Tuesday, December 3, 2013

the recovery

Funny story: I have been basically sick (minus a few days I chronicle in this post) for three weeks. Things I have learned, in the transition from puking stomach bug to strep throat to opportunistic virus that stepped in once good bacteria had been wiped out by antibiotics:

- Fainting is like the sensation when you stand up too fast and everything looks black… except instead of lasting for a second, it lasts like ten seconds until you fall on the floor. It is bloody scary.

- Dehydration makes your heart rate really fast.

- Getting a shot in your bum is SO SO SO PAINFUL!

- Grocery shopping hungry at Trader Joe’s is a bad idea. Everyone knows that. But grocery shopping NAUSEOUS at Trader Joe’s is even worse. I bought everything in the store that contained ginger, and several kinds of white pasta, and granola and fizzy water and so on and so forth. Expensive.

- Though I in no way have dieted in years (thank God those wasted years of my life are over), being ill enough to not be able to stomach anything but watery gatorade and bread for four days or so does cause one to slim down a bit. But, rather than the areas that we would all LIKE to slim down (I’m looking at you, disproportionate upper arms), the only result was the complete DISAPPEARANCE of my bum. A part of me I generally like. Go figure.

- Amoxicillin leaves an absolutely disgusting taste at the back of your throat. It’s a taste that matches the smell of cat pee. Does the “amo” in amoxicillin mean “ammonia”?

- Strep throat doesn’t hurt as much as I remember it hurting in middle school when I last had it, until you start taking the antibiotics. Then the antibiotics make the strep ANGRY and it takes its revenge on your throat

- I believe all this business began when I was transferred to the baby room. The babies are cute (in particular the one who can’t sit up all the way yet but likes it when I stand him up on my stomach and call him GIANT BABY!) but they also drool (or worse) on me all day and I am starting to view their classroom more as BIOHAZARD CENTRAL than any educational sort of place.

This is a story about the first meal I made when I finally felt like my health was mostly back to normal. A meal to welcome friends back into my home, a meal to return to the joys of cooking, and a meal to try to get back some of that juicy double.


Dim lighting made my apartment way way way more attractive. It also set the mood because Alex and Myra had (crazily, in my opinion) opted to say yes to a dinner invitation from Steve and me despite celebrating their five year anniversary that day. I tried to create an air of romance.


I made some homemade ciabatta, in part because Myra had made homemade French bread for us one time when we had dinner at her place, and I am nothing if not competitive. Made in my usual fashion, with whole wheat flour and vital wheat gluten to make it tender. Making bread is a wonderfully relaxing activity.


I also made my favorite roasted carrots- just tossed with olive oil, salt, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder. Cooked for a long time.


Homemade risotto. I’d roasted a chicken earlier in the week and used its bones to make homemade chicken stock. Then I was all set to make risotto, and promptly realized I was out of rice. So I grabbed a bag of quinoa and made quinoa-sotto. It was actually really good! Much better than plain ol’ quinoa.


Rounded out the table with greens, which I cooked in a saute pan with some softened onions and then creamed up with some coconut milk. And tempeh and mushrooms, cooked in a vaguely fricassee way.


The wine I added to the tempeh dish is pictured at left. I’ve had it before- it’s a favorite! A not heavy Malbec. The wine on the right was brought by Alex and Myra and was also delicious, in a completely different way.


Now, as I spend what is hopefully my last sick day for a good long while at home, occasionally pausing to cough up horrible, horrible looking things, I’m reminiscing about healthier times.

As I requested in my last blog post, my mom sent pictures from the Sunday brunch we enjoyed together when we were visiting here.

Crook’s Corner, in Chapel Hill, is super cute. And their eggs benedict is sublime!

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Monday, November 18, 2013

three years

Two celebration posts in a row!

I celebrated my three year anniversary with Steve on November 6th. You can see where it all began- I wrote about the food, just none of the making out (just kidding mom!)- in this post.

