Category Archives: Basics

New flavors

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been eating the same-old, same-old for the last few months. Maybe I let my meals become as dull as the winter weather. Maybe I was just a little lazy. Either way, spring is now here and there is an influx of greens at farmers markets adding flavor and color to dinner. This week I had the most amazing, quickest, delicious stir-fry for dinner.

 

Pea Shoot and Spinach Sauté

2 cloves garlic – minced

2 T. grated ginger

1 t. red pepper flakes

2 cups pea shoots – cut into 2 inch segments

2 cups spinach – cut into thin slices

1 T. soy sauce

 

1. In a large sauté pan or wok, heat 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, sautéing for 3 minutes – don’t let garlic brown! Add pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

2. Add greens and mix until they begin to wilt. Toss in soy sauce and mix, cooking for an additional two to three minutes.

 

Simple, easy, delicious and a great change from the winter blahs.

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Sunshine in winter cooking

Over the last nine months I’ve been working for Schenectady Greenmarket. In that time, my life has changed quite a bit. One main area of change is my kitchen. Sure, I have always been a pretty ardent home-cook, rarely eating out, rarely purchasing prepared foods – but I haven’t the kind of person that eats truly seasonally. All that has changed since now most of my grocery shopping is done on Sundays as I run around the market.

Among the celeriac, beets and kohlrabi, there has been one humble reawakening – carrots. This cooked carrot salad is now a staple of my weekly dinners and lunches. It brings sunshine and warmth to my day regardless if it is actually sunny outside (and -12) or snowing.

Spicy Cooked Carrot Salad
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 lb. carrots – diced
1 garlic clove, minced
salt
2 t. sweet paprika
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
2 T. chopped parsley
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese

1. Boil the carrots in salted water until tender but not soft (about 3 minutes).

2. In a large bowl, smash the garlic with a pinch of salt. Stir in the paprika, hot pepper flakes and lemon juice. Whisk in the oil.

3. Add the carrots and half the feta cheese. Toss until fully combined. Sprinkle the remaining feta on top and serve.

This salad is wonderful on its own for lunch, perfect wrapped up in a pita with falafel or grilled chicken and amazing served for dinner next to some freshly grilled chorizo.

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The grinder, the dipper and the plaid in between

Ah, the pure joy that comes from people watching; from observing the male of the species try to win over the female…and from laughing your butt off as the entire episode unfolds. This is what an evening out at a club holds in store for the social scientist in me. Let me begin by stating that last night I went out with friends to help celebrate my brother’s birthday. We went to a club featuring country line dancing and karaoke.

Initial observations were:

  1. 80% of the room wore plaid
  2. 40% of the attendees were over the age of 55 (or at least looked it)
  3. 10% of the men wore cowboy hats
  4. 0% of the dancers smiled

Having taken in these facts, I was drawn to two distinct subjects for a further, more detailed study. The two men were clearly friends, had honed dance skills and were, by all accounts, very fine examples of the male form.

Subject A) The Grinder

Tall, fit and had the dance moves to make the ladies swoon. Add a great big black cowboy hat and The Grinder looked like he stepped right out of a romance novel. It was unclear if he’d come with a particular female, but it was apparent that he would be leaving with one. During a rare slow song about a pickup truck, a mourning brother, and a soldier’s death, The Grinder, well, ground against his female who in turn found the act appropriately respectful – for a slow, sad song about death.

Can I take a moment here? How could she keep a straight face? I would have started giggling so hard that I’d double over and likely start snorting. Nothing relays the deepest depths of despair like a good grind…

Subject B) The Dipper

The Grinder’s less able counterpart was The Dipper. The Dipper was again, fit and handsome though not to the extent of The Grinder. Whereas The Grinder honed in and devoted a large (though not exclusive) portion of his efforts on one woman, The Dipper spread a wider net – pulling women from the periphery of the dance floor. The Dipper never danced with the same woman twice and each encounter included his signature move: the dip, a thrilling and exciting maneuver that his partners apparently enjoyed though this was difficult to discern as, noted earlier, no one smiled whilst dancing.

Again, I would like to note that I would have burst out laughing. Have you ever been dipped? It’s kind of terrifying. Your body does not surrender its equilibrium easily. When you are returned to standing, you are light-headed, giddy and unnerved. Laughter is the natural reaction to such an unnatural move. Not one of The Dippers dance partners even cracked a smile.

Finally, it must be noted that both The Grinder and The Dipper clearly practice their courtship dances in the shared bachelor pad they inhabit. This deduction was derived by the Magic Mike-like performance they burst into when “Indian Outlaw” by Tim McGraw was played.

Conclusion: As ridiculous as their moves were, the entire excercise was successful. You could not help but watch and wonder…Oh, and clearly I have a hair-trigger when it comes to laughing. But really, how can you not laugh?

