Musing on food and cooking ...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August Updates

Well, Dear Readers all know that work in August is kicking my ass, so I won't go into that here. But there have been other happenings as well....

Pele spent most of the month of August, since Kali was allowed to come out of quarantine and socialize, doing this:

But more recently there has been some moves towards, at the very least, tolerance, as evidenced by this:

Still not a lot of friendship while fully conscious, but they actually both slept with us in the bed last night, albeit as far apart as possible.

The garden has also been going gonzo. I had to give away cucumbers, because we had so many. But there has been a lot of garden sadness, too. A damn rabbit ate several of our spaghetti squash and I will now count us lucky if we get four squash from the plant that ate New York. Our maters are at least three weeks behind schedule. If they ever turn, we will have a lot, but we were talking today about if we wanted to buy some at the farm stand in order to make sure we had at least a few bags of sauce in the freezer.

The greater unhappiness has been related to our gorgeous, heavily loaded pepper plants:

Notice anything? Or rather, notice that there is nothing on the plant?

The plants have been loaded, but not quite ripe. Boxer has been wanting to pick them for a couple of weeks, and I was all, "No, no, they aren't ripe yet!" I came home last night and saw with joy that they were ready. So we were planning on picking some today and having baked stuffed peppers this week, with quinoa and sweet onion and maybe fresh sage. I was particularly looking forward to eating the yellow ones with the blush color. My, they looked tasty.

We came out this morning to go and do our grocery shopping and discovered that, during the night, someone had stripped two pepper plants completely bare.

Now these are not the first plant and vegetable thefts we have had. I had two poppies stolen this spring, and sometimes a few cukes would be off the front, particularly those overhanging the sidewalk. But this was two whole plants, at least two dozen peppers completely gone. Inside the fence, at least ten feet from the sidewalk. Including all the blush stuffing peppers, and the red giants, which had not even started to turn red yet.

So, after we got home from our running this morning, we went out and picked everything, even if it hadn't really turned color yet. Why leave them for someone else? And then we went in back, and it appears that someone has also been taking some zukes, which I would actually thank them for, if they hadn't ripped the plants out of the ground. And we were very short on beans, even though I noticed that a bumper crop was coming and and would like be ready for today.

This development has made me very sad. I mean, if someone is truly hungry, I can understand it, just ask and I will give! But the stealing in the dead of night? It also makes me feel unsafe; like I cannot safely leave my house to go anywhere without fear of someone stealing all of my stuff - inside or out. And it makes me feel used, because someone has obviously been watching for these peppers to get ripe so they could come and pluck them.

It makes me wonder if we should have a garden at all. I mean, why put in $400-$500 worth of plants and all if someone is just going to steal everything? We could join a CSA for that amount. Yeah, it might mean less produce than we would get growing our own, but if someone is going to steal it all, we might end up with more from the CSA anyway. Or do we have to grow stuff that none of the neighbors would enjoy? I could try putting everything in the back, but the front is sunnier. I had even thought about moving all the maters to the front, but I won't do that if they are going to get stripped...

What's a sad gardener to do? Damn Pepper Thieves!

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's the little things

The last few weeks at work have been insane. I have a deadline coming up for a major proposal early next week. It's a totally cool project but also incredibly complex - involving more than 15 major partners and an almost $700,000 budget with multiple subcontractors and in-kind cost sharing. Trying to explain the whole thing in 25 pages is nigh on impossible and has been made more difficult by the fact that the two leaders of the project are like oil and water in terms of their working styles. On top of all this, I have a major report and a proposal that I just haven't been able to get to, more than 15 students interested in applying for Fulbrights, class is starting, and all manner of insanity.

Needless to say, I am a little stressed out. I am tired but suffering from insomnia. My back hurts. My hip hurts. And all I can see are things that need to be done - mowing the lawn, the garden, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom etc etc....

Anyway, there is a shitstorm of crap that is swirling around my general area and an implosion was imminent. It happened last night.

Now, dear readers will know that I am more of a feline than a canine person. That being said, the boxer is a nice dog. Big and smelly and clumsy, yes, but usually endearing. But it has been hard adjusting to living with a dog. For example, it is practically impossible to go away for a weekend, especially on short notice. Cats watch themselves; dogs need sitters or boarding kennels. If we take him with us, it can be hard to find a dog-friendly hotel. And really, how much fun would a dog have sleeping in the back of a car for hours on end? We couldn't even go into a restaurant in the summer because the dog can't come in and it is a death sentence to leave him in the car.

And did I mention that he is big and smelly and clumsy?

Now, the boxer has taken a major shine to me. When I come home from work he practically does somersaults of joy. If I happen to get home before Boxer and am napping on the couch, the boxer barks at Boxer when he comes home. The boxer also likes to sleep on the floor near my side of the bed. Now, this wasn't a huge deal at first because he slept a lot towards the end of the bed, and, although I get up a gazillion times a night, I knew I could swing my legs over, stand up, and then slowly nudge him out of the way. Nudge, nudge, nudge.

