Saturday, December 31, 2011

On The Verge of a New Year

GF Lemon & Rosemary Cookies (Blackbird Bakery)
2011 was pretty good to me.

The first episode of Spatula aired this year. Our transition into a  Gluten-Free house was a delightful challenge this year. I experienced Yosemite National Park for the first time. I wrote a lot of articles and did a lot of yoga. I've been lucky enough to share the year with some really awesome friends and family.  And, throughout the year, I've made some kick-ass food.

That makes me a pretty happy girl.

While walking Bleu Dog this afternoon, FD and I talked about our New Year's Resolutions. Of course, we discussed the little things that we want to accomplish in the new year and our life-long goals that we always revisit. And we shared the things we have overcome this year as well as those that we still need more time to resolve, or grow from, or experience--all those things we carry between every year. But, ultimately, I told FD, I'm not making any resolutions for New Year's; I'm going to resolve things as I go along this year. In other words, I'm going to go with the flow, be more open to seeing the present moment and thoughtfully reflecting and changing in that moment.
Lake Erie Walleye Fish Cheeks

If 2011 taught me anything, it was that change is possible all of time, and if we are open to seeing opportunities and taking chances, things can happen. Good things, bad things, different things, job things, personal things--things. It's these things that shape who we are. So why put all the pressure onto becoming someone I hope to be on one day of the year when I should be aware of myself everyday and resolving to be who I am in the moment and going from there?

That said, I have quite a bit great memories from 2011. From the special meals shared at Revolver with close friends or the most fantastic meal at Lolita with my in-law's to the unexpectedly perfect meals that just happened, from our Fish Fry in July to Fairy Dust, from my obsession with Nigel Slater to my new-found love for Chicken Pate with Basil and Cashews and from eating the most perfect burger to baking the most beautiful GF Christmas cookies, I have to say that no matter what every year I feel my palate gets stronger and my skill gets sharper.  My journey with food feels never-ending, and that is a beautiful realization today, the last day of 2011.

Since the semester has been over, I've either been in the kitchen--figuring out GF holiday baking--or spending time with family. Most people would think spending six-to-eight hours in the kitchen in one day is maddening, but more and more, for me, it's becoming a mediation. A place where I can challenge the mind and calm it at the same time. And because of the time I'm willing to commit to the kitchen, I found several awesome GF cookie recipes (all from Blackbird Bakery). And those those quick moments mean so much more too, such as sautéing Walleye fish cheeks quickly in butter, lemon, salt and pepper, as Michael Ruhlman recommended; these fast meals, in contrast to more time-consuming recipes, show me that every dish has its own possibilities, secrets, and sanity.

 I don't know what the new year will bring, but I hope there are even more aha! moments in my kitchen, many more great meals shared with dear friends and family, and a lot more moments of reflection and resolve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Ain't Playing Games!

The past two weeks I have been completely preoccupied. I graded over 125 student essays, read over 125 student reflections, and helped over 125 students prepare for the portfolio process and the end of the semester--all the while reading The Hunger Games trilogy.

Needless to say, I am exhausted.

But I am satisfied.

With the end of the semester. And with how the Hunger Games trilogy ends.

I could do a book review, give spoiler alerts, forecast how the movies will be different from the books, and try to convince you to read them, but that's a waste.

Really all I want to talk about is the food.

These YA books portray a strong female main character, have bomb-ass action scenes, and perfectly blend Harry Potter with Twilight, but what I love the most is when the food appears.

I don't think it's supposed to be the highlights of the book, seeing that most characters are starving, but I'm thoroughly intrigued that an author has taken on describing high-end food while (un)consciously taking on world hunger as an issue.

Of course, I'm torn. I want more descriptions of the lamb stew Katniss loves. I want to taste Peeta's family's bread. At the same time, I'm frustrated by how many families are starving while others are getting their fill and much, much more.

Everyone should have equal access to good food. Be in it a fictional trilogy or, more importantly, in reality.

Reading The Hunger Games was the first time I've seen food highlighted in a YA novel. It confirmed for me how food does form culture, set social classes apart, and gives us the nutrition we need. I knew all those things, obviously, but seeing them play out in a YA novel was truly compelling for me.

And as I was thinking about this blog post and researching, I came across several sites that developed recipes based on The Hunger Games. Fictional Food is pretty rad. But this recipe adapted from Mark Bittman for the lamb stew has me quite smitten.

But then I feel guilty. Not everyone can afford lamb.

Then there is the saving grace: The Hunger Games advocates hunting.

Alright, I'm on board.

My philosophy with meat is simple. If you can't respect the life of an animal, you shouldn't eat animals. I know that sounds like I'm vegan, which I could be, if not for the local farms that surround us. In other words, I want to be able to meet the animals I could be eating, I want to know that they are humanely raised, I want to cook and eat meat that has its bones in proper places because it reminds me of the sacrifice of a life for my life, and I want to "honor" the animal by appreciating how ALL of its parts provide edible, delicious food, clothing or shelter.

Besides buying from local farmers, such as Luginbill Family Farms or Omega Meats, the only other way to ensure completely honoring an animal is having the balls to be a hunter. Not a sport hunter, but a real hunter.

This is where Collins, author of The Hunger Games, got it right. Two of the main characters are hunters. And wildfowl hunters, in additional to small and big game hunters. That's pretty kick-ass awesome, in my opinion. What seems like a trivial action to get a potential "couple" engaged with one another, hunting takes on this beautiful theme--that hunting can provide for MANY people, that hunting isn't ethically wrong--it's a means to survival, and that hunting actually reconnects us with nature, others, and the self.

Any day in the week I'd take wild goose over a steak/hamburger at a restaurant where I have no idea how they procured it.

I respect animals. So much so, I'm toying with the notion of only eating meat when I know exactly where it came from. If I don't know, I eat vegetarian or, better yet, vegan.

The Hunger Games has made me feel like I've fragilely connected the worlds between left and right politics. And better yet, it made me committed to finding a stellar wildfowl recipe in honor of the premier of the movie on March 23, 2012.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eggs: Two Ways!

 One of my side projects this semester has been filming and airing an online cooking show through Connotation Press. What I love most about this project is working with Sarah and figuring out what fun foods to cook. While we're still getting our bearings being in front of a camera, I'm definitely proud of the unique camera work, our approach in the kitchen, and the concept of one food, two ways. I have to admit, though, it's been strange living within this new medium after so much hanging out with written words.

