Tuesday, September 28, 2010

perks of singleton

Sat down to one of (in my opinion) the ultimate “I’m Single And Have No One To Impress; Damn This Tastes Good” meals.

Beans on toast!


Rumor has it that my cousin’s husband Richard (who’s English) used to eat beans on toast on a nearly nightly basis before he fell in love with my cousin, who is conveniently a ridiculously talented cook and pastry chef. Aw.

That being said, I sort of could see myself continuing to eat beans on toast on a nearly nightly basis and be happy. I like Single People Food.

Though I must say, I clarsed mine up considerably: cannelloni beans mashed with fresh rosemary on farmer’s market Celtic wheat toast.


More by-necessity single people food: have people ever beheld these wonderfully weird things?


Potatoes? I wondered when I saw them on the counter. Dinosaur eggs?




Some kind of winey grape. It had thick skin (as seen above)…


and seeds!

It was delicious but it was also odorous. I can’t quite put my finger on what the smell was (definitely not fruity! More… minerally? I’ve heard wine grapes compared to sulphur but that falls a little short too).

Anyway, yay, I’m single! Who cares how my house or breath smells?!

Something that may keep me from being single for long…


Based on the poor decisions I made in the vicinity of Dave’s Fresh Pasta last autumn, I am inclined to believe that pasta is dangerously alluring food. Best re-gift ever. My cousin had too many homemade pasta rollers, can you imagine?!

Finally, potentially creepy habit that may keep me single (arachnaphobes avert your eyes!):



We had this beautiful wise well okay I’m being anthropomorphic but we had this spider who used to set up camp on our back deck. She it would weave her its web right by the light bulb, so moths would flock to the light and she’d ensnare them.

However, the spider we christened Charlotte (can I get some E.B. White love up in here?!) seems to be no more, and she seems to have DAUGHTERS who now seem to have set up together!

Their webs are works of art, as are THEY! Look at those beautiful markings!


I know this is kind of creepy of me. Honestly, ordinarily I hate spiders and if I ever had one in my house, even one of these cool ladies, I’d flip out.

But in their proper environment (SAFELY OUTDOORS), I see them as the pest-eating, beautiful, mythical things they are.

No scientist has ever figured out the strength and flexibility of spider silk!

While I photographed Sister #1’s beautiful underbelly, Sister #2 was busy chowing down on dinner.


That moth had no chance!

So yes, this is my current habit. Of animal fixations, it seems relatively harmless. You all are free to give me a talking to if I get into taxidermy. Or snake charming.

Monday, September 27, 2010

non brekkers brekkers

So I had a highly, HIGHLY uncharacteristically savory breakfast Wednesday morning.  


Here’s the thing: with the job I don’t have a lot of time to eat during the day. It’s always kind of zooish. Also, I do a lot of activity during the day (active running-around games with the children, hauling boxes full of food bank food up three flights of stairs, hauling MYSELF up three flights of stairs [the center where I work is on three levels and I’m constantly running between the basement and top floor]).

Anyway, so I get home at night and eat my little brains out. Often of the sweet carbish variety. Am slightly concerned at what I am wreaking on my blood sugar.

SO I woke up Wednesday morning after eating my body weight in dried fruit and granola the night before (man my “junk food” is pretty hippie-ish, eh?) and I wanted NOTHING sweet. My usual breakfasts- oatmeal, overnight oats, cereal, yogurt parfaits- are fruit packed and sweet and I just wanted nothing to do with them.

So I went to my fridge and thought well hmm. I freaking love that muhammara. We’ve still got a bit of farmer’s market bread left; let’s put it on top of that. Also, I made this seriously delightful concoction Tuesday night of squash tossed in olive oil with garlic, basil, and shaved parmesan, so I finished that off. And for protein, some nice roasted almonds!


Dare I say a nice Mediterranean breakfast buffet?

It won’t be an everyday occurance, but it hit the spot.

Rounding it out, I made a homemade chai latte!


The genesis of this project was this: my mom cleaned out our garage.

Hahahaha yes.

