Vær så god: Toad in the hole with kale salad

April 15, 2013 § 30 Comments

toad in hole 1

I wrote this post yesterday, before the horrifying explosions in Boston, and I’m posting it anyway as it is, but I cannot not start by saying that my heart is sobbing for Boston.  For the past seven years until this year, every marathon Monday I have either been cheering near the finish or running the marathon, and so many people I care for were nearby today, though they are all safe as far as I have been able to discover.  The Boston Marathon is such a joyful pageant, a show of camaraderie and of the amazing strength of the human body.  It is tragic, it is unbearable as always, to see such goodness attacked.  That’s the very essence of an act of terrorism, I guess, to attack something good and meaningful to try to frighten people out of participating in the goodness life has to offer.  I often don’t actually feel strong enough to keep hoping and living joyfully in the face of such uncertainty, pain, and cruelty.  I am overcome with sorrow.  I pray for strength for Boston, and for all of us.

I’m in the process of working on a redesign of this site (and it will in a couple weeks be moved, finally, to fiveandspice.com, woohoo!).  And when I say I’m working on it, I really mean that the wonderful and talented Melissa and Erin of Wooden Spoons Kitchen are doing the heavy lifting, and I’m pelting them with questions and thoughts, and they’re helping me and making sense of it all admirably.  I can’t wait until it’s ready and you all can see it!

In the redesign process, I’ve had to spend a lot of time thinking about what this site is about and what makes it unique, while also spending lots of time looking at other beautiful blogs to guide the redesign and show what I like and don’t like in a look, and voice, and so on.  This, I’m sorry to say, sent me into a nice little bout of comparison, which is a worthless way to spend your time.  Comparison is the thief of creativity, and yet is nonetheless something that I am horribly prone to.  When I go down the road of comparison, I forget that I exist as anything except as how I stack myself up against others (and I never ever stack myself favorably).

toad in hole dry ingredients

There are so many cooking blogs, I wailed to myself.  So many are so gorgeous, clever, unique, thoughtful, creative, have well-tested recipes. What am I even doing trying to participate?  Am I just adding to the clutter of an already crowded space?  Just adding noise to the din of the argument about what and how we should eat?  I’ll never be the best (wah)!  What’s the point?

I worked myself into quite a sad, sorry state of worthlessness.  And then of course I ran into some nicely lettered quote on pinterest that said something like, “The forest would be a quiet place if only the very best songbirds sang.”  Which was totally annoying to see in that moment because I wanted nothing to do with sage advice, or with the truth, or with being reasonable at all.  I didn’t want to be an adult!  I wanted to wallow!!!!  I wanted to fester, to poke at my (self-inflicted) bruise!

And then I had to laugh at myself.  Because as soon as I could admit that my ego really just wanted to throw my own little pity party with me as guest of honor, I could see the pointlessness of that behavior, and how utterly true that “annoying” quote was.  We exist totally separately from how we compare to others.  We each exist in our own remarkable uniqueness.  We each have our own voice, and adding that voice to the chorus, if we are singing true, will never be adding clutter. « Read the rest of this entry »

A sliced egg and avocado smørrebød plus some (rather big) news

March 30, 2013 § 56 Comments

egg avocado smorrebrod 2

I went a little insane this last week.  I went for a walk with the dog and didn’t need to wear a hat.  My face didn’t feel cold at all.  I knew intellectually that was possible, but I had actually kind of forgotten what that felt like.  And I was like, “SPRING!!!!!”

So then I decided we were going to celebrate both Passover and Easter – Joel’s background is Jewish and mine is Lutheran, so I figured we were allowed.  We (ok, really it’s me, but Joel goes along with it so well) are extremely attracted by events, holidays, and meals steeped in symbolism, and  both Passover and Easter are ideal for this.  In addition to planning big meals for each holiday, I also decided it would be best if we made all of our own matzoh and Easter candy homemade.  No problem, right?  Ha.  I feel like my every spare moment has been in the kitchen, which I don’t really mind.  But, then my advisor finally sent me comments back on one of my dissertation drafts, so I was supposed to be editing that too.  Oops.

But, so far, it’s all been totally worth it.  And as long as the lamb cake I’m currently baking comes out of the mold without its face falling apart, then I feel like we’re ready to rock and roll.

peeling boiled egghard boiled egg shells

It feels amazing to have my energy coming back because I’ve been pretty exhausted for the last couple months…Which brings me to our very big news.  It, as you may have already guessed, has everything to do with an entirely different sort of, shall we say, baking project, with buns in ovens, and all.  And I don’t mean the hot cross kind.