Recently, however, he has started sleeping in ever varying places along my side of the bed, including half under the bed with just his front shoulders and head sticking out. Twice, earlier this week, I stepped on him while getting up. Once, I tripped over him and fell down while coming back to bed. Last night, I was reading on the bed and my leg slipped off the edge and wonked the boxer in the head, whereupon he yelped and nipped at me.

Now, I don't blame him. If I accidently kicked me, I would probably yelp and nip me as well. But everything has just been too much lately and that was the last straw. I put my head down on my reading material and sobbed. Boxer got busy rubbing my back and telling me it will be ok and I just really wanted to die or for everyone to just go the hell away. I went into the bathroom and washed my face and all those feelings disapated, but the initial moment was very difficult.

I am so thankful that Boxer is patient. And we are working hard on figuring how to handle the boxer, because I will no doubt step on him again and it not only makes me feel like a shit, but eventually I could hurt him and then he will hurt me. I am glad that I am centered enough to know that all my reactions to things are overly ramped up right now because I have reached critical exhaustion. But it is hard; and it's the little things that are the hardest. I guess all you can really do is manage each one, one at a time.....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Omnivore's Meme

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (but not intentionally)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Notice how nearly everything that isn't bolded is alcohol or tobacco related?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Today's Episode, in Which I Purchase a New Appliance and Ruin a Perfectly Good Green Curry,
Two Activities Completely Unrelated

Dear readers will remember that when I moved into my current abode, I had to replace the stove, washer, and dryer in the house. Lovely, big purchases made slightly easier by a Sears credit card (12 months, no payments, no interest - love love!). At the time, I did not replace the frig because I wanted to see if I could eek it out a bit longer.

Well, it finally was heading towards its last legs, sounding like a dump truck, not keeping frozen food frozen. Poor thing was nearly 20 years old!

So, Boxer and I went to Sears and purchased a new frig. It is beautious, although Blogger won't let me upload a pic so you can covet it.

It is a bit different though. It is actually a freezer that converts into a refrigerator, and vice versa. It works good for us, as we have a lot of produce and tofu and cheese and frig related food items. And not so much frozen foods. Or so we thought.

We managed to fit all the stuff from the old freezer into the downstairs freezer, but I will admit it is a tight fit. I have got to start eating venison and pork to free up space, so we can can all that summer squash we have!

Speaking of summer squash, last night Boxer and I decided to use a portion of our tremendous zuke and summer squash bounty to make a delicious squash and tofu green curry with lemongrass jasmine rice. I had everything going. It was almost together. Just spicy enough. Just enough ginger. Just needed a touch of salt. So I grabbed my salt grinder and gave a few grinds and *PLOP* the damn top fell off and into the curry. I quicked grabbed a spoon and scooped it out, hoping to have caught the worst of it, and asked Boxer to come and taste to assess the damage. He took a spoonful and yelled, "The salt! It burns!" and promptly spit it into the trash.

Well, hell.

So, in a vain attempt to save dinner, I poured it in a strainer and rinsed it and threw it back in the pan with some ginger and oyster sauce and sweet chili garlic sauce and heated it through. Not bad at all... but it wasn't the delicious green curry, either.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ah, cats....

So, peace is coming to our household. Pele has given up being offended all the time, and she and Lil Bit have actually, OMG, touched on a couple of occassions. Pele is still refusing to sleep in the bed, but at least she is coming out of her cave more. Lil Bit is not so high-energy obnoxious all the time, but is still kittenish. She has seemed a little off the last couple of days, but I am hoping it is just a minor set-back and not an illness. We will watch her closely to make certain.

We have had a couple of potty problems with Lil Bit. Last week, one evening not long after Lil Bit had been allowed to join the whole house rather than languish in quarantine, Boxer and I were getting ready for bed and smelled a horrid smell and discovered that lil Bit had pooped on his side of the bed. We stripped the bed and sprayed with anti-stink spray, but then she did the same thing in the morning. Perhaps tummy troubles? Perhaps she was still a bit scared of the boxer? Perhaps she wasn't sure how to get over the babygate?

No idea, but she is now in love with the dog and can hop the gate no problem, and we clean her three boxes everyday, and there has been no more pooping. Thank god/dess. Of course, we also keep the bedroom closed off, except when we are in it.

There has sadly been one episode of peeing. Boxer was busy sorting laundry on the bed, and Lil Bit was hanging out with him and peed on my side of the bed. Again, no idea what that was about. It's always so hard to know with cats. So we cleaned the bed and all that, and I just got the shelter to agree to spay her early (thank goodness!), so if it is a marking issue, hopefully that will also be solved.

