Sturdy green salad with lemon yogurt dressing

October 12, 2012 § 13 Comments

Well dear friends, the distillery, which after a flurry of ad hoc focus group testing with friends who are roughly in our target market and/or have clever things to say about names is now officially named Vikre Distillery, now has a Facebook page.  As of yesterday!  And you know, if that doesn’t make something real, then what does, really?

In the non-Facebook version of life, also known as reality, the distillery is still very much in the process of becoming extant.  But, we’re making a lot of progress and have found all sorts of amazing help, willing ears, editors, math-checkers, connection-makers.  Though so far, the number of people who have offered their services as first line taste testers outstrips the numbers of any of these categories by far.  Leaves’em in the dust.  No contest.  (Gee, I wonder why.)

By day, I find myself bopping between meetings and then back to focused data coding.  By night I continue to stare pensively at data with a furrowed brow breaking only to fill mason jar upon mason jar with vodka and herbs, trying to come up with our ideal gin blend and aquavit flavor profile, etc. etc.

Joel crunches and recrunches numbers, and perfects powerpoints, and pamphlets, and makes a lot of phone calls.  I’m glad I’m not doing that part.  I have a weird irrational quasi-fear of calling people.

Some days are awful and I throw up my hands, convinced this was the worst idea in the known history of mankind (worst, no exaggeration) and that it will all be a miserable failure.  Other days are bright and happy, full of hope and new connections and small successes and a sense that we can make things happen.   These things go like that.

Anyhow, progress, progress, progress.  Each little step, on any sort of day, is progress. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted carrot soup with citrus and cumin

October 8, 2012 § 28 Comments

Is it quite terrible that one of the things I liked best about Boston was the length of the corduroy jacket season?  It stretched on seemingly into perpetuity, that in-between temperature season where you can throw a corduroy jacket over your t-shirt or over your wooly sweater and be happy.

I really love wearing my corduroy jacket, you see.

This makes me sound so frivolous, doesn’t it?!  It is frivolous.  Forgive me, I’m a flake!  At least where corduroy is involved.  And boots too, but let’s stick with corduroy for the moment.  The point is, here I wore my corduroy jacket for perhaps two days, and then the season was over.

It snowed a little bit both days this weekend.  In some places, actually, it snowed a lot!  I absolutely love snow, and I say bring it on.  The temperature is hovering right around freezing, the smell of leaves and an edge of snow are trapped, suspended in the chill, dry air.  It smells like I remember Halloween weather always smelling.  The ground is coated with crackling leaves, maple, birch, and aspen, and in many ways, this is actually my very favorite kind of weather.  I keep being overcome by a delirious happiness when I step outside and feel that air and smell that smell.  Except, gosh I’d like to be able to wear my corduroy jacket for a little bit longer.

I’d also like to have cake and eat it too while acquiring grass in a similar shade of green as that on the other side, if it’s not too much trouble, thank you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted chicken with dill and leeks

September 22, 2012 § 16 Comments

I think I have mentioned it before (yup, I have – just checked), but there was a lucky day once when I was home from college on winter break when I got to cook with the Norwegian food writer, cook, and TV personality Andreas Viestad.  Ok, it’s not Anthony Bourdain or Jamie Oliver, but for me it was pretty dang close.  Even better, actually, being the cooking and writing obsessed Scandophile that I am.

He was giving a book talk and signing at our church, accompanied by a cooking demo.  Our family friend and cookbook author Bea Ojakangas recruited my mother and me along with another friend to help with the food preparation.

I’m pretty sure, when it comes down to it, we were asked there more for our Norwegian language skills than our cooking skills, but I wasn’t concerned, I still felt special.  From the experience I took away some cooking pointers, a minor crush, and a signed copy of Viestad’s cookbook.

It’s a beautiful book.  One I have loved as much for the beautiful landscape pictures that reminded me of all my childhood summers in Norway as for the simple, flavorful recipes.  After break, I brought the book back to share with my college housemates as I excitedly told them about getting to cook with the cute Norwegian chef.  Soon, everyone in our house – boys and girls alike – referred to Viestad as the “cute Norwegian chef” rather than by name, and a number of recipes from his book had become regulars in the rotation of our household meals (we cooked for each other and ate together 5 nights a week). « Read the rest of this entry »

Grilled kale salad with beets, figs, and ricotta

September 18, 2012 § 49 Comments

We went up into the woods over the weekend.  It felt so good.  Always does, really.

We went to the Boundary Waters, the forest in Northern Minnesota bordering Canada.  A wilderness where the only real way to get around is by slipping a canoe into the water and paddling from lake to lake.  There you can glide through still water, bounce through choppy, scramble over beaver dams, dodge moose…the only sounds around are the slap of the paddles, the drips of water, the occasional loon call, or easy conversation with the others in the boat.

Every wild area has its own unique silence and peace.  I think that of the Boundary Waters may be one of the deepest anywhere.  It affords the most beautiful solitude  (and the most comfortable companionship with the others paddling with you) that you can imagine.  Where else in the world can you canoe or kayak between hundreds of lakes with only hikes of several – ok, sometimes several hundred – canoe lengths in between?  It’s remarkable.