Because each episode is accompanied by an essay from me and Sarah, I think it's solid attempt at experimenting with multi-modal food writing. Even though it may seem as though we collaborate on our essays, we don't. Probably because we share a "food-brain," Sarah and I just end up writing about the same things more often than not. I think it's pretty funny.

Our second episode all about eggs really showcases how versatile eggs are. In fact, it was hard to pick what egg recipe to do. Easily, we could have made mayo, a meringue, omelets, a custard, a quiche, a strata, etc. etc. etc. In the end, I chose a frittata because it is my favorite egg dish, and one I make quite often.

I hope you'll enjoy this episode of Spatula and our accompanying essays, and tune in to our newest episodes and essays that air on the 1st of every month. For December, we're celebrating kale, our shared favorite vegetable!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Documenting A Weekend (Or A Lack Thereof)

Alexandria's Opening Night 11/18/2011
My dear friend and co-star of Spatula Sarah says where you find a foodie, you find a camera in hand and guests at the dinner table rolling their eyes.  It's true. Almost any time I go out to eat, I take my camera. I never know when I will need to capture a meal in a photograph.

This weekend while I had my camera on me at all times, I only took the photograph you see here. And it doesn't even capture the deliciousness of the meal. If anything, it documents a food memory I always want to remember.

During the fall and early winter, often I find myself as a hunter's widow. At first I wasn't a big fan of that new role. But as the seasons have come and gone, I've learned to enjoy the time in our quiet house when I grade, cook, write, work on projects, and/or catch up on Jersey Shore. I've realized alone time really nurtures my interior life. But after 36 hours I really start to miss FD.

This weekend was not so quiet as most, though. It began with a family dinner at my house with my in-laws and my sister-in-law on Thursday night. Then us ladies departed around 10 p.m. to get seats for the midnight showing of the epic Twilight Saga's Breaking Dawn (which was fucking awesome, despite what any haters would say.) Friday afternoon after Big F and FD got back from the marsh, FD took off for the island, and Sarah came over to run through our Winter Wheat presentation entitled "Food Writing: Subgenre or Multigenre?" Then, joined by her hubs, we headed to Findlay for the opening of Alexandria's, where Michael from Revolver is the head chef. (The mole is the die for. An in-depth review is forthcoming.) We met up with G and E there and had a great time; the only thing missing for me was FD. Saturday morning Sarah and I gave our presentation, which went exceptionally well, and then Saturday night I had a date with my sis SEM at Revolver.

What's funny is I had imagined taking lots of pictures at family dinner, at Alexandria's, at Winter Wheat, and at Revolver. It was weekend full of a lot of my favorite people and my favorite food. But the lighting wasn't all that great at Alexandria's. And at Revolver, the opportunity never presented itself for SEM and I to "snap" some pics of us. To force a photographic moment is way worse than not taking any at all. The chicken meatballs that SEM ordered at Revolver were gorgeous; the perfectly cut pieces of toast with an even spread of cream cheese and herbs standing like small pyramids on SEM's dish are embedded in my mind. And seeing her in a pretty dress and feeling all girly in my Odd Molly dress was the perfect way to eat a meal celebrating her moving on in her life and going to LA.  I can't help to wonder, though, if sometimes the best meals are better honored as memories.

In an age where Facebook has made us all feel like celebrities with our need to post every last picture of our comings and goings, it was nice to have a weekend with some of my family and best friends that I can cherish as vivid memories, without photographs. And being surrounded my the ones I loved, especially after FD left for his trip, made my weekend feel a lot less lonely. Great friends truly are one of the best parts of life.

Though a part of me does wish I would have taken just a few more pics, at least for my journal...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Chew Got It Right with Marrow-naise

I'll admit it. I'm addicted to The Chew. It all comes down to my love for Michael Symon. I totally have a foodie crush on him. The man is no Rob Pattinson, but when he cooks, he is wayyyyy hotter than Rob, hands-down. And better yet: he's Cleveland-proud, like me.

Seriously, I'm truly fascinated by the idea of The Chew, a daytime talk show that revolves around all things food--from fitness to recipes to politics to family connections and much, much more. The show is a true testimony of food's cultural, social, environmental, political, psychological, and sociological power. It's a truly brilliant idea. And while I'm still getting used to Clinton's quirkiness, I gained a lot of respect for him the day he took a stand against the Kardashian divorce (See Nov. 1st's Tweet or episode of The Chew.) But I find Mario and Michael to be wonderfully engaging hosts, and I'd love to see more of Carla's authentic, yogi self and Daphne's learning to love meat and trying new foods. All the hosts offer something important to their audience. I could go on, but I don't have the time right now, my loves.

What I need to address in the few minutes I do have between grading and conferencing is this: Michael Symon's Marrow-naise, homemade mayo with garlic, lemon juice, capers, parsley, and beef bone marrow. When I saw Michael make it last Monday, I drooled and swore I would make it on Saturday night as part of a special meal for FD.

Bearing in mind  Ruhlman's Twenty and the several suggested ways to home-make mayo, I chose my immersion blender with the whisk attachment. Usually when I make mayo in my stand-mixer, it breaks. Not this time. This time it held together and made the most luscious mayo. And the roasted bone marrow only elevated its richness and accentuated our strip steaks. Not to brag, but I think I've mastered the perfect sear and bake for my steaks that surpasses almost all restaurants, so I was extremely pleased when FD sliced into this perfectly cooked medium-rare steak, spread with marrow-naise, and sighed that glad-to-be-home-with-my-baby sigh. With a side of roasted sweet potatoes with dried kale and herbs and smashed brussels sprouts, we enjoyed a delightful Saturday night dinner. 

I have a feeling the only cook would have out-cooked me that night was Micheal Symon himself.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pizza & PJ's

 After a long week of teaching, grading 125 essays, conferencing with students, taking the Volvo to the shop, spending a couple of hundred dollars to fix the Volvo, and dealing with a bunch of other crap, FD and I really needed a pizza and pj night-in.

Clearly, Bleu agreed.

Before our gluten-free days, we used to make killer pizzas on a homemade dough. But, presently, I've been disappointed with almost every pizza baking kit I've come across, and I just don't feel like working with several GF flours that don't rise and never seem to work out. We've started to relying heavily on frozen GF doughs, especially O'Doughs.

This Friday night our pizza journey began when we realized we only had one O'Dough's crust left. I ran to Walt Churchill's in Perrysburg to pick up another box or two, but they were sold out.

I considered making a GF pizza crust from scratch, but quite honestly, I wasn't in the mood for cooking, let alone experimenting with a new recipe.

So we had a GF frozen pizza crust competition between O'Dough's and Udi's, which we found deep in the deep freezer.
Udi's

Same ingredients. Two different crusts. Who would win?

