Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A resort, a wedding, and a bear

Normally, at the end of a vacation, I don't want to come home. But this time, I was very happy to be returning.

It was a long week. I missed my husband (and his mom). It was good to see my family again, but I'm not used to the noise and bustle of small children. The high school reunion was a little surreal. My best friend's wedding was beautiful, but I ended up stage-managing a lot of it at the last minute, so it wasn't exactly relaxing. Also, she and the friend I was staying with were on the outs; so there was that to deal with.

Pluses: The resort was beautiful. I got to drive part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which I hadn't done in years (and saw a bear cub!). When the kids weren't being a handful, they were super-cute. I discovered I'm a fairly competent emergency florist. I paid off another credit card. I'm glad to be home, and ready to work all the time and make a lot of money between now and the holidays.

In blog news, I know it's been a bit boring, and recipe-free, lately. I'm going to take a bit of a break for the time being and do a retool; I want to redesign this thing, and take it in a slightly different direction. (I also feel guilty when I'm not posting all the time; if I remove that expectation, I won't be quite so stressed about it.) So stay tuned!

Monday, September 16, 2013

In memoriam, for my mother-in-law

It's been an eventful few days. I had a great time seeing my friends and old coworkers in Boston--and now I feel no need to ever go back to Boston. I flew into Raleigh, having gotten an hour of sleep the night before, and discovered almost immediately that my mother-in-law had passed away after a long battle with cancer.

I put my husband on a plane and sent him out to Missouri to deal with family stuff. She was cremated quickly, and there will be a memorial service at some point, but no one's sure when or where yet. So I'm awaiting further instruction.

Then, of course, my twentieth high school reunion, which was ultimately fun if a bit surreal. I didn't recognize at least half the people. I did win a $50 gift card for having traveled the farthest to be there.

After that, my family went to Primland, in the wilds of southern Virginia, to celebrate my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary. We're currently in a big house on the side of the mountain, getting ready to go to the spa later in the day for massages. The restaurant here has a drool-worthy wine list, and the views from everywhere are just incredible. I'm sorry my husband has to miss it.

For a lot of reasons, of course. I'll miss my mother-in-law. She was really awesome.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A trip down memory lane

The backyard I grew up in

Tonight, I will be visiting old friends and co-workers at Craigie on Main in Boston, where I used to work. Tomorrow, I'll be in Raleigh visiting my sister. Saturday, I'll be in Virginia at my twentieth high school reunion.

Needless to say, it'll be a trippy few days.

I'll update from the road as best I can...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Because it's that day

As I go into my annual full media hibernation on this day, I think it's only fair to repost my 9/11 story, originally published after Bin Laden's death.

I say it again: I can't believe it's been twelve years.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A high school reunion

It's been an unusually lucrative couple of weeks at work. Add that to the credit cards that have just been paid off, and I'm starting to think I might actually one day be debt free, even with losing ten days of income this month.

Next week I'm off to the East Coast--I'll see my old friends and coworkers in Boston for a night, then spend the rest of my time in Virginia, dealing with my best friend's wedding, my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary, and my twentieth high school reunion.

Naturally all I've been able to think about is the reunion.

20 years. TWENTY.

High school was the longest four years of my life, and I wasn't even there for one of those years, and yet it seems like 20 years have gone by like nothing.

I had a great time at the ten-year reunion, though I wasn't expecting to (largely because I was single and got laid, but that's another story). Most likely I'll have fun at this one, too; people are bound to have changed in 20 years. And even if not, there'll be booze and it'll be a Saturday night off work.

Nevertheless, I'm still thinking about it all the time.

High school was, hands down, the single worst experience of my life. (Second worst? Middle school.) Death, divorce, and car accidents pale in comparison. Getting hospitalized for three days for excruciating stomach pain no one could diagnose? Not as bad as high school. Being stood up, and fired, on my birthday? Not as bad as high school. Dating a guy who wanted to pimp me out on Craigslist? Still, not as bad as high school.