We paddled a nice 12 mile loop on Saturday.  On Sunday afternoon we decided to hike up one of the low ridges to take in the views of the leaves that are just starting to show hints of gold and scarlet.  On the hike down, for the first time in several weeks, I began to think in earnest about food. « Read the rest of this entry »

Slow cooked Greek green beans

September 10, 2012 § 10 Comments

Did you have to take timed tests in elementary school?  (To this day I’m still not entirely sure whether they were called timed tests or times tests, after all, they were used for learning the times tables.)  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can multiplying by 7.  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can dividing by nine.  Awful.  Awful awful awful.  There’s a pit in my stomach now, just remembering.

I’ve never done well with time pressure.  I freeze up when I’m in a hurry, making stupid mistakes, leaving a trail of minor disasters.  But, I also hate being late.  So, I won’t just take the extra time I sometimes need.  Basically, time, deadlines, and I all keep slightly different schedules.  And I occasionally lose my sanity  trying to force them into alignment.

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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 »

Spicy chicken salad

July 20, 2012 § 14 Comments

A while back, I was walking with one of my younger brothers and having a conversation.  We were ambling past a variety of food stands and restaurants and the conversation went something like this:

Brother: Oh, they’re using the old sriracha trick.  Classic move.  Nice.  And sriracha mayo, that stuff is so good.  I swear, sriracha makes anything delicious.

Me: Seriously.

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Warm chard salad with bacon dressing and roasted chicken

July 14, 2012 § 17 Comments

We’re back!  And more than a little bit woozy in the head with jet lag, one moment feeling perfectly energetic but practically cross-eyed the next.  We’re very happy to be reunited with our darling little bundle of fur who, quite adorably, almost went into shock upon seeing us again and spent at least half an hour doing nothing but pressing up against us to lick our hands and knees while making tiny, excited whining noises.

But, otherwise it’s a little hard to be back from such a lovely vacation.  While we were in Norway, most evenings we found ourselves bundling up in parkas to stay warm in the late night sun.  Back in Boston, we practically can’t go outside until the sun has gone down and the stifling heat begins to dissipate.  I have to admit, I prefer the arctic circle version of summer.  Here it does smell of sticky, muggy, blossom-filled memories of summer camp nights, though, which I kind of like.

There’s a lot to catch up on.  But, I’m reframing my long to-do list as a record of all the neat things I get to do rather than have to do, and by golly, I think it’s actually working to help to keep the no-more-vacation-slump at bay.

A slump that would be easy to slip into, that one, as our trip was quite filled with happy days and nights spent with family and friends.  There was plenty of rain but also several endlessly sunny days.  There was the ever gorgeous scenery, and of course I got to fill up on all my favorite foods:  hotdogs with lefse, skolebrod, boller, waffles, and enough ice cream, berries, and smoked salmon to sate even the most ravenous troll (if only trolls would prefer such things to goats and hapless humans!).

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A glorious mess – curried carrots with carrot top pesto

June 25, 2012 § 20 Comments

Joel left on Friday to go to Ethiopia for a week for work.  At the end of this week we’ll be meeting up in Norway to visit my family and to have a little vacation time.  But, until then, it’s just me and Squid holding down the fort.  The fort that looks suspiciously like our apartment.  Hmm.

Already I’m eating weird.  It’s what I do when I’m eating alone.

I can definitely identify with the people I speak with who tell me they don’t cook or have stopped cooking because they are by themselves.  It happens all the time.  It can be really hard to stay motivated.  My problem, I’ve come to realize, is not that I don’t enjoy cooking for one.  I actually like cooking for one just fine and don’t mind fiddling with recipes to scale them down.  But, I hate eating alone.

For the longest time I thought I was an introvert.  Wrong!  Actually I was just shy.  Terribly, terribly shy, for many years, though much less so now.  But, I get much of my energy from being around people.  Apparently I always have.  It should have clued me in long ago when my mother told me about how even as a tiny child I was perfectly content to play all by myself, but only so long as there was someone in the room alongside me doing their own thing.  Somehow, it still took me until just a few years ago to actually make the connections.

Anyhow, I feel the same about meals.  So much of eating is communal for me, when I’m by myself I sort of forget that I need to eat.  Probably because of that underlying dislike of eating alone.  So, then when I suddenly remember that I probably do need to eat something, my blood sugar is already a little too low and the hanger is building.  I still pull myself together enough to cook, but I slap together all manner of ridiculous thing.

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Italian mushroom and celery salad

June 21, 2012 § 23 Comments

First, the bad.  My hometown was ravaged by horrible flooding in the last two days.  Just torn apart.  A torrent of rain developed overhead and wouldn’t budge until it had dumped 7 inches, 9 inches, 10 inches of water in some places.  The wall of water rushed down the hill toward the lake taking out huge chunks of roads and sidewalks, dumpsters and bridges with it.

Perhaps you even saw it on the news yesterday.  I know the story about the seal that was swept out of the zoo by a river of water and was found stranded on the highway received a lot of attention.  Many of the other zoo animals – the little barnyard animals in the petting zoo – drowned.  I spent half the day in unremitting tears about this.  Unfair is not nearly a strong enough word.

It’s horrifying to be reminded how powerless we are. It’s  also probably really important to be reminded.  These extremes may be the new normal, and it’s time to be truthful about the fact that we are not remotely in control.  And perhaps the best we can do sometimes is bond together, lend a never ending supply of helping hands, and cope.

All my family and friends there are fine, though.  Thank heaven for that.

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