So, with all of our old cookie tins (which we save for next Christmas when we then give cookies away- and then get given some in return, thus having tins for next year), we also had a big ol’ vat of mulling spice (for apple cider, etc.):


It’s full of goodies- cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom pods.

So my mother has started brewing it with her morning cup of tea for a chai experience. I took it a step further and Tuesday night made a pot of tea and mulling spice. Thus, Wednesday morning I had a delicious superconcentrated tea which I then mixed with milk (organic!) for a latte.

I decided, what the heck, I’ll pack one for work later sometime I need a caffeine break.


Slightly more normal breakfast (what a certain Smart girl calls the CFY), though still atypical for me.

Usually I want a rib stickin’ breakfast and prefer airy cereal for a snack. However, my ribs were already pretty… stuck when I woke up on a recent morning, so light and crunchy (with some crisp and some tang) sounded good.


To that end, I combined Cheerios, chopped apple, a few yogurt globs, and just because cereal seemed wrong without it, some milk. 

It was delightfully voluminous, and also provided wonderful texture and flavor variety.

I get seriously irritated when women’s magazines, in their How to Starve Yourself sections, suggest that if you crave grainy crunchy snacks (like chips and crackers) you can just replace them with crunchy raw fruits and vegetables.

And like, puhlease. I love raw fruits and vegetables, but they are CRISPY, not crunchy. You need grainity grains for crunch.


As usual, I took my pretty (ish) blog pic and then made a delightful mess of my bowl like the four year old I (mentally) am. Fun in every bite!


Finally, a breakfast product I’ve been eating TONS of, but not as actual breakfast:


The delightful people at Galaxy Granola have once again sent me a care package of delight. I was SUPER EXCITED to try this new stuff, because it boasted nuts and honey and graham flour as ingredients and to me that sounds like yummy baked-good-reminiscent childlike snackables disguised as healthy breakfast.


Except it’s actually healthy!

The ingredients are just whole grains, fruit (like all Galaxy granola, it’s baked in apples and thus has no added oils and 0 grams of fat per serving), and honey and nuts.

Like all of the granolas made by Galaxy, this one gets point for textural variety:


Most eminently munchable were what I think was crispy rice (but was way less airy than typical puffed rice- it gave a serious, solid crunch!), and the walnut bits, which were seriously jacked up with honey flavor in addition to the walnut’s natural awesomeness.


This one also just gets points for being AWESOME! I’ve had issues with other flavors made by this company being bland, but there are no such issues with this honey-nut-goodness. The flavor from the graham flour (I’m going to go on record as a graham cracker junkie) also adds something really unique.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

among the apples

I spent Friday afternoon in a magic world of growing things.


The week I plan the field trip you knew it was going to be edible.

It is fair to say that farms and animals are few and far between in South Arlington, where I work, through Americorps, at an afterschool program for low-income, mostly immigrant children. While the parents of these kids want them to have every opportunity and advantage, they are also people working multiple jobs, often learning English, and supporting multiple family members. Apple picking trips are money, time, and transportation-intensive.

So, dammit, I was planning one.

Kids, ALL kids, should get to see growing things.

I said a prayer to the Traffic Fairy and we set off on 66 West on a Friday afternoon (locals know why this could’ve gone horribly, horribly wrong).

Blessed be, traffic was relatively calm and 10,000 school bus songs later, we arrived at Hartland Orchard.


I can’t say enough about the great treatment we got there. They greeted us with big smiles, fun things to do, and a gigantic and adorable dog that enthusiastically returned hours and hours of hugs and kisses.

First stop was a very loud and very crowded hayride (there were ultimately 27 kids and 6 adults on it).


We stopped on the way to the orchard to watch a pig race (!) which I was too slow with my trigger finger to capture, but the kids ate it up.

Then we went to the land of the apples, where we gleefully ran through the trees, squashing the sweet and tangy smelling soft apples with our feet, clutching our bags, looking for the most perfect specimens to take home. Farmer Hank gave the kids tools that almost looked like lacrosse sticks to reach up in the trees and grab the high-up fruit.

So great to see kids dwarfed by these beautiful living trees, connecting the food on their plate to the soil under their feet.


There was lots of “Get me that one Ileana! No, not that one—that one!”