I was teased, bullied, and made to feel unwelcome by pretty much everyone. You name it, it happened at some point--tripped in the hallway, spit on, laughed about in the locker room, pelted with food in the cafeteria, pelted with volleyballs in gym class. If I said anything in class, someone in the back snickered. If I said hello, I usually got, "Why are you talking to me? I'm not your friend." If I didn't say hello, I got, "Why are you such a stuck-up bitch?" I was told that boys would never ask me out because I was a frigid lesbian, and they would rather get AIDS than be seen with me in public. It was a relentless campaign of ostracism; even some of the teachers were in on it. ("You'd make more friends if you just tried a little harder.")

Eventually I stopped trying. I made friends outside the school, starting dating older boys, got involved with theater so that I could hang out with other social pariahs. Midway through my junior year, I realized that if I had to put up with another year, I'd probably become a tower killer, so I exploited some loopholes and left home at 16 to start college a year early. Which was awesome--if high school was the worst four years of my life, college was definitely one of the best four.

And then 20 years went by. There are still some psychic scars--I have dreams about being forced to go back to high school to finish that missing year. I can't walk into a room full of people without mentally cringing, waiting for someone in the back to snicker. I avoid gyms, and locker rooms, like the plague. I see those people on Facebook now, living perfectly normal lives, and part of me wonders, "Do they remember?"

Will this be like walking into the lion's den, again?

No, of course not. We've all changed since then, and it'll be a fun evening of talking to people I never really got to know back then. With booze. Possibly also cool music. I hope.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I paid off some credit cards!

Sorry for the radio silence the last couple of days. My stepson went home on Tuesday, so it's been pretty quiet around here. Just eating leftovers and working. In a week, I'll be back on the East Coast for ten days, so I'm just trying to empty out the fridge and not buy anything new.

In other news, we've paid off some credit cards, which is very exciting. I'm not stressing so much about being the primary breadwinner, because we'll have several fewer bills every month. This ten-day vacation is ten days of earning no money, across two weekends, so that's essentially a third of the monthly income lost. Nevertheless, we'll be okay this month. It felt good, looking at those zero balances.

The next week will be one of omelets, baked pasta, and bean soup--all pantry staples. I won't be cooking anything exciting, but I'll endeavor to find some recipes for you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Vancouver redux

The last of the day trips with the boy this summer!

The last time hubs and I went to Vancouver, it was rainy and foggy and we didn't do much other than walk around a bit and eat. This time, it was bright and sunny and you could actually see Vancouver's spectacular scenery. It made me want to hop right back in the car and drive to the Canadian Rockies.

Instead, we walked around Granville Island and Stanley Park. We took in the aquarium (expensive, but they had beluga whales), ate at Salt Tasting Room again, and wandered around downtown.

It was a magnificent day, and I think the next order of business, vacation-wise, will be to head up the British Columbian coast to see what else we can find.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Spaghetti with parsley pesto

From Bon Appetit:

1 pound spaghetti
Kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted, roasted almonds
4 cups (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 cup chopped fresh chives
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Meanwhile, pulse almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add parsley, chives, oil, and Parmesan; process until smooth. Season pesto with salt and pepper. Toss pasta and pesto in a large bowl, adding pasta cooking liquid by 1/4-cupfuls until saucy. Season with salt and pepper.
DO AHEAD: Pesto can be made 5 days ahead. Cover surface directly; chill.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Keep your bananas in the fridge

I realized recently I could keep bananas indefinitely--in the fridge.

I don't know about you, but I like my bananas at a very specific stage of ripeness--almost ripe, but still a little green and firm. The problem is that all the bananas in the bunch get there at the same time, meaning that I either have to eat an entire bunch of bananas in a day or two or have to eat some mushy, overripe bananas.

