Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The Joy of Chopping, and Eating, the Rainbow

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Happy Pride month!

Here’s a woman who has embraced her personal pastel rainbow. She’s a joy-bringer. And her purse/backpack collection is what would have happened to me if I’d inherited the shopping gene from my mother, which I did not.

However, I am not without rainbows. Just last night I was chopping add-ons for (vegan, natch) tacos, and here’s what happened:

Taco Fixins

Taco Fixins

Clockwise from the top: mangoes, red onion, purple cabbage, red pepper, avocado. There was salsa fresca, too, and I added Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream) (correct, not vegan) in beautiful dollops of white. So, so pretty.

This morning, a mere 14 hours later, I opened the refrigerator to find the following:

Mueslix Fruit

Mueslix Fruit

Fruit for mueslix. John had chopped it while I was sleeping. (That guy.) Clockwise from top: banana, strawberries, walnuts, grated apple, nectarine, figs, and blueberries. Soak 1/2 cup of oats in the milk of your choice (I used soy) and toss.

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of mincing ingredients, arranging them on a plate, and piling them on top of, or mixing them into, something yummy. Especially if they’re colorful.

I LOVE COLOR, AND I’M PROUD.

Kookies!

Monday, December 14th, 2015

We went to a holiday party where an awesome person set up a cookie-decorating operation. I was new to this particular method, so I went with minimalism. Not bad for a first time out, huh?

I kept wishing I’d had tweezers—in which case, some very real cookie-decorating shit would have gone down.

Kookies!

Kookies!

(Don’t think too hard about what the red thing is.)

Next year: cookie-decorating party at my house! With just me! And a zillion freaking colors! And stencils! And glitter! And piping! AND TWEEZERS!

Okay, maybe you can come, too. Let’s find an occasion that truly inspires us and hasn’t been done to death. Arbor Day?

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Exposition: For the past seven weeks, I’ve been doing a no-grain, no-sugar, no-a-lot-of-other-things thing where I have to shop and cook and shop and cook all the time, and it’s kind of exhausting but also supposedly going to be great for me. We’ll see, my friends. We’ll see. Aaaanyway . . .

Cue a recent evening, in which John and I are both in the kitchen, cooking. I notice that he has pulled out a muffin tray.

M: You’re making MUFFINS?

J: Yeah.

M: NOW?

J: Yeah.

M: WHEN I CAN’T EAT THEM?

J: Sorry, yeah.

M: FOR 13.5* YEARS, YOU HAVE NOT MADE A SINGLE MUFFIN. Now, when I can’t eat muffins, YOU’RE MAKING MUFFINS?

J: They’re only corn bread. They’re not really muffins.

M: They’re corn bread muffins!

J: It’s just faster than making a big tray.

M: I love corn bread! I love muffins!

J: I’m sorry, Sweetie. Really. I just want some corn bread.

M: Why did it never once occur to you, in the past 13.5 years, to make muffins, and yet now, muffins are suddenly something you make?

J: I didn’t know how much you love muffins.

M: I do love them. I love them immensely. Even more than cupcakes.

J: How is that possible?

M: Because cupcakes are almost impossible to eat, and you can never get the ratio of frosting to cake right without a fork and a plate, and if you don’t have a fork and a plate, you’re basically burying you face in frosting. They’re maddening!

J: I see your point.

M: But muffins—it’s all right there.

J: And you can pretend they’re good for you!

M: Absolutely!

J: And sometimes they are pretty good for you.

M: Not the kind I like.

J: What kind do you like?

M: Reeses Peanut Butter Cup muffins. Do you make those?

J: I don’t have a recipe at hand, no.

M: I would also take Snickers muffins and Oreo muffins.

J: Banana walnut?

M: Banana chocolate chip.

J: That does sound good. What about lemon poppyseed? I have a recipe for that.

M: Okay, yeah. You can make me those.

J: Just think how great that’ll be!

M: Yeah, thinking about it is JUST like tasting them RIGHT NOW.

J: It’s only two months!

