Thursday, May 16, 2013

me trying to understand love

The term to be "in love" with someone sounds almost as if it's a sickness, like you've come down with the flu or some ailment which is clouding your mind and impairing your ability to function normally. And maybe in the case that you've lost yourself in a person, forgotten how to stand on your own, depend completely on their every emotional judgement call for your own well being and emotions--then, maybe it's an appropriate term. For then it is like an illness. You forget who you are and you let go of the parts of you that are most significant in defining you. You change for the other person with a willingness to sacrifice yourself without thought. This is not to say that relationships don't require some collaboration and compromise. But to not question giving yourself completely to someone while losing sight of not only who you are, but love for yourself, then being "in love" really is like having a psychological illness.

But if you love someone somewhere in between. More than you would love a best friend, and yet you haven't lost track of yourself in them. You're not lost, but you're aware of this intense appreciation for the other person. You love them for everything they are. All their faults, all of their talents, all of their successes, all of their failures. You see that they are human and that they will hurt you. You see that they are learning, just like you, and that they are imperfect, just like you. You love them as if you were "in love" with them, but it doesn't feel like you might die without them. You know that you could survive without them, that you are a strong individual who has the ability to be alone and to be okay with that. But you make the choice to invest in this other person's life. To stand by them, to support them, to try to understand them as they continually change, as they hurt you and hurt themselves in an effort at trying to understand life.

And that's what the definition of love really is, or should be. It is the continued effort of trying to understand someone as they are and as they change. It is a mistake to believe that we can understand any one person fully and that once we do, that we can stop trying to learn. Because no one stays the same, everyone evolves and grows. With age and time and experience, people's beliefs and mindsets and attitudes change, even if only slightly. So it only makes sense that loving a person means trying to understand who they are on a continual basis. And it is also this understanding which allows us to continue to love and forgive the other person once things don't quite align anymore. We can continue to appreciate that person even after things fall apart because by trying to understand a person, we are cultivating not only an honest appreciation for one, but an appreciation for human kind.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Broiled Salmon with Sautéed Veggies & Lemon Garlic Sauce

Things that make life better. Watching movies that everyone has told you that you should see but for some reason hadn't seen like the Matrix. Planting and then picking herbs from your own garden. Meeting new people who you feel like you've known forever. This salmon recipe.

I don't know how, but sometimes things just come together in the kitchen. Completely unplanned, spontaneous, recipe-less creations can be complete disasters. But this time I think the kitchen god was on my side. And BONUS, I can put this on my quick and easy recipe list. Because it's, surprise!, quick and easy. I know right?

Broiled Salmon with Sautéed Veggies & Lemon Garlic Sauce
makes 1 serving

-fresh salmon filet
-1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
-3 small cloves of garlic, crushed
-1 handful of cremini mushrooms, chopped
-3 large handfuls of spinach/mixed greens
-1 handful of grape tomatos, cut in halves
-4 Tbs. of butter
-2-3 Tbs. of lemon juice
-salt & pepper

1. Preheat your oven on the broil setting. Prepare a baking tray with a piece of parchment paper.

2. In a large pan on medium-high, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. Add the onions and saute until they start to turn translucent. Add 1 clove of the crushed garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned an begin to turn soft. Add the greens and stir until wilted. Turn the heat down to low, add the tomatos and cover.

2. Lightly salt the salmon filet and place on the parchment paper. Place under the broiler for 10min/1inch of salmon. Watch closely and check for doneness through the cooking process.

3. Add 1 Tbs. butter to the veggie mix and gently crush the now softened tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Re-cover with lid and cook just until the juices are bubbly and the mixture is a bit thickened. Salt to taste and take off the heat.

4. In a microwavable container add 2 Tbs. butter, the other 2 crushed garlic cloves, and lemon juice. Microwave until the butter is just melted. Salt if using unsalted butter and whisk to combine.

5. Spoon veggie mixture onto a plate or bowl, top with the salmon, and add the lemon garlic sauce. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Coast to Coast to Coast

I've been doing a lot of traveling the past few weeks. I'm a little exhausted, but it was well worth all the driving and airports and saying hello and goodbye again. 

