Archive for the ‘food’ Category

like kale chips, but different

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I’ve loved kale chips ever since I found out how ridiculously easy they are to make. You take a bunch of kale, wash it, tear it up leaving aside the stems, dry it really really well, pour a bit of olive oil and some salt on it, mash it up with your hands such that it’s thoroughly coated in oil, put it on cookie sheets in a single layer, and throw it into a 350°F oven for ten minutes. Stir halfway through and watch it so it doesn’t burn. What comes out are lovely, crispy chips made of kale. Easiest way by far to make leafy greens disappear in children’s and grown-ups’ mouths.

Commercially available kale chips are also delicious, and different, in that they have flavors. I like the “vegan cheese” ones, not because I’m a vegan OR because they in any way resemble cheesy chips. Just because they’re tasty. But they’re also really expensive, so I took a look at the ingredients lists and tried to replicate them. SUCCESS!

The catch: I did this with my food dehydrator. I love this thing, and think it was well worth the investment. Mostly I’ve used it for drying farm share vegetables when overwhelmed with the quantities, and making jerky. But there are other uses too. Anyway, I set it at 125°F, and most household ovens only go down to 170, so I don’t know whether this would work in an oven. But it might, if you leave it open a crack and/or check frequently to make sure the kale is not burning. Here’s the recipe (note that I roasted the red bell peppers the previous evening, so it didn’t feel like it took much time):

5 red bell peppers, roasted, cleaned
3T lemon juice
0.5c nutritional yeast
1.5c cashews
1t salt
1 big bunch kale

Put everything but the kale into a food processor, wet ingredients first. Process until smooth, scraping down with a spatula a few times. Wash and tear up the kale, and dry it but don’t go nuts — it’s not as crucial to get all the water out as it is for the regular oiled/baked chips.

I took handfuls of kale and mashed them up right in my hands with the cashew stuff, spreading them single-layer on dehydrator sheets. I suspect one can also do it all at once in a big bowl, but do use your hands; that’s the only way to get the kale well coated. Stick in dehydrator for 5-6 hours at 125°F. Try not to eat all of it at once.

If you succeed at making these in the oven, please comment and let me knowhow you did it, and how long it took!

#reverb10 nine: party

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

You’ll notice I’m skipping the eighth prompt. Yeah, that one was a tad too narcissistic for me.

(I’m participating in Reverb 10. You can, too!)

What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

Three years ago, then-five-year-old Eleanor asked Mark if she could please please PLEASE go to Burning Man. He said something to the effect of, not until you can take care of yourself in the desert; not now, for sure. And she said, we should have Burning Man right here, in our backyard! Thus, BackYard Burning Man was born.

This past summer was BYBM’s third year, and it was soul-warming, all day. Mark and Eleanor, graciously hosting out-of-towners, worked at their place all day. In the afternoon, Rosa and I joined them to do what we do best: help with food (and, secondarily, the rest of the prep). Colorful streamers everywhere; a couple of open tents with gorgeous brightly-colored curtains; crafts for kids and grownups. Beer and big-girl drinks in the coolers; a pot luck of tasty foods; the grill going. My funky food contribution this year were little chocolate cakes made in scooped-out orange shells, wrapped in foil, “baked” on the grill. Campfire cakes, they’re called. Wicked fun! Try it—but do use decent ingredients. We had gluten free chocolate cake mixes and quail eggs, to accommodate some friends who don’t do gluten or chicken eggs, and it came out phenomenal.

A brief aside for Bostonians north of the river: Seabra supermarket in Somerville reliably has good, cheap quail eggs. And a bunch of Latin American foods that make it one of my favorite groceries around here.

Yeah, this isn’t really Burning Man. It’s not even Firefly. There’s a gas grill and modern plumbing. At the last two, there’s been a bouncy castle. (I had no idea how easy it was to rent one!) Really, it’s a mid-summer party. But it’s not just that. For one thing, it was conceived and executed (with help from her dad and friends) by a kid who gets pretty creative with it, I’ll tell ya. There must’ve been two dozen or more children there over the course of the day, and activities involving making things. There was hooping and juggling and belly dancing. In the evening, when most everyone had left, MartinH brought out his guitar and we sang and sang, The Beatles and Paul Simon and I don’t even remember what else. Fairy lights everywhere.

That’s magic I love.

#reverb10 six: make

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

A day late, and what of it?

(I’m participating in Reverb 10. You can, too!)