That is to say, come late September we’re expecting a new family member to join our little family!(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  We couldn’t be more thrilled.  Or terrified, of course. « Read the rest of this entry »

Down to basics – the omelet

March 25, 2013 § 23 Comments

basic omelet 1

After I posted about my method for making creamy scrambled eggs, I received several requests asking whether I could write a similar post on making the perfect omelet.

The answer:  most certainly! … Well, sort of.

The perfect omelet is a fitful, finnicky, tricky thing.  It is said that you can judge the caliber of a chef by his or her plain roast chicken and his or her omelet.  So, I knew that if I was to post about how to cook an omelet, I could not do so lightly.

So, I decided to put in a whole bunch of practice first.

eggs for two omelets

On the whole, I’m relatively unpracticed at making omelets.  Certainly if you compare with my practice in fried or scrambled eggs.  I like eggs in nearly any preparation, but omelets are not at the very top of my list, so I don’t make them as frequently as some other eggy delights.  Actually, if I were to order how frequently I made different types of eggs, the list would be something like this:

  1. Fried eggs
  2. Baked eggs (most often baked plainly with just a drizzle of cream and maybe some herbs)
  3. Scrambled eggs (with or without lots of mix-ins)
  4. Poached eggs – Frittatas – this one’s a tie
  5. Omelets
  6. Soft or hard boiled eggs (though, actually, I do absolutely love a soft boiled egg, if someone else prepares it for me)
  7. Other egg-based things like savory custards, stratas, souffles, etc.

So there you go.  And I have now started the most boring conversation ever, listing egg preparation preferences. Or maybe it’s actually one of the most interesting potential conversations ever.  Your egg preferences may be like a personality barometer.  Maybe it’s an edible Myer’s-Briggs!  Do all other INFJs have the same egg preferences as me?  Do ENTPs prefer scrambled eggs above all while ISTJs are omelet people?  Feel free to discuss. « Read the rest of this entry »

Gingery kimchi fried rice

February 21, 2013 § 16 Comments

kimchi fried rice 1

Decidedly not a beauty queen this one.  She’s all lumpy and monochromatic.  But the frumpy exterior conceals a heart packed with flavor.

And truly, on most days at least, who really wants a gorgeous but high maintenance looker of a dish when in a few minutes you could instead have one of  the most incredibly easy and tasty lunches (or dinners, but I always seem to eat it for lunch) known to man.

And it uses up some leftovers too.  That’s always good.

fried rice garlic

I never used to like fried rice that much, actually.  I didn’t dislike it, I just saw no reason to eat it.  I never saw what others seemed to see in it.

So for years I would scrupulously cook rice in small quantities so as never to have leftovers.  Or, if there were leftovers, I would turn them into a porridge-like pudding for breakfast, and never think about the possibility that I was missing something. « Read the rest of this entry »

Down to basics – Soft scrambled eggs

February 17, 2013 § 32 Comments

soft scrambled eggs 1

My dear friends, would you be up for bearing with me for just a moment so I can talk about scrambled eggs?

Plain old scrambled eggs.  Not scrambled eggs with crisped asparagus or lacy pieces of prosciutto, not scrambled eggs with cheeses and meats and peppers and mushrooms.  Not scrambled eggs with anything, except perhaps a helpful piece of toast.  Just scrambled eggs.  Soft scrambled eggs.

Scrambled eggs are a staple breakfast of mine, and it has occurred to me – given the many times I have been given not very good scrambled eggs – that this absurdly simple preparation, requiring only a few ingredients and minutes, can be quite tricky to pull off.

scrambled eggs start

I think, like me, for many people the ideal of scrambled eggs is soft and creamy, a smooth pillowy mound of golden eggs with barely a curd to spear into.  Eminently scoopable eggs, almost like a savory custard.  But more often our eggs turn out dry, in large chunks.  It’s disheartening.

I didn’t used to feel this way about scrambled eggs.  When I was little, scrambled eggs were my favorite food, after any of the sweets we weren’t allowed to eat, but I liked them cooked until totally hard and dry.  Then I’d chop them into tiny pieces with my fork.  I was weird.

When I was 6 or 7 I got into a huge argument about this with my grandmother, in fact.  She explained to me that the proper way to cook scrambled eggs was to leave them partially uncooked and creamy.  I insisted this was a disgusting and terrible idea.  We faced off, dug our heels in, and neither of us would give an inch on our stance.

