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Ode to Lacey, O’ Queen of My Foodie Heart

19 May

Recently my beautiful friend Lacey invited my friends Scott, Mary, and myself to her idyllic lake house where she lives over for dinner. All I knew is that she said the key words needed to invoke my interest: barbecue, mojitos, and “private dock.” I’m in, duh.

She went bananas with the food, as she is wont to do since she is, especially when it comes to cooking, an ambitious tornado. Lacey has taught me the most about cooking, and when we worked together I learned new things every day. Even at a casual dinner, she teaches without pretension, which I adore. Here she casually murders a crab while some dreamy, cute music plays in the background. That is the essence of why I adore Lacey: she can disembowel a living sea creature while, you know, just hanging out. What a dreamboat.

 

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There were artichokes.

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And because she is ambitious and too generous, there were oysters. And crab. And new york steaks. Strawberry balsamic salad with feta, asparagus, angel food cake, and mojitos loaded with mint. Just like in that tragic scene from Dirty Dancing, I brought a watermelon. I was Baby. Clueless! Luckily there were no swarthy, gyrating Patrick Swayzes around to make me feel idiotic.

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As usual, she was gracious and welcoming. I recently picked up a hostessing handbook from the 50s at a rummage sale and ate up all the antiquated traditions listed in its pages. Not only did we break all those rules (no fingering the asparagus, elbows were all over the table, and certainly I was guilty of speaking with my mouth full), but it was positively perfect that way. If I were to write a book on hostessing, it would be a single sentence. It would read, “Just do whatever Lacey does.”

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The steaks rose like relics! Look at them! They were a work of art. And when it came to oysters she showed me a thing or two.

And then we slurped them down like an underwater circus act, rolled up our sleeves and ate the grilled piles of luxury like it was no big deal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when I grow up I wanna be Lacey.

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Breakfast freakout

9 Apr

Hi, world! It has come to my attention that two blogs linked to a post of mine in the past few days, and now I have a boatload of traffic on here when I wasn’t prepared. I mean, I’ve been pretty negligent about the blog recently (BLAME A GOOD LOOKING MAN, PEOPLE) and now I feel like the pressure is on to be really cute/likeable/readable to what is essentially a bunch of half-interested internet strangers, and I’m like WHOA HO HO I DUNNO IF I POSSESS THE CHARISMA.

So uh, as an act of desperation I am flinging a picture of my breakfast at you. That’s right, I’m pulling one of THOSE cards. Lazy cards. Last minute cards. I’m-at-a-loss-for-creative-output-on-the-spot cards. This is what you get. You’re welcome, internet.

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To be fair, my life has pretty much rotated around taco trucks and breakfast foods lately, so at least this breakfast was topical. Let me explain! Recently the taco truck near my house inexplicably vanished, and after several very painful and emotional days completely devoid of any asada burritos, it was decided that DAMN IT, WE’LL MAKE ‘EM OURSELVES. That was last night. This morning, said good-looking man was like, feed me! I’m insatiable all the time! So I did what I always do and fried a bunch of potatoes and onions, threw in whatever was in the fridge (leftover burrito parts!) put some fried eggs on top and called it done. “Burrito hash!” Cover that in Tapatio! Make a smoothie to counteract the greasiness! Toast some obligatorily very healthful seed-bread when everyone knows they’d rather have sourdough! Boom, breakfast.

Single food

13 Mar

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WAH WAHHHHH…. wrinkly chicken in a plastic pan! So hopeless looking.

I’d always avoided the rotisserie chickens at the grocery store because they had that weird hot-plasticy smell emanating from the hot case and their lids were always beaded in condensation which is kind of off-putting. I mean, typically I don’t want my food to sweat. Sweating isn’t delicious. But because of my recent poverty and adjustment to single life, I’ve turned to the unassuming rotisserie chicken somewhat regularly to feed myself. Granted, those wet-looking chickens festering in the red lights of the hot table reek of desperation, but there’s something to be said for them.

A) They’re cheaper than a whole raw chicken, and I don’t even have to set off the smoke alarms in my house while tampering with my lowly rental-house oven. That oven is fickle and in dire need of cleaning, and roasting a chicken is often an unpleasant affair in my home.

B) You can do pretty much anything with them.