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

The last thing I made was dinner for twenty.

I used to self-identify as a person who makes decent-to-great food and feeds it to her friends and loved ones. My most magical, quietly vibrant self manifests in the kitchen.

During and following my excruciatingly protracted divorce, cooking became difficult. Everything was difficult, but cooking was the most surprising—and the most frustrating. I had lost the life that had been there just a moment ago, and with it my most reliable (up to that point) inanimate tool for connecting with the world.

Been getting back to it slowly, lurching a bit back and forth. Still, I go through dry spells. A recent one annoyed me so much that I immediately made plans to cook dinner for twenty.

Honestly, I wish I could afford to do this more often. It was SO MUCH FUN. I spent several days shopping (in like five different places), and a full evening and following day cooking. It was a mezze sort of evening — I made two different bean dips, and a beet something-or-other, and lamb kabobs served as individual meat pieces, and there had to have been something with eggplant. I don’t even remember what else. (Were you there? What did you eat?)

What I took away from it was the laughter and warmth. They did that, some people I love came over and filled the place with light, and all I had to do was have a good time in the kitchen. Everybody wins.

As for something I’d like to make if I only had (made) the time… I’d love to do cross-stitch again. Something gorgeous and symbolic and pagan and shaded.

(Oh! A deviled duck egg salad! As good as deviled eggs, but salad.)


Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Life’s been chugging along, and the best I can do sometimes is keep up. In the now-venerable tradition of good-thing, bad-thing, here’s my week and a half, give or take.

  • ++ Birthday! I had one. I went out to dinner with mom and Vlad, and later had a party. It was well attended by lovely people; Mark supplied lights and gorgeous swathes of cloth to drape around things; the food was appreciated; much merriment was had.
  • – Then last Monday I started feeling sick.
  • – Then last Tuesday I came in sick to cover library supervision in the evening (until 9pm), and proceeded to lie on the table floor for most of the time I was in, unable even to watch stupid TV online, much less work.
  • — Then Wednesday I discovered that what I had was strep throat! I don’t remember whether I’d ever had it before; certainly not since I got to the States almost twenty (!!) years ago.
  • + Yet I recognized it for what it must be, went to get myself checked out (thanks for the encouragement, mom), and got
  • +++ penicillin, which is a wonder of (semi-)modern medicine, even though it’s kicking my butt by greatly diminishing my baseline energy level. But hey, it’s only for ten days.
  • – Meanwhile, I missed my weekly playdate/kid-sitting night with four year old Natalie. SO looking forward to seeing her today.
  • ++ On Saturday, I had fantastic dinner with my family, all of them—even brother Zhenya, sisinlaw Jo Ann and nephew Tesher came up for this—as a first, early celebration of my mom’s 70th birthday (coming up in May). I do so like hanging out with them, particularly when it involves food and then sleeping in my own bed.
  • + The last two nights, I had excellent dates, with conversations and food and laughing that left me feeling hale and whole.
  • + Yesterday, I finally finished up the saga of having had to have a tooth extracted a year and a half ago, then get an implant, then get a crown for the implant. Dentistry has been the bain of my didn’t-grow-up-with-fluoride-in-my-water body, and I’m glad this one’s over.
  • ++ Also yesterday, I acquired a physical therapist and a therapy schedule to finally fix a year-and-a-half-old shoulder injury. I like the therapist, and I like that he’s two T stops away from the building where I work. Major win.
  • + I’ve been productive and happy at work (except for that miserable evening with the strep throat). We submitted an NEH grant proposal; I’ve been talking to faculty about teaching with technology; we have several IT and digital library projects going; and as terrifying as it is to essentially be my own boss most days, I’m also learning new stuff at a pace I can feel. Mostly learning about managing time and expectations. Valuable stuff.
  • – Work is also exhausting and often frustrating. Yesterday I shut down my computer after reviewing and commenting on four long library policy documents, and literally couldn’t think for a while, just let myself be on autopilot going home.
  • + Good thing cooking perks me right up.
  • – I’ve also been chronically under-sleeping again, mostly by making bad time-management choices in favor of being with good people.
  • + Good thing I got plenty of sleep while sick with strep throat!
  • + On a different note, I’m participating in a Tufts study on how people manage their personal finances (or at least that’s what they claim the study is about). This got me thinking more deeply about my own personal finances, and once again coming to a conclusion that I can manage them well even if the jam-tomorrow enticements that just keep coming from my ex never materialize, and I have to pay his share of our mutual debts too. I wouldn’t be happy doing it, but not having any choice, find it more pleasant to be sanguine about it. Of course I have a rant about that, but that’s not the point: the point is, this isn’t driving me crazy anymore.
  • +This past weekend, I saw a bunch of old friends and acquaintances from my days of hanging out on the interactive fiction MUD.  I also got to see a screening of the excellent documentary Get Lamp, by Jason Scott of textfiles fame, which (both Get Lamp and textfiles) I’m highly recommending if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • ++ My house and my life are full of people so good in so many ways, it makes me dizzy sometimes.

