Tag Archives | food

Still Cooking.

So, I could start this post off by apologizing profusely for my absence. I’m the worst blogger, sorry I never update, blah blah blah.

Or I could just skip all that and get into it.

Here’s some stuff that’s happened since last time:

1. David and I are getting married. I KNOW, RIGHT? We’re deep in the forest of wedding-planning with approximately 4 months to go until the happy day. I am artsing and crafting all over the place. I am weeping over caterers. I am keeping a running list of songs to play at the reception. And I am loving the hell out of my fiancé. Planning a wedding is one of the most enormous, exhausting, exhilarating things I have ever done.

2. David is in graduate school for his MBA (Masters of Business Administration).

3. I am still working for the state if Minnesota (39 hours per week, y’all) and still loathing every moment of it.

4. I’ve cooked some pretty damn amazing things in the last year.

5. But maybe not quite as awesome as what David made me for dinner tonight. This was his first Saturday off since January and he probably won’t have another one until the wedding (September 1, 2012!) We really took advantage of every moment.

We slept in until 8:00am (for people who normally get up around 5:00am, this was heavenly) and went grocery shopping first thing to get it out of the way. It was supposed to start raining later in the day, but the morning–although cloudy and crisp–was clear. We headed to the park to play catch for an hour.

Afterward, we came home and watched some TEDtalks on food systems and agriculture (we are food people. Um, clearly) while drinking beer and working on wedding arts and crafts.

Yes! (A quick aside; bear with me).

In the interest of saving money while simultaneously indulging my inner craft-whore, I decided to make all of the decorations for our wedding reception!

I’m making paper flowers out of book pages (David and I are also book people) and using paint chips swiped from hardware stores to make garlands. Here’s a sneak peak:

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ANYWAY. Around 3:30pm we packed up the art supplies and spent the next four hours making dinner. Actually, David spent the next four hours making dinner, and I kept him company and documented things on Instagram. Here’s how our evening went, start to finish:

Lamb shank stewed with caramelized onions, prunes, and garlic, topped with mint and served with an Israeli couscous with quinoa, parsley, shallots, and toasted pine nuts.1

Recipes adapted (rather loosely) from:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/pine-nut-and-preserved-lemon-couscous-recipe/index.html
http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/12/fall-apart-lamb-with-prunes-recipe.html

Am I the luckiest, or what?

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  1. We didn’t realize this until after the fact, but this is basically the Lamb Stew with Dried Plums that Katniss is so obsessed with in THE HUNGER GAMES. She is correct; it’s freaking amazing.
Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Food

The Ethics of Eating Well

It is almost time for apples, which means it’s almost time for apple-picking. Few things bliss me out as much as spending a crisp, sunny Autumn day picking apples and drinking hot cider before going home to bake, bake, bake.

Yesterday, I was hunting around online for an orchard where David and I could go and pick our fill. The first place that came to mind is the orchard that David and I visited last year. It was an idyllic, lovely little orchard, and exactly the sort of apple-picking experience I wanted. But I hestitated. The apples at that orchard are grown using pesticides.

And as that moment of hesitation expanded, I realized that I was probably going to have to go ahead and find an apple orchard that’s chemical-free. For me, eating has become ethical.

I dug my heels in on this for a long, long time. My food came from the supermarket. It appeared there, by magic, waiting for me to buy it. Anything that happened to it before it got on my plate didn’t really interest me. I had no desire to think about it.

When David and I were in the first flush of dating, he mentioned an article he had read about the dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup and how it is in absolutely everything we eat. Man, did I fly off the handle. “Psh!” I said. “It’s corn. It can’t possibly be that bad for you! The government regulates these things! They wouldn’t let people eat it if it was bad for them!” They were gonna have to pry the Diet Coke from my cold, dead fingers, I can tell you that much. David, wisely, did not push the issue. My ignorance was a bright flag; I waved it.

The first thing that put a crack in my resistance was cooking. Cooking, for me, began as an experiment. A challenge. When I was a junior in college Dan came up to visit me for a weekend, and I decided to make my first ever pie. I found a recipe somewhere–who knows where–for a simple apple pie, and I went at it with gusto. Peeling apples with a slippery little paring knife, rolling out the crust, dumping it all together and hoping for the best. Mostly, I just wanted to see if I could DO it. If I could create something out of nothing, like magic. It turns out, I could.

