Category Archives: life

these are posts that deal with day-to-day stuff, either in my head or outside it.

gourmet at home

I have wanted to join a CSA for a while, and starting a new home seemed like the appropriate time — so we’ve been getting delicious farm-fresh deliveries for a few months now. I’ve realized it’s probably not as cost effective as buying groceries at the supermarket, but I like that the box contents are local, organic, and always a surprise! It inspires me to cook and try new things, and there’s often stuff in the box that I’d never choose at the store…like this guy:

???

Turns out it’s Romanesco broccoli, and it inspired the following delicious and surprisingly easy weeknight meal. Portions are for two (hungry) people.

First, preheat the oven to 400. (I found it very satisfying to bake everything in the oven at the same time and same temperature.)

roasted crazy cauliflower with tumeric and cumin
adapted from Food and Wine

  • 1 head Romanesco cauliflower (or regular cauliflower, if you’re suuuuuuper borrrrring), cut into florets
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • handful of fresh chopped mint
  • handful of fresh chopped cilantro

Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with enough olive oil to evenly coat the pieces; add the cumin, tumeric, red pepper, salt, and lemon juice and toss it around until it’s all coated and oily and spicy. Spread onto a baking sheet (lined with tinfoil, if you desire, for easy cleanup) in one layer and bake until tender, about 30 minutes, turning/redistributing it halfway through. Toss roasted cauliflower with mint and cilantro and serve!

roasted potatoes

  • about a pound of whatever kind of potatoes you have/like, chopped into bite-sized pieces (ours were ruby crescent fingerling potatoes, halved longways)
  • salt
  • fresh-cracked black pepper
  • olive oil

Toss the potatoes with enough olive oil to coat. Sprinkle on some salt, crack some black pepper, and keep tossing until everything is distributed. Spread the potatoes onto a baking sheet (lined with tinfoil, if you desire, for easy cleanup) in one layer and bake until tender, about 30 minutes, turning/redistributing them halfway through. Serve!

stuffed chicken with goat cheese and herbs
adapted from Real Simple

  • 4 chicken thighs (around or just under 1 pound; you could also use breasts if you like them better; you also might have better results if you flatten the chicken pieces a bit)
  • 2 oz. goat cheese (or feta…or gorgonzola…or bleu, depending on your taste)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sprinkle goat cheese, mint, and cilantro on chicken pieces and roll them up, fastening each with a toothpick (or a few toothpicks, depending on your rolling skills and the shape of the chicken pieces). Heat some oil in an oven-safe pan (this one works great) and cook the chicken, seam side up, for 3 or 4 minutes, until browned. Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove toothpicks and serve!

And why not have a little refreshment??

lemon-mint julep
(makes one drink)

  • handful of mint leaves
  • 2 sugar cubes
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • crushed ice
  • splash of lemon juce

Muddle mint leaves with sugar, bourbon, and crushed ice. Add a splash of lemon and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

And if you’re still not satisfied…

pear crisp
adapted from Pioneer Woman
(makes 4 servings)

  • 2 pears, peeled, cored, and diced (PW recommends bosc, ours were d’anjou)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2T cold butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350. Combine pears and granulated sugar in a loaf pan or other small casserole. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Cut in butter using a pastry blender (or two knives, or a fork, or your fingers). Sprinkle topping over pears. Bake for about 30 minutes.

And finally. . .watch Downton Abbey and enter food coma with great satisfaction.

baked butternut squash kale risotto

i moved into a new apartment last weekend! it is still mostly in shambles, but the kitchen is set up, snaut has adjusted and is back to his ornery self, the water pressure in the shower is truly remarkable, and i’ve been sleeping well. things are off to a great start.

i made dinner at home for the first time tonight — i was inspired by this recipe, which showed up in my reader this week. perfect for a chilly san francisco night in a new, warm home!

baked butternut squash kale barley risotto
(adapted from real simple)

2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cups butternut squash (not gonna lie, I used the 12 oz., pre-cut bag of it from TJ’s, but you could peel, seed, and cut up a whole one if you want)
2 brat-sized sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces (i like the garlic herb ones from TJ’s)
salt and pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1 cup white wine
2.5 cups vegetable broth
5 oz. kale (i used half the 10 oz. prepackaged bag from TJ’s…are you seeing the trend? the new apartment is a very short walk from TJ’s…)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 T butter

preheat the oven to 400. hope the oven thermostat is correct because you forgot to bring the oven thermometer from your last apartment. make a note to get one of those.

