Monday, September 17, 2012

fun with figs

Home from work, with a break til a doctor’s appointment. AND MY CAT IS BEING SO CUTE AND I CANNOT STAND UP AND UPROOT HER FROM MY LAP. She’s just so purry and cuddly and sleepy and happy. Also warm.

So I will blog.


Fig preserves:


My aunt has a fig tree which produces figs which means, of course, it produces 10,000 figs, because that’s how fig trees roll. We spent maybe twenty minutes picking them (while gabbing, of course) and she counted that, plus the amount she’d already picked that morning and preserved, to be, oh, ten cups.

Pause for a moment to think about how expensive figs are at the store. Maddening, no?



We sat down to lunch, where I was reminded how much I love just throwing together a whole bunch of tasty nibbles…


… and taught that olives are infinitely more delicious when heated in olive oil. Who knew?


An absurdly delicious tasting plate.

I took a baguette (oh guess what I LOVE BAGUETTES and eating 100% whole grain is just not satisfying. I can do 50 and perhaps even 90 percent but baguettes I love you indescribably.)


On one half of the baguette piece, I put fresh sliced tomato and drizzled it with a wonderful homemade vinaigrette that involved tarragon-infused vinegar. On a quarter of it, I put sun dried tomato hummus. On the other quarter, garlic hummus and cucumber. On the side, smoked salmon and a wonderful grilled variation on ratatouille. It was the BEST.        

My aunt Jeanie is one of my favorite people to talk to ever. Her wisdom and humor make the hilarious dysfunction of my extended family seem amusing and interesting rather than depressing. We watch Top Chef together and gab about things to make with miso (my favorite miso soup- found in Recipe Inspiration- apparently had my uncle Tim “writhing in ecstasy” when she made it the next day)

I always get sent home with gifts.

Farm-fresh garlic!


And of course, a boatload of figs.

I brought some to my boyf and his roommate. Steve has only had fresh figs in my presence, and Daniel hadn’t at all. They hoovered them in under ten minutes.

But I saved some for me, for fab post-church brunches :)

In a bowl, with yogurt


Avec a toasted English muffin and leftover roasted potatoes. The English muffin was toasted with the most SPECTACULAR and OH SO EASY bean dip.

Awesome bean dip

1 can white beans, drained
whole buncha fresh sage, ideally picked from one’s deck
olive oil and lemon, to taste
lotsa black pepper



And obligatory tea bucket. Delightful!


Then the potatoes weren’t doing it for me so I got out some absolutely scrumptious farmer’s market tomatoes and had those instead. With more bean dip! So good!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

new attitude

My life has brought a lot of (awesome) changes in the past few months. More a new attitude more than anything else, but wow do a new set of (rosier colored) glasses change everything about your life.

Last weekend found me happily frying falafel. That was great.


A few weekends before that- sitting in on a master’s level communications course at the MPH/RD combined program at UNC (for those of you not as well-versed in nonsensical acronyms, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a program that allows you to simultaneously earn a master’s in public health and complete the coursework and internships necessary to sit for the exam to become a registered dietitian. It’s BOSS.) I also ended up on a private tour of Duke Lemur Center (it’s a long, awesome story and was one of the best experiences of my life).


A few weekends before that- enjoying the beautiful sights of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia with my awesome boyfriend, who’s just been extra awesome lately. Our first day involved a great deal of torrential rain which was absolutely positively NO PROBLEM, because it allowed me to vegetate in the incredible claw-foot bathtub.


My end of summer days have also involved great times with families, a work situation that finally, finally, at moments, seems to be defusing, and other good things.


But really? Here’s what happened:

It all started with me feeling totally panicky at how I was looking and how much weight I was packing on due to being a big ball of stress. I think it was a pick-your-poison kind of thing- for me, when my head is a mess all of the symptoms will manifest themselves at my body. For other people, maybe they drink/yell/smoke/gamble/sleep/sleep around too much.

And fortunately, due to my own wherewithal (something for which I have given myself too little credit in the past), along with the help/love of the awesome people in my life, I dealt with it. And dealt with it meaning actually started looking at my emotions, and the patterns in my head, and my coping skills, and my support system, and all the stuff that actually matters (and uh, p.s., in a rational world where it’s supposed to be what’s on the inside that counts, how much you weight dooooooesnt matter!).

So I feel like a gazillion times better. Like, holy amazing, SO MUCH BETTER. So much kinder to myself, so much more pragmatic when dealing with other people who stress me out, so much less anxious in making decisions about the future, and so much more confident in my own intelligence/capability/compassion.

So hurray for that.

Also, my cells are kicking ass too- I will in fact be giving some of them to someone with leukemia. Next month! On October 6 (the day before my 24th birthday!) I’ll get my first injection of filgrastim, a drug that’ll make my body start making extra stem cells in my bone marrow and then, once my bones get too crowded, release them out into my veins. Five days of those injections, and on day five they’ll take out my blood, spin it through a centrifuge, and give it back to me sans stem cells (and a few platelets to keep them company on their journey to the recipient in EUROPE).