The key with these chickens is to pick the meat immediately. If you wait until there’s a half eaten carcass in your fridge, all bone and tendons sticking out like your bedhead, you’re never going to want to finish the job, let alone eat the thing. Nothing is quite as unappealing as a cold, half-desecrated chicken with the skin all congealed and hanging onto the meat like a needy, weird boyfriend. I particularly like the job of picking the meat, since you get to get sticky and reward yourself with the tender oysters that pop out perfectly from the top of the spine. Those little morsels are the best part of a chicken, hands down. It’s also pretty satisfying to tear dead animals apart, especially if you’re about to eat them and especially ESPECIALLY if you’re feeling all weird from some funky man-problem you’re dealing with. Nothing says I AM A BEACON OF POWER like a carnage-pile on your countertop and a neat container of all the good meat-bits in a tupperware beside it. It just screams, “I was conquered by someone who knows what they’re doing!”

Or maybe I’m reading into it a little too much, I don’t know. I like to personify my food. I guess I’m lonely!? Or hungry. A little bit of both…? WHATEVER.

Anyhow, I made this soup with it and it was legit. And now I have SO MUCH CHICKEN in my fridge to make into any number of things for the next several days, so I’m frugal and healthy and efficient and a superstar of successfully keeping myself alive via food even though sometimes it totally feels like the odds are against me on that one. NO BIG DEAL! It’s the small victories, guys.

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Here, make some soup! Squelch your sadness with me!

-Two heads of baby bok choy, chopped
-Handful of shredded rotisserie chicken
-Chicken stock
-Ramen noodles
-Dash of fish sauce
-Some dashes of soy sauce
-Chili-garlic sriracha
-Regular sriracha, because one kind of hot sauce is never enough
-Cilantro

Simmer the stock! Add the noodles! Add the other stuff when the noodles are done! Now eat it! Congratulations, you just kept your blood sugar from dropping to dangerously low levels for another four hours… YOU’RE AN OUTSTANDING HUMAN SPECTACLE.

Sad Mecca

29 Jan

I found it… the holy grail of online food idiocy. I know this makes me out to be a real bitch, and maybe I am, but I have to share. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before… copycat recipes! I found a holy slew of websites devoted to recreating the foodstuffs of Disney resorts, Applebee’s, The Cheesecake Factory, and the mind-numbingly underwhelming American favorite, Olive Garden. Seriously this shit is just depressing.

I have to ask… when did Disneyland become a place of culinary excellence? Oh right, it didn’t. At what point did people spending money to go out to dinner stop caring about the quality of the food or the fact that “cooking” at Olive Garden literally consists of microwaving pre-packaged sauces and pre-cooked chicken? You know what, I have like, a million more questions, all because I typed “copycat recipes” into Pinterest. Here goes.

Why do the words “Cracker Barrel” fill me with so much rage? Additionally, is it possible to say “Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole” without sending yourself into a hate coma?

What the fuck is a Sonic Frito Chili Cheese Wrap? It seriously sounds like poison.

In regards to Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger… WHY. Not even a question. Just, WHY.

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Why is it that all Starbucks drinks look like giant piles of candy in a plastic cup? Is it okay to drink these as a fully-cognizant adult? Is buying one at the Starbucks inside Target for $5.50 seriously not doing it for you– you need to do it at home, as well? Additionally, what the fuck is wrong with you?

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Why is Disney’s Chili and Beans called chili and beans? Chili IS beans. Chili IS BEANS! And why is Disney’s Chili and Beans the most standard-issue easy as fuck chili recipe I’ve ever seen in my life? Oh right, because Disney. 

Speaking of Disney, can you watch this video without your head exploding? Because I can’t.

Just a few more questions to throw out there.

If you combine sweetened condensed milk, chocolate milk, and frozen cool whip in the blender to resemble a Wendy’s Frosty, is there any hope that you’re not cripplingly depressed?

How come all the Olive Garden salads appear to be primarily croutons?

Why would I want to make a McChicken sandwich at home (when it costs $1 at a drive-thru) if I had to

a) even remotely desire a McChicken in the first place, and
b) purchase a deep fat fryer to do so?