M: Oh, God. [Watching him pour the batter into the muffin tray.] HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME?

J: I just—

M: AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! [Runs from the room.]

A week after that? He MADE THEM AGAIN. And I sidled up to him in the kitchen and sang this song:

Do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man? Yes, I know the muffin man, and he went for thirteen years without making muffins, until one day when his wife couldn’t eat any muffins, he decided to make muffins, and then a week later he decided to make more muffins, and now there are muffins, muffins, everywhere, nothing but muffins, 24/7 muffins, all muffins all the time, it’s a world of endless, non-stop muffins. I am married to the fucking muffin man, and my life is nothing but forbidden muffins!

*I just noticed that my last two blog entries have referenced the amount of time that John and I have been together. Yeah, I’m kind of obsessed with that. You’d think I would have stopped counting at some point, basically accepting that we’re going to keep doing this relationship thing for perpetuity. Time will accrue, we’ll still be together, etc. Nope. I keep ticking off the half-years.

For the Love of Ramen (and Where Are they Finding the Duck?)

Monday, March 9th, 2015

First things first, Bay Area: If you are a living human being with a functioning sensory system and an appreciation of deeply layered flavors, get yourself over to this place. I’m not an expert in ramen or anything else, really, but OMG OMG OMG, GREAT BROTH OF SENSUAL WONDER! It was basically a (very large) (quite beautiful) (appealingly imperfectly hand-made ceramic) bowl of salty, earthy, smoky, umami-y liquid fat, with chewy noodles to soak it all up, plus various chopped items (cauliflower, cabbage) to hold the globules of deliquesced pork belly in their cruciferous crevices.

Deep bog of aromatic unction, when will I next experience you?

(Answer: I ate some of the broth, with newly cooked noodles, for lunch just now. It was but a sliver  of an intimation of a suggestion of la chose même, but oh, adipose cauldron of slippery saltiness!)

Fin.

Début.

Suddenly, apropos of pretty much nothing, I realized that there must be iPad apps to learn/remember/re-learn languages. As is probably evident from the above, I really love French, even though my experiences with it throughout school were mixed. (Spanish, which I also took all the way through, was for some reason taught by far more competent people, resulting in a far more competent level of fluency.) Anyway, so, I tested into a beginnerish level of French and began running my lessons.

Almost immediately, I was reminded both of how delightful it is to learn to say very basic things in other languages, and also how random those basic things so frequently are. Sample sentence #1, translated from French to English:

“Where are they finding the duck?”

Which raises so many questions. First, why is more than one person looking for the duck? Is the duck that important? It seems like one person could potentially cover that job, given that there’s generally a lot of other stuff to do in life. Also, they haven’t already found the duck, I see, so much as that they are currently in the process of finding it, which limits the use of this sentence quite dramatically. What are the chances, after all, that I will one day need to ask one person about a group of other people who are currently not simply looking for a duck but in the very act of finding it?

Or are we perhaps talking about dead duck? At the market? At the fourth cart on the left? Is that where they’re finding the duck?

I’ll never know.

Why?

“It’s my first cow.”

Yup, that’s another sentence that I had to translate from French to English in one of my initial lessons. This one also seems fairly limited in usage potential, given that I would have to come to own a cow. Of course, the minute I did come to own a cow, it would be my first cow. And I suppose it would remain my first cow, no matter how many other cows I would later come to own, or not. (Newsflash: “My second cow is young.”)

Sure, I understand that I’m not literally learning, Suzuki-like, to parrot existing constructions but instead to make sense of subjects and verbs and objects, to which extent meaning is not entirely relevant. And yet! It seems possible that someone could have rethought “Where are they finding the duck?”

For about a week after I began these lessons, John and I kept having the following discussion:

Me: Where are they finding the duck?

J: I don’t know. It’s my first cow.

M: Of course! How could you know? It’s only your first cow!

J: My second cow is young!

And so on*.