So many things about the process amaze me- the fact that I am one of the 1 in 540 that’s a match for an unrelated donor; the fact that that person is outside of the United States even though my totally mutt genes (7/16ths Greek, 1/16 Irish, 1/4 English, 1/4 South African) seem like something that only could’ve come together in the US. Thinking about my cells going into someone’s body, then (God willing- and it’s a scary and dangerous process and I pray for the recipient) going through their body and knowing to find their way to this woman’s bone marrow, then growing her a new immune system. If she and I have unrelated blood types, if my cells successfully transplant, her blood type will become my blood type. Crazy! So crazy!

I definitely have big plans for the not-too-distant future related to what my everyday life will look like. It could mean more blogging… or not.

But in the meantime, I am just enjoying life a lot more. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. My life is not perfect, nor will it ever be (and I am struggling to figure out what are realistic expectations for a career, since unfortunately my current “dream job” hasn’t necessarily panned out the way I would’ve envisioned). But life is really, really good.

As was this falafel!


Made it for some friends/families we had over for a get together last weekend. Just cause I’d always wanted to make it (and cause we had a mix! It incorporated both powdered chickpeas AND fava beans. Just delish!).


Appetizers began with homemade tortilla chips (tortillas sprayed with cooking spray; sprinkled with garlic salt, paprika and cumin; and baked til crispy) and hummus (that I made too lemony, agh!)


Then awesome Steve arrived with amazing cheese from Cheesetique, basically my favorite place in the world; and wine to match from a shop in Adams Morgan. Appetizers WON.

For the main course, along with the falafel was lamb (which I overcooked grrr. I was so delighted to find out that the lamb from Lebanese Butcher is not only halal and organic, it is also LOCAL, from Warrenton, Virginia, probably less than thirty miles away. AND I OVERCOOKED IT AGH.). The pink things are pickled turnips, which are divine.


Made my favorite summer squash recipe- Indian spiced grilled baby squash from Cooking Light- which I couldn’t actually grill due to the tornado warnings outside but was nonetheless delightful made under the broiler.


Annnnd my mom made  a great couscous salad.


Dessert was farmer’s market ice cream (strawberry shortcake and blackberry Cabernet from Sinplicity Ice Cream- so great!) and my mom’s homemade peach cobbler.

All were wonderful, all went unphotographed, but I’d say this is a rather long enough post, eh?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

guest post! from Maine

The following was written by my super cute boyfriend Steve, who went to beautiful Maine without me while I slaved at my overcrowded desk at work.

As Ileana would much prefer, I should skip the platitudes, clich├ęs or repetitions that have been rendered meaningless through their frequent usage. But for this post, I open with just one:

“Absence sharpens love, presence strengthens it.”

Corea Aboard this little skiff, lobster snares provide the fishermen of Corea, Maine with a bounty of $2-3/lobster

Not too long ago, I parted from Ileana for a trip with my Mom and Dad to the Northeast. The real Northeast, where lobsters are steamed by the wayside and sea catch still dominates port town economies; and where trees still converse in the heart of the mainland. It was on this journey to Acadia National Park, where Ileana’s absence became glaringly apparent. Not just in the sentimental, “I miss you like a cheeseburger misses bacon,” sense, but in a very tangible, very deliberate, “why in the heck is no one appreciating the culinary-genius of this food?” sort of way.

En route to Acadia my family and I passed farm stands, but just kept driving. We dined at really fun places like chowder joints and lobster pounds, but something ceremonious was being left out of our travels. I found myself staring at my food, and thinking, “why is nobody taking a picture of this?” Finally, at Jordan Pond, in Acadia National Park, I gave in and started snapping pictures of food. I figured at least I would have some food memories to show Ileana, because without her, food documentation has been a zero-zilch-nada in my life.

At Jordan Pond Popovers are served. It’s sort of like if a double-thick crescent roll were slammed into a muffin tin and then rebelled, unsuccessfully, from its confines.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: when I first started dating Ileana, she apologized to me for making me wait a moment to take pictures of my food when we were dining out together. It was when she surprised me for my birthday by taking me to Grassroots Station, a place where the meat was as ethically raised as it was deliciously prepared. Anyhow, her careful documentation started as a curiosity for me, and burgeoned into one of my favorite things about her. See, Ileana’s an artist. Not just with her ability to create, but also with her ability to appreciate food. She unwraps layers of cuisine complexity, sheds light on the marvel of their design, and provides an experience of nuanced pleasure.

Of the many things that make Ileana who she is, her ebullience for food is something that makes her glorious. Ileana, thank you for this blog and for making food an experience. Your presence was missed in Acadia. In the case of our food, we had beauty without the beholder.