if you have a dutch oven, get that baby on the stove over some heat. if you don’t have one because you’re saving it for your wedding registry, a big, short saucepan or even a stockpot will do just fine.

pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil. put on some christmas music while the oil heats up!

add the onion, butternut squash, sausage, salt, and pepper. sauté until the onion is translucent, five minutes or so.

feed the cat so he stops being so damn underfoot all the time, jeez!

stir in the barley and toss/toast it for about a minute.

stir in the wine and let it burn off for a minute or two. while you’re waiting, pour yourself a glass. mmmm, charles shaw. (hey, moving ain’t cheap. and neither are apartments in san francisco. you can use nice wine if you can afford it, moneybags.)

add the stock and kale; cover the pot and let the kale wilt for a minute or two. then uncover it and stir in the wilted kale. bring the everything to a boil.

if you’re using a dutch oven, throw the lid on that baby and stick it in the preheated non-dutch oven. if you’re a hopeful woman living in sin, transfer the contents of your trusty stockpot to an oven-safe 2.5-quart casserole dish with a lid, cover it, and put that in the preheated oven. (bonus points if it’s vintage pyrex!! you’re going to make an awesome wife someday!)

bake it for 35-40 minutes.

change into pajamas and type up the recipe while drinking more wine and cuddling with the cat. eat a few potato chips for a snack if you must.

once the barley is tender and the liquid is mostly soaked up, take your delicious-smelling meal out of the oven. make a mental note to get some mitten-type potholders because the ones that you hold but don’t fit onto your actual hands really don’t cut it.

mmmmm

stir in some parmesan (about half a cup) and a tablespoon of butter for good measure.

let cool slightly to soak up the rest of the liquid and serve in brightly colored bowls with more parmesan and more wine. watch some TV while you eat and be super thankful for your awesome life!

breakfast for dinner!

things are happening. i got a job! a social work job! it was not ideal, but i did my best for a while, until i quit. because i got another job! another social work job! so i took it. and i’m on day 6 and it is super exhausting but i am loving it. also, john and i are talking about doing all kinds of exciting things. and they all involve money! more money than we have! so we’re trying to budget and save more and spend less.

yesterday, after a few hours of boring and anxiety-provoking (for me, anyway) financial discussion, we were hungry. and since we’re not honey badgers so we couldn’t go hunting, and since we’d just spent hours looking at how we spend our money so we didn’t want to go out and spend more money, and since who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner (i certainly do), we decided to make breakfast for dinner with stuff we already had in the kitchen! like rotten bananas! and half-and-half that wasn’t bad yet! and peanut butter!

i started with this recipe as a guide and made some substitutions and additions — it’s pretty forgiving. these are a little heartier and more crumbly than classic buttermilk pancakes — perfect for dinnertime.

pantry dinner pancakes

makes about 7 5-inch pancakes

1/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup milk (soy milk would also be fine, or all milk would be fine, or all half-and-half would be fine, if you were really crazy. just get to 1 and 1/4 cups of some kind of milk-ish substance.)
1 mashed up, overripe banana
1 cup whole wheat flour (or regular flour, if you hate healthy whole grains)
1/2 cup quick oats (or whole oats, if that’s what you have)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
chocolate chips

in a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, milk, and banana.

in a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined (don’t over stir!!!).

drop by 1/3 cup-full onto a heated, buttered skillet and cook for a few minutes on each side, until done. (if adding chocolate chips, sprinkle them on top of each pancake right after you pour the batter onto the skillet.)

enjoy with maple syrup and some bacon/sausage/ham you have in the fridge/freezer and feel good about not spending any money on dinner and still eating something delicious!

biscuits!

I recently purchased a little propane grill, and we have been grilling like crazy.

grillin

We’ve had the same basic dinner twice in the last week: chicken thighs marinated in Worcestershire and BBQ sauce and grilled; zucchini cut into strips, sprinkled with seasoned salt, and grilled; red and yellow bell peppers quartered and grilled; corn on the cob de-silked, oiled and salted, rewrapped in husk, and grilled. One night I made sweet potato fries as an extra side, and on Friday, I made biscuits for the first time!