The pie was gorgeous coming out of the oven. The high crust was golden and sugar-sparkled. When we cut into it (without bothering to let it cool–how could we wait?) there was an odd, 2-inch gap between the dome of the crust and the cinnamony filling, but who cared? I had pulled this out of thin air. It tasted wonderful.

That’s how I cooked for a long time: to see if I could do it. I tried many more pies. I made bread. I made over a hundred mini cheesecakes for the holiday party at David’s office. I made pita, and macarons, and fresh pasta. If it was difficult or time-consuming, I tried it. I started to read about food, to invest more time and thought into what I was making, and soon enough these one-off cooking experiments evolved into something else. I started cooking full meals, three times a day. For the first time in my life, I was cooking consistently to feed myself.

The more I cooked the more interested I became in the ingredients I was using. It became a lot harder to pretend that the food I was buying at the grocery store was harmless, or even–that it was food.

I will tell you right now that one of the biggest reasons I refused to inform myself about the American food industry is that I knew, instinctively, that something was very, very wrong with it. And once I opened that Pandora’s Box there was no going back. I’d either have to drastically change my life, or go on as I was and feel ashamed and guilty about everything I ever put into my mouth for the rest of my life.

Let me pause for a minute here, and just try to say something. I’m not here to tell you what to eat. I’m not here to say that the way I feed myself is the way that you should, too. Food is deeply, DEEPLY personal and I sure as hell don’t want anyone to dictate the very complicated relationship that I have with it. I’m not trying to dictate yours, either. The reason that I’m writing this post is that while a lot of things have changed in my life in the last year, one of the most visible changes has been centered on my relationship with food. And it’s been one of the most emotional changes. One of the most exhilerating. I want to process that, to record it. To take stock and say, this is where I am, this is what has happened to me, this is how my life has changed.

Needless to say, I opened Pandora’s Box. I read all the Michael Pollan: THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMA, IN DEFENSE OF FOOD, SECOND NATURE, and THE BOTANY OF DESIRE. I watched FOOD, INC. and JAMIE OLIVER’S FOOD REVOLUTION.  I read blogs and books and listened to podcasts and talked to people and educated myself. I went to farmers markets and started an herb garden in my window sill and tasted things. And there were a lot of really terrible moments where that dormant sense of dread I’d felt so often in the grocery store, the one I refused to face, proved to be justified, and even more horrific than I’d thought. I gave up the Diet Coke of my own accord.

We joined Mississippi Market, a local food co-op. I became obsessed with the idea of going to the Farmers Market. I marked the opening date on my calendar, and we were there at 8am that dull grey April morning, browsing through half a dozen stands all bearing some slight bundles of asparagus and perhaps some new potatoes. Not very glamorous. But as the summer went on, the number of vendors exploded. By buying almost every last bit of our produce at the Farmers Market, David and I wound up eating seasonally. For myself, at least, it was the first time in my life.

I love sugar snap peas, particularly when eaten raw. I fell in love with them, oddly enough, in New York. After work one day my friend Bri and I met up and decided to amble around down in Union Square as we so often did. The Wednesday farmers market was still thriving, so we gathered up some bread, some cheese, some strawberries, some sugar snap peas. We sat on the grass and reveled in our bounty. As we sat there, chatting and laughing, snapping open thick pods and popping raw peas into our mouths like candy, I remember falling a little bit in love with just about everything at that moment. Every time I eat them I think about that afternoon.

Our co-op had some. Slender little things imported from Mexico. I bought a bunch, and shelled them enthusiastically (I love to shell peas. When I worked in restaurants I also loved to roll silverware or fold napkins. I find small, repetative tasks that require little focus so relaxing and lovely). And they were…ok. Not great. This is nothing against our little co-op, which champions local growers and products at every turn. But the winter sugar snaps imported from Mexico? Not impressive.

Several weeks later in the spring, our Farmers Market had sugar snap peas by the trillion–big fat pods that snapped with the most delightful, satisfying crunch I had ever heard. Mexico had nothing, nothing on Minnesota as far as peas were concerned, and I made my first decision about eating foods in season. I will never, ever eat wimpy little sugar snap peas again. I will wait, in agony, every year for that brief window of time when peas are available locally, and then I will GORGE MYSELF on them. Having had something so delicious, I never want to settle for a subpar sugar snap ever again. It will be worth the wait.

Eating in season, eating locally, eating food that has been raised without chemicals or hormones, meat that has been fed only its natural diet and been granted the freedom of unrestricted movement–these are some of the things that guide my food choices, now. I want to support my community, stimulate my local economy, meet the people who raise my food and know that they do so sustainably. I want the food that I eat to be food.

