Crazy Pie

Now that it's really and truly spring I've been feeling so rejuvenated. I feel happier and more energetic, more like my old self. And I have to admit that I've been having certain... cravings. Fruit cravings. I noticed that rhubarb was on sale at the grocery, and I still have some raspberries in the freezer from last summer so yesterday I made a raspberry-rhubarb cobbler.

It's my first cobbler but it turned out pretty good. Cobbler is, to me, sort of mythical and intimidating partly because I didn't really grow up eating it and partly because it requires making a dough. And that makes me think of pie dough, which is fussy and time consuming and sort of, well, formal. In the world of down-home baked goods nothing is more formal than a pie. But cobblers, oh! I am now a cobbler convert. Not only is the dough much faster and easier to make but it was also tastier. And the fruit part was simple too. All in all it took less than an hour. And it's F'ing delicious. Cobbler > Pie. And more fun to say.

I've managed to do a little gardening this week. I planted half my cilantro and basil seeds, and I planted the two Cascade hops rhizomes I ordered. Everything got lots of rain yesterday and it's all getting plenty of sun today, so that's a great start. When the night time temperatures get a little warmer I'll plant some chiles and tomatoes from the farmer's market. I can't wait. Anyone else gardening?

Now, the crazy pie. Yes, I've been partaking of the crazy pie recently. It helped me make this:

Yes, folks, that's a whole bunch of yarn that I spun and plied on a drop spindle. For those of you keeping track at home, drop spindles are ancient tools and they are slow. And that's a lotta yarn. But that's how I did it. And I've started spinning even more yarn on the drop spindle. More crazy pie? Yes, please.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mr. T Enchiladas

Why Mr. T Enchiladas? Well, we know that Mr. T is a paragon of wisdom and inspiration. He's tough but compassionate; kind to women and children but not afraid to pity a fool who deserves it. We could use more role models like Mr. T. And enchiladas are like Mr. T for the soul.

What we have here are two basic themes for Mr. T Enchiladas: with meat and without. You can make them exactly as the recipe states, or you can get a little creative and improvise. As Mr. T probably never said, I pity the fool who follows the rules all the time.

We'll start with the sauce, which is the same whether or not you're using meat.
You'll need:
3 cups water
6 oz. tomato paste
3 jalapeno peppers, minced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, minced (can be omitted if you're dealing with an onion allergy)
about a teaspoon each of: oregano, cumin, salt, chile powder of your choice
about a half cup of fresh chopped cilantro

What you'll do:
Place all of the sauce ingredients in a sauce pot and slowly bring to a boil, stirring as needed to achieve an even consistency. Once it comes to a boil reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

The vegetarian enchiladas are called the Mr. T Stay In School Enchiladas. Why? Because a lot of us try vegetarianism for the first time when we're in college. Like staying in school, being a vegetarian can sometimes require a little encouragement and these enchiladas can do both.
You'll need:
burrito-size tortillas
shredded cheese
3 cans of black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 an onion, finely chopped (can be omitted for those pesky onion allergies)
salt and pepper to taste

What you'll do:
Combine the beans, tomato, onion, salt and pepper and about 1 cup of the cheese in a bowl and gently toss until evenly mixed. Wow, that was easy. You're ready to begin assembling your enchiladas!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a ladle, spoon enough enchilada sauce into a cake or lasagna pan to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Take a tortilla and spoon some of the bean mixture into it, then ladle some sauce over the filling, maybe about 3-4 tablespoons worth. Roll the tortilla up and place in the pan. Do this until your pan is full of filled enchiladas and you have no bean filling left over. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and finish with 3-4 handfuls of the shredded cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Pity some fools.

The non-vegetarian enchiladas are called the Mr. T Get a Mortgage Enchiladas. Like getting a mortgage, making them requires a little foresight and planning, but is well worth it in the end.
You'll need:
Burrito-size tortillas
shredded cheese
about 4 lbs. pork shoulder (I haven't tried it with beef yet, but I'm sure it works just the same)
2 teaspoons each of the following: kosher salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken or beef broth

What you'll do:
Wash the pork shoulder and pat it dry with paper towels. Combine all the spices except the bay leaves in a little bowl, then carefully rub the spice mixture onto the pork shoulder, coating it completely. Place the bay leaves and any leftover spices in the bottom of a crockpot, put the pork shoulder on top, then carefully add the broth, being sure not to rinse the spice mixture off of the meat. Cook on low setting for 5-7 hours, or all day. Halfway through use a pair of tongs to turn the meat.
Once the meat is cooked and tender transfer it to a platter and use a couple of forks to completely shred it. Use the cooking liquid to moisten the meat as necessary. If you're extra fancy you can also replace about a cup of the water in your sauce with a cup of the cooking liquid from the meat. You're ready to begin assembling your enchiladas!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a ladle, spoon enough enchilada sauce into a cake or lasagna pan to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Take a tortilla and spoon some of the shredded meat into it, then ladle some sauce over the filling, maybe about 3-4 tablespoons worth. Roll the tortilla up and place in the pan. Do this until your pan is full of filled enchiladas and you have no meat left over. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and finish with 3-4 handfuls of the shredded cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Pity some fools.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Spring!