And these are just the highlights. Life’s full, and mostly good.

adventures in dumplings

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I got bitten by the cooking bug, bad. I mean, worse than usual. And I don’t remember when I last had almost an entire weekend’s worth of unstructured time, so this morning I took the bus to the Brazilian supermarket and got a ton of edo roots (“like yucca and potato combined! SO GOOD”) and plantains both green and ripe, for alcapurrias. (Those are Puerto Rican, fried starchy-dough pockets with a meat filling.)

Turns out, the alcapurrias are for making tomorrow, because today I turned five cups of flours into a boat load of dumplings.

Housemate Marta is much happier not eating wheat gluten, so I decided to try making wheat-free dumplings. Much as I love to cook, anything involving dough is not my forte; add to that weird flours, and I was in unfamiliar territory — a noteworthy event in the kitchen. Lo, I experimented, and it was good. No, it was great.

I found a gf dumpling dough recipe online, but the proportions seemed all wrong. Here are the ones I came up with, for the dough:

1c tapioca flour [same as tapioca starch]
1c white rice flour
2t xanthan gum
2T oil
14T cold water

Whisk the first three together. Add oil and water, then mix well first with a spoon, then using your hands. The dough should neither be crumbly nor stick to your hands.

Separate the dough into four parts. Cover three of them well with a damp towel. Using rice flour on both the board and the rolling pin, roll out the fourth as thinly as you can. This takes more patience than with wheat doughs, but patience is worth it. Do work quickly enough to not dry out the dough too much.

Using a small glass or your favorite thing with edges, cut out as many circles as you can from the dough. Immediately gather up remnants, ball them up so they don’t dry, and stick the ball to the next quarter of dough, under the damp towel. Cover the cut-out circles with another damp towel.

Take each circle into your hand, put a bit of filling in the center (a line works better than a ball) and pinch the edges closed to make a half-moon. Take care not to break the dough; it’s a pain to patch.

The filling I used ended up needing 2.5 of the above dough recipes, and consisting of:

1lb ground pork
0.5lb ground beef
0.5 can pumpkin
garam masala
crushed cumin
Penzey’s dried onion flakes
Penzey’s dried garlic flakes
soy sauce

A note on the Penzey’s spices: their onion and garlic are worlds different from any powdered stuff. They’re essentially dehydrated (freeze-dried?) flakes. The garlic is actually spicy.

The dumplings turned out delicious, feeding four people with two cookie sheets’ worth left over to freeze. I boiled them until they floated, dumped in a mason jar of cold water to slow the dough cooking and allow filling to catch up, brought to a boil again, then took them out and fried some of them. Because there’s nothing in the dough that really browns, they weren’t exactly well browned after frying. Butter might have helped with that, but I was using pork fat mixed with canola oil.

Both the boiled and the fried dumplings were delicious with Shane’s dipping sauce: half soy sauce, half rice vinegar, with a motherlode of garlic and ginger. (If you are not a fan of Very Vinegary Flavor, do a 2:1 with the soy sauce.)

Today was victory over unfamiliar cooking territory. We’ll see how I do with the alcapurrias tomorrow.

then, some days are perfect

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Life’s been tough lately. Another bout of non-communication with partner-that-was, about which I can do nothing. Missed communications with loved ones—happily, these being much more fixable, since they involve people who’ll talk to me. Utter dearth of sunshine, most of the time, and decidedly non-summer-like weather.

I could go on (and on), and tell you about the lightbox I got back out in June, and the several draft posts I haven’t made yet (among them one about my not-quite-ADD brain, and why the not-quite part is hard). But instead I’ll trap a little bit of today in amber, because it was perfect.

Never mind that yesterday gave it a run for its money. Yesterday I’d woken up gloriously late, and finally gotten all the parts of my tent in one place and set up and hosed off, ridding the thing of 95% of its playa dust quotient, just in time for a camping trip this weekend. Never mind yesterday, most of which is a tad too personal for this venue. Today.