Applebee’s… what in holy hell is a POTATO TWISTER?! I think it’s a potato chip? Similarly, who goes to Applebee’s and leaves being like, “MAN I WANNA EAT THAT ALL THE TIME…IN THE COMFORT OF MY OWN HOME! Internet, come at me!!!”

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Until today I have chosen to believe that this sort of person simply doesn’t exist, but oh, Pinterest, you’ve done it again! Thanks for instilling within me a deep-seated fear of the majority of the population. Cool. By now I’m fairly certain that everybody just sucks at eating.

On an unrelated but equally terrible note that I must share, I found a recipe for “2-Ingredient Nutella croissants”! If you thought making croissants would be difficult, YOU WERE WRONG! All you actually need is a can of croissant dough. And a jar of nutella. And you smack those together and PRESTO CHANGE-O, a recipe!

People, please. You’re hurting my heart.

Homewards

4 Sep

Last week I got all excited about Labor Day weekend and the fact that the family would be together again, celebrating the time that seems more precious with every visit. We didn’t have any grand plans, but wanted to putter around the house, maybe sleep in, listen to music and, well… eat. Because what else does a family of varying interests and hobbies do to pass the time together? While at home I find myself mostly occupied by preparing food, which is how I like it. Shopping at Central Market or Whole Foods is a luxury compared to my everyday shopping situation, as is my free reign to pick out anything the family might enjoy (I went a little crazy at the antipasto salad bar… YUM). Things are a little weird these days… for the first time in my life, I’m facing things I’m 100% unsure about, and the stress about money and family and sickness and sadness and priorities and plans– well, it’s pretty daunting sometimes. It’s been a rough summer. But nothing makes me feel quite as happy and making food and feeding people. A tray of meats and cheeses, olives, and baby heirlooms while the family and friends socialize is always welcomed with such gratefulness. A pork tenderloin with a little balsamic browning in the cast iron elicits smiles from everyone who smells it.

 

Picking anything ready from the garden and rifling through the pantry and fridge for any forgotten carrots or potatoes for a roasted vegetable dish makes me feel industrious. Waffles from mom in the morning, fresh maple syrup and cans of jam from Beth waiting for me on the counter– home doesn’t always feel like home as I get older, but it always does if someone’s cooking. We picked blackberries in the back acreage, and with our bounty were rewarded with pie and a cobbler…

 

 

 

…although the best part may very well be spotting that perfect warm blackberry on the bush, placing it on your tongue, and pressing it against the roof of your mouth as it melts into some cosmic substance that can’t be replicated by people.

 

 

 

While I was home I bought a new book, and Beth gifted me another.

 

With her permission I’m abandoning the Jonathan Franzen book that has definitely NOT helped improve my state of mind, and instead I will read my favorite Ruth Reichl’s beautiful food prose and a diary of foods and meals and illustrations to inspire me to stay active in the one realm that I know is good for me.

 

Home is a lot of things… and it’s not always that embroidered sentiment you wish it was. Inevitably you have to process unpleasant realities while locking arms with those around you in fortitude, despite what your mind may be screaming at you to do otherwise. At least while we all figure out how to just be amongst all of this, we have plenty of food to enjoy with each other at our table.

 

 

 

 

Summer! Food! Changes!

24 Jun

I’ve been busily not doing anything, so I thought I’d share two photos of ingestibles I consider most appropriate to welcome the summer.

Obviously, mojitos!

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Since mint is the rapidly becoming the Ultimate Ruler of the Herb Box, I figured it was time to break out the rum and shake up some mojitos while barbecuing. I am especially excited about drinks these days ever since I dropped $12 for four stainless steel straws in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Sidenote: Ming Wo is perhaps the best kitchen store in the universe, and if could live inside it forever I would.

And then there’s avocado… mmmmmm. There’s a reason I got one tattooed in the middle of my arm (consequently I can’t believe how often people say, “IS THAT AN AVOCADO ON YOUR ARM!?” Well, duh).

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This is the best looking avocado I’ve opened in a long time, and I was so excited to eat A WHOLE CRAP TON of it. Especially with a bunch of Hempler’s bacon and green onion and basil from the herb box. 