Two beautiful, warm sunny days here in Oly! Two days of making dinner on the grill! And lots of flowers flowering:

Also, look at what's growing outside next to my patio:

Looks like a great big weed, huh? But my upstairs neighbor informs me that it is Russian Red kale. He came down one day and told me all about how I could eat it. Apparently he had gotten some seeds and just dropped a couple over the side of his balcony for us. Wow. So this week I'm going to try putting some in a cheese frittata. It's getting to be time to plant some herbs and chiles and tomatoes and hops soon. Hooray!

And oh yeah, congrats to Vermont too!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wedding Beer

Last night we sampled the second version of pumpkin porter for the first time. It's only been in bottles for two weeks. It was, well, good. It's never good after only two weeks. The beer always needs more time to age a little and mellow out. After only two weeks it's usually still way too bitter and the complexity of the flavors don't shine through clearly enough. In short, after only two weeks the beer is usually not quite drinkable yet.

But this pumpkin porter was drinkable. Bitter without being overwhelming. Relatively clean after-taste. Not exactly sweet, and much smoother than I expected. There was a little bit of depth to the flavor but the spice and pumpkin notes were really subdued. So much so that you wouldn't know it was a pumpkin just from tasting it. And it should only get better as it ages.

I wish I had time to play around with it a little more, but I don't. I'm going to spend May brewing the beer for the wedding so that it has a few months to even out and reach its peak. Maybe I'll add more spices to the next batches, but I'll keep the amount of pumpkin the same. I'll taste the first version of pumpkin porter again to be sure, but I'm pretty sure this second version is the keeper. I based it off of Papazian's recipe for Goat Scrotum Porter, but I'm going to call mine Black Bird Pumpkin Porter instead. Seems a little more autumnal and wedding-appropriate (although I'm sure some may argue that scrotums of any variety are wedding-appropriate).

Oh, also, I got a new chair:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Congratulations, Iowa!

Who knew Iowa was so bad-ass?

Today Iowa ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage violates the state's constitution. Iowa now joins Massachusetts and Connecticut, both of which allow same-sex marriage.

This is tremendous. We now have our first heartland state where gay marriage will be legal. One report I've read said that this is a big step toward mainstreaming gay marriage. Imagine: Iowa, a state perhaps best known for its corn and its pigs, allowing same sex marriages. It's not just those wacky, uber-liberal coastal states anymore!

So congratulations, Iowa, and good on you. You rock. Now if you can just keep your fearful, hate-mongering groups from putting civil rights to a public vote a la California...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Massacre Monkeys

The yarn is from the first shipment in the 2009 Cables & Lace Sock Club. The colorway is called Valentine's Day Massacre. The pattern is Monkey from Thus, Massacre Monkeys. I made a pair of Monkeys last year, but they shrank in the wash and I gave them to Erika, who has smaller feet. These Monkeys will never shrink in the wash because I am only going to hand wash them. Ever.

Sorry for the poor quality of the photo. The sun is shining, and I'm not used to that. Here's a close-up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chipmunk vs. Librarian

Yesterday there was a chipmunk running loose in the library. It came running in through an open staff door when a staff member went out to empty the book drop. The chipmunk was immediately spotted by several staff members and one patron, who tried unsuccessfully to herd it out the still-open door, at great personal risk. The wily chipmunk faked toward the door and then darted ever-deeper into the staff area.

It took four staff members about fifteen minutes to barricade the chipmunk under a desk where it found a delightful assortment of long-forgotten snack chips and crackers. The chipmunk could be heard softly crunching on the discarded snack items while the librarians quietly panicked nearby. Chipmunk - 1; Librarians - 0.

It was at this point that I remarked to a coworker, "This reminds me of the time when there was a cell phone in the toilet and no one would call a plumber," (more on that story at a later date). My coworker then called animal control. She also notified the acting supervisor of the problem. Finally.

Our acting supervisor confidently took control of the situation by putting a sign on the barricade reading CHIPMUNK UNDER BOX - DO NOT MOVE. Several of the library workers began to speculate that the chipmunk might have by this point escaped. Chipmunk - 2; Librarians - 1.

Eventually animal control dispatched two uniformed police officers, guns and all, to remove the dangerous creature from the building. Chipmunk - 0; Police - WIN.

Postscript: Later in the day I spotted the chipmunk dashing toward the sliding glass doors at the front of the library. Thankfully a chipmunk is not large enough to trigger the motion sensor that opens the door. When the chipmunk was unable to gain access to the building it jumped into the shrubbery. Will we see it again? Possibly, now that it knows we have such delicious snacks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Is spring finally coming? Dare I even think it? About a week ago it was snowing, and last year we even had snow in April. But for many days now there has been no frost on my car in the morning, and the highs have even been in the 50's. There are other signs as well:

If I remember correctly these should be beautiful, big tulips. I can't remember what color they are, but I know they're tulips; daffodils would already be out and blooming. And then there are these:

Buds forming on the, what are they, rhododendrons? I think. If Mother Nature is polite we should soon have crowds of flowers. And that would lighten the mood considerably. Already there's still some daylight left when I get home from work (thanks, Daylight Saving!) and the seasonal beers for spring are starting to show up in the stores. In a couple of months I should be lounging on my back porch after work with a beer while Nico grills my dinner.

Well, I can hope, can't I?

The seasonal change isn't the only thing brightening my spirits. There's a new rumor going around at work that we might all get to keep our jobs. Our hours might be cut but we should still have jobs. This news is unbelievably good, if it's true. And if it isn't, well, Olympia is allegedly getting a Trader Joe's soon. Maybe I could work there. Wasabi peas, anyone?