Los Angeles, CA (San Pedro and Venice Beach)

Carmel Valley, CA

San Jose, CA (San Pedro Market)

Santa Rosa, CA (Spring Lake Regional Park)

Boston, MA (pavement coffee house)

Asheville, NC (table restaurant) 

Blue Ridge Highway, NC

Boone, NC (Appalachian State University)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Green Chiles & Mushrooms

I have a macaroni and cheese obsession. Actually mostly just a cheese obsession. It's hard to describe to people just how much I love cheese, but I think Hannah Hart from My Drunk Kitchen describes it the best

Is this a little southwestern? Maybe. Did I do that on purpose? Not really. Were the ingredients dictated by what was available in my very sparse refrigerator? Yes, Definitely. So, even if you try to be creative, you still end up inside the box it seems. But it tastes really good in any case. And it has cheese. SO THERE.

-8 ounces of dry pasta (macaroni, penne, wheels, etc.)
-1/2 lb of mushrooms (button, portabella, etc.) - sliced
-1 cup chopped fresh parsley (cilantro would work nicely as well)
-1/2 cup chopped roasted green chile (I used canned)
-2 Tablespoons butter + 1 Tablespoon
-2 tablespoons flour
-2 cups milk
-1/2 cup yellow onions, finely diced
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-1 egg (lightly beaten)
-1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, etc.)
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Drain pasta and return to pot (no heat).

In a small pan, saute mushrooms in 1 Tablespoon melted butter over medium heat until mushrooms are soft and golden brown.

In medium pot, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden brown and smells like pie crust. Stir in the milk, onion, and paprika. Simmer (do not boil) for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Take of the heat and temper in the egg. Add 3/4 of the cheese and whisk until melted.

To the pot with pasta, add the mushrooms, green chiles, and parsley. Toss to combine. Add the cheese mixture and toss to coat evenly. Pour the pasta into an 8-by-8 pyrex baking dish and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 min. until the top is golden brown and slightly crispy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Endless Projects: Charms

New Charms available on Etsy! Woodland Creatures: Fox, Owl, and Skunk 

Australian Animals: Kookaburra, Koala, and Platypus

Sea Creatures: Seahorse, Shark, Narwhal

Anatomy Charms: Skull, Hand, Brain, Foot, Pelvic Bone, Heart, and Lungs

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spiced Apple Clafouti

It's the beginning of March and flowers and rain and all that poetry related spring stuff is going to be attacking the hills with green sprouts pretty soon. Not to mention all the green shamrocks and unfortunately short men dressed in leprechaun costumes. I'm celebrating early with these very green crunchy apples. 

(One of the coolest tools in my kitchen: check it out!)

Nebulas in my egg mixture.

Really my only excuse for making this was that I needed to use the apples I had so that they wouldn't go to waste. Otherwise, this was purely to cure my baking bug (and my incessant sweet tooth). But out of my craving to bake, I think I discovered a winner. I love happy accidents. 

Ingredients (serves about 8) 
Clafouti batter based on recipe from the Flour Bakery Cookbook

-1/4 cup butter (half stick) melted, plus 1 Tablespoon
-2 apples, cored and sliced
-1/2 cup sugar (1/4 for fruit)
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-4 eggs
-1/3 cup flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 cup milk
-1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
-1 teaspoon almond extract
-confectioners sugar for topping (optional)

Heat oven to 400°F. Swirl melted butter in a 9-by-13 inch pyrex dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add about 1 tablespoon water. Add the apple slices, 1/1 cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Cook on medium heat for about 5 min until the apples have lost some of their firmness and the mixture is bubbly and syrupy.

Spread fruit evenly in the 9-by-13 inch dish over the butter.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. In another bowl whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. Whisk flour mixture into the egg mixture. Add milk and extracts and mix. Pour batter evenly over the apples.