Then I discovered that I could keep the entire bunch of bananas at that perfect stage of ripeness--by sticking them in the fridge as soon as they hit perfection.

Refrigeration keeps things from ripening further (which is why you should never put tomatoes in the fridge). The peel of the banana will turn black after a few days, but the banana inside will still be perfect. And cold, which can be a plus this time of year.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

White bean and chard soup

Perhaps this is not the most summery dish, but an excellent way to use up a head of beautiful red chard, nonetheless. (Plus a lot of homemade broth.)

1 bag white beans, pre-soaked and drained
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
olive oil
1 head of chard (or other leafy green), destemmed and chopped
Seasonings: salt, pepper, red chili flakes, cumin, parsley, Italian seasoning

Saute the onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until soft. Add the beans and enough broth to float it all; simmer covered on low until the beans are tender. Add chard and seasonings to taste. Simmer another five minutes and serve, possibly with parmesan sprinkled on top.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Plum cake

This cake might end up a little mushy, but that's because of all the delicious plum juice leaking into it. The cornmeal/semolina gives it a really nice grainy snap that contrasts well with the plums. Another treat too awesome not to share with everyone at work.

From epicurious:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal or semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
13 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 plums, cut in half and pitted
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and lightly flour an 8 x 2-inch round cake pan or an 8-inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside. In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the plum halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Captain's Blood

Today's rum drink. Sort of like a rum Manhattan.

1 1/2 oz dark rum
1/4 oz lime
1/4 simple
Angostura bitters

Shake and strain. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nectarine-goat cheese galette

I ended up taking this in to work yesterday, because it was too pretty not to share with a bunch of people.

And delicious! And simple. It's really just crust, nectarines, and goat cheese. It would be even more delicious with, say, some arugula and chopped nuts sprinkled over the top; or some prosciutto; or a lemon juice-butter-herb sauce; or really anything. It's more of a savory tart, so it's easy to throw some salad or prosciutto on top and call it a meal.

From Spicie Foodie:

Olive oil pastry:
2 cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, or a light tasting one of your choice
⅓ cup cold water, plus extra if needed
pinch salt
½ tsp sugar

whole milk or egg wash for brushing
Nectarines cut into thin wedges, I used 5 large
1 large log of goat cheese

Pastry Instructions:
Mix the flour,salt and sugar until well combined. Make a well in center and add olive oil and water. Mix and knead into a smooth dough. Use your hands to gather the dough into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap or place inside a plastic bag. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes of resting, preheat the oven to 375F, roll out dough to a large circle and to your desired thickness. Crumble and spread goat cheese around center, but leave about 1 inch or 2.5 cm of outer dough to be folded over later. Next arrange the nectarines on top of goat cheese, use as many as you like. Fold the extra outer dough over the toppings, like you see in the finished images. Brush the dough with a little whole milk or egg wash. Bake in center of oven for 20-25 minutes or until the dough feels crispy and is golden brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Zucchini-leek frittata

It's been a while since I made a frittata! This has two leeks and two chopped zucchini, very similar to the zucchini-potato frittata (but, you know, without potatoes).

Same recipe, but with parsley added and with a combination of mozzarella and parmesan cheese instead of cheddar. I fried up the leeks and the zucchini until the leeks started to caramelize and the zucchini was soft, then added the egg mixture.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Baked apples with oatmeal crumb topping

I've made baked apples before, but these are apple halves with essentially an oatmeal cookie crumble topping. Two of these make a lovely breakfast.


2 large apples, cut in half
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
4 tbsp quick oats
pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º. Cut apples in half and remove core and seeds with a small pairing knife or spoon.

In a small bowl combine butter, brown sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon. Spoon on top of the apple halves and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tangy cucumber salad

Going through my refrigerator yesterday, I discovered an English cucumber I'd forgotten about. Voila! Cucumber salad.