Today I woke up at 7 (don’t ask). Had breakfast with coffee and quiet sleepy laughter with housemates. Unpacked and moved around some of the stuff that was cluttering the living room, slowly, minding how the house feels to me. (Like home, is how.)

Just before ten I was at Moosecasa, getting quite the reception from two very excited small girls. We took off a half hour later, the three of us, me and two three-year-olds, for Chestnut Farms, from where I get my CSA meat. They had an open barn today. There were goats and chickens and cows and pigs and sheep and baaaaaaaby animals, and they were so warm and soft, and the world was ringing with birdsong, and.

And it was a two-hour drive each way, and that went pretty much perfectly, even though everyone got tired at the end. Trips like this with one adult and two inquisitive, smart, engaged children are a complete toss-up, and this was my lucky day. We talked until we were hoarse, sang songs, listened to Puff the Magic Dragon like half a dozen times, and I got the best small-girl radio from the back of the car. Having the two of them entertaining each other was, I think, most entertaining for me.

We came home, tired. Cee and I got to spend time together, quietly. Three small children and six adults frolicked in a backyard exploding with the gorgeous fruits of gardening, eating cherries and a couple of almost-ripe mulberries and maybe even a strawberry. I came home and cooked dinner, and ate it with People of the House.

I’m exhausted, and for once, my soul is light-filled and well-fed.

i have discovered the secret…

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

…to learning what to do with miso paste, when you just bought it for a single recipe that calls for a few tablespoons, and have no idea what to do with the rest of the inevitable big tub:

You put it in everything, if it even remotely seems like it’ll go. Chances are, miso paste will make whatever you’re cooking awesomely outrageous.

Today I had a small breakfast, no lunch, and a two-hour commute for dinner. (Disabled train, they said, but then why all the ambulances? That’s a rhetorical question.) So I came home, opened a bottle of a 2006 late harvest wine from Trader Joe’s (delicious), threw a whole mess of vegetables in a pan with miso paste, a little butter and fresh (!) herbs, and am eating the whole thing.

Next, I will conquer the world. That’s how I feel right now, anyway.

let me tell you about my bad day.

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Yesterday I woke up grumpy. I had my reasons, but mostly it boils down to, I’ve been getting abysmal amounts of sleep this week – five to six hours a night. No good reason for it.

Moaned about, got out of bed like an hour late, went to work and stayed there for ten hours, in part because the first half of the day I was mostly useless. (Enh. It happens. It’s SAD season, and I do what I can, and somehow work-blogging after hours feels different, calmer, with nobody around.) And near the end of the business day I found out I’d made some people unhappy, and had to deal with that, and it wasn’t a big deal—in fact, the conversation with a third party was helpful and reassuring—but it’s never a good feeling to know you’ve screwed up. On the other hand, learning experience, and a mild one as such things go.

So by the time I left work at 8pm I was tired. And… not exactly grumpy, just feeling off. But then.

Then I came home, and there was a circus band rehearsing in my living room. Went upstairs, and housemate Coraline was hanging out in the kitchen with her friend Carolyn. I threw my stuff down and—having had no dinner—declared I needed scotch, and to make a casserole. Why? I dunno. I guess I’d had a fantastic casserole at Molly’s the day before, and I’ve had random foodstuffs hanging around the cupboards for forever, AND I’d never made casserole before.

Yeah, really.

So we broke out the bottle of 12-year-old scotch that I’d taken to Burning Man and we’d never gotten around to opening (there was other alcohol around, but it’s not tempting to drink a lot of dehydrating liquid in that climate). And I made a casserole of frozen artichoke hearts, frozen peas, frozen corn, frozen mixed mushrooms (thank you, bulk food ordering, I have a mushroom invasion in my freezer), chick peas, canned tuna, multi-colored potatoes, cream and two kinds of cheese. And I’m probably forgetting other stuff.

All the while, people around me chatted and sipped tasty alcohol and giggled a lot. And later I ate and felt more human, and around 10:45pm Coraline (ok, Johanna) and Eric and I went out against all better judgment, because spectacularly under-advertised Midnight Madness was going on in Davis Square. We gawked at antique bobbles and boutique-y clothes, but mostly we dropped by Dave’s Fresh Pasta, sampled tasty foods, and brought home mozzarella made that evening by a neighbor of theirs (or something).

