The best gift is the giving

December 4, 2012 § 12 Comments

Hi guys!  I’m still in Boston for work, but all the visiting of friends (not to mention our department holiday party last night) has left me with holiday gifts on my mind.  I’m not a particularly good gift giver.  As soon as I start trying to figure out what to give to someone specific, my mind goes blank.  Kind of like when someone asks what the word for (fill in the blank) is, and I immediately can’t remember even though I totally know it.

So, I love gift guides because they get my wheels turning, and now and then I’ll see something that makes me think of someone, and I get that blissful aha! moment.  And I know what to do.  Because, even though I’m not particularly good at giving gifts, I do enjoy it immensely.

Anyhow, with that in mind, I thought I’d put together my own little gift guide of things (mostly food related) I’ve seen here and there that I really love, and therefore am inclined to believe that at least a couple other people in the world might love as well.   Also!  A few of the things below are from the Food52 shop.  They’ve started to curate a collection of wonderful, high-quality products from artisan producers and make them available to home cooks through their website.  I am a big, make that HUGE, fan of collections of things that have been pre-assembled for me by people of remarkable taste.  It saves me a lot of aches and pains caused by the choice paradox.  You should go check them out particularly because they’re letting me share a promotion with you.  Woo!  Holiday promotions!  If you enter a code you can save an extra 10% on shop items.  The details of the promotion are at the end of the post.

And now, some things I love…

coasters

One of my best friends gave me these coasters for my birthday.  She knows me too well.  They’re wonderful and you should get them for someone too!

« Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli cheddar and apple gratin

November 28, 2012 § 18 Comments

Fair ladies, kind gentlemen!  I bring you: more broccoli!

Yes.  More broccoli.  Consider it another delicious stepping stone on the cruciferal march toward that cauliflower with harissa cream that I mentioned, and I swear I am working on, and it will appear any day now.

As a reward for your patience (or a way of buying it, perhaps?) though, this gratin is none too shabby, at least that much I can promise.

But first and foremost, for those of you who had Thanksgiving last week, how did it go?  Are you still stuffed?  Ours was quite the gathering, the most rollicking Thanksgiving I’ve been to in years, perhaps ever.

We were not only my family but also Joel’s, and on top of that not one but precisely six Norwegian students, here in Minnesota studying at various universities and connected to my mother in various ways.

The turkey was gargantuan, the gravy flowing, the Brussels sprouts piled high, and the pies numerous and flaky.  The conversation was sparkling.  Also, loud.  Norwegian Americans may be reticent, but Norwegian Norwegians generally aren’t. Nor is my family.  Plus, my grandmother was in the midst of everything exhibiting her talent for handwriting interpretation (mine = hard to read) and discussing Project Runway.  Always a kick. « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli soup with parmesan and lemon

November 21, 2012 § 15 Comments

I’m going to make this one quick because, let’s face it, I don’t have much spare time today, and you don’t either.  Too much crimping of pie edges, dry brining of turkeys, simmering of cranberries, and such and so to be done.

Or, if we’re completely honest, spilling of half bowls of pie dough on the floor, forgetting to take out the turkey, and smoldering of forgotten pots of cranberries.  I am thankful for (among the many more standard things that I am deeply grateful for) brooms, basting with butter (a highly worthy alternative to brining), and smoke detectors.  Though perhaps not in that order.

I am also thankful for this soup because it is the solution to the ‘what shall we eat the night before Thanksgiving?’ dilemma.  (Or if you are in another country, it’s the solution to almost any other dilemma you can come up with.)

I love this recipe in part because the way Merrill – one of the cofounders of Food52 – came up with it is the same way I come up with ever so many dinners.  She saw the words “broccoli soup with Parmesan and lemon” written on a coffee shop signboard.  She thought to herself, “da@* that sounds good” (it’s the holidays, so I’m being careful with my naughty words, see?), and proceeded to try to make her own version.

I have done the same many a time.  Also, the exact same thought ran through my own head when I saw the words “broccoli soup with Parmesan and lemon,” so I knew I had to make it tout de suite. « Read the rest of this entry »

A little of my lately*

November 19, 2012 § 14 Comments

*to borrow a lovely phrase from Herriott Grace.

