8.29.2006

Stew, the Anti-Stress

I've been feeling stressed out lately, so it was with pleasure I set aside time on Saturday to make beef stew. I chopped everything beforehand: onions, garlic, mushrooms (shitake, portabella, and white), celery, carrots, potatoes, turnip, sweet potato, broccoli, and cauliflower. (My officemate, Rachel, turned up her nose when I said I wanted to add broccoli and cauliflower.) Then I seared the floured beef (searing myself a little in the process) and then put it aside. I scraped up the brown bits in the pan with some butter, then added garlic and onions and some more seasoned flour. When that was soft and translucent, I added all the mushrooms, which took up half the pot before cooking down. That done, I added water and bullion, then the beef and the chopped root veg. I ran out of space before I got to the broccoli and cauliflower. I set those aside and left the rest to cook. When it was done, I added some seasonings, peas for color.
It's a very yummy stew.

Since I had left over broccoli and cauliflower, I had to do something with them. So I steamed them, topped them with some whole milk mozzarella I needed to use, and broiled it a bit to get the cheese melty and browned.
Do I need to point out it was yummy?

PS - You might notice this is a bit post-dated. I started it before I went on vacation, but only finished the post today, 9/4/06.

8.26.2006

Good For You Eats

I had the funniest experience on Thursday. I mentioned to my friend, Stacey, that I had replicated a spinach and black bean quesadilla that I ate at a restaurant last weekend.
"Why didn't you put it on your blog?" she asked.
Good question, considering my recent entries.
"I didn't take a photo. But don't worry, I have enough ingredients to make another batch."

True to my word, I made another quesadilla this morning. It's remarkably easy. I sauteed a minced clove of garlic in olive oil, then added half a bunch of fresh spinach, washed and chopped. After it cooked down a bit, I put a white tortilla in a dry pan on med-high heat and topped it with shredded cheese - monteray jack and whole milk mozarella. When the cheese had half melted, I put on the spinach garlic mixture and some canned black beans, drained. Then I added a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and another layer of shredded cheese. On that I pressed on another white tortilla. By then it was time to turn it over with a spatula and a few minutes later, transfer to a plate and cut into wedges.
Yummy!

8.23.2006

Mmmm... Butter and Cream...

Last night, in addition to helping a friend in crisis, I made peach cobbler for the office. This is my way of scratching the baking itch without plumping up too much myself. I also bought a quart of vanilla ice cream because I'm a perfectionist. Needless to say within the hour it was all gone. What makes this so yummy is the brandy and candied ginger in the peach filling and the butter and cream in the cobbler topping.
When I was heading in to work this morning, I thought "gosh, I'm surprised I'm not more tired!" Now, it's caught up with me. Thankfully, I have nothing scheduled this evening except making beef stew.

Yes. I'm obsessed with food right now.

Postscript: I'm adding a link to the Food Network site where I got the recipe. (I think Aileen found it in the first place.) I made the following substitutions: brandy for the bourbon and a few tablespoons of minced candied ginger instead of cinnamon.

8.18.2006

More yummy dinners

Because I am enjoying a particularly good run of dinners and I'm remembering to photograph them, here's another yummy dinner I made last night.
It's a mushroom wine cream sauce on spinach linguini. The sauce was very easy. I started with chopped garlic and shallots (green onions) sauteed in butter until they were soft. Then I added a lot of sliced mushrooms (white and cremini), which I allowed to cook until they were close to done. I sprinkled on kosher salt and herbs de Provance (thyme, lavender, etc.) Then I added about a 1/3 of a bottle of white wine (dry Reisling, in this case), which I allowed to simmer until it had reduced by a third. Then I poured in about 8 oz (small box, right?) of heavy cream. I allowed that to simmer until it had reduced by at least half. Finally, I tasted it, adjusted the salt, pepper, and herbs and served it on spinach linguini with grated parmesan.
I had expected the sauce to thicken more, but overall it was attractive and very yummy. I think it could be adjusted to be a chicken and mushroom sauce, if necessary. I'd also add some more earthy mushrooms, like shitake. I'll have to think about changing the cream from a purely reduction sauce to a starch thickened sauce if I want it to be thicker. Honestly though, I don't think people would complain about this dish. The sauce broke down when I reheated the dish for lunch today, but the flavor was all there, so I didn't mind at all.

8.15.2006

Project Update

I was wrong, it did get deeper! Now they're pretty much at the bottom. They've started pouring concrete for the caissons.

Yeah, I know. Big whoop. Big hole in the ground. But we've got to start somewhere!

Dinner

Shown: Tomatoes on a bed of couscous, sprinkled with parley, basil and coarse kosher salt. Why? Why not?

Verdict: Delicious and light

Food, Sleep and Clever Advertising

Since I'm experiencing a bout of insomnia, I thought I'd post a picture of dinner that I took a few days ago and have been meaning to post.
It's pirogies (frozen, unfortunately -- maybe I should try making them from scratch) with sauteed mushrooms, sour cream, and parmesan cheese. Mmmmm. I'm making myself hungry now.