I’m by no means a purist. I love coffee. I love my fully-stocked spice cabinet. I really, really love citrus. But I want to make the most ethical food choices that I can. I want the time that I spend in the kitchen to be a joy, the ingredients that I use to be the freshest and most nutitious, the meals that I eat to be delicious and shared with the people I love.

I’m not saying that eliminating HFCS from my life was easy. I’m not saying that I will never eat another Snickers Bar. I’m saying that educating myself about my food, and making a commitment to better food choices is something that I have never once regretted. Not for a second.

I’m saying that once I realized that other choices existed, once I explored them and committed to them, a lot of beauty came into my life. And this small triumph, this act of deliberate choosing, opens up so many other doors. In how many facets of my life am I doing what I’m doing simply because I haven’t bothered to access any alternatives? My choices about eating have empowered me to make other choices, to take control of my life in other ways.

Eating mindfully is just a start.

And I am still learning.

I just recently finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, and was telling David about it on a long car ride. In the book, Barbara is having a phone conversation with a friend of hers who happens to be a gourmet chef. They are discussing Barbara’s garden, and she mentions that the potatoes have recently come up. Wait, says the chef. What do you mean ‘up?’ What part of a potato comes ‘up?’ Barbara answers somewhat incredulously, the plant part. Hold on, says the chef. What are you talking about? Potaotes have a plant part?

The gourmet chef and I have that in common. Potaoes grow under ground. They sprout little eyes that take root and, you know, that’s it. The fact that potatoes have a plant part that grows up above the ground astonished me.

“Can you believe it?” I said to David in the car. “A plant part? I never knew that! Did you?”

“Um, yes,” he said, this man who claims that the corn fields where he grew up count as the suburbs. “We drive past potato fields all the time.”

Well, imagine that.

Posted by on September 16, 2010 in Food

"monday, tuesday, thursday, wednesday, friday, sunday, saturday!"

Hello! Both Kelly and David (aka “The Boyfriend”) here to share with you drool-worthy pictures of our latest culinary adventures from Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (hence the title. Familiar quote, anyone?).

SUNDAY

The Meal: chicken in a sherry mushroom sauce with garlic mashed potatoes and pan-fried asparagus.
The Chef: David

The Ingredients:

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The Plate:

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The Result:

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MONDAY

After the hay ride Aunt Katie let us take a few of the leftover pumpkins to dispose of as we chose. Naturally we chose to roast the seeds (David) and make pumpkin puree (Kelly)! (Hey, Kelly promised to try her Pumpkin Apple Spice muffins with homemade puree sometimes, didn’t she?)

The Ingredients:

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The Result:

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But there was still dinner to consider…

[car ride home after running errands]

David: (oh-so casually) So…do you want to be in charge of dinner tonight?
Kelly: (immediately) No.
David: …
Kelly: (reluctantly) I mean, I guess I can… If I have to…
David: (immediately) Good. Cause I don’t want to.
Kelly: But… whadda we got? (A rare reversal of roles!!!)

The Meal: Asparagus mushroom quiche with cheddar and green onions, in a potato crust.
The Chef: Kelly

The Ingredients:

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The Plate:

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TUESDAY

The Meal: Slow-cooked porkchops, carrots, sauerkraut, and apples with homemade applesauce (and a side of leftover cheesy garlic mashed potatoes. Because they are that delicious).
The Chef: David
The Sous-Chef: Kelly (she made the applesauce)

Pre-plated:

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The Plate:

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The Result:

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(Kelly’s plate is in the upper left. Unfortunately she discovered that sauerkraut wasn’t her “thing.” Otherwise, another hit!)

In keeping with the jumbled quote serving as the title for tonight’s post, here’s a photo from last Friday. We attended a dinner party at a relative’s house, and Kelly befriended an otherwise stranger-hating cat, Quimby, while battling the last of her week-long cold.

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Note: Recipes are of course available on request.

Posted by on October 28, 2009 in Food

bad days and bye bye brooklyn

I am having one of those days. I had a terrible night’s sleep after being devoured by strange bugs that left David entirely alone and only came after me. I slept a lot later than I had planned to, stubbed my toe, had multiple impossible knots in my hair, my iPod was dying, I discovered that my camera battery REFUSED to charge overnight like I told it to (the first picture in this post was taken by me, the other two are courtesy of David’s iPhone!), and just generally had a rotten morning. David was on hand with lots of hugs, though, and I put on my bravest face because today we went to say goodbye to Brooklyn.