Oh. my. gods. Homemade mozzarella with crushed pink peppercorns and a drizzle of truffled olive oil. Yeah, I’d say that, combined with hanging out with my awesome housemates, was a win even though it meant that once again I got too little sleep.

Boy, if that was a bad day, bring them on, you know? Speaking of days, I should probly go face mine. The sun’s rising, a warm shower awaits, and today I get to take tasty casserole to work for lunch. Oh, and tonight I get to see both of my favorite small girls (can’t call them toddlers anymore, as they’re skipping and giggling on either side of three years old), and go to the Museum of Science with one of them and her dad. WOE. Woe is me in this sad season.

Today I’m thankful for good people in my life, and for all the weird bipolar days that, in the end, let me know that things are going to be ok.


Thursday, July 31st, 2008

To hell with sleep. I now have an ungodly amount of pesto. Probably a couple of pounds of it (or a medium mixing bowl – pesto is heavy, what with the oil and all).

Oh, tasty tasty summer. And I’m just starting with the pesto. Watch out, world.

all she wants to do is

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

4:42pm: Molly and I leave a BU parking lot and head out to get her daughter Natalie from daycare, near their house. Normally this is a 25-30-minute drive.

5:20pm: traffic crawling the entire way there, both on Storrow Drive and on I-93. The sky’s been dark on and off for several hours, and thunderstorms were in the forecast, and at this point the clouds are black and boiling. We take opportunities to [photo|video]graph them off the freeway.

5:28pm: we’re on the off-ramp. The skies open up. Truly impressive sheets of water come down.

5:30pm: we’re underneath the big freeway overpass. Whoa, man: we’re at least fifty feet away from the nearest spot under the open sky, and we’re still getting wet from all the rain that’s being blown our way by the wind.

5:35pm: we’re at the daycare. Parked practically right in front of the front doors, and armed with Molly’s hyooge rainbow-colored umbrellas, we still get soaking wet up to our waists in the twenty feet between the car and the building’s front porch.

5:37pm: we open the doors to go outside and the poor child shrieks, terrified of the racket made by the rain and the wind. She’s still wailing when Molly puts her in the car; we make big excited noises about omigods it’s raining SO HARD and isn’t it COOL and we’re all WET and COLD and we should really get home and put on some dry clothing and maybe have tea! And isn’t this fun! Natalie, being a smart human, looks at us sceptically, but we actually mostly mean it. The flooding rain is ridiculous and exhilarating in its suddenness.

5:45pm: we’re at their place. Safely inside, we change into dry clothing – I get to wear her dad’s warm, awesome flannel-lined jeans. Her dad juggles and does other circusy stuff. This is relevant later. There is dinner full of noshing, and leftover beers from a birthday party last weekend. They are cool, and have a warming effect.

7:15pm: Natalie wants me to do bedtime with her. I read her two books, we giggle a lot, I turn out the light, we cuddle and giggle some more, she gets goodnight kisses from me and from mommy, relocates to her big-girl bed, and quietly sings herself to sleep. Bedtime is pretty fun these days, apparently.

8pm: Molly goes off to play Rock Band, as an entire Pixies album (their first?) was released for the game today. That’s why I’m monitor-sitting, you see.

9pm: I’m totally asleep on the couch, with the monitor.

10:15pm: Molly sheepishly wants to know if I’m willing to stay a little longer. I have no idea what time it is, so clearly, the answer is yes. I mumble as much into the phone.

11:25pm: she returns, grinning from ear to ear, the evening a total win. “B and C are waiting outside and can give you a ride, if you like!” Of course I like. B and C are also circus people – aerialist and musician, respectively.

11:30pm: David, whose clothing I’m wearing, returns from his evening’s outing and happily announces that there are circus freaks outside his house! I make a wide-eyed face and ominously declare that they’re waiting for me. Good-byes, a ride, conversation about accordions and a bass and how cool the Pixies album was.

11:45pm: I get home, and receive an offer of whipped parsnips with butter and cream. I swoon, but am not hungry, so this is a useful mental note for later.

11:50pm: I get an irresistible urge to juggle. And do. Must be channeling all them circus freaks.

00:21am: I take echinacea and goldenseal, just in case, to ward off what I think might be a cold. Or maybe it’s just allergies. Or maybe I should be asleep again. Or maybe I should’ve had tea instead of beer.

In conclusion: I love my friends.