I also wanted to comment on a TV ad I saw this evening. I was in the kitchen when I heard the distinct strains of the Great Escape. You know, the whistley one. Yep, that one. It wasn't a fake version either, like the jeans ad that has the Johnny Cash song *not* sung by Johnny Cash. This was the real deal. By the time I had ascertained this, I thought, "what's this for?" I ducked my head around the wall and managed to see the last few frames. A blond security guard bouncing a baseball, a Hummer zipping out of a parking lot and off road, and finally, the H3 logo. It was an ad for Hummer 3 -- "Escape greatly." I'm not a big fan of the gas guzzler, but dang, I love that movie. The next time it came on, I saw the whole thing. It showed a bunch of office workers using various escape techniques to get out of thier cubicled office and out to the waiting Hummer. This press release has a pretty good description of it. I haven't found an online version of the ad, but I'm sure it'll show up on YouTube soon. It was positively brilliant. Keep an eye peeled for it!

OK, I'm going to go read in bed for a bit, hopefully then I can go to sleep. [crosses fingers and toes]

8.11.2006

Blog Tag

I've just been tagged by my friend belsum in a game of blog tag.

The rules are:
1. Grab the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence (grab next nearest book if fewer than seven sentences found).
4. Post the text of the next three sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
6. Tag three people.

Why must I see this while at work? Why? Why?
Fortunately, equidistant from me are two books: Fundamentals of Building Construction and the more interesting one below...

The Collected What If? Edited by Robert Cowley

"Their hearts were torn out and their faces and hands flayed so they could be tanned and sent among the wavering towns as a warning. Cortes escaped this fate only through the intervention of Cristobal de Olea, who sprang to his defense, killed the four Aztecs who were dragging him off, and freed his leader at the cost of his own life. The very conquest of Mexico hung on this single act."

Couldn't have found a more compelling trio of sentences if I tried.

I tag the only other bloggers I know occasionally read my blog (besides, bel, of course): Reuben, Herdsman, Anne G. (keckler and voyageriniowa occasionally drop in too, so feel free to tag yourselves guys.)
Actually, I think it would be cool for the non-blogger readers to participate. Just post your book and your sentences in a comment.

8.03.2006

Literary Recovery

Some of you may know this already, but I've been having a bit of a bout with writer's block for the last year or so. It's been painful, but I came to the realization about 6 months ago that part (maybe all) of the problem stemmed from my own expectations for myself. Creativity is not something you can force. The best you can do is mould it into a habit.
So, I scaled back my expectations. I put a moratorium on demanding things from myself (as best I could, anyway) and let the muse crawl back into her cave to recuperate.
I don't think I ever stopped reading Whatever, Nicole's Blog, or Miss Snark and I know I discovered the Evil Editor during that time. I never really stopped reading about writing, I just stopped expecting that I would DO it.
After a suitable break, I decided to start reading again. Not that I ever really stopped, but I started choosing books like those that inspired me to write in the first place. I also bought subscriptions to fiction magazines that had stories like the ones I used to write. Ones that I might publish my own stories in, if I started writing short fiction again. I subscribed to two new magazines, Farthing and Subterranean (so far I've been pretty impressed with the quality of the former, less so by the latter), and I plan to subscribe to a couple well-established ones as well. I used to be pretty practiced at short stories, even if I only ever submitted to one place (Sword & Sorceress). If I started writing again, I didn't want to limit myself like that again.
Reading was the best antidote. I reconnected with words and grammar and story structure and character development. I would read something and think, "hey, I think I could write something as good as that!"
Of course, thoughts like that led to me wanting to read my own writing. I started with my Drake story. I read the prologue and immediately felt discouraged. It didn't quite have the quality I expected. A few days later, I read my Blue Collar story and laughed the whole way through. The characters were clear and fun and the writing was vivid without being overwrought. Not coincidentally, this is the most recent writing I've done, so was the most mature.
So, I'm feeling encouraged and interested in my writing again. I'm trying to keep focused on the enjoyment I get from the act of writing itself. Publishing or not will come later and I'm really not going to think about that right now. The road to recovery (much like my knee recovery) has been long and will continue to be long. Patience with myself and my own process is the key.

Much Later:
Even though I took a break from Writing, I never stopped paying attention to my everyday writing. Whenever I write, I think about the construction, the tone, and word choice. It sounds laborious, but to me, it's not. It also means that I've grown as a writer, even when I'm not Writing.

I gotta make me some bread, man!

I watched Alton Brown make basic bread on Good Eats yesterday and was inspired to make it myself. I didn't go by his recipe, since he was using rapid rise yeast (I have active dry yeast) and honey (which is too distinctive a sweetness for *inside* my bread - outside is fine though). I found a pretty generic baugette recipe and made the bread shown. It was yummy this morning!
(Call me sophomoric, but I don't think bread when I hear the phrase "staff of life.")

8.01.2006

One Hole in the Ground


As you can see, the hole is getting deeper. It's probably not going to get much deeper on the edges, but they need another 10' or so in the middle for the foundations for the core. Exciting!

Gas companies

As much as I hate to admit it, I think this guy's right:
Stop whining; ExxonMobil is doing its job
I mainly agree because higher gas prices is the only thing that will change consumer habits. And those who support a capitalist society shouldn't complain when it turns out to sometimes be not so great for them.