It was time that wore me down (happily).  I began to prefer my yolks runny and my scrambled eggs soft, and it became a point of intense experimentation to try to achieve my new vision of scrambled egg perfection. « Read the rest of this entry »

Poached eggs with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts

December 12, 2012 § 14 Comments

poached eggs sweets and brussels 1

I have a major breakfast thing people.  It’s pretty weird.

I mean, I knew I had a breakfast thing before – I’ve brought it up more than a few times, for example every time I mention breakfast – but I don’t think I knew knew.  If you know what I mean.  You know?

But now I know.  When I commandeered the whole breakfast-making procedure at my best friend in Boston’s house – where I was the guest, mind you – and started turning out frittatas with arugula and over easy eggs with a brown butter vinegar sizzle, that’s when I really knew.

poached eggs sweets and brussels 2

It may be Monday or Thursday, I may have a meeting at 8 am, but still I find myself compulsively fixing breakfast for myself and whomever else I can shake out of bed.  Plates of migas, fried eggs with kimchi and orange aioli, potato cakes with smoked salmon, honey-avocado lassis, fresh baked corn bread with homemade ricotta.  I may not be able to plan out my lunch, potentially not even dinner, but breakfast is likely to be a minor masterpiece.

I’d say it was a problem, if it weren’t so delicious! « 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 »

Goat cheese popovers with blueberry sauce

August 6, 2012 § 15 Comments

First off, foremost, and before anything else, thank you!  Seriously, thank you.  Jumping up and down clapping my hands thank you.  I’m 8 and I just got the Playmobile Victorian dollhouse set I’ve been coveting all year, thank you.  Your enthusiasm, and support, and encouragement for Joel’s and my thoughts and plans mean so very, very much to me, and you will definitely be hearing stories as we get going with our new adventures!

And now, because when I’m overwhelmed with gratitude transitions go completely out the window, without further ado let’s go ahead and talk about breakfast.  Or snack.  Or breakfast standing in as dinner.  Or however you want to serve these popovers.  (The first, followed by the second, followed by the third works quite well.  I can say from experience.)

Though in the end they became the sauce rather than the apparent centerpiece, it was actually the blueberries that started the wheels turning and rolled me down the path that led eventually to popovers.

I saw them (the blueberries, that is), majestically portly and dusty midnight blue, piled high in their cardboard pints at our tiny neighborhood farmer’s market, and I simply couldn’t resist.  The word that comes to mind is peak.  Blueberries are at their peak, and they looked it.

The blueberry acquisition was followed, in short order, by a creamy white round of chevre, and I began to form a plan.  It was only the vaguest of plans though.  It went something like:  blueberries and chevre…together.  The question of how I most wished to eat them together remained unanswered for a couple of days. « Read the rest of this entry »

Since we were talking about butter – smoked salmon quiche

May 2, 2012 § 24 Comments

As any self-respecting, French speaking, art and food obsessed college student would do, I spent a semester abroad in Paris my junior year.  According to my transcript, I was studying something along the lines of French language and literature.  According to me, I was doing an intensive independent study in hot chocolate and pastries.  Intensive.

I made a point of going to a different spot and trying a different pastry every day.  I roamed the city, exploring quaint neighborhoods and corner bakeries, charming cafes and hyacinth-lined gardens.  If my study-abroad major was pastries, my study-abroad minor was people-watching.  And dodging men who were intent on getting to know me – solely because I was blonde, and because they were French, and that seems to be the way of things.

Choosing walking as my preferred mode of transportation, I also wandered through plenty of neighborhoods where I quite possibly shouldn’t have, or at least wouldn’t have selected as a destination.  But, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get from point A to point pastry.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The green madame

April 24, 2012 § 8 Comments

I have a problem with, no, let me rephrase that, it’s not really a problem, but I have a predisposition toward collecting little scenes that I see during the day and immediately turning them into images or metaphors for something else.  There’s nothing wrong with this at all, of course.  In fact, it’s quite handy at times.

But, today I want to share three vignettes with you that I like so much, I’m refusing to let my brain get all allegorical with them, even though it would be easy enough to do so.  I’m simply going to share them with you.  And if you’d like to  turn them into your own metaphors, by all means, go for it.

The first, I saw when I was running in the arboretum near our house this weekend.  It was swarming with birders, like bees pacing busily about their hive.  A group of them was standing a little ways back from a tall pine.  Each person in the group had binoculars plastered to their eyes.  They all peered upward, craning their necks, searching for something in the empty tree.  Meanwhile, a giant, chestnut colored red tailed hawk swooped down from the tree right behind them.  It stood on the ground, unnoticed, for a while, cocking its head at the birders curiously.   Then it took off, still unseen.  I chose not to say anything.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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