Well dear friends, in spite of promises to myself and others that I would take plenty of pictures on this trip, my camera has yet to be dragged out of my backpack.  Sometimes a camera feels like an extension of my eyes, honing in my gaze, but at other times I feel like it gets in the way of experiencing.  This time has felt like the latter.  But thank goodness for camera phones and spontaneous little snapshots!  I have a handful of those, so I thought I’d share a bit of what we’ve been doing, seeing, and of course, eating…

We flew into Spokane, Washington where we were welcomed by snow and Joel’s parents.  We hung out there for a bit, paying visits to family, friends, and also Dry Fly Distillery, a pioneer of microdistilling in Washington state.

From there we made the long drive to Portland, Oregon where mind-blowing comfort food and craft distilling are as easy to come by as a teacup at a ladies’ luncheon.  Finally, finally, I got to eat lefse wraps (mine was filled with homemade sausage, cabbage, and plum chutney, wow) at Viking Soul Food. Our friend Griff has been sending me pictures of this food cart for the past two years to make me jealous. « Read the rest of this entry »

Orange cardamom yogurt cake

November 9, 2012 § 90 Comments

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have been a pastry chef.

In general, I like to think of myself as more of a cook.  I find some self-satisfaction in my inaccurate – or more appropriately, unprecise –  stirring together of a pinch of this and a handful of that until I’ve made a meal of it.  I don’t think of myself as precise enough for baking and pastries.

And yet…And yet, at the end of a very long week, a week  where – let’s just say hypothetically – the workdays have been 12 hours long and the brain has taken the spirit captive, I find that precision is what I want.  The precision is a respite.

Structurelessness can be a tyrant, and precision and strict guidelines can actually offer solace.  In those moments, I take comfort in measuring an exact teaspoon and a half or creaming for exactly three minutes.

I also love pastries for their sheer un-utilitarian-ness.  Sometimes when there’s a lot to do, the wise decision is to make those calls or do that laundry, to stop avoiding and cross some things off your list.  But sometimes the wise decision is instead to do something that delights you, that has nothing to do with the list.

You don’t need sweets in your life, to be sure, but I think sometimes you do need little things that are “just because,” that aren’t necessities for the body, but may be for the soul.  Life needs to contain both basics and beauty, both bread and roses, or perhaps both stews and pâte feuilletée. « Read the rest of this entry »

Shepherd’s pie with kale

November 6, 2012 § 30 Comments

Hey! So, it turns out there’s an election or something going on in the States today.  Who knew, eh?!  (Joke.)  Some part of me feels like I should talk about it, as it’s a weighty issue, hot discussion, trending topic, etc, etc, etc.  I mean, I sure know what I believe.  But, I can’t really try to force my beliefs on anyone else.  Actually, that’s false, I totally could try to force my beliefs on you!

But, not to worry, I won’t!

Instead I’m going to preoccupy myself thinking and talking about a creek.

There’s a little creek within spitting distance of the house where I grew up.  I think I may have actually mentioned it before, though I can’t keep track of these things.

It’s a wonderful creek.

There’s nothing jaw-dropping or awe inspiring about it.  It doesn’t have a magnificent or majestic sort of beauty about it.  But it does have the most miraculously quiet, serene beauty to it.  The angles of the rockbeds, the arc of the branches, the ripples of the water, to me they are lyrical in an other-wordly and yet entirely this-worldly sort of way.  It’s one of my favorite places on this earth, and I think one of the most beautiful as well.

I grew up going for walks there all the time.  My mother would take us walking there when we were little for teddy bear picnics and to look for minnows.  I went walking with friends there, making believe we were explorers in a lost forest.  The creek was on the way to and from our high school, so we would hike up and down it in a hurry to get to classes and sports practice.  I walked there with my boyfriends, feeling terribly romantic.  I walked there whenever I was having boy troubles, alone with my thoughts  and terrible indecisiveness.  I, of course, took Joel there on his earliest visits to Duluth, to show him what a special place it is. « Read the rest of this entry »

Breakfast arepas with egg and avocado

November 3, 2012 § 21 Comments

When I came up with the idea of making breakfast arepas, I felt extremely innovative.