And “LOOK how HUGE this apple I got is! Just look!”

When picking had ended, we went to their, for lacking a better word, playground.

Really, all playgrounds should have goats.


The animals were incredibly sweet and friendly (unsurprisingly, really, since the kids were feeding them through the fence).

In the background, note the totally awesome horsey swing.

There was also, how are these not everywhere, a corn box. Not a sand box. A corn box.


At the end, when the kids were running around and getting out some excess energy before getting on the bus, I sort of just wandered around marveling at how beautiful it was.

It meant SO MUCH to me to be able to help give the kids this experience.


The kids I work with are all what you could call disadvantaged. Fortunately that’s a bit of a misnomer, since they do have the advantage of having the staff of our learning center along with my fellow Americorps members all personally and fiercely invested in their well being.

However, it’s a reality of our country that some kids are growing up with a lot less. Sticking with the food discussion, we get weekend bags from the food bank to make sure that the kids get enough meals to eat when they’re not getting their subsidized school lunch and their snack at our afterschool program (which we also get from the food bank).

It’s important to me that these kids matter. Kids don’t just belong to their parents, you know? They belong to the community, the state, the country that produced them. The future of the world as a whole is wrapped up in their well-being, and it matters to me.

And they are great, great kids.

On a less serious note, I just love my job because when working with children one can do ridiculous things.

We decided to do a team building activity to celebrate the first day of fall (somewhat ridiculously, since the temperatures here in Virginia have been hovering right around 94).

Introducing the idea of a farm, we wanted to do a scarecrow clothes relay race (the first person on the team has to put on a complicated layered scarecrow costume, run the race, then run back and take off the getup and help the next person in line put it on).

Which was great, except, hello, nonprofit, we have no costumes.



Each costume had a “shirt” (paint-stained art smock), a “bib” (fabric scrap with a head hold cut in the middle), a “leg scarf” (another, longer fabric scrap; it was originally going to be a belt but we weren’t positive it’d fit everyone and didn’t want to create any weight trauma), and the piece de resistance, “fake bird wings to scare away the crow” (fairy wings).


I had my first apple (well other than the one I munched in the orchard!) after church today.

As usual arrived home ravenously hungry.

Sliced apple vair thinly, put in teensy baking dish (the picture’s of my mini countertop oven; adjust your perspective accordingly), sprinkled with scads of cinnamon and a wee bit of water to let everyone steam.


That was to serve as lunch dessert.

Actual lunch was… any guesses what hides in the interior of this warm pita?


Falafel! Homemade falafel from the church bazaar! I highly, HIGHLY recommend being a religion that is widespread in countries with delicious cuisine (Orthodox FTW- we get the Greeks, the Ethiopians, smatterings of the Middle East, etc. etc.)


Snarfed that down (wonderfully herbaceous, not at all greasy, and substantially enhanced by the pickled turnips alongside it. Yum!) and then sat down to dessert:


Baked apples that look like french fries. Score.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Love, love, a thousand times love our weekly Americorps Potlucks.

Particularly awesome theme this week: BREAKFAST FOR DINNER! BRINNER!

In the fruit category, Erin made some serious fruit smoothies (I failed to get a good picture of this. Picture pineapple juice, vanilla yogurt, and frozen peaches and berries. SO good).

Also in the fruit category, the OTHER Erin (one of our site supervisors and a seriously awesome “boss”) made fruit salad, which was served in Erin and Carolyn’s awesome bowl which I call The Giant Mug.


Everyone else went out to get ingredients and made their dishes the night of. Since Erin and Carolyn’s kitchen is… I’m gonna say less than 50 square feet, it was rawther crowded and supremely sweaty.

I, adorably, kept squeezing in to take pictures. GOD I am annoying.


Carolyn made hashbrowns.

To be more accurate, I’m going to say Carolyn made some butter with a side of potatoes and onions.


Carolyn does extraordinary things with potatoes. Typically, I ask her to marry me at various points throughout these potlucks. This week, it was right around now:


They were really, really, REALLY good.


Meanwhile, Steve was whippin’ up some awesome huevos rancheros (shown here mid process, with the all-important cheese being sprinkled on).