Fwiw, I’ve now switched to Spanish, since it’s far more useful and also since I read in a NYTimes article about Japanese AirBnB hosts that, at least según Japanese AirBnB hosts, the French are the very worst house guests. (Random, I know. And unfair. And yet, it soured me, a little, on the duck-loving French.) The Spanish lessons have yet to charm me as fully, but I did place much higher up the chain, so perhaps they feel they have to be sensible with us higher-level learners. Or perhaps it’s all waiting for me in the subjunctive!

*Our sewer lateral replacement guy is French, and he arrived this morning (before, very shortly thereafter, departing—I’ve not seen him since!). When I was greeting him I asked him how he was in French, and he very quickly launched us into a French conversation; after a couple of volleys, I very quickly choked. Nevertheless, I did manage to ask him where they were finding the duck! And he told me that “La Canard” is not merely a duck but a newspaper, or perhaps what they call the newspaper? Either way, good to know!**

**And then there’s the “joke”/”trick”/”ruse” connotation of “canard.”

Duck’s got legs!

 

 

A Little, Experimental Gingerbread House

Monday, October 28th, 2013

A bazillion years ago—i.e., when I was a senior in high school—my mother and I made gingerbread houses as holiday gifts for my three favorite English teachers. It took an entire day, possibly an entire weekend, and I remember the experience with fondness. Perhaps unsurprisingly (since you know me by now), said houses were personalized for each teacher, even including, in the case of my creative writing teacher Peggy (who is still my close friend) (Hi, Peggy!) (and an excellent artist/designer/crafter herself) three gingerbread cat cookies, piped with her cats’ names and resting against the sides of the house.

I was thinking about what to do with my 7-year-old nephew when we’re in Maryland for the holidays, and I decided upon GBH’s once again. But I wanted to test the waters ahead of time to make sure that it would work.

I spent a fair amount of the day yesterday on this project, first shopping for ingredients and then rolling out the dough*, cooking it, cutting the shapes, piping on frosting** and affixing decor. I hadn’t planned the design and wasn’t quite clear on a vision, so what I ended up with is not quite up to my (admittedly redonkulo) aesthetic standards. But it’s cute and it’s finished, so here it is:

Gingerbread House

Gingerbread House

Yes, there is a Halloween bent. No, there is no door (and there aren’t any windows, either—we’ll fix that in MD). And yes, it is on the tall side. I’m going to slice about an inch off the height, I think.

Back/Side

Back/Side

Another view. I do like the candy corn at the bottom and the white chocolate chips lining the frosting. Also, our living room is rather dark and brooding on October mornings, isn’t it?

Another Angle

Another Angle

It’s a bit brighter if you look the other way.

Anyway, there it is. I’ll try to post photos of the ones we make over the holidays to show how they compare.

*I did not make said dough, even from a mix, which had been my plan (much to John’s horror). Trader Joe’s sells gingerbread dough! In the refrigerated section! It’s a Christmas miracle!

**I didn’t make the frosting, either. Although after a look at the ingredients list on the can I bought, I might just have to whip up the next batch. Because EW, partially hydrogenated oil (more than one kind!) and artificial flavoring. On the other hand, it’s not as though we’re going to eat the houses (Are we?). On the other other hand, finger-licking is inevitable and a big part of the fun.

BREAKING NEWS: GINGERBREAD HOUSE NOT STRUCTURALLY SOUND

Welp, that lasted a day. And then this happened:

Broke-Roof Mountain

Broke-Roof Mountain

Other side, same thing:

So Long, Eaves

So Long, Eaves

John says that the gingerbread was too soft. True, dat. I think the overhang was too long, too—and possibly that the slabs weren’t thick enough, which I was worried about going in. (It was looking as though I hadn’t bought enough dough.) Of course, gingerbread houses differ from actual houses in that when a slab falls from your roof, you get to eat it.

 

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Monday, August 12th, 2013

This is the vegan chocolate cake that I adore, perhaps more than any other cake in the world, vegan or no. I’d made it as a single-layer and a double-layer cake before, but never in triple. And it worked!