Man, cats is some crazy!
A Great "Found" Poem

I am very fascinated by the concept of the "found" poem. Poems can be found in recipes, emails, letters, interviews in articles. They are just standard, everyday communications, but something about them lends themselves to arrangement, or they have a certain rhythm, or, well, something intangible. I have only in my life ever found one "found" poem. I arranged this in the mid 90s, using the words of Phan Thi Kim Phuc in an interview she gave to Time magazine. Phan was pictured in the iconic photo of napalm victims at Trang Bang in 1972.

Nong Qua/Too Hot

I see
the bombs. I run,

run, and run.
My feet are not
burned. My clothes ...

I tear them off. The burning
doesn't stop. I keep running.
I yelled - too
hot. Too hot.

I run, run, and

My sister came to see
me. My mother
said, "Don't
cry. Don't cry anymore.
We can take care of everything

the pain. You alone
have to suffer it."
So I don't cry
anymore. I try.
I try. I run, run,
and run. I see
the bombs. I see

the fire.
Too hot.

I received a beautiful poem in an email yesterday. I don't think the sender intended it to be a poem, but it is... I post it here, and yet omit the author's name, to protect the guilty....

my phone is ringing

from off campus.

I see a man in the water, arms flaying, . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


So exciting! Some weird looking animal was recently filmed in the desert Southwest, home of the infamous and potentially mythological chupacabra, aka, the goat-sucker. Perhaps this notorious beastie has finally been caught on tape....

Between the chupacabra and the lovely Montauk Monster:

well, it's enough to make you wonder if the stuff of legend is becoming reality, or if are animals are getting totally genetically wonked up because of all the crap we are polluting the earth with.....

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

So Boxer took Kali to the vet yesterday so she could get her Feline Leukemia test and we could begin the process of fully integrating her into the house. We were going to wait until she went back to the shelter for her final shots and spaying and all that, but she cries at night when she is isolated - cries loudly like unto a banesidhe - and was driving me bonkers.

And so, in she went. She is Feline Leukemia negative, by the way, so yeah Kali! She is about six months old as she has her permanent canines. But she is also incredibly tiny, only 4 pounds 3 ounces. And the vet does not think she will get much bigger. She must have been the runt of the litter!

When I got home, we put the boxer out in the sunroom and decided to let Kali and Pele get to know each other face to face, rather than through the door, as they had been (kinda sorta). Pele was in her hidey hole behind the couch and Kali, aka Lil Bit, jumped down near her and Pele started grooming her. I was shocked. Was it going to be that easy!? Was there going to be no hissing, no grumbling, no being offended? Not likely. Apparently, Pele had started the grooming out of some sort of involuntary response to being startled out of sleep and, once she was fully awake and realized she was snoorgling an intruder, went all hissy, and remind hissy and crabby for much of the rest of the evening. We brought Kali in to sleep by us, so she wouldn't cry, and at one point Pele came in to snuggle with me and realized the kitten was in the room, and proceeded to spend about an hour making the most displeased groaning moaning near-growls ever and finally left for kitten-free climes.

I imagine the bitching and moaning will continue for a while. I asked Boxer to give Pele some special loving today so she knows we still love her. Maybe that will help a bit, but really, I think it is just a matter of time....

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Not a Winner

Sadly, it has become obvious that I am not going to be a finalist in the Cooking Light recipe contest. As a friend said, maybe my food is too strange to appeal to a majority of the magazines readers. Possibly. I might also have disqualified myself as I forgot to put serving sizes on my entries. Oh well. I still think the recipes are very good, and so, share them here with you!

By the way, feel free to ignore the brand-name ingredients in the recipes. They were required by the rules of the contest.

Asian Pear Crisp

5 Asian pears (about six cups, diced)

juice of half a lemon

1 Tablespoon Chinese five spice

2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, diced

2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour


1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup steel-cut Irish oats

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup Kerrygold butter, melted

2 Tablespoons honey

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Wash the Asian pears. Core them and then dice them into a large dice. Place the pears in a mixing bowl and toss with the juice of half a lemon.

3. Toss the fruit with the Chinese five spice, diced ginger, and flour.

4. Spread the mixture in the bottom of a 9 x 11 (or similar size) baking dish.

5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the two types of oats and the dark brown sugar. Mix well to be sure the ingredients are well incorporated.

6. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. When butter is just melted, add the honey, stirring until the honey is dissolved.

7. Pour the honey butter mixture into the oat mixture. Mix well.

8. Spread the topping over the pears and then bake for approximately 40 minutes in the 400 degree F oven, until the topping is nicely browned and the pears are tender.