Since our anniversary celebrations have really stretched out over a several week period, I’ll chronicle them as best I can, with the understanding that I’ve been a super slacker on the photography hunt.

In roughly chronological order:

The North Carolina State Fair. Also known as the first time I ate these:


Fried oreos. On the suggestion of the Midwesterner. I spent the rest of the fair laughing at feisty goats and flaunting my awesome new cowboy boots.

Saxapahaw. A town in North Carolina whose name is just so fun to pronounce. We saw some rockin’ live music and Steve got some rockin’ bratwursts.

Halloween. Here is a picture of Steve and I:


Our friends’ costumes included:
- Bats! Wings made out of old umbrellas. In the manner of Martha Stewart
- A pinata and a blindfolded guy holding a stick (couples costume!)
- Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood (not a couples’ costume per se, but thematically close)
- A cat, with a monkey (mother/child costume)
- A hipster (a lazy costume)

And here is what we ate (not including candy, OBVI):


When Steve makes chili, he usually does chili and cheese in a 1:1 ratio.. It was delicious.

The anniversary date (November 6th) itself.

We saw this band!


Also known as Metric! We listened to them a lot when we were falling in luuuurve. They played “our” song last, acoustic. I cried like a little sissy baby. Shut up no I didn’t.

Here is a nice meal I made and enjoyed with Steve. Lots of farm fresh bounty, via either the CSA or the market.


The chicken I’d gotten at the farmer’s market from a vendor who I’ll likely NOT patronize again- I really prefer that my chickens not have feathers still in them… eeeurgh. I’d roasted it, then peeled off the skin (fortunately removing said feathers in the process). Then I threw together a not at all formal barbecue sauce that included vinegar, mustard, mango chutney, ketchup, soy sauce… random stuff like that. Go figure, Steve said it was like The Best Thing I’d Ever Made (which he does say about once a week but is still nice).

Also roasted some nice CSA purple potatoes with just olive oil, salt and pepper, and the last of a jar of salsa; underneath the chicken for a little shmaltz.


And simple salad with vinaigrette. As I recall, I threw some chutney in there too. Farm fresh arugula is DELICIOUS but also like DOUBLE STRENGTH of the wimpy stuff from the store, so I like incorporating a little sweetness into my dressing for balance when working with such assertive greens.


When I started making this meal, I did not yet know that Steve was coming for dinner. That is why it is so small! Fortunately, he and I had started making each of our own independent dinners before remembering that we were in luuuuuurve and wanted to eat lots of meals together. So he brought fried rice. It made for a well-rounded, colorful plate.


I’d also made some use-up-the-yogurt-lingering-in-the-back-of-the-fridge muffins. I’d snacked on an embarrassing number of them in the afternoon, and I gladly let Steve dispatch the rest for dinner.


So the next few days more fun was had.

Chiefly, seeing this guy:


GAHHHH sweet holy heaven this man is hilarious. You knew this. But being in the same room as him while he is being hilarious is a particularly fantastic experience.

Finally, a random breakfast Steve made me. Because of the many things I love about Steve, his breakfast making technique ranks high. A lack of fear of butter plays a prominent role in this technique.

Here we have gently scrambled eggs and spinach with some homemade parmesan-roasted chips. Excellent mixed all together, with a good coating of hot sauce. Which, incidentally, is how Steve eats many things.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

my cup runneth over

So I turned 25 over a month ago, but I’m only just blogging about it. This is for a few reasons

- It seems like a really big birthday. I’ve had to change checking off “18-24” to “25-29” on surveys, surveys in which I had NO idea how frequently I participated until I moved up an age bracket. Eurgh.

- Work has been an endless, grim, fairly crappy experience lately. I think I’m coming out on the end of that particular phase (knock on wood profusely) but I wanted to blog cheerfully about my birthday! I think I’ve been able to muster it.