Triple-Layer Madness

Triple-Layer Madness

True, it’s sitting on an ugly plastic cake-saver base, but I think we can look beyond that.

Here’s a view from farther back:

Trois Coleurs

Trois Coleurs

Bonus: triple-color action among our dining room, foyer, and living rooms! For those of you requesting photos of the newly painted teal living room, this is as close as we’re getting, given that there’s currently no furniture in the room that is blog-worthy.

And here’s what the cake looked like as a slice (a la mode, BUT OF COURSE):

Deeleeshoose

Deeleeshoose

And the following day, post-dinner-party:

NOM

NOM

Please excuse those unsightly scrapings on the plate. I didn’t plan well for this photoshoot.

I’m surprised to say that it took me (and John, and our renter-friend, and our roofers) (but mostly me) (basically almost totally me) a full 6 days to get through this.

Also, I wish there were more.

A Year of Eating Less Dangerously

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Yesterday marked a year on a vegan, wheat-free, sugar-free diet.

Or, mostly. I haven’t been pure about it. In fact, I’ve been strategically impure, allowing fish once a week, now-and-again exceptions for expensive meals out, allowances for travel, and a once-a-month bacchanalia known as Gorge Day*. Because if being an Über-Driven Achiever with an Iron Will has taught me anything, it’s taught me that being an Über-Driven Achiever with an Iron Will doesn’t actually work. I’m human, is what I’m trying to say. Even if I don’t always admit it.

*Initially called Fun Food Day, to appease Gentle John, and then switched to its rightful name.

At any rate, I largely adhered to the program, and the program largely adhered to me. In that I pretty much love it now. True, I still have cravings. And I still experience feelings of loss after most lunches and dinners, in which I must face the Deep, Dark Void of No Brownie. But that longing passes, and what I’m left with is a feeling of satiety but not over-fullness, in which my gut is at peace, as opposed to feeling balloon-stretched or pulled to the floor with hand weights. I like that.

Even better is the emotional peace. Instead of incessant worry over my outsized sugar consumption, coupled with repeated failed attempts to curb said consumption, I’ve surrendered. I can’t do sugar. I don’t do sugar. Except for once a month, in which I purposefully go on a sugar (and fat and salt and dairy) bender, sugar is off the table. Like an abusive lover. Which I never had, thank God. Unless you count sugar.

At this point you may be thinking, If the only problem she had was with sugar, why did she give up all that other stuff? Three reasons: 1) Wheat is a gateway drug to sugar, at least for me; 2) Dairy is a gateway drug to wheat, ibid, and 3) I read a lot of nutrition books, and they were largely against wheat, sugar, meat, and dairy*. As I am largely against eating meat for ethical reasons, I figured I’d throw (20-of-21-meal-) veganism into my mix and see how it all shook out. And it shook out well! At least for a year.

*I understand that there are other nutrition books that say other things. Please, eat whatever works for you. I don’t judge! (At least not for that.)

Will I do this forever? Who knows. For now, it’s putting me in good stead. Witness: cholesterol at 144. That’s for you, inner über-achiever.

My Latest Prandial Innovation: Fun Food Day

Monday, September 19th, 2011

BACKSTORY

For the last five months, I’ve been experimenting with a food regimen that’s a little on the intense side. In short:

1) No wheat

2) No dairy

3) No sugar

4) No meat, except fish once a week

5) Almost entirely whole foods/nothing processed

Put another way, my current diet looks like this: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, and nuts. I’d venture to say that 90% of the preceding is organic, with maybe 50% local.

It’s been surprisingly enjoyable. Sure, at times I nose up to a bakery window and whimper, but most days I live in peace with my options. And that’s because I’m no longer in the throes of sugar addiction.

People laugh about sugar addiction, sort of the way they do about sex addiction (“Ha ha! I wish I had that problem”), but I’m not talking about a candy bar every now and then. I’m talking about Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy for dessert of breakfast. With chocolate sauce.