2 hot house or seedless cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Kosher salt
2 to 3 teaspoons granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you like the salad
1/4 cup (60 ml) cider vinegar, or distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (optional)

Slice cucumbers into 1/16-inch (1.5 mm) slices, toss with 2 teaspoons of salt then add to a colander. Drain for 30 minutes. Rinse cucumbers then squeeze excess water from them. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 teaspoons of sugar, vinegar and mustard. Taste then add the additional teaspoon of sugar if needed. Add cucumbers and red onion then toss. Refrigerate salad at least 1 hour and up to a day before serving.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mt. St. Helens, WA

Another day, another day trip. Yesterday we took the boy to both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. Mt. Rainier was clouded over--you couldn't see the summit--and there were far too many people there for my liking (even on a Monday).

Mt. St. Helens, though, was an unexpected treat. I guess because it's not a national park, and because it's relatively remote, there were very few people there. The drive up to the Windy Ridge viewpoint was gorgeous--twisty, overgrown mountain roads, lush vegetation, we even saw a wolf. (Beware, though--because the roads are closed during the winter, they're not as maintained as they should be. There are a lot of potholes and frost heaves.) Nevertheless, the driving was fun, and I'd highly recommend committing a full day and seeing both sides, as there is no one road that goes all the way through.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nectarine and blueberry slump

Are you sensing a theme with the nectarines?

A slump is like a cobbler, but cooked in a skillet on the stovetop as opposed to the oven.

From, reprinted below:

For the dumplings:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal (fine or medium ground)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

For the filling:
5 medium nectarines, pitted and cut into eighths (about 4 cups)
3 cups blueberries (about 1 1/2 pints)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For serving
Heavy cream

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and ginger in a large mixing bowl to combine and break up any lumps. Mix the half-and-half and melted butter together in a small bowl until evenly combined. Pour the half-and-half mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined (the dough will resemble a cornbread batter). Set aside.

In another large bowl, gently fold the nectarines, blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice together, then transfer the mixture to a large straight-sided skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit starts to release some of its juice, about 6 minutes.

Drop 8 large dollops of the dumpling batter over the fruit mixture and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer, covered, until the dumplings are cooked through and the juices are bubbling, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue cooking until the dumplings are springy to the touch and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm, drizzled with heavy cream.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Snoqualmie Falls, WA

The first of several day trips with the boy over the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow we hope to take him to Mt. Rainier!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Bajito

The Bajito is a mojito with dark rum and with basil in addition to mint. It's more complex than a mojito; the dark rum gives it caramel and brown sugar flavors, and the basil makes it a little spicy.

It's also a great way to use up dark rum when you're out of ginger beer.

4 basil leaves
4 mint leaves
5 slices lime
1 tablespoon simple syrup
3 oz dark rum

Muddle the lime, basil and mint together with the simple syrup. Add rum, shake, and serve over ice.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pickled nectarine and burrata salad

It sounds weird, I know. But this is actually the most delicious salad I've had in a while.

Burrata is fresh mozzarella with a near-liquid center. If you can't find it, fresh mozzarella is fine.

From Bon Appetit, reprinted below:

2 nectarines, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 cups mixed bitter greens (such as arugula and mizuna) (I used regular mixed greens)
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
8 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces

Toss nectarines, onion, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Let sit 10 minutes. Pour off pickling liquid from nectarines and onion, reserving liquid. Add greens, mint, 2 tablespoons oil, and 2–3 tablespoons reserved liquid; toss to combine. Place burrata on plates, top with salad, and drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Golden beet tarte tatin

Pretty delicious, for just being essentially beets and puff pastry. The original recipe called for baby beets, halved, but I cut and peeled three big golden beets instead. Next time I might try a combination of beet colors.

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola 
or olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 big golden beets, peeled and cut into thin chunks

Melt the butter with the oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add the cider vinegar, sugar, and some salt and pepper, stir well, then 
add the beets and toss to coat. You want the beets to fill the pan snugly, in a single layer. Cover the pan with foil, transfer to the oven, and roast for 30 to 40 minutes at 375, until the beets are tender.