- My birthday was pleasantly prolonged by a visit from my mother the weekend after it! I was delighted to spend some much missed quality time with my mom; and didn’t feel like toting around a camera all weekend (although Mom, I just remembered that you took pictures at Sunday brunch! Send ‘em!) but it included lots of fun times and great eats: dinner at Milltown, brunch with my roomie and her mom (so cute!) at Panzanella, hot cocoa at Matthew’s Chocolates, a Greek FEAST at Kipos, and the aforementioned brunch at Crook’s Corner. We sure packed in a lot of eating! Eating and shopping!

But anyway, my wonderful local friends, who I feel so blessed to’ve made in my short time here, as well as my fabulous boyfriend, showed me a really great time for my birthday weekend, and it’s worth sharing.

We begin with the Saturday before my birthday, in which Steve and I embarked on a trip to HIllsborough, opting to stop along the way at the (completely randomly located) Buddhist temple. It was gawwwwwjous.

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Steve disappeared on a birthday-shopping trip, ordering me to peruse the town at my leisure. I obliged, buying myself a birthday present (and inadvertently spending more than I ever have on shoes on some craaaaaaazy awesome vintage cowboy boots- bless my auntie for sending me birthday money to make the expenditure less insane!). This happened at this fabulous store.


Steve hosted a birthday dinner for me at his place. Lots of great friends showed up. Alex and Myra bought me these AWESOME THINGS.


The pickles themselves are great (duh, they are pickles) but the sweet and tangy syrup in which they float may be even more revelatory. I’ve been mixing it with dijon to toss with my brussels sprouts and boy is that great.

My other friends, who will be nameless because of the contents of this story, broke up the day before the birthday dinner and still came together to wish me a happy birthday. That verges on absurdity.

Steve made portabella burgers. Oh I think he might have put a little bit of cheese on them too…? A little hard to tell…


Dinner was eaten al fresco, by candlelight. Had to use flash for the shot above (note that the meal included additional delicious grilled vegetables that escaped the camera’s bright beam) (oh and really good wine. There was really good wine on my birthday). Managed to get a naturally lit photo of the dessert.


SWEET HOLY HEAVEN, THE BIRTHDAY DESSERT. From Matthew’s Chocolates, the place I have basically decided is my mother ship, came the pumpkin roll. Now tell me, like me, when you think “pumpkin roll”. do you think of fluffy pumpkin cake rolled up with some vapid, light, cool-whip-esque thing?

Well friends, this was PERFECTLY spiced, walnut packed, moist and tender and perfect pumpkin cake rolled up with TONNNNS of CREAM CHEESE FROSTING.

Boom. Done.

After we concluded the birthday meal, some of us strolled to downtown Carrboro to enjoy live music at Second Wind, which had a lovely outdoor seating area I hadn’t known existed. Blurry shots, but hopefully nonetheless signifying the pleasant feel.


They also infuse their own spirits- this magnificence involved tequila, strawberries, and jalapeno. As sassy as my awesome new cowboy boots.


The next day we strolled to downtown Chapel Hill for brunch, where I got my first proper taste of Soul Food at an establishment that is a highly reputable source for it.


Steve and I SHARED their four-side-dishes-and-bread meal (opting for one additional side dish).


Yes, sports fans, meaning that each person’s plate- a mere HALF of an entree- looked like this.


I have a hard time conveying the magnificence of the rich and meaty and perfectly toothsome (not mushy) blackeyed peas, the sweet and succulent but not saccharine yams, the soft fried apples, the oh-so-creamy corn casserole, the go-ahead-and-smear-a-ton-of-butter-on-me cornbread, and the comparatively virtuous but no less tasty okra and tomato casserole.

Suffice it to say, we ended the meal thoroughly satisfied and not a whole lot poorer.


The actual birthday dinner, at Foursquare, was too classy and gorgeous to ruin by whipping out a camera. Let’s just say that I ended the birthday (birth week…birth month, really) feeling thoroughly spoiled, and moreover blessed with all the fabulous people in my life.