Rather than following the Udi's baking instructions, we warmed up the crust for 5 minutes at 400. Then we put the toppings on and baked it for an additional eight minutes. Udi's crusts are easy to burn, so we watched it closely, especially because our oven is from hell. Literally, it runs 100 degrees hot. (Dear God, thank you for oven thermometers and please help our landlady find a new oven.)

The Udi's crust, while pipping hot, tasted like cardboard. But after letting it sit for a couple of minutes, it mellowed out and tasted like a crunchy cracker. And I am particularly proud of how beautiful the photograph the Udi's pizza turned out. (With my camera's user's manual, I'm teaching myself about photography and my camera.)

O'Doughs
The O'Doughs turned out wonderful as always. But strangely, Dan and I like the Udi's better. Its thin, crunchy crust was really flavorful. Whereas the O'Doughs had that GF-baked-good-after-taste in comparison.

I know I should be homemaking crusts, but really I need a break. And pizza is supposed to be a break from cooking, at least in my opinion. Maybe one of these days I'll make GF pizza dough from scratch. Until then, Udi's and O'Doughs are treating us just fine.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh, Yes, I Did Just Make Kale Dust

 Lately I've been obsessed with my homemade dried chili pepper dust (aka fairy dust).

But more so, I think I'm obsessed with food dehydrators. I don't own one, so I've been borrowing Sarah's to dry bunches of chili peppers, herbs, and whatever else I feel like.

A couple of days ago, I de-stemmed some Tuscan kale leaves, threw them on a tray, and turned on the dehydrator. Little did I know I just opened the gate to heaven.

Seriously, I just wanted to test oven-baked kale chips vs dehydrator ones. But I didn't get that far. When the kale chips were crisp enough, I packed them into my coffe grinder and made dust with them. It was as if The Goddess of Kale moved my hands; I didn't know what had happened until poured the dust into a recycled spice jar.

Kale dust smells like dried parsley on crack. The bitterness is alive but after a taste there's a sweet moment on the tail-end. Being the kale addict I am, I'm thinking that adding kale dust as a spice before roasting veggies, especially sweet potatoes, in the oven would be a good idea. Mixing it with olive oil and rubbing it on top and beneath a chicken's skin before roasting sounds fucking amazing. I could see it on scrambled eggs too.  Or in a cheese dip/spread. Maybe as a garnish for a soup or salad. I'm mean, for real, what couldn't you put kale dust on? Maybe yogurt.

With the remaining kale leaves, I sauteed them in butter and olive oil--a la Molly Wizenberg style--sprinkled them over a hot bed of mashed tators and threw some grilled sausages on top. My own little version of Bangers and Mash.

Trust me, I was tempted to sprinkle fairy and kale dust all over my Bangers and Mash, but I didn't. Only because I knew that this coming weekend I am having a full-on-cooking-Saturday when I plan to make a four course meal for FD that warms his bones after a day in the marsh.  The menu is forthcoming.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homemade Dried Chili Dust (aka Fairy Dust)

I know I just blogged about the fairy dust, but I can't help myself from doing it again.

Last night I blanched some brussel sprouts and then roasted them in rendered bacon fat, garlic, and fairy dust.

With braised beef brisket and mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, it was quite the Sunday feast.


What's funny is I don't usually mind rainy Mondays and work-weeks that involve teaching during the day and grading at night. But today I'm kind of bitter the weekend is over. I wanted more time to experiment with fairy dust. I have a pork tenderloin that should be rubbed in fairy dust and slowly roasted. I have a boring goulash recipe that would explode with flavor by adding some fairy dust. I want to concoct a dessert that brings together savory and sweet with some heat from fairy dust.

I just need more time.

At least another round of chili peppers are drying on the bookshelf in my office. Being enveloped in the slightly intoxicating smell makes me feel a little better. And feeling my sinuses clear out and tears well up in my eyes from their drying reminds me that there's next weekend--something to look forward to all week long.

Fairy Dust (aka Homemade Dried Chili Flakes/Powder/Dust/)

1 food dehydrator
As many chili peppers you have on hand. The more, the bigger the batch.

Wearing gloves, cut the stems away from the peppers, slice the peppers in half, keep the seeds and membranes in tact. Place peppers seeds-side down on the trays. Dry for 48-72 hours, until pepper shrivel and are dried through. Grind peppers in a spice grinder or coffee bean grinder. Store in a small jar for up to 6 months; though it's doubtful the fairy dust will last that long.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fairy Dust: An Addiction

For my ex-wife potatoes and fairy dust addictions, I blame Sarah Lenz, my fierce friend and fantastic co-star of Spatula.  

If I end up on Intervention, she better be there too. It would only be a "I go, if you go" situation. I'm not watching her grind up Fairy Dust while I use commercial grade Cayenne Pepper. That would cause me to relapse. For sure. 

Let me back up a bit.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah told me over lunch that she was attempting to make her own dried chili peppers. As much as I love her, I half-heartedly dismiss these projects she pronounces. It's not malicious. It's just she always has a project and is super-motivated, like me, so I see the results only days after she first mentions said-project to me. Why on earth get all fired up about the idea when within a week I can ponder the results for a long while? 

Needless to say, a couple of days later, Sarah calls to report about the dried chili flakes.  

"After I ground the dried chilies in my spice (aka coffee) grinder, they came out like dust," she said. 

"Like powder," I responded, dreamily. 

I'm telling you I could be on Intervention. I'm thinking about how to get a cut of this stuff. How to divy it up. How to parcel it out. Without getting caught. 

Dried Chili Dust = Foodie Cocaine. 

What's weird is, I don't remember tasting it with Sarah. I remember her telling me about it. And then suddenly her dryer was in my house. Trays of halved peppers drying, with their seeds and membranes intact, widened our nostrils and awoke our lungs. Sarah warned me to dry the chilis in the basement; I kept them in the kitchen. After 2 days of drying, I put the shriveled peppers in a coffee bean grinder, like Sarah told me to, and ground them, in several different rounds, into fairy dust. I put the dust in an washed pimento jar. Then I feel as though I woke up and remembered my life, again.

The most mind-blowing result of fairy dust is forthcoming in a BG News article (click on the "YourNews" tab), but I have to admit that I put them in/on/over almost everything I eat. 

I've mixed the fairy dust with butter and put it on steak. 

I've swirled it into mayo and used it as a dip for my ex-wife potatoes. 

I've sprinkled chicken breasts with it before a good sear and bake. 