Take the pan from the oven and rearrange the beet halves neatly, placing them cut side up. Lay the pastry sheet over the beets, patting it down and tucking in the edges down the side of the pan. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pastry is fully puffed up and golden brown.

Leave the tarte to cool in its pan for about 15 minutes, then turn it out by putting a plate over the top and inverting it. Pour any juices left in the pan back over the beets.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nectarine sorbet

Ohhh, fresh ripe nectarines. Nectarines and peaches are divine this time of year: but there's nothing so disappointing as a hard, tasteless, out-of-season peach.

I got some nectarines that were super-ripe, and made this sorbet with them. It's amazing to eat cold, sweet nectarine sorbet after a long, sweaty night at work.

6 ripe nectarines
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cut the unpeeled nectarines in chunks (discarding the pits) and cook with the water over medium heat until the fruit is soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Let cool to room temperature and puree until smooth. Add the lemon juice. Chill thoroughly, then mix in your ice cream maker.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Campari ice cubes

I got this idea from a Saveur article; ice cubes made of Campari, dropped into a Manhattan, so that the drink changes into a Boulevardier as it melts.

This is an outstanding idea. I drank two this weekend.

Although, warning: I used one in a Campari and soda, and that proved to be way too much Campari.

2 oz water
3/4 oz Campari

Mix and pour into ice trays. (Makes 2 2-inch ice cubes.)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Turkey and black bean enchiladas

What to do with a package of ground turkey? ($2.99, on sale!)

I considered turkey burgers, but didn't have any burger buns. Then I thought about turkey meatloaf, but I wasn't feeling it. So I decided to go for turkey and black bean enchiladas.


1 lb ground turkey
15.5 can black beans, drained
4.5 oz can chopped green chiles (I used two fresh jalapenos, chopped)
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chili powder
8 flour tortillas
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

For the Enchilada Sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tbsp chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup chicken broth
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, sauté garlic. Add chiles, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

In a large skillet brown the turkey and season with salt. When the turkey is browned,  add onion, garlic, black beans, cilantro, green chiles, diced tomatoes, cumin and chili powder. Mix well and simmer on low, covered for 20 minutes. Remove lid and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put 1/2 cup turkey mixture into each tortilla and roll it. Place on 9x13 glass baking dish seam side down. Top with enchilada sauce and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes. Top with low fat sour cream, cilantro or scallions if you wish.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Peach-basil julep

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Last night, as service was winding down at the restaurant, I found myself discussing peaches with the chef and line cooks. We had some good ones, really juicy, and I proposed making peach juleps for the end-of-the-night cocktail.

Alas, we could not find any mint.

"Well, give me some basil," I said, "and we'll see what happens."

(Since I've made basil juleps before.)

I muddled together some fresh torn basil and pieces of fresh peach, added Maker's Mark and grapefruit bitters, and voila! The peach-basil julep was born.

Later I threw in some fresh blackberries, too, but that is purely optional.

Warning: this drink is a bit chunky. But that's the best part, I think, as you can slurp down all the boozy fruit pulp in the bottom of the glass.

1 ripe peach
1 bunch fresh basil
Maker's Mark or other bourbon
Grapefruit bitters

Muddle together 4-5 basil leaves and 1/3 peach, in pieces, until pulpy. Add 2 oz bourbon and grapefruit bitters. Shake with ice, and pour out into a glass. Garnish with basil.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Spinach quiche

A simple and delicious dish that I threw together with frozen spinach, eggs, and some odds and ends of cheese.