Monday, November 11, 2013

life with a csa

(sing it to the tune of “life is a cabaret!”)

So my roommate Alli, her boyfriend Jason, his roommate, and I, have all gone in on a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture- Google it!). Split four ways, it comes out to $5 a week per person.

Because obviously CSA’s have their pluses and minuses (one minus being that I have gotten so much lemongrass in the past three weeks that I’ve had to turn it into a flower arrangement in the living room), I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been throwing together.

Because I am not always the organized woman I aspire to be, some nights I end up eating haphazard leftovers directly out of a baking dish.

These were all delicious:


Beginning at 12:00, behold:

-a slice of grilled paneer with oil and balsamic. I bought paneer at the most epic Indian grocery store I have ever beheld and have used it to make lots. One of my favorites was making a bastardized version of grilled halloumi (Greek style): I just put some olive oil in a pan, cooked the paneer in it (on both sides) then added balsamic to deglaze the pan and add a little acidity. Brilliant, if I do say so myself.

-socca, to which I’ve hopefully sung enough odes by now that y’all are familiar with it

- turnips with miso butter, per Eating Well. Google it! Quite delicious.

- finally, my apple-potato gratin

Quite carb heavy (though I did foist some of that gratin off on my roommate, who didn’t protest all that much). But a very me-friendly meal. Local were: the turnips and their greens, the potatoes, the apples. Not bad!

Another night I had Steve over and made:

- Salmon (thawed frozen from Trader Joe’s. Silverbrite. Ultra fishy, wouldn’t necessarily recommend) marinated in CSA lemongrass broth (steeped lemongrass in hot water); soy sauce; watermelon rind pickle juice (!)

- roasted radishes (watermelon radishes! So pink and pretty!)

- rice steamed with a knob of lemongrass and finished off with CSA cilantro and butter

- CSA green salad with homemade vinaigrette


Then I had one helllllllllllll of a week at work. Plus my car broke down. Plus I had to work Saturday. Gah gah gah.

So Sunday I slept my face off (score) and cooked all day (double score).

The first order of business was brunch, for which I made banana pancakes (using up an old batch of banana oatmeal and repurposing it into something more fun) and kale chips.


Then I did my version of meal planning. None of these matched up (I subbed Wednesday’s lunch for Sunday’s dinner, ate Sunday’s dinner on Monday). My main goal in this endeavor is to make sure I have enough to eat all week so I won’t be able to lie to myself that I “need” to have ice cream for dinner.


My first step is always to make a list of what I have already made (or quick-prep ingredients). I did REALLY WELL cooking a BUNCH of stuff on Sunday, so I had a LOT premade. The CSA was really good for this.


I got a pumpkin NOT from the CSA but still local- my neighbor’s parents grew it! To be more specific, they grew a gazillion pumpkins and gave them all to their son, who is now earnestly trying to get rid of them.

Happy to do my part, I threw together something sort of fun and inventive: I sliced the pumpkin into super thin slices, that looked sort of like lasagna noodles. Then I made a basic bechamel, to which I added yogurt because I like the tang, I’ve done it successfully in the past while following a Cooking Light recipe, and most importantly was worried about my plain yogurt going bad. I layered the pumpkin “noodles” and the bechamel (which I’d pepped up a bit with nutmeg and balsamic) and it was PRETTY DANG TASTY.DSC03981

I also seasoned it, and everything else lately, with this:


Bought it at the DOLLAH STORE. I mean cmon guys, it’s all the same sea.

Anyway, for the other CSA items for the week, I made the following:


Looks kind of like hot and sour soup, doesn’t it? What it actually is is cooked yellow split peas and greens (beans and greens!), given some richness and pep with ginger and garlic (from the farmer’s market) and coconut milk (from the freezer! It freezes well, note to self, and it’s so nice because I perpetually only need a little bit when I make curry recipes), and finally more of that paneer.

Inventive. Or weird. However you want to phrase it.