I've even added it to my olive oil before massaging it into a whole chicken's skin--above and just beneath its surface.

Tonight, FD added it to his venison chili, a fall dish I live for. 

Rich with umami, FD's chilis are always acidic in a good way, complex in mouthfeel (the beans always stay firm and he always finds a chip or Nut Thin to add crunch while serving it), and hot(!!!) with chilies. The fairy dust just took it to a whole new level. Though, I have to admit that I almost put a few sprinkles of fairy dust on top of bowl just before my first spoonful. 

I told you I have a problem. 

To take some of the heat (pun intended) off me, I think Sarah should post the recipe. But if you read between the lines here and are feeling the itch from some fairy dust, you could easily put together the recipe from my post alone. 

I'm not one to leave food junkies hanging. But be warned: THIS SHIT IS HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!

I seriously will never buy dried chili flakes or chili pepper for my pantry ever again when it's so easy to make my own. 

...See, wouldn't Jeff have a field day with me? 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ketchup, Part Deux

My First Meatloaf Sandwich
 As promised, I made myself a meatloaf sandwich for lunch the day after our Sunday meatloaf dinner.

It was the first meatloaf sandwich I have ever eaten in my enitre life, which really surprises me because I love meat, I love sandwiches, and I'm from the Midwest.

Needless to say, I enjoyed every last bite. So much so, I didn't even give Bleu his normal lunchtime crumb or two.

I toasted a white bun, added cold meatloaf and ketchup, sliced some mozz cheese thinly, and plopped some thick slices of an heirloom Green Zebra tomato on top. Served with some re-heated ex-wife potatoes with Mayo and Fairy Dust dip, and I had myself quite a delightful lunch.  Midwestern style.
Of course, I sneak kale in my meatloaf!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ketchup: I Like It-----Finallyyyy!!!

Tonight:

Meatloaf with kale. And Umami Paste.

Mashed sweet potatoes with 1/2 and 1/2 infused with sage and roasted garlic.

Braised Greens in Hot Chili Peppers.

During dinner, I finally pledged to make myself a meatloaf sandwich--the first in my life--for lunch tomorrow and taste the heaven that is umami (aka I'll will eating my sandwich with a healthy amount of ketchup.)

Because of a few bad demonstrations during sex ed and a few grossly expired bottles I've had the pleasure of throwing out, ketchup always seemed like a waste of time to me.

But, tonight for the first time, I tried a little dab on my meatloaf, and my tastebuds immediately cheered!

It has a salivating factor. + A sweet disposition. + A little tartness. + A hint of vinegar.

= Full-on umami, one of my favorite flavor profiles.

Who knew?

Apparently, the champion of begging, Bleu Dog, the lab with the world's most accomplished palate, knew.

I'm happy to finally have realized the greatness--of ketchup--too.

Though I still can't fathom putting it on a burger...

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup with Kale

Sis

Yesterday FD and I went to my parents' to celebrate my sister's birthday.

She turned 37 but looks only 12. Her life is a testimony in so many ways I still am unable to articulate yet, but I try.

The two things that are constant about my sister: pizza is her favorite food and five is her favorite number.

Needless to say we had pizza on her birthday, and she got 5 new nail polishes and more than 5 new puzzles. And when she opened her present from K. & Z., a necklace with a star-shaped pendant with a pink gem, I thought she was going to pass out or end up on YouTube.

It was a super cool birthday for her, and I was thrilled to be there to celebrate it.

While I was home, my Pops told me something I had forgotten. When I graduated from high school, I applied to Kent, BGSU, and a few other schools in addition to culinary school. It came down to Kent and culinary school. My love of writing won, and I went to Kent, became an English major, and "the rest is history," as they say. But my Pops said, "I think it's funny you're still so into food. It's like you went to culinary school after all."

Sometimes the best education is the one you give yourself.
Even if it's unintentional.

I totally forgot I had applied to culinary school.
I totally forgot I loved cooking in high school.
I totally forgot how food bonds me to everyone I love.

I totally forgot I forgot years of my life.

A great reminder was when Hons, my step-mom, gave me two of her America's Test Kitchen cookbooks last night.

Immediately upon getting home, I poured a glass of wine and devoured The Best Simple Recipes cookbook.

Knowing full well I needed a soup for the week and that I had some chicken breasts de-thawing in the fridge, I went right for the soup chapter and found their version of Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup.

What's funny is I wouldn't call it "simple." There are a lot of steps and a lot of ways to fuck it up. But the ingredients are simple. So I wonder if it's the ingredients that determine the "simple" adjective.

What I can say about the finished product? It is divine. Cook's Illustrated and Christopher Kimball never let me down.

The egg yolks (mine came from our local farmer Luginbill Family Farms) added great body, texture, and color to the soup. A total must. (And the leftover eggs whites are perfect for an omelet tomorrow morning.) Yet the procedure was not simple. There were several steps, and it took about an hour. It isn't the weeknight dinner that it had pronounced itself to be in the cookbook...but I do get home from teaching about 7:30 every night, and anything that takes longer than 10 minutes is far too long for me.

Texture and taste wise, the soup was amazing. I added kale to it, while the chicken rested, as well as magic pepper dust. (More on that soon, I promise!) The magic pepper dust made it probably a thousand times more awesome.

But what's even more awesome?

Knowing my decision to go to Kent rather than culinary school was the most awesome decision I ever made (i.e. FD, friends, poetry, job, etc.).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts During Breakfast After Morning Yoga

Photo from http://earthyogi.blogspot.com/
Early morning is the most sacred time to me. The house is sleepy and dark, and all is quiet--a perfect time to begin the day on my yoga mat.

My favorite part of my routine is the one that remains unseen by all except me and FD. Almost every morning during my warm-up twists, my big black Labrador, Bleu, yawns and stretches his way out of bed to do yoga with me. He's quite the fan of downward and upward dogs, so he does a little routine of bows and planks as I begin my sun salutation. Then he lies down next to my mat and takes a little nap. But the moment I sit down for seated twists or hero's pose, he finds his way into my lap with a big hug and will lay there like a little puppy. A 92 pound puppy. He's so sweet and snuggly that I can slide him around so I can continue my practice. It's a private moment that I cherish. Seriously, if you know Bleu, it's hard to imagine him calm and snuggly. But ever since he was an 8-week old puppy, we've done yoga together; it's our morning bonding time.

