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 »

Polenta hiding mozzarella and lemony greens

February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments

polenta hiding greens 1

This past weekend Joel and I were in Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner.  The Birkie, as it’s called, is the largest Nordic ski race in North America and the third largest in the world.  Every February, thousands and thousands of skiers descend on the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin to subject themselves to over 50 kilometers of hilly, sometimes icy, always beautiful, and invariably intense cross-country ski racing.

From those not used to it, I’ve heard it’s really a cultural experience.

My family has been going to the Birkie for as long as I can remember.  There’s a children’s race, called the Barnebirkie (which is Norwegian for “child Birkie”) the Thursday before the big race, and my brothers and I started skiing it when we were still so little that my mom had to walk beside us the entire length of the 1 km toddler course.  My parents would then do the grown up race on the weekend.

mozzarella slices

I started skiing the half Birkie in high school, and I did the full a couple of times while I was in college.  But then I up and moved to the East Coast and was never able to make it back in February (much less train for it, anyway), and so the glorious Birkie weekend full of the excitement of a giant challenge and the fun of meeting up with and staying with friends, comfortably sharing tons of good food and wine and swapping war stories after the race is over, became something I just heard about over the phone each year.

But now we’re back in the upper middle of the country!  And one of the first things I did upon arriving at our new home in Northern Minnesota was to register both Joel and myself for the Birkie.

So then we had to start training like mad.  Trail runs and hikes followed by skiing and skiing and skiing as soon as there was snow.  Sadly, fate conspired against me and last week I found myself feeling substantially under the weather and completely exhausted.  Things didn’t get any better going into the weekend, so I had to bow out of skiing the race (small strangled sobbing noise).  I still went with and did part time cheering duty and full-time relaxing duty at the cabin where we stay, listening happily to everyone’s excited stories of how terrible it was this year (tough conditions make for even more satisfying suffering). Next year, though.  Next year I plan on being fully well enough to ski. « Read the rest of this entry »

Italian sausage burgers with garlicky spinach

December 21, 2012 § 17 Comments

sausage burgers 1

I imagine, if you are like me, what you need right now is not another cookie or another cup of punch.  What you need is the world’s quickest and easiest tasty dinner, so you can be well fed between the events, between all the time commitments demanded by crafting the elegant meals and trays of cookies required for the days that are the events, between the traditions that can’t be monkeyed with.

And on some days, you may want that meal to be something other than spaghetti.  Nothing against spaghetti.  I love spaghetti.  I went through a phase of hating it because I thought we ate if far too often during my childhood, but now I understand why we ate it so often.  I 110% understand why because now that I’m the one making dinner, we eat it just about as often, though usually with spaghetti squash these days rather than actual pasta.  But, even with that understanding, there are only so many days in a row one can stomach spaghetti.

Which is why these burgers are such a great find.  I’m pretty sure the idea came from Food & Wine, or else Bon Appetit.  It was one of the various food magazines that I was reading on one of my several recent work trips at any rate, and the idea stuck with me.

spinach leaves overhead « 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 »

Grilled chorizo and flatbread with charred vegetables

August 9, 2012 § 14 Comments

Ok, I’m going to come out and say it.  There’s a certain point every summer at which I start to get a little annoyed by the sheer bounteousness of summer produce.  I mean, I love it, I really do, but it’s just so freaking beautiful and abundant.  It’s kind of like that person you know who is really smart and talented and beautiful and then they’re nice on top of it, and and eventually you’re like, “come on!  Can’t you at least be neurotic?!”  I get a little bit that way about summer vegetables.  (Please tell me this doesn’t make me a horrible person, though, clearly, I have issues.)

We put summer produce on sun-soaked a pedestal, cooing over it and the way it needs only a little sprinkling of salt, maybe a drizzle of good olive oil.  We rhapsodize perfect garden tomatoes or fresh sweet corn like we do our first love.  And it’s all true, and completely deserved.  Fresh summer produce is miraculous.  It really would be a shame to do much more than serve it in a minimalist state, an ode to the garden.  And the essays that have been written on the subject, well, I have nothing to add to them that hasn’t been said. « Read the rest of this entry »

Korean pork and kimchi tacos

July 17, 2012 § 38 Comments

“They say it’s your birthday, dadadadada, and you’re gonna have a good time da-da daaadada…”

Yup, it’s my birthday.  Which means I get to eat and drink and do and say whatever I please, right?  As long as it is lunch with a friend, lots of iced coffee, going to meetings, and hopefully nice things, I guess.

Birthdays somehow don’t have the same extreme importance or conjure the same desperate hope that they once did.  I remember when I was young being quite unable to sleep the night before my birthday.  My little body simply couldn’t contain the intensity of the excitement for the coming big day.  Of course, my birthdays no longer include pouncing on my parents at 6am to get my presents, crazy themed parties (ranging from “makeovers” to “5,000 things to do with stamps” to “the Wild West”) with friends, or secret hopes of having a Barbie Cake even though I knew we would be be having Norwegian birthday cake, no other option (and I was secretly glad for that as well).

After childhood ebullience, I also went through a phase of bemoaning my birthday.  Not in the “woe is me, I’m getting older” sense, but rather moaning produced by a teenage angst-filled haze of mopiness.  “I’m not special, nobody’s special.  Everybody has a birthday, it happens every year.  Thousands of other people have their birthday on this day too.  This is stupid, leave me alone…But can I have some cake?”  That sort of thing.

Now I’d say I neither eagerly anticipate nor dread my birthday.  I enjoy it.  It’s my birthday.  But, I’m inclined toward keeping it simple.  Low key cookouts with friends, baking my own cake, and no presents please.  Well, unless you really want to. 🙂  But, on the whole I selfishly prefer giving presents to receiving them.  It’s selfish, because I am always so thrilled and grateful to receive a gift I never quite know how to respond, and then I get embarrassed, and I don’t like being embarrassed (who does, really?). « Read the rest of this entry »

Pork braised with beer and cinnamon

April 11, 2012 § 20 Comments

Hello friends.  How are you?  I am well, but my head is quite lodged in a cloud of data.  Like the high peak of a mountain, caught in its own little weather pattern of eternal fog.  Would that I had some of the other characteristics of a mountain to compensate!  I trust that at some point it will all coalesce and I’ll be able to step out of it enough to see what shape it is – a bunny! a dragon! an armadillo! ah, the shapes clouds take on… – but right now I’m in the thick of it, hours upon hours of interview data.

(At least it’s the very best kind of data I could possibly be wanting to work with – people’s stories!  How precious!  Yet, I find this also makes it all the harder to do anything akin to analyzing.  I’d rather just listen…)

Also, along with Boston’s schoolchildren, whatever wonky muse I may be endowed with seems to be taking an April vacation.  Anyone who has seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s stellar TED talk on creativity and genius will know exactly what I mean when I say, my genius is being “kind of lame” at the moment.  (And, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  It’s fascinating and entertaining.) « Read the rest of this entry »

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