In the past, I’d dropped sugar alone, but wheat tends to trigger my desire for sugar. So then I dropped sugar and wheat, and that worked well for a while. But eventually I returned to my addictive ways, because what was I supposed to put melted cheese on? Vegetables?

This is the first time I’ve eliminated not merely sugar and wheat but dairy and most meat as well. And guess what? Easier—I think because now all the triggers are gone.

Not that I’m making any promises. Five months in, I feel willing to stick with it for the foreseeable future, but everything is a process, nothing is forever, and Buddhism is a beautiful religion.

STORY

As much as I like my current food plan, I was having a hard time imagining a life entirely without omelets, Eppoise, bacon, or chocolate cake. So I came up with an idea: Fun Food Day.*

It’s very simple. On a single, predetermined day each month, I eat whatever I want. WHATEVER I want. If I want a chocolate-covered-bacon-omelet-ice cream-baked-brie sandwich in a waffle cone, I am going to find that and eat that by 9 AM. With sprinkles.

Here’s the beauty of this plan. One day a month is the perfect interval. It’s infrequent enough to keep me from falling back into the three-cupcake-a-day abyss, but frequent enough for me to rest easily in the knowledge that my precious little (big) sugar-fat bombs are never too far off.

And because Fun Food Day is only one day, I inevitably end up eating a pile of heart-attack food for breakfast, sending myself into a food coma, and emerging only at dinner for a salad. In other words, it usually takes only a single meal to remind me why I’m on the plan in the first place. Winning!

*Fun Food Day was initially called Gorge Day, but John did not like the sound of that. KILL-JOY.

SEPTEMBER’S FUN FOOD DAY

We were in Ashland, and I knew exactly what I wanted. Breakfast: a bacon/onion/tomato omelet at Brother’s restaurant, with hash browns and a scone. This all went down swimmingly. In fact, I took half of it home, because I wanted to save room for dessert.

On the way back to our cottage, we stopped at the sweet shop and bought $17 worth of chocolate. I don’t know how that happened. I had this idea that I was going to get only one or two little bites, so as to save room for chocolate cake later in the day. But I ended up with chocolate-covered caramel, chocolate-covered marzipan, and peanut-butter fudge. THAT IS HOW THIS SHIT GOES DOWN.

Then we went back to the cottage, and I ate almost everything. Well, I ate the caramel and the marzipan. And I finished the omelet, hash browns, and scone. And I had two bites of fudge. And then I said to John, “Hide the fudge!” And I lay down in bed. And did not eat anything else, except for a salad, for the rest of the day.

GENIUS.

Michael Pollan, You Can Die Now

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I just achieved what has to be a personal record in single-day plant consumption. Check this out:

Breakfast: Raw müesli with fruit and nuts

Whole plant foods consumed: Oats, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples, pecans, walnuts

Lunch: Quinoa, kale, and tempeh salad; black-eyed peas; sides of carrot-cabbage slaw and cukes and hummus

WPFs consumed: Quinoa, kale, garlic, flax seeds, soy beans, black-eyed peas, onions, carrots, cabbage, almond butter, cucumbers, chick peas, sesame seeds

Snack: Black bean salad

WPFs consumed: black beans, corn, red onion, red pepper, jicama, cilantro, spring onion

Dinner: Fava bean sauté, Moroccan olives, coconut-chia smoothie, and a few cashews and peanuts for dessert

WPFs consumed: fava beans, chia seeds, banana, pineapple, cherries, coconut water, cashews, peanuts

TOTAL UNIQUE WHOLE PLANT FOODS CONSUMED: 35

Seriously, Michael Pollan. Go take a nap. I win.

Sad Banana

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

My breakfast banana woke up on the wrong side of the bowl this morning.

Sad Banana

Sad, Sad, Tragic Banana

Not unlike its eater.

After I took this photo, I started singing “O Sole Mio,” and the banana took a nose-dive into my muesli.

With perfect timing.

It was glorious and operatic.

It was breakfast banana death!

Sorry, banana.

Bad day for you.