Arugula and delicata salad

January 22, 2013 § 22 Comments

arugula delicata salad 1

Right at this moment, it is 20 below zero outside.  The windchill is -43F, and the high today is a balmy -4.

In other words, it is January in Minnesota.  And while this kind of weather does make you vaguely wonder how life can exist here, it is also pretty great – after the thaw we had two weeks ago – to feel like we’re getting a spot of normal weather.

delicata half moons

In case you don’t live in such a frigid place, here are some things to know about this type of weather:

Yes, there is still a palpable difference between temperatures when you get lower than 32F.  Sure, it all feels freezing, but not at all the same level of freezing.  5 degrees above feels downright vernal after a spell of -15.  When it’s around 10 or 15 below, salt actually stops working to melt ice.  It’s kind of funny.  When it gets really, really cold you can toss a cupful of water up in the air, and it will freeze before it makes it back down to the earth.

The best way to respond is to go outside in spite of the cold, just be sure all of your skin is covered and that everything you’re wearing is thick and wooly.  Then, make some type of remark to everyone you meet about how arctic explorers would be overjoyed to have such a pleasantly warm day.

On a related note, you must learn to recognize everyone by their hats and puffy coats because you can’t really see faces.  You need boots that are in a whole different league, preferably made of moose skin.  The long fur coats you inherited from your grandmother stop looking like a politically incorrect bit of fashion history and instead look like an extremely reasonable and adaptive way of dressing. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Vanilla Nut Granola

January 9, 2013 § 15 Comments

nutty granola jar

How are we already more than a week into January?  Can someone please explain to me how that happened?

Around mid-November through mid-December I was so happy because I’d really found a rhythm, a productive and interesting but soothing rhythm, to my days.  I was finally comfortable enough to put 2012 into cruise control and start admiring the scenery.

Then 2013 came barging in and it totally threw off my groove.  The toddler-like newness of the year must be contagious because I’m stumbling about a bit trying to regain my stride.  I suppose I should respect the newness and not try so hard for broad, efficient striding at all.

nutty granola bowl 1

Transitions, good or bad, they’re always a little tricky and tiring.  Not the least of the reasons for which being that the crack in the earth is open and naughty daemons are wandering around making mischief in our lives and of our immune systems.  (Especially our immune systems!  Sniff, wheeze, cough.  More chicken soup please.)

But, the threshold has been crossed, and once you’re over you can look back, but you can’t go back.  Not with any amount of kicking or screaming or clinging to the doorframe.  What’s back there has been digested (hopefully well) and given strength to now, and now off we go to the next now and onward! « Read the rest of this entry »

Creamy “pumpkin” soup

January 2, 2013 § 35 Comments

pumpkin soup 1

Happy, happy New Year to you all!  Did you ring in the New Year in style?

I know we did.  Much more stylishly than we really are, in fact.  But if the holidays aren’t a time to up your style game, when is, right?

Perhaps it’s the crash after the high of holiday activity, perhaps it’s that the New Year always makes me nearly as nostalgic as October does, but I’m now left feeling quietly morose.  “Another year,” a voice somewhere inside of me sighs, “another year, and I still don’t understand.”

onion skins

So I’m sitting in our living room now, which feels dark as the Christmas twinkle lights have all been put back into boxes, wondering to myself, ‘understand what?  What do I so yearn to understand?’

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is anything and everything, as far as I can tell.  The answer is Life.

Day by day life happens, intermittently glorious and terrible, and I don’t understand any of it.  At all.  Not a bit.

I’m suddenly remembering a quote my mother told to me earlier this year (I’m not entirely sure of its origin), “this thing of which we speak cannot be found by seeking.  But only seekers will find it.”

I don’t entirely understand the quote either, but it speaks to me about life and meaning on a level separate from understanding.  I feel somehow like that’s it.  Like maybe trying to understand won’t get you anywhere.  Life just is, it isn’t an entity to be dissected and understood.  You have to get out of your own way, but at the same time seek and make that daily effort to get out of your own way. « Read the rest of this entry »

Hazelnut coconut grahams

October 16, 2012 § 15 Comments

Joel has a, shall we say, ever so slightly suboptimal habit of eating in the middle of the night.  (Sorry for spilling the beans, honey!  Does it help that I find it cute?)  So, if we ever happen to have tortilla chips (with a hint of lime) or cookies in the house, which we do on occasion, I frequently find they disappear at a rate much higher than they should based on the scientific observations I make of them being eaten.  I also find crumbs on the counter in the morning.