Serves 8

Indian-style Shepherd’s Pie

1 ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon dried fenugreek

1 Tablespoon cumin seed

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 Tablespoon sweet curry powder

1 bag Birds Eye Steamfresh mixed vegetables

1 jar Newman’s Own marinara sauce


½ pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces

½ pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces

3 cloves garlic

½ t. brown mustard seeds

½ cup chopped cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces, trimming any excess fat.

3. Put onions into a large non-stick skillet on medium heat. Once the onions are just starting to turn translucent, add chicken, garlic, and ginger.

4. Cook until chicken is nearly cooked, at least 15 minutes. Then add fenugreek, cumin, coriander, and sweet curry powder. Mix well, and then add the package of frozen mixed veggies.

5. Cook the chicken and vegetable mixture until the vegetables are thawed and have released a lot of their liquid. Then add one jar of marinara sauce. Stir well. Turn off heat, and let rest while you prepare the potato topping.

6. Put the russet potatoes, sweet potatoes and three cloves garlic into a sauce pan and cover with water. Boil until potatoes are fork tender. Drain water and return potatoes and garlic to the pan for mashing. Mash and then stir in the brown mustard seeds.

7. Transfer the chicken and vegetable mixture into a 9 x 11 baking dish. Top with potato mixture. Put into a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes until the chicken and vegetable mixture is hot and bubbly. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Serves 6-8.

Sweet and Spicy Lentil Sloppy Joes

2 cups dry French green lentils

1 bay leaf

1 T dried savory leaves

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup diced poblano pepper

½ cup diced sweet green bell pepper

1 t chipotle powder

1 T tomato paste

1 Jar Newman’s Own marinara

1 T rice vinegar

1 T dark brown sugar

Pick through the lentils removing any stones. Place lentils, bay leaf, and savory into a five quart sauce pan and fill pan with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for about 45 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Drain lentils in a colander and remove the bay leaf. Put the lentils back in the sauce pan and set aside.

Put olive oil in a 12 inch skillet and heat. Dice one medium onion and mince three cloves garlic and put them in the oil. Sauté until onion is translucent. Then add the diced poblano and the green bell pepper. Cook until the peppers just starts to soften and then add the chipotle powder and the tomato paste. Stir and then cook the mixture for about three minutes and add the marinara sauce, the rice vinegar and the brown sugar. Cook until heated through.

Pour the tomato mixture onto the lentils in the sauce pan and stir well. Cook on low heat until mixture is hot. Serve on a whole wheat bun.

Serves 6-8.

Smokey Chickpea Salad

2 cans Bushes Best garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

1 T honey

1 T smoked paprika

1. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the chopped green onions and mix gently.

2. Put olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and smoked paprika in a small lidded jar and shake to mix.

3. Pour dressing over the garbanzo beans and toss gentle. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the salad rest for at least one hour before serving.

Serves 6

Italian White Bean Soup

2 t olive oil

5 links Al Fresco Sweet Italian Style chicken sausage

1 t fennel seed

2 32 ounce cans of fire-roasted whole tomatoes

2 14.5 ounce cans of Bushes Best cannellini beans

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and chopped.

1. Place 2 teaspoons olive oil in the bottom of soup pan. Remove casings from the chicken sausage and crumble it into the olive oil.

2. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the sausage is almost completely cooked and then add fennel seed.

3. Pour in the two cans of fire-roasted whole tomatoes. Use your soup spoon to break up the whole tomatoes. Then add the two cans of cannellini beans. Cook soup on medium heat, stirring often, for about 30 minutes, or until it is hot.

4. Just before serving, add in the fresh spinach.

Serves 6

Wild Rice and Blueberry Sausage Muffins

1 cup cooked wild rice

2 Eggland eggs, lightly beaten

3 T olive oil

1 cup low-fat milk

1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour

1 T baking powder

½ t salt

1 cup blueberries

8 links Al Fresco wild blueberry breakfast chicken sausage, diced

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Mix the wild rice, eggs, olive oil, and milk in a medium mixing bowl.

3. Sift flour, baking power, and salt together in a separate bowl.

4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing thoroughly, but just until all the ingredients are blended.

5. Stir the blueberries and the blueberry chicken sausage into the mixture gently.

6. Place muffin liners into a muffin pan and spoon batter into the liners. Fill each liner about ¾ of the way full.

7. Bake in the 425 degree F oven for 15-18 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown.

Makes about 18 muffins. Serves 18.

Curried Bean and Rice Salad

1 small can of Bushes Best black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups cooked brown rice

¼ cup slivered almonds
1 cup golden raisins
1 bunch green onions, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

1 T honey
1 T sweet curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put beans, brown rice, almonds, raisins, and green onions in a mixing bowl. Stir to mix,

2. Put olive oil, lemon juice, honey and curry powder in a small lidded jar and shake to incorporate.

3. Pour dressing over the bean and rice mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rest for at least one hour before serving.

Serves 4.