Finally, I’ve been getting almost as many radishes as lemongrass. I combined two types of radishes (white and watermelon radishes- the watermelon radishes have beautiful pink centers!) along with purple potatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and gave them a good roast.

Beautiful colors, no?


Ultimately, I’m really glad I did the CSA experiment, and it ended up reinforcing to me all of the stereotypes about CSA’s: it’s fun and convenient and inspires creativity to get an unpredictable weekly delivery. You also get weird stuff in weird quantities and get sick of eating the same stuff over and over (I’m looking at you, absurd quantities of lemongrass that are now making up the flower arrangement in my living room).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

perfection weekend part 2

Perfection weekend continued with a mini road trip, to Pittsboro, NC. Steve, Jocelyn, Jocelyn’s kiddo Kane, and I hopped into a car and discovered the most adorable small town. Because Kane is extremely cute, when we made our first stop (at an exquisitely decorated antique store), the store’s owner, rather than paling at the thought of a five year old stampeding around, instead presented that five year old with an adorable mini pumpkin that he carried with him everywhere for the rest of the day.

Then we were off to the most amaaaaaaaazing old fashioned ice cream parlor.

And naturally Steve had to order one of Steve’s Super Shakes. He got a mix of I want to say Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Reese’s Cup?    


I helped :)


Jocelyn and Kane split a sundae (this was their SMALLEST SIZE!)


(Clearly Jocelyn and I think alike on the food photography!)

We had lots of fun browsing the parlor and admiring their extensive collection of antiques.


Then, after wandering a few more places, Steve decided that we hadn’t had quite enough sugar and stopped in a bakery.


Jocelyn, Kane and I were busy admiring their beautiful creations.


And Steve got a donut, which he forced, FORCED, us to have a few bites of.

Our main stop of the day was here:


For a brewery tour! I sometimes feel like a poser because while I love the nuances of food and appreciate the homebrewing revolution and the exciting developments in the world of beer, I just… really don’t like how beer tastes. Sad. Still, I was excited about the educational component of the brewery tour.

Different kindsa malts:


Various machines and steps in the brewing process that I have now compleeeeetely forgotten.

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And, most people’s favorite part, the tasting! I was largely uninterested in participating in this process, as was Kane, so we wandered around the brewery and he shouted “bubbles!” every time he saw something forming bubbles. We had fun.


Note that the guy giving the brewery tour was adorable, and knowledgeable about beer despite appearing to be about twelve years old.

Then we went outside to enjoy yet another evening of live music!

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Kane JAMMED. He danced unceasingly. Lots of jumping up and down. And a little flirtatious running around in circles with an adorable little girl who was dancing too. Adorable.

Along with some food that was surprisingly good for a place named for its beer. I got the special fall burger, which was a vegan creation that involved sweet potatoes and quinoa. With fries, the first I’ve had in a long time, on the side.


Steve got the regular veggie burger,which came with sweet potato fries (be still my beating heart!). I stole a bunch of those, in exchange for giving him a bunch of my burger.


Had we had enough live music that weekend? No. No we did not.

On Sunday, I did some volunteering sending books to prisoners (through an organization with which I’ve recently become involved. As in, I accidentally joined an anarchist group. Long story. I’m there for the prisoners).

Then I strolled from my volunteering locale into downtown Carrboro. They are not joking about Carolina blue skies. Sometimes it’s so beautiful here my heart hurts.


Weaver Street, the main strip of downtown Carrboro, was closed, and hoppin’.


More fun sidewalk chalk decorations! The bike lanes were beautified.


And there were lots and lots of fun bands! I was definitely in it more for the experience than the music, but the experience was a grand one. Quality people watching, quality hippie dancing, more jamming with Kane, with whom we later reunited (along with his mama!)


Quality lounging around looking up at more Carolina blue sky while listening to gentle riffs on the breeze.


Then, because I hadn’t quite had enough sugar (x_x) I heard the irresistible call of this food truck.