Each morning I change up my routine depending on what I need for the day. Sometimes it's rigorous standing and balancing poses like Warrior series or Side Angle twists. Sometimes I spend an hour on inversions or backbends. Other days I choose more restorative poses like legs up the wall or forward folds. No matter what routine I do, the one pose that is always most difficult for me is Savasana, or Corpse pose. My impulse is to skip it but I realize it is the most important pose to hold in order to remind myself throughout the day to "slow down and take a moment." This morning I acknowledged the resistance and used it to help me relax. In a sense, the resistance became a reminder for why I need Corpse pose so much. Yoga has a strange way of teaching us things about life.

Over my standard breakfast of plain yogurt and tea (I save the calories for later in the day and snacks), only minutes after my yoga routine, I had to remind myself to hold onto the quiet of morning yoga as I whizzed through the countless emails, student essays, the menu for the day, and the events in my planner--all before spin class at 9. So quickly the day hits me, and so quickly I hit the ground sprinting from thing to thing.

As I chow down breakfast and open up my laptop, sometimes I forget I only awoke from corpse pose an hour or two ago. The house brightens as the sun stretches through the windows and my to-do list gets longer and longer. Recording these special kernels of time, like my morning yoga with Bleu or my sacred dinner with FD, helps me remember and keeps me focused on what's really important in life.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Sacred Dinner



Two New Discoveries

I love gin.

In the summer it tastes like linen.

In the winter, pine needles.

Hand me a gin & tonic or a French 75 at any party or happy hour, and you'll find a very happy girl.

Determined to find a GF gin, I went on a woman-hunt and found Watershed Distillery's Gin made from corn. Of course, I found it at the end of the month when I couldn't justify paying for booze over food. And when we got paid, I didn't see it again for at least three months.

On a recent shopping trip to Rossford, I stopped in my favorite liquor store Corks, hoping I might find it again. And there it was, saying, "Manda, you just got paid and I'm perfect for French 75's." As my friend G would say, "Sign me up!"

Seriously, if you are a gin lover, other gins are untouchable. Watershed's Gin is perfectly tart and zesty. Perfect for mixing or for a straight martini. And even better it's distilled with corn. Score for GF! And even better better? It's made in Columbus, Ohio. Score for locavore!

The juniper berries are so pronounced and lovely, I keep imaging what it would taste like with venison. Jamie Oliver's venison tenderloin with juniper berries. Maybe overkill to some, but a match made in heaven to me.

::Sigh::

The only other person I know who loves gin as much as me is my good friend and Spatula co-star Sarah.

Which leads me to my other new obsession: Chicken Pate with Cashews and Basil.

This weekend I lent a helping hand to prep for Sarah's hubby's bday celebration. Part of tradition is to homemake pretzels dipped in lye (sp?). (That all whole situation is for a different blog post, which I had every intention of blogging about that until I tasted the pate.)

For one of the spreads for the pretzels or an app, Sarah asked if I would take charge of the chicken pate. Sure, easy, whatever.

Little did I know I was getting my first taste of a whole new food addiction. (Seriously, are Candy and Jeff coming for me?)

Sarah put me in charge of the pate. I began by browning chicken breasts in butter. And by brown, I meant brown. Each piece was crisp, after a full 1/2 hour and 1/4 gin and soda. Then I added the cashews and garlic and let them cook until the garlic was just about brown. We were worried about time, so we stuck the browned chicken chunks, cooked garlic, and cashews in a freezer-safe bowl for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, I put the mixture into Sarah's awesome food processor, gave it a whiz, added the mayo, cheese, and hot pepper sauce, and then processed it again. It was a little thick, so we added about a teaspoon of chicken stock and gave it a whiz again. At last I sprinkled in the basil and stirred it.

Let's stop talking about it. I'm hungry.

I will say, though, give me a French 75 and Chicken Pate on Nut Thins and I'm golden. So much umami equals so much happiness. If only there were three more meals in a day...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Last Meal: Burger and Fries, Hands Down



Episode 1 - Burgers from Spatula on Vimeo.

I'm a Midwest girl down to the bone of my little pinkie finger. And no meal ever will surpass the past memories, the search for the-next-best-one, and the yes-I-have-to-try-that-place-based-on-your-recommendation nod that's-completely-sincere than a good old burger and fries.

Here, my costar and I dish about whether house-ground meat buys good quality ground chuck the butcher.

Weigh in. The votes are still out!

And be sure to "like" Spatula on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On October 19th

Photo from chiotsrun.com
"Still haven't made the vegetable soup I promised to make almost a week ago to clear out the vegetable rack. And now, when there is every opportunity to make a pan of creamy parsnip and carrot soup, I am distracted by half a dozen of the most meltingly ripe tomatoes on the vine, their skins ready to burst with juice. I slice them thickly, then toss them with black olives and pieces of thick toast torn into chunks and drizzled with unfiltered olive oil. No basil, no garlic, no seasoning; just the peppery rush of thick, green oil, ripe tomatoes and black-edged toast." -- Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Night of Leftovers

The harmonica of Neil Young's "Natural Beauty" croons.

Through the kitchen, dining room, living room, my office.

We're in the moment of flow. FD in the dining room, me in my office.

Working on creating, sipping red wine, finding words for things.


Dinner was at the table. Us relaxing, lingering on things,


much of which was art, the act of creation--from poems to eggplant gratin to Earth to turnip soup.

Long after forks toasted their plates in a last bite, we sat, talking, the rain

a mere percussion for the guitar and harmonica.




Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Beef Stew

I admit.

I have a problem.

I'm a seasonal produce junkie.

I could very well end on Intervention, yelling at Candy that I wanted Jeff, pleading for one more LeCreuset dutch oven before the flight to Texas, and longingly staring out of a mini-van window at the sunset while thinking about the last time I roasted tomatoes or blanched a bunch a kale for the winter.

But by the time the leaves fall and trick-or-treaters carve their pumpkins, I'm done with lettuces, tomatoes, and summer squash, though.

Give me root vegetables and hearty stews, Honeycrisp apples and pears, and lots Butternut squash.

~

Candy: "'Being over tomatoes' isn't dealing with an addiction. What's next parsnips?"
Me: "Right????!!!??? Parsnips are sooooooooooo good. Just give me one more to chop for Jool's Favorite Stew, one of Jamie Oliver's favorite recipes
Candy: We can't do that, Amanda...


~


Due to poor planning on my behalf, I missed my sister-in-law's birthday celebration because I have five sections of papers--over 125 papers total--to grade over the weekend. Needless to say, I was depressed. To get out of the funk, I called my good friend and Spatula co-star Sarah for a pick-me-up. Per our style, she suggested a cooking afternoon after a morning of grading on Saturday. Perfect. Done.