5 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed, with the water squeezed out
1/3 log of goat cheese (optional)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed

Place the puff pastry in a pie pan. Mix the other ingredients together, and pour into the pie pan. (You can roll the puff pastry out into a circle; I just lay mine in as a square, without rolling, and fold the corners back on top of the filling.) Bake for 25-35 minutes at 450, or until the middle is no longer jiggly. Let cool 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shallot vinaigrette

I made a simple green salad the other day, just mixed greens, cucumber, and goat cheese. The onion flavor of this dressing was perfect with it. The recipe calls for shallots, but you could use red onion or sweet onion instead.

1 finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients in a jar and let sit 20 minutes at room temperature. Add the olive oil, shake to combine, and serve.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

To spatchcock a chicken

Sounds dirty, doesn't it? Spatchcock. I promise, nothing perverted was going on with my chicken. But I have found a new and improved way to cook a whole chicken. I'll be spatchcocking my chickens from now on.

Spatchcocking involves cutting out the backbone and cracking open the breastbone, so that the whole chicken will splay out flat. Cooked this way, you can roast a whole chicken in 45 minutes, and it comes out much juicier. (You can also grill it, though I chose to roast it in the oven.)

This is where professional-grade heavy-duty kitchen shears come in handy. Make sure the whole chicken is thawed, giblets removed, and breast-side down. Make two cuts, one on each side of the backbone. Remove the backbone, and the wing tips (they'll just burn). Flip the chicken over, lay it out flat, and press on the breastbone to crack it open. Arrange it flat, and you're done.

I basted mine with barbecue sauce, and cooked it breast side up for 45 minutes in a 450-degree oven. No other flipping or basting required. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes once you remove it from the oven, and voila! Perfectly done chicken.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Individual peach cobblers

I saw this recipe posted on Facebook yesterday, and I thought, why not?

Warning: it didn't turn out so well.

I should have known better than to follow a recipe that called for canned peaches (and SO MUCH butter; I used half the amount the recipe called for and it was still way, way, too much). Fortunately, the end result was at least moderately tasty, if not pretty.

So, notes: don't use canned peaches. Use fresh. (2-3 large, peeled, chopped). Half a teaspoon or so of melted butter in each tin will be plenty. I'm not sure if it was all the butter or the peach juice or a combination, but my cobblers overflowed the muffin tins (put a cookie sheet underneath, just in case) and you may need to cook for 10-15 minutes longer than the recipe calls for. I had to cook for close to 30 minutes before the dough was cooked all the way through.

And I couldn't make the individual cobblers look pretty; eventually I just scraped everything out and lumped it together in a bowl. For all that, you might as well just make one big peach cobbler.

Still, it was a cute idea.

From, original recipe reprinted below:

1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 dash salt
3/4 cup milk
1 stick melted butter
2 cans diced peaches
cinnamon, to taste
brown sugar, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put 1 teaspoon of melted butter into each regular-sized muffin tin. Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and milk by hand. Put 2 tablespoons of batter into each regular-sized muffin tin on top of the melted butter. Next, put 1 tablespoon diced peaches on top of the batter in each tin. Sprinkle with brown sugar and then cinnamon. Bake the regular-sized muffin tins for 12 minutes. Let them cool almost completely before taking the mini peach cobblers out of the pan.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vacation aftermath

It's always a little disconcerting, coming home from vacation. I feel like my true self, when I'm having adventures. Returning to a routine after that just feels...routine. But we're all just working for the weekend, right?

This week has been especially disorienting, since I returned home to a whole pile of bad news. Not just dealing with the car's broken windshield, either; my mother-in-law is facing a whole new battle with cancer, and I'm down one job. While I was away, I was scheduled right out of my day job. It's probably for the best: working two jobs, 16 hours a day on my feet, was exhausting. I was tired and cranky all the time, and it's not a stretch to suppose that my customers (and my husband) were not being treated to my best self. The loss of income is worrying, but it was nice not being in physical pain all week.

So, I'm not sure yet whether I'll try to find a new day job. For a little while, at least, I'll work just the one job and get back to cooking more. My husband had a great phone interview last week, and we're waiting to hear whether that will lead to further interviews.