Steve is great because he loves Sriracha as much as I do. There was no Sriracha scrimping.

They were REALLY good.


My contribution came from my freezer- Cooking Light’s freezer cinnamon fruit rolls. Nice, although I did a blend of regular and oat flour and I think the whole wheat weight meant they didn’t expand as much.

But they sure tasted good!


However, it was pretty unanimously agreed upon that the big hit of the evening was Kyle’s CREPES.

It began with a legit Family Recipe, which included eggs, flour, and the apparently untraditional ingredient of powdered sugar.


Kyle had mentioned early in training that he was into cooking and had actually thought about culinary school but then hadn’t mentioned much since then (I mean, Kyle just doesn’t talk that much. Unless he’s quoting Wedding Crashers, his preferred method of communication).

But man. Put him in front of a stove and it is seriously impressive.

Batter was whisked. Pan was buttered. Batter was ladled into hot pan. Batter was swirled.

It was masterful to behold.


Kyle: “Want to give one of these a try?”
Me: “… Yes?”

I ladled. I swirled. I watched.

Me: “May I be vulnerable for a moment?”
Kyle: “… Yes?”
Me: “I am not a confident pancake flipper.”

However, CREPES ARE EASIER! THEY REALLY ARE! They’re so thin that by the time the bottom is cooked, the top is almost cooked too.

The easiest thing apparently is to just stick a spatula under an edge, then peel it up with your fingers to look underneath. If it’s browning nicely, stick the whole spatula underneath and it’s pleasantly firm and flips beautifully.

Here is my creation:


Yay beautiful crepe!

We ended up just doing a fill-your-own affair. Kyle demonstrated the ham and cheese:


I decided to just pile some of the fruit salad on top of mine, which was SCRUMPSH. Later on I had one with cheese and the powdered sugar in the batter *totally* worked with the Swiss. GOD those crepes were good.

It was a seriously good meal.This is only a fraction of what I ate.


Will be trying to eat some vegetables for the next few days :D

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

story of a squash

This is a squash.


Headed to the farmer’s market, I knew I wanted a squash. I went to a stand with a beautiful selection.

“Is there a kind you recommend?” I asked the farmer.

He looked at me, then silently began to go through the butternut squashes.

“… oh, is the butternut good?”

More silent perusal.

“Is there, like, a particular color, or shape…”

Still COMPLETELY SILENT, he handed me this one.

Far be it from me to argue with that.

I took it home and whacked it open, admiring its golden interior (and removing the seeds for roasting!)


I was feelin’ Mexican, so I sort of perused the internet for recipes for Mexican-style butternut soup, and then as usual ignored them and made my own.

I started by roasting it, cause roasting makes everything better.


Then got out my favorite Mexican ingredient. Am disconcerted that chipotle is (as far as I know) spelled wrong on this jar, since I actually bought this at the presumably autentico Latin grocery store. Are we gringos spelling it wrong?!


Here is everything else that went in!

Mexican Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, cut into chunks
1 T oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chili, canned in adobo, minced
3 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T of adobo sauce from the chipotle can
1 T lime juice

Roast the butternut squash at 375 degrees for 20 minutes (it’s okay if it’s not completely soft yet, it will cook more. This step is more about adding roasted flavor!)
Heat oil on medium high heat. Cook onion until soft and brown, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and chipotle pepper, and cook an additional 3 minutes.
Then add roasted squash, broth, and spices. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to a simmer and let simmer, uncovered, ten minutes.
Remove from heat, cool slightly, and then blend (in two batches) until pureed to your liking.
Finish with lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.


So, basically I cooked a variety of yummy things together in a yummy slow-cooked manner, then stuck them in a tupperware for later in the week when I had no time! As an added bonus, soup gets better the longer the flavors get to hang out and meld.

I had my friend Cristina over for dinner and served the soup with an adorable toppings station of homemade tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, and pumpkinseeds:


Bit of a shame that Cristina turned out to not like cilantro… or squash! Yikes!

Dinner fail.

Anyway, at least mine tasted good :D


(I fed her caprese salad!)