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The best medicine

I have a friend that recently went through an amazingly traumatic event, but one that thankfully she will recover from. When I sent her a get well note this morning, I added a prescription of my own: eat lots of ice cream…chocolate ice cream make everything better. It got me wondering about all the little things that make hard times a little easier to bear.

For me, the list would include:

  • Chocolate milkshakes
  • Pink champagne
  • Cheeseburgers & beer
  • Mac & cheese
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Hot water with lemon & honey
  • Coffee
  • Spice cake

All of these work when I’m not feeling well both physically and mentally, but chocolate milkshakes are the most powerful of all cures. They just make me feel better. And who could deny that pink champagne makes you happy? The simple act of saying pink champagne brings a big, bright smile to my face and my soul.

What are the simple pleasures that make you feel better on a grim day when you are sick or sad or plain cranky? Sometimes the best medicine can be found right in your kitchen.

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A sudden view of a small world

Without my realizing it, my world has shrunk. I’m not saying that it’s a good or bad thing – just that the realization came as a bit of a shock. I don’t know how I feel about it honestly. I like my quiet life. The roads I travel, the people I know and meet. And trust me, I travel a lot of roads – but more and more they are the same-old, same-old. I haven’t stretched myself in a really long time and I didn’t know I missed it until I missed it.

And I almost missed a chance to do something new.

So, this is the year when I seek out new experiences, new risks (and their rewards), new faces and a larger world. And trust me, the direction life is taking me this year is farther and farther than I have ever ventured before – all for the good and all for me.

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In honor (or dishonor) of Mr. D

After 34 years of giving Mr. Darcy types the benefit of the doubt, my empathetic compassion and an understanding ear, I have come to one fundamental conclusion – Mr. Darcy was an asshole. Really, how many men – living, breathing men – can you count off who were crotchety, conceited jerks at first meeting but who ended up having hearts of gold with deep rivers of passionate emotion for you flowing under their icy surfaces? And, by the way, I don’t mean all those thoughts, feelings and un-acted upon desires that we project, infer or fantasize they are tormented over either.

My answer is none. Once a jerk, always a jerk.

I sound jaded, bitter and an all around bitch so of course no man would want to be around such a sour lemon of a woman, but I’m not in fact, I’m just the opposite. I am a friendly, flirty and fun girl who everyone wonders “why is she single?”. This question I can answer simply and succinctly: Because I have wasted my heart and emotions on the Mr. Darcy’s of the world. That is why I have vowed off boys for a year, why I have professed again and again that boys are a drug and I’m going cold turkey…except I had a relapse the other day…and this is my pep talk back onto that wagon…

I ended up thinking about the Mr. Darcy in my life – the crotchety jerk I’d met years ago who on very rare occasions showed me his heart only to turn to ice immediately afterward. I found myself wondering if, despite past experiences, he really did care, but just couldn’t figure out how to express himself. I pictured the wonderful, breath-taking, heart-stopping moment when he’d grab my hand as I went to leave, the way he’d stroke my face with his coarse hands and tell me he had been a fool – that he loved me.

I allowed myself to slip into the warm, hypnotizing pool of hope for an hour or two and then snapped myself back to reality and repeated the words “Mr. Darcy is an asshole” over and over again until I was more angry than melancholy and I didn’t want anything to do with any Mr. Darcy every again. No, there will be no Mr. Darcy’s, Ferrar’s, Willoughby’s or any other of dear Jane’s men (good, bad or tempting) in the rich world my head and my heart create.

I don’t want the romantic angst and self-doubt a Mr. Darcy creates – I’ll leave that to fiction – instead, I want a real man. A living, breathing man who let’s me know he wants me more often than not and who appreciates a smart, sassy and sexy woman such as myself…But then again, maybe such a man is even more of a fantasy than Mr. Darcy himself. Either way, it’s back on the wagon I go – that is, until I suffer from another, inevitable, romantic relapse.

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A review and a re-examination

I’ve been spending a lot of time the past few weeks thinking. Thinking about my past, thinking about my present and future. Thinking about where I’ve gone wrong and where I can do right. Granted, I just had surgery and haven’t been able to do much more than sit and think. All this personal introspections, I suppose, comes at the right time – being the beginning of the year and all – but I feel like I’m always in the throes of one self-examination or another and never really fix anything.

Is that how things are supposed to be? Always striving to be a better person and never really feeling like you’ve gotten there? If it is, the whole process is exhausting.

Anyway, as part of this “life thus far” review, I took the time to print up all 218 posts from the blog. The past three years of my written life were then divided into four categories: Farming, Food, Observations and Relationships. It is so interesting to step back and see things in nice, neat piles. But where do I go from here? And what, if anything, do I do with the information I already have?

I don’t have the answers to these and other questions yet. I guess it will require a little (or a lot) more thinking on my part.

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