I was first introduced to arepas several years ago in Boston by a friend of mine who excels in the sniffing-out-cheap-but-good-street-food department.  I enjoyed the golden cheese-filled corn cakes a lot – it’s hard not to like warm cheesy corny stuff – but they didn’t excite me to the degree many other street foods (did somebody say kimchi tacos?) do.

Why?  Probably because, for unknown reasons and a shameful lack of imagination on this front, it took me until just days ago to realize that you could stuff an arepa with more than just cheese or cheese and beans.  So much more!

A few days ago, I saw an image of arepas filled with avocado, pork, and salsa, and my immediate thought, because there are few things on this planet I love more than avocado + egg for breakfast, was “arepas filled with avocado and fried eggs!  ImustmakethisandeatitNOW!!!!”  And I felt very clever for having such a unique idea.

Then, last night I was texting with my brother who lives in Manhattan (he has power back!  Yay!  I hope everyone else still without power also has it restored ever so quickly!) who had written to me to tell me that I really needed to try making a bourbon and maple syrup milkshake.  (Um, yes, clearly I do.)  Somehow it came up that he had eaten an arepa for dinner, and I told him excitedly, “guess what! I’m making breakfast arepas tomorrow morning!” « Read the rest of this entry »

Joel’s first guest post

October 31, 2012 § 2 Comments

To all of you who received an email for a post called “Al Capone was a local,” um….oops.  That was not me.  That would be Joel who didn’t quite scrutinize the computer screen closely enough to realize he was posting on my blog, not on our distillery website.  He’s detail oriented like that.

Sooooo, no post!  Well, at least not here, but hey, if you do want to read the post, you can check it out at the brand-spanking-new-extremely-preliminary-designed-by-us-not-designers Vikre distillery website.  And that’s kind of fun!

Vikre Distillery: Al Capone Was a Local

Brussels sprouts with kimchi

October 30, 2012 § 21 Comments

Well, sheesh.  What can you say really?  I must admit, I’ve been saying for the past several years that one of these days a hurricane was going to swamp New York, and then we’d finally really have to take the weather seriously and get over the idea that we’re somehow in control.  But, gosh, I never ever ever ever ever ever ever (ever ever ever ever) wanted to actually be right.

I hope all of you dear people on the East Coast are doing alright.

I was on pins and needles all yesterday, all night, all this morning, texting, and emailing, and waiting to hear news from my brother and friends in New York, my good friends in Boston, Joel’s aunt and uncle in New Jersey.  I sure wish something could actually be accomplished through waiting and worrying!  Thankfully, it sounds like so far everyone, though without power, is generally unscathed.

I guess that right there is a little piece of grace in the midst of another big old mess.  I try to hold on to the hope that there’s always something to be thankful for, and believe there actually is, even though I’m sure that hope feels like it’s slipped away a bit through their fingers for some people. « Read the rest of this entry »

Down to basics – roasted pork chops with pan sauce

October 25, 2012 § 9 Comments

Two weekends ago Joel was out of town camping.  He went with my good friend Kaitlin’s husband, which meant Kait and I were both home alone.  Not for long!  Quickly it turned into a weekend of yoga workshops, coffee time, and a hot tub with wine.  Talk about awesome.  And continuing the awesomeness, my parents invited us both over for dinner.  My mother had purchased four pork chops, but there were just two of them, so the addition of two more was, in her words, quite perfect.

There were also figs.  Clearly, you don’t say no when there are pork chops and figs involved (which has been rather an obsession for me this fall – I think I’ve made it 3 times myself).

My mother had a plan.  Obviously.  After all, she had bought the pork chops and figs and is well-versed in the art of getting dinner on the table.  But, I am one of those people who, if I am not doing the cooking, hovers obnoxiously in the kitchen observing and asking questions.  And, at a certain point I, truly obnoxiously, butted in because it became apparent that my mom had never made seared pork chops, finished in the oven, and followed by a pan sauce.  And then I learned that Kaitlin never had either.

Which leads me to the question, have you???  It’s so easy, when you are familiar with something, to forget that that doesn’t necessarily make it common knowledge, to forget that other people may not know that particular information.

Of course, even if you are intimately familiar with pan roasted pork chops with pan sauce, well, too late, because I have already fashioned a blog post about it at my mother’s and Kait’s request, and who knows, you may still learn something!  Or you may discover you have some good tips to offer me (I hope)! « Read the rest of this entry »