It’s something I can’t say I really identify with.  Not because I’m anywhere near being above bad habits or in possession of an iron will.  But rather because, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I definitely don’t feel hungry.  I’m more likely to feel like a partially brain dead mole, and flail about blindly because my eyes are still stuck shut, and mutter things like, “the tortoise is about to submerge, we must save the depot!” or “do you think the otters need more water in their bedroom?  And, I think they should each have their own kibble bowl.”

I won’t be thinking about snacks.

When I am thinking about snacks, my general strategy with regards to preventing unwanted or unnecessary snacking is to keep snack foods out of the house.  If you need a snack, eat a piece of fruit or nuts.

Except, this apparently makes me a meany-pants.  Or a meany-face.  Or perhaps even a meany-face with mean pants.  And I don’t want to be any of those things.  Plus, let’s face it, every now and again, a crunchy little bite of snack does seem awfully appealing (though still not in the middle of the night!), no matter how much we oppose snacks on principle.  Principles only go so far when your tummy makes a frightening grumbly bellowy noise and it’s still 3 hours until supper. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet corn polenta with broccoli pesto

August 19, 2012 § 27 Comments

Was I the one grumping up a storm and hemming and hawing over what to do with the sheer quantity of summer produce around?  Me?  Well, I take it all back!  Every word of it! It never happened.  I never said it.

Now I’m like all those guys in all those movies, running after the train as it pulls out of the station, crying, “waaaaaiiit!!!!”  Because my true love is on that train.  Except, the train is actually summer.  And my love?  Sweet corn polenta.

In a long line of obsessions, sweet corn polenta is my latest.  It has taken over our diet in the last couple of weeks, just as sweet corn season is winding down (sad face).  Kimchi tacos are still at the tippy top of my favorite things ever list for the moment, and a most exciting delivery of delicious treats from a friend in Hawaii has skyrocketed passion fruit ginger jam up to join the tacos in first place.  (I may become totally open to genetically modified foods if someone can figure out a way to create a passion fruit plant that will generate fruit in northern Minnesota.  Anyone?)  But, sweet corn polenta is breathing down their necks. « Read the rest of this entry »

Spaghetti squash with cauliflower, anchovies, pine nuts, and currants

May 10, 2012 § 14 Comments

For much of my adult life (starting, even, when I was more adult-ish, than adult), I’ve wanted to have a restaurant or cafe where I was recognized.  All Cheers-like, where everybody – or, more realistically, at least somebody – would know my name, and I would know theirs.  I’d be a regular.

Perhaps it comes from my small-town girl core, which craves to be situated in a community small enough where you can’t help but bump into someone you know on every grocery store visit.  Perhaps it comes from the more universal human desire to belong, to be part of something, to be known.  Either way, it’s been a borderline compulsion for years, but mostly just an internal one.  I’ve never really intentionally played it out.  Either my tendency to explore and try new places would thwart my quest to become a regular, or a high turnover rate in the staff would.  (Technically with the latter, I guess I still was a regular, but it doesn’t count if there is no one that greets you with that smile of the eyes that says, ‘hey, I know you! I’m glad you’re back. How’s the family/kids/dog…?’)

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Spiced sweet potato and leek cakes

April 3, 2012 § 20 Comments

Were I a poet, I would write odes in celebration of cardamom.

Actually, now that I give my bold statement a little thought, were I a poet, I would probably have much more profound and brooding things to write about.  For example, what a sparrow isn’t.

(This is an actual discussion that Joel and I once had, after hearing a pair of essays by a husband and wife one of whom is a poet and the other a novelist. What a sparrow isn’t comes up as a poetic theme.  Later on a walk, I asked Joel what he thought of when he imagined what a sparrow isn’t, and he launched into a long musing exploration of the fluttering energy each little life on this earth has and the vacuum that could be left were it not there and how this might change the overall universe.  Then he asked what came to my mind when I thought of what a sparrow isn’t.  “An elephant and a beach ball,” I replied.  Joel writes poetry.  I don’t.)

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