We cooked and talked our hearts out. It felt good. It reminded me that breaks are important. That friends and family nourish us as much as food. That being a seasonal junkie is perfectly acceptable in some circles.

No wonder she's my cooking partner. We speak a language through food that says so much more. What a blessing.

~

It was cold today. And rainy. And dreary. And inside the house was the best place to be.

It was perfect.

First thing in the morning I graded. I pushed through all the syntax issues to finish in time for a little yoga and noontime tea. After lunch I started Jool's Favourite Beef Stew. I diced the butternut squash, cut the Niman Ranch chuck roast in one inch cubes and dusted it in GF flour, and scrubbed clean the taters-precious.

All the while listening to Taylor Swift, Eisley, Tori Amos, Liz Phair, Aimee Mann, and many other fine woman musicians.

I was in a zone, enveloped in the art of making something, centered in between complete knowledge and being completely mindless. What do you call it? Felt experience. I Found Flow. I Felt.

It's all the same.

But what wasn't the same was the beef stew. A recipe I have made countless times blossomed to life. Was it because I felt different? Was it because I finally figured out how to regulate my oven's temperature? Was it because I was making it for my love after a long fall weekend of outdoormanship?

No.

It was because I used carrots I harvest from a crop I planted this summer, I bought the potatoes and butternut squash for an awesome local farmer, and the sage came from my good friend Sarah.

Local is where it's at.

The only thing missing is local beef. Just wish I had more time to get to Luginbill Farms.

~

Candy: Really, would Jeff do a better job than me?
Me: Probably. He's mustache is compelling. A real deal breaker for getting help.
Candy: Will you go?
Me: It depends. Does Texas have local produce?
Candy: What if I tell you you'd be going to a place where there's a strong local foods movement? 
Me: Sign me up. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Meal For One

When I sit down to a meal by myself, I always think of my Grandpa Prieur and Grandma Rita, both of whose spouses have passed and who often eat alone.

~

I've always been a loner. Back in my undergrad days I went to Country Kitchen in Ravenna, Ohio by myself at 3:00 a.m. I would order grilled cheese and hot tea. I would write until the sun peeked over the horizon through those commercial windows. I tipped well. The waitresses fought over me when I walked through the heavy glass doors.

~

Recently, my mum-in-law Sally told me a story about how her mom used to cook her dad his pork, eggs and toast in a mini cast iron pan. A meal for one.

The minute I logged in after talking with Sally I added a 5" Lodge cast iron skillet to my Amazon Wish List.

What a perfect little skillet for FD's GF Grilled Cheese.

Or for a meal for one.

~

My Grandma Rita is pushing 90, but everyday the woman makes three meals for herself.

Amen.

That's an amazing feat considering over 50,000,000 millon people eat fast food on a daily basis.

~

Tonight I cooked three boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a tomato and squash sauce, infamous ex-wife potatoes and roasted broccoli. Even though I made a meal for one, it was one that honored my food ethics and politics. I felt proud.

Most times when left my own devices, I order out.

I have an El Zarape addiction.

I often regret that decision.

~

What's funny is one of my all-time favorite people was supposed to join me for dinner tonight. But she bailed. I don't blame her. In fact, between you and me, I was happy. Bailing is under-rated. Sometimes we don't realize we will need that exact moment to be alone until that moment. Bailing is just the  ultimate self indulgence, with the best of intentions. All day I wanted to be alone. I love others, but also I just wanted to close the door, knowing it was just me--here--alone.

Just a moment to breathe out.

Just a moment to blare Tori Amos' _Boys for Pele_, to make an all girl music mix, and to sing higher and louder than usual, in celebration of finishing grading one of five sections of papers.

~

As a treat for tonight I saved the pumpkin cupcake Sarah Cohen gave me for "writing such a beautiful article about them." I like to snack while watching _Dateline_.

But what's compelling is I can't turn off my Girl-Grading-Weekend Mix. Lykke Li's "Possbillity reminds me I'm alone. And not alone.

Maybe I should've taken a picture of my meal, but I didn't. Quite frankly, I just unrolled an Orla Kiely floral-print placemat on top a wooden tv tray seconds before I placed the plate on top, sat down, and ate. I didn't think it was special. I was alone.

(My boys are gone for opening weekend. My hope: they will return with food for all of us. Food we earned. Food politics in action.)

~

I poured my last glass of wine as I turned on the bath's faucet. I have Nigel Slater's _Toast_ on the edge of the tub.

But I miss my boys.

They will be home soon. And by Sunday night my grading will be done.

In the meantime I have food to get me through the next four sections of papers.

Cooking for one is worth it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fry 'Em Up

Local Fish photo by AMR

The story starts here. With a family tradition.

Fishing.

FD and his dad go fishing every spring and summer. I went one time last summer. There's not a lot of talking unless it's about the weather and how the fish are biting, which was fine by me. I love weather, and I love talking about bites. And as weird as it sounds I appreciated silence, the quiet rock of the boat. In fact I welcomed it, and when I achieve it with loved ones I hold it like a new kitten, a small gift from above. Sometimes talking clouds the purest truth of the activity, the act that is shared. Truth be told, as much as I'm a hip-hop/dance junkie, I'm happiest cooking when I'm in the kitchen without music and Bleu is at feet.

I pretty sure in our attempt to eat local meats our families decided we should eat what they can't. In addition to what we've procured.

Early this June FD and I realized we had a deep freezer half full of Ohio/Pennsylvania-caught fish. The only way to eat over 100 fillets/5 lbs of fish is to have a fish fry, right?

Other photos by SEKL, FDR, ASC
We like alliteration. We decide a Fish Fry on the 4th.

Sarah L. & I, over several Clover Clubs (okay, really it was over lunch at Naslada, we had water, there's no drama in that) craved Southern. We needed fish, corn on the cob, greens, coleslaw, shredded beef, cucumber salad, sweet potatoes, and pimento cheese.

At 5 Sarah arrived with 5 lbs of greens. We stemmed, we washed, we rendered fat from bacon, we wilted, we simmered, we kept going.

As a hostess, I can tell you a fish fry isn't easy. There's soaking, breading, frying, draining, and several more batches. In addition to getting sides ready, making sure guests are happy, and coordinating timing. I had anticipated easy street. I was wrong.

At any given time, I was stressed, crazy, witty, bossy, meek, pissed, satisfied, jittery, relaxed, humble, loud, quiet, grateful, and, most importantly, thoughtful about food, where it comes from and who we share it with.