Historically, I've never been good with a limbo situation. But right now, one day at a time feels right. So, one day at a time. Today: make some tomato sauce, enjoy the sunshine. Tomorrow: an actual recipe!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Road trip expenses and food

Gas: $330 (not bad for almost 4,000 miles)
Hotel: $799.40, for an average of $114 a night
Food: $883, which included groceries, road food, coffee, ice, and one nice dinner out every night, for an average of $110 a day total for 3 people
Souvenirs: $66 (mostly postcards)
Tickets and admissions: $62.50 (the rodeo and a tour of Wind Cave; all other national park admissions were included in our annual pass)
Parking: $14

For a grand total of: $2,155. 81 for eight days (and I'd budgeted $2,000, so yay me!), which is about $270 a day all-inclusive.

The iced coffee lasted exactly one day. Then it was back to buying crappy gas station coffee every morning. But hey, we had our own mugs, and gas station coffee in that part of the world was less than $1 each. We refilled the water bottles every night, made new sandwiches every night, and returned with nothing in the cooler except half a jar of jam.

Not included: one windshield replacement, $440. Still not sure if that should be considered a road trip expense, or car maintenance.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Road trip wildlife

Buffalo, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn antelope, marmots, prairie dogs, and wild horses (not pictured).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Little Bighorn National Monument and Battlefield, MT

Our last stop of the vacation was Little Bighorn National Monument and Battlefield in southeastern Montana. We ended up cutting the road trip short by a day; my husband had a phone interview he needed to get back for, and there was that pesky cracked windshield to repair. (Turns out we also had a dented splash guard underneath the car, which popped loose and scraped the highway a couple times on the drive home. Montana is not well-designed for low-clearance automobiles.) But we managed to work in everything we wanted to see, except one thing, which was a scenic drive anyway and so no great loss.

The drive home was long, but we were road-weary and butt-sore and ready to sleep in a real bed and see the cats again.

Hopefully the mental images of everything we saw will sustain me through a few weeks of working continuous doubles.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota is one of the least-visited national parks, but well worth the four-hour detour from Rapid City, SD. First, the drive up is perfectly straight and perfectly desolate; no towns, very few other cars, nothing but farmland and buttes as far as the eye can see. (Do be sure you pee first, as there are not many opportunities for it on that road.) Great driving, though not as scenic as Montana.

The park itself is like an older, rounder, more colorful version of the Badlands, with more greenery. And a resident buffalo herd and a few wild horses, all of which we saw.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, and Badlands National Park, SD

We spent a full day exploring the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. We started at Mt. Rushmore, first thing in the morning, largely so the boy could see it. The Black Hills area is generally the Gatlinburg of the West: crowded, tacky, and full of tourist traps. Mt. Rushmore doubly so. And it’s a shame, because the area is so pretty.

We continued to Wind Cave, which was a new national park for all of us. We took a quick tour underground, and the boy loved it. He ranks the geysers of Yellowstone and Wind Cave as a tie for his favorite experience of the trip. We drove through a bit of Custer State Park on our way out, and saw more buffalo and a herd of pronghorn antelope grazing by the side of the road. 

I dropped the men off at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, right outside Ellsworth Air Force Base, and loaded up on groceries at the nearest Target.

Then we headed to Badlands National Park, and during some road construction on the interstate, we took a rock to the windshield and had our first bad thing happen on the trip: a cracked windshield. We sat and watched it crack across the passenger side and I completely panicked. I’d never had a cracked windshield before, and despite my husband’s protestations that it was purely cosmetic damage and not anything to worry about, I had visions of the windshield popping out at high speed. I had to call our insurance guy, the local dealership, an auto glass specialist, and my dad before I could be convinced that we were in no immediate danger.

We cleared the Badlands and since it was crowded, we had a picnic dinner at the city park in Wall, SD, before browsing the infamous Wall Drug and returning to Rapid City for the night.