I have lived in Queens for the majority of my time here in New York. I had brief stints on the Upper East side, the Upper West side, and a ridiculous stay in Washington Heights (long before the musical came out) where I befriended a drug dealer named Seven who nicknamed me “Snow White” because I was “the only white girl in the heights” and who made sure that no one gave me a hard time or followed me to my apartment from the subway late at night when I got home after closing down the restaurant where I worked at the time. Ah, memories.

So once I moved to Astoria and was, for the first time, a financially independent adult and had a bedroom with an actual door that I could open and close at will (seriously, I will never ever take doors for granted again. You wouldn’t either if you’d ever lived for any length of time without one!) I fell in love with Queens and I fell hard. So of course I inherited a prejudice against Brooklyn from the start.

Now, this totally irrational bias was supported a little bit by my first excursions to Brooklyn, which almost entirely consisted of hipster warehouse parties in Williamsburg or Bed-Stuy thrown by people I didn’t know and didn’t want to know. Often I was dragged there by guys who refused to let me leave the party when I wanted to (immediately) because it was too dangerous for me to walk to the subway alone in the middle of the night and they just wanted to have “one more beer.” Sitting on some roof in the middle of Bed-Stuy with a bunch of entitled trust-fund hipsters, listening to them talk about the deep personal meaning behind their latest tattoo while they sip on Pilsner or Jim Beam on ice and blow smoke in my face as the five kids who had earlier done coke in bathroom were dancing around in the background to the sounds of all the car alarms going off down on the street was just not my idea of a good time. Sorry.

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But then I met David. And he was definitely cute enough for me to overlook (not quietly or anything, but still) that fact that he lived in The Worst Borough Of Them All. In fact, when I went to visit his apartment in Prospect Heights I had to admit that his particular part of Brooklyn was actually sort of lovely. For a year we spent most of our time there. We went to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum and ate at a dozen sweet little cafés and Brooklyn grew on me more and more, until I was grudgingly forced to admit that yes, maybe I did sort of love it.Parts of it. Maybe.

But then David’s lease was up and after a frantic, unfulfilling apartment hunt he moved to Queens. Sadly, it has to be said that he never really warmed to it the way I did to Brooklyn (parts of it. Maybe). So when we decided to move to Minnesota we both knew that we’d have to go back to Brooklyn and say goodbye. I’ve never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and knew I had to do it before I left the city. David’s walked it many times, but he’s the best ever so he agreed to walk it with me. But first, we had to have sustenance. We had to have brunch. We had to have… Tom’s.

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Tom’s is a diner in Brooklyn. It’s open from 4am to 4pm Monday through Saturday. The lines are usually so long that they wrap around the corner, and while you stand there (or sit there–they kindly set out plastic chairs for you to rest in while you bide your time) waiters come around with coffee, sausages, orange slices, cookies, and other delicious goodies for you to munch on while you wait…free of charge. It’s WONDERFUL. You’re pretty much full before you even get inside.

Getting inside is worth it, though, because Tom’s is a true sensory overload. Every inch of wall space is covered with framed reviews, photographs, paintings, fake flowers, neon posterboard highlighting popular menu items, and christmas lights everywhere.

After an amazing brunch (David: fresh crab cakes with chipotle mayo, two eggs sunny-side up, home fries, smoked beef sausage, wheat toast, and coffee. Me: Challah bread french toast with strawberry butter, side of bacon, coffee, and a slightly over-rated vanilla egg cream) we were ready to take the trek across the Brooklyn bridge.

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I don’t really know what to say about it. It was raining–misting, really–and a little cloudy. There was a fantastic breeze up at the top, and if you looked closely you could see through the wooden slats at your feet and watch the cars as they zipped beneath you. The top of the Empire State Building was hidden in the fog, but we could just make out the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Seeing all of the city at once like that made me feel very close to it. David indulged me and snapped a few touristy pictures (I am very sunburnt! David’s eyes may or may not be closed!), and before we knew it we were in Manhattan.

I’ve spent the evening drinking long vodkas and making The Pioneer Woman’s individual raspberry cobblers (TOTAL disaster, but still super tasty!) Recipes and pictures tomorrow, but for now I’m going to pour myself another drink and thank David once again for hugging my bad mood away, teaching me to love Brooklyn, and just generally always being the best.

Posted by on August 29, 2009 in Personal