~

Sweet potato chips in the fryer
There are few people I am around where we don't talk and are cool. It's a weird thing to be around people in silence. Besides movie theaters and doctor offices when really don't humans speak to each other except when they are alone?

I'm loud.

Many people have told me I remind them of a cartoon character (perhaps because of my love of Hello Kitty???) and that I'm intense, animated, intimidating, etc.


I'm just passionate, honest, and enthusiastic.

Even though fishing is a quiet act, frying is not. There's oohhhing, aaahhhing, yelling for more flour, worrying about bubbling over, etc. etc.

At one point, though, we got in our assembly line rhythm, and the four of us battered and fried the last batch with almost no verbal communication. Our hands dredged fish, shook off the extra batter, placed fillets in the fryer and did it again, as if we all shared one mind.

It reminded me of the rock of the boat, the fishing poles in our hands, and dawn breaking over the lake.

~

All hands on deck
We fried 'em up on the 4th.

Sarah L., G, E.H., and I took charge. It was clear we were the food obsessed.

Or better put: we were devoted to the fish. Others were too. They would be present for start to finish of a batch, such as FD, CC, and AC, which I appreciate whole heartily. In fact, as as Gemini, I welcomed any attention. The other guests looked on like it was a train wreck. People like danger, potential fire, and drama. In a matter of two hours of this fish fry I had cooked several dishes cooked and ready, a fryer that wouldn't heat up and tripped the breaker, a severe mandolin (the knife, not the instrument) injury, and realized I was two hours behind eating time.

As an OCD hostess I was fucked.

But inviting the perfect people dissolved my need to obsess and surrender to defeat.

Several dishes were ready: right on; Jersey helped me figure out my breakers and turn shit off to turn on the fryer; my mom's hospital office job where I became friends with nurses gave me the know-how to aid a cut wound into remission (we thought we needed stitches but really only what we needed was to lay down on the bathroom floor [see being OCD does pay off; the floor was sparkling clean] with the finger in the air, some Solarcaine, a bandage, and some Sherry), and for the most part our friends like to eat between 8-9 p.m.

I was in luck.

~

Fishes in the fryer
My Pops was specific, "Fry away from the house. Put it between the house and the garage on the edge of the patio. And assign one fryer attendant. It should be you. It's our fryer. You'll know how to work it."

I was in bare feet.

That wasn't in the manual, but my Pops said, "Wear shoes."

I followed my Pops' advice. And didn't. We do that as kids. We're allowed.

This was the first meal I made that potentially risked my home, my loved ones, my clothing (which I love a lot), and my bare feet.

And I think others felt that way.

They stood and watched.

What would happen?

For the first time ever I saw concern on Sarah L.'s face. I don't know about this, her expression read in one photo. When she showed me the pic, I thought, That's my look. What are you doing???

Then she said, "That's the look you make every time I make a souffle or marshmallows. I guess I didn't realize how freaked out I was."

Deep frying is scary.

And lots of fun.

~

I had a lot of help, but I was ultimately guardian of the fryer, as my Pops had advised.

I dropped the basket in. We all watched the oil bubble up and engulf the fish, though. And G would give the basket a shake so the fish wouldn't stick too much together while I was running around organizing other things. But when the fishies were fried, it was I who pulled the basket out with its little coat-hanger-pulley-thingy. I put the lid on, let the temperature come back up to 400, assembled the assembly line and started again.

My Pops would have been proud.

~

At 9, the crew went through the buffet line and piled their plates with cuke salads, braised greens, baked beans, grilled corn, crisp coleslaw, shredded beef, and fried fish.

There was one moment of silence at the beginning as folks chewed the first bites. But then there were outbursts over flavors or new conversations.

Dessert (s'mores with homemade marshmallows, chocolate, and pralines) was just as big of a hit.

And while I made future notes to buy more Nut Thins and lemons (thanks L & S for the run to Kroger!), to put butter, salt and pepper on the table for corn, and to put out as many chairs as we have, what sticks with me more is how a family tradition became a gathering.

 There were writers and teachers, a print media-ist, a composer of music, a medical assistant, an archivist, a webmaster, a construction guru/visual artist, a dancer, and a bio-chemist. A talented motley crew with a love of fried food.  What I love about parties is sometimes these talents are brought up and other times we get to escape them for a few moments under the silent canopy of holiday lights.

Friday, July 1, 2011

From Plate to Palate--July 2011

I think it's fair to say that most food writers come alive in summer. The farmers markets are alive and bustling. There are places to go and new restaurants to test. There is finally time to wind down by campfire with a cold one.

The July issue of From Plate to Palate is dear to me because all four contributors are AWESOME. Each have written several pieces for FP2P, and that's exciting, especially considering that soon FP2P is changing its look and layout. Well, that surprise is coming soon. But in the meantime, enjoy these fantastic pieces from four stellar food writers!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weeknight Meals, Comfort Foods, and Perfection (or Not)

  
Nom nom nom
It's no surprise that I usually spend a whole day cooking, especially in the summer. Whereas most people hate cooking or "being tied to the kitchen," I feel most peaceful, happy, fulfilled, and sane when I'm in the kitchen.

At the same time, I have writing projects, syllabus planning, organization projects, and lots of reading and writing I want to do this summer.

So some evenings I see what's in the fridge/freezer and cook up what we have. And it's these meals that are probably my favorites. I know the recipes like the back of my hand, and I have the cooking down to a science.

Such as was the pictured meal. I wasn't really anticipating guests, even though we had more than enough, but I was more than happy find out two of our all-time favorite people could stay for dinner: flat iron steaks with chimichurri sauce, ex-wife potatoes roasted in duck fat and smoked on the grill, sauteed greens, grilled asparagus, and Sarah L.'s homemade roasted red pepper sauce I had scored earlier that day.

I'm quite critical of my own cooking. Every meal I figure out what flavor profiles need to be edited, what elements need to be added, and how a recipe should be revised. Most meals I'm only partially happy with the results. But this meal was almost flawless. The only revision: I would have braised the greens instead of sauteing them.

What I'm wondering is why these meals happen. I think about the ones where I cook elaborate dishes that take two to three days, the holiday ones that involve brining, marinating, intense butchering, fine chopping, etc. These meals are delicious but there never perfect. And then here comes this barely-planned, use-what-you-got, throw-it-together-flavor-combos of a meal that was simply divine. Was it the weather, the vibe of the day, the element of surprise, the delightful guests, the boxed wine? It was a meal that I ate slowly, that I savored, that I will remember. Lately these are the meals I live for, that sustain me. They are so few and far between.