In other news, I quit my bar job to go back to the kitchen full time. When I started working 3 days and 3 nights per week, a couple different people asked me “how long can you burn the candle on both ends?” Well, turns out it was just about 6 months exactly (plus a couple weeks). Entering the nightlife industry, I optimistically thought I could get by on little sleep and little time off… I’m 24 and energetic and strong! No problem! I thought the machismo energy that ran rampant in the kitchen would translate into bar employment with little effort. As the months ran on though, every day felt simultaneously twice as long and twice as short. I felt I was living in double time because I never got to adjust to a schedule. I’d work three days in the early morning, socializing and getting errands done in the afternoons, then stay up extra late, spend a whole day doing whatever struck me, then switch into three night shifts in a row. I never knew which day it was, or how I was supposed to get anything done that I actually wanted to do. My time was totally consumed with working and laundry lists of necessary activities. Besides the hours…well, I’m just not cut out for it. I’m far too sensitive. I want to see the best in everyone, and instead found myself consistently cursing the entirety of humanity after frustrating nights. So back to the clutches of early morning over the flat top. Honestly it sounds like a dream at this point. So seriously– TIP YOUR BARTENDER. They are badasses and I can’t figure out how they keep it up. I only lasted 6 months, any longer and I’d need therapy. 

This week I’m going to raft the Grand Canyon with my family, so everything I eat will likely be covered in Tapatio (when the informational packet describes “food that everyone will find palatable,” I take precautions). I’ll be back in full swing in two weeks. Happy June, eaters!

Tomato Jam, or, How I Became a Hypocrite & Hopped On The Food Trend Train

1 Jun

There are a few things I can’t stand:

French pedicures.
Small dogs that shake all the time.
Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” (in which he literally says “I know” TWENTY SIX TIMES IN A ROW. OH. MY. GOD.)
Incorrect apostrophe usage.
And of course, food trends.

There are more, obviously, because I am a Human Who Loves to Grumble, but I’ll stop there because that’s what we’re on about. I’ve previously mentioned how irritating I find food trends, though I can’t figure out how to link it back so I’ll sum it up for you here: I don’t like food trends because I probably already know what I feel like eating, and it’s not a cake pop, so please drop it already. Popular food trends just irritate me, probably because I’m somewhat lazy, fairly uppity, and pretty self-righteous, but maybe a liiiiiittle part of me is justified? Right? Because food trends make otherwise food-ambivilent people feel all gourmand-y just because they tried ramen and liked it! Well duh, it’s delicious! Start caring about food a little more, you indolent masses! Christ!

But now I will crawl off my soapbox because this post is all about how I’m a big ol’ hypocrite.

 

The other day at work we were a little slow, so I went across the street to the fruit and vegetable market, bought 2 pounds of roma tomatoes and set out to make the insanely popular tomato jam I’ve been reading about on every blog, cooking magazine headline, and trendy menu for awhile now. It’s been floating around for years, but I recently noticed it EVERYWHERE. I kind of wanted to hate it. But I didn’t. It was amazing. I was wrong! I’m sorry, universe! I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe because he is always right (I found his recipe on The Wednesday Chef), so much so that I’m fairly sure he’s related to the Dalai Lama. Here’s his recipe, from the NY Times:

1 1/2 pounds good ripe Roma tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.

 

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.

2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.

Yield: About 1 pint.

I first ran a special with the jam, bacon, a mixed greens on sourdough, which people seemed to really like. I couldn’t get enough of it at work so I came home and did the whole damn thing over again for myself. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s a great flavor combo that brings a hint of sweetness to savory dishes– it’s so versatile!

I was a sucker for the little bit of spice from the ginger and chili flakes. It goes with everything- I had it with eggs and toast for breakfast, with herbed goat cheese and salami on baguettes for a potluck, and on grilled chicken for dinner. Not all in a row, because that would be overkill, but still.

A little goes a long way with this stuff, too, so I still have leftovers (which included dinner for 6 and that potluck, so I was using lots). If I were into canning, this would be a good candidate, but since I am not at all motivated to go down that road, I’d suggest just halving the recipe if you’re concerned that you can’t use it up before it goes. So I guess I’ve got to officially stop knocking food trends… ’cause it looks like this mainstream food fad is actually pretty legit. But I swear to god, if cakepops don’t disappear from Pinterest soon I’m writing a letter to Al Gore to inform him that the internet is ruining food.

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