Bake for 40-45min until golden brown and puffy. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve! It's best eaten the day it was made but can be covered and kept for a day more.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Flour Bakery

I loved the movie Julia & Julia. Probably because it was all about cooking and wearing aprons and pushing yourself in the kitchen to the point of tears (it has happened). I've always wanted to do some sort of 365 day or 52 week challenge, although I don't think I could necessarily cook from the Julia Child The Art of French Cooking book for that many weeks. But I COULD bake from Flour Bakery's Cookbook.

If you visit Boston (or live in Boston and don't know about it) make sure to visit Flour Bakery with locations in Back Bay, South End, Fort Point, and Central Square. Everything from their sticky-buns to their homemade pop-tarts to their portabella mushroom sandwiches to their coffee--is AMAZING. You won't regret and you just might find yourself there every morning for the next month after discovering it.

Sadly, I don't live in Boston anymore and miss Flour Bakery dearly, but I do have their cookbook to keep me company (and keep me on the treadmill). These chocolate cupcakes with buttery frosting are quite possibly the best cupcakes I've ever had and these oatmeal raisin cookies (my favorite cookie) are chewy and irresistible (eat-5-in-a-sitting good).

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Potato-less Spinach Gnocchi (with quinoa flour)

I've been doing this thing where I want to cook random amazing sounding food from whatever is in my refrigerator. It sounds like a good plan right? Be more creative in the kitchen by forcing yourself to use what you have? Well, for me this often means...Oo! Let's bake a pie or brownies or cupcakes and eat all of them in one sitting and not be able to stand up ever again! Yeah...I really need to stop doing that. So I feel a little better about myself for coming up with this one because there's spinach and egg and ricotta and quinoa flour, and those things are healthy, right? There's no sugar in this recipe. Although I did smother it in a creamy white sauce...

Ingredients (makes about 24 gnocchi)
-about 5-6 cups of fresh spinach
-1 cup fresh ricotta
-1 egg
-1 tablespoon melted butter
-parmesan or italian cheese mix (about 1/4 cup)
-salt, pepper (to taste)
-a dash of nutmeg
-3-4 tablespoons of quinoa flour

For the white sauce:
-1 tablespoon butter
-1 tablespoon quinoa flour
-1 cup milk
-1 tablespoon creme fraiche or sour cream
-2 tablespoons parmesan
-salt, pepper (to taste)

Heat about a tablespoon of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add spinach and cook till wilted. Squeeze spinach to drain water and chop finely.

In a bowl whisk the egg lightly. Add ricotta, spinach, cheese, butter, and nutmeg. Mix until incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste. Sift in the quinoa flour and mix just until any flour streaks disappear (don't overmix). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours or overnight.

Fill a medium saucepan with water (about 3 inches) and bring to a simmer. To form the gnocchi shape, use two spoons. Scoop about half a spoon's worth of the dough with one spoon. Then, scrap this dough onto the other spoon to create the shape and then use the other spoon to gently push the gnocchi into the water. Cook about 6 gnocchi at a time for about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

For the white sauce: In a small saucepan, melt the butter completely. Whisk in the quinoa flour and cook until golden brown and smells like pie crust. Add the milk and whisk until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the creme fraiche, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Do not let the mixture boil if you let it sit on the heat or else it will curdle and separate. Serve over the cooked gnocchi.

Mind Over Mind

 I've been battling lately with the fact that I don't know what I'm doing with my life at this moment. I think in circles, trying to sort my life out based on uncertainties, but all that leads to is, well, nothing at all. Worries and chaotic brainstorms. Not helping. So I've been trying to distract myself. Part of the problem is that I've applied to grad school and now is the waiting game. I kind of feel like if I don't get into at least one of these schools that I'll do something completely off the wall like move to Africa. Except, I'm not going to move to Africa. But you get the idea. 

 I think I just have to remember to be amazed and entertained by the little things that life throws at you. Not everything has to be so grandeur. This parking garage, for instance, which has a fortune for every stall, made my day in its own small way. 

As did the board above the kitchen at Original Joe's in San Francisco. 

 And buying a banjo.

 And making felt iphone/ipod cases. 

 And folding origami zombies. 

And letting your mind think through your pen.