Comfort level with the recipe has everything to do with it, though. Later in the week we invited good friends over last minute for dinner. I was trying four new recipes for one meal (totally crazy, I know): grilled chicken thighs, ginger cilantro rice, bok choy with braised Shiite sauce, and sesame broccoli salad. The broccoli salad was great, but I heeded the reviews to cut the dressing portion in half. I charred the thighs because I decided it was time to test out lump hardwood charcoal rather than use Match Light, which I have mastered. Thankfully, our guests were gracious and kind about having to bake the thighs because charring them didn't cook them all the way through. I suck at rice; period (more on that topic soon). And the bok choy was stringy, bitter, and droopy. I wasn't trying to impress our guests; it was a meal I planned to make even if it was just for me and FD. These were recipes I wanted to test and I wanted an Asian them. But I had hoped for more of a magical meal, like the one we had earlier in the week. But no. I think it's because I tried too many new things at one time. And experimented with new methods (new charcoal). I'm an adventurer as a cook, so I have to take it in stride that not every meal is perfect. But even in imperfection, my cooking is usually edible and above par. But I'm a perfectionist with OCD and an overactive palate. I always expect more.

So does it all boil down to the comfort level we have with recipes? And does that comfort level equal comfort foods? I cook and eat ex-wife potatoes almost every night in my dreams (for real); I've grilled asparagus eight million times; I've sauteed greens for all three meals in a day and did it again the very next day; and I can indirect grill with Match Light almost better than any BBQ joint in Ohio. Give me comfort foods and I can crank out an amazing meal.

But...

I feel like my comfort meals wouldn't be comforting if I didn't have nights where I test four new recipes and fail a little (or a lot). I think most people cycle their comfort foods or the foods they think they cook well each and every week. I remember when I was a kid my mom recycled a lot of the same meals: mac and cheese with green beans; burgers and Ore-Ida fries; bubble and squeak; etc. At some point, though, these comfort foods became some of my least favorite meals. "We're having bubble and squeak AGAIN?!?!"

I use true comfort foods sparingly. For those days when I would rather read or write then cook. And trying new recipes (4-6 a week) allows me to console myself with my favorite dishes after a dinner-disaster. But it also allows me to find new favorite recipes, maybe even new comfort foods.

And it keeps my voyage as foodie ever evolving...

Friday, June 10, 2011

On Turning 34

I'm an asshole. I forget to write down the title & artist.
 I was born the year of the snake, which it's description paints me as saint and sinner.

And I'm a Gemini.

This could mean my good qualities outweigh my bad qualities. My bad qualities outweigh my good qualities.

Or that I'm a duel-minded, tortured soul.

Then again, maybe I'm the happiest person you've ever met.

Most days are a little bit of everything. Which is why this year, like every year, I vow to grow, blossom, and maybe even transcend. (Okay, I admit "transcend" is lofty.)

Lately I've been practicing intentional awareness (aka reflecting) as I'm observing my relationships with family, friends, work, hobbies, and self move into new stages and transform into something new things. Honoring my place/not place in those relationships is probably what's most challenging. From a friendship that flourishes immediately to one that fizzles out, I'm beginning to see that we all have our places and times with one another, and that each moment should be cherished, and that sometimes respecting someone else's needs before my own is/is not beneficial.

The snake and Gemini in me is skeptical of all this hippie bullshit.

But I can't deny how food is molding who I'm becoming as I step into a new year.

Food offers me sustenance, but beyond the basics it challenges me, comforts me, eases my worries, creates worries, motivates me, and provides me with connections to others.

Sarah L.'s Hello Kitty Birthday Cake
Take for instance Hello Kitty birthday cakes.

Last year practically-my-sister SEM made me a kick ass Hello Kitty cake.

And this year Sarah made a gluten-free version with all of my FAVORITE flavors: rhubarb, strawberries, pistachios, meringue, lavender, and chocolate. Thoughtful and fucking delicious.

It's a blessing to me that both Sara(h)s meshed my ultimate icon with my number #1 passion: food.

Being surrounded by love only proves to me that good food is a form of good love. 

[OK, so here's a blogging moment where I don't feel I'm communicating what I want to communicate. Or that it sounds more "out there" than is my intention. Sure, I feel good food means pure, local ingredients from local farmers, butchers and gardeners. But more so, I just love how food brings people together, and how those who love me know my stomach and heart are the same organ. And I fully appreciate that. From the-what's-left-in-the-fridge-becomes-amazing dinners with FD to Kiderowski Bakery's cupcakes to Sally's seven-layer salad to Babine's simple syrup to Sarah's Ex-Wife potatoes to Revolver's Polenta to Tator Tots after a very gourmet meal to Better Made BBQ Chips to all the meals I've had and shared with my peeps far and wide, my post-birthday wish is that food continues to nourish my relationships and continues to draw me closer my passions and callings. I appreciate every food moment in the present and past moments. As tacky as it is, it's truly how I feel. Food is similar to spirituality, at least in my forever-clashing brain. And I hope it gives me enough sustenance for another 34 or more years.]

In the next year I wish to make even more good food to show some good love.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And So It Goes...

The semester is drawing to an end.

For some that means graduation is right around the corner. All the excitement of the future is ahead of them. Along with the wonder, frustration, hope, and possibility.

And while I'm excited with them, I'm sad because it means some very good friends will be moving away.

I don't take good-byes well. I never have. I prefer the "see you later" approach. But year after year of friends leaving is making my heart feel just a bit more heavy.

Last year was Babs, and this year is Amy, Chris, Alex, Nikki, and Ian.

The hardest part for me is that I happen to make friends with folks who love food, who love to eat, and who are frequent dinner guests at our house. Come this summer, Sundays will just be a little quieter. Picnics at the quarry will be a little smaller.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Right now we're trying to get in as many games of Blokus and rounds of The Game of Things as possible. We're trying to eat as many kale salads and tofu bites as possible. We're spending as much time together as possible. FD's beer cellar is slimming down a bit, and the liquor cabinet is almost empty.

Of course the greater parts of my days are spent grading, presenting, student conferencing, food writing, editing, and cooking because I have to but mostly out of avoidance. I just don't want to see our good friends leave. But so it goes...

In the meantime, there's a polenta tarte in the oven, pork tenderloin to roast, and glasses to clink before the formal good-byes begin.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

VOTE!

Chef Micheal Bulkowski from Revolver, our all-time favorite restaurant, is up for Food & Wine's The People's Best New Chef 2011.

Vote for him.

He's put Northwest Ohio on the map as a culinary destination. He's talented, humble, thoughtful, playful, and RAD.

Vote for him. Right now!