I combined two recipes because I didn’t want to make a thousand biscuits (we devoured the 10 this recipe made between dinner and the next morning’s breakfast, oops), I wanted them to be cheesy, and I wanted to just use what I already had at home in the pantry/fridge.

small-batch cheesy biscuits!

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks (or use salted butter and omit salt)
3/4 cup milk
1/3-1/2 cup grated cheese (I used some cheddar and some parmesan-romano)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (or butter it, if that’s more your style).
  2. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Add the butter chunks and cut in with a pastry blender, two forks, or two knives until you have a “coarse meal”.
  4. Stir in the cheese and black pepper.
  5. Slowly add the milk, stirring as you go until you have a soft dough.
  6. Turn the dough on to a floured board (my dough was really sticky) and knead to bring the dough together.
  7. Roll out (I actually just pressed) the dough to about 1-inch thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds (I used a 2-inch cutter). Reshape the scraps and keep cutting!
  8. Place biscuits on prepared pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the biscuits are puffy and golden brown.

Makes 10 biscuits, which you’ll no doubt eat very quickly.

msw

I finished grad school, and I officially have three new initials to put after my name!

Mom and Dad came out for graduation weekend.

lower legion of honor scenic vista

We saw some sights,

fun with old transit

I wore great shoes and my friends and I pretended we were at prom,

msw prom 2011

We celebrated with people who came from far and wide,

hooray for friends and family!

And the next day, we threw a party with lots of finger foods.

Menu items included:
Pioneer Woman’s bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers
– Pioneer Woman’s hot artichoke dip (from her cookbook)
Stuffed mushrooms
White bean hummus
– Deviled eggs (Mom makes the best ones with relish and mayo)
– Bacon-wrapped smokies (self-explanatory)
– Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts (soak the chestnuts in a mixture of Worcestershire, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar for 30 minutes before wrapping them)
Goat cheese toasts
– Caprese skewers (fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and half a cherry tomato on a toothpick)
Pioneer Woman’s best chocolate sheet cake ever
And lots of beer.

It feels good to be done. Next step: find a job. I’ll keep you posted.

funny how it flies

a few weeks ago marked the five-year anniversary of my move to san francisco. five years is a pretty long time.

there’s not much about my current life that my 21-year-old self would have ever fathomed. considering my first months here — depressed, lonely, lost, dependent, disenchanted — my original san francisco self would have never believed i’d still be here after this much time.

she’d also have a hard time imagining that i’ve made real friends here, friends i want to be friends with for the rest of my life. and that i have a community here and that, for the most part, i feel loved and like i belong. and that i’m in grad school (even more amazingly, close to finishing grad school). and that i live in the richmond. and that i want to do life with a native californian. and that i can actually face confrontation and deal with ugly feelings and still maintain relationships. and that i can be okay on my own (but, admittedly, am better with people). and that i know so much transit trivia and have so many muni route maps committed to memory (okay, maybe she would have believed that one. . .i’ve always been a nerd.)

of course, i’m still me. i still listen to the mountain goats when i’m nostalgisky. i still love eating burritos as big as my head. i still want to be supremely competent and productive in everything i do. i still mentally collect and archive lots of weird data. i still get ridiculously lonely for no real reason. i still eat kashi every single morning, and i still look forward to it.

and even though i couldn’t have predicted nearly any of my current life circumstances five years ago, i’m pretty happy about how things have turned out. i feel like i’ve accomplished a lot in tangible (and less tangible) ways, which is important to an achiever like me. the next five years could be even bigger than these last five. . .and i’m probably equally as unable to foresee where i’ll be then. so that’s exciting.


“if i ventured in the slipstream between the viaducts of your dream, where immobile steel rims crack and the ditch in the back roads stop. . .could you find me? would you kiss-a my eyes? to lay me down in silence easy, to be born again.” – van morrison

archived heartbreak

i never delete anything from gmail. every single message i’ve sent or received since i opened my account in april, 2005 is archived and searchable.

scary, but also convenient: being able to search tens of thousands of messages comes in handy more often than i’d have thought. i’ve been able to find travel reservations, usernames and passwords, the chronology of events, even the specific date i went somewhere or did something.

tonight, working on updating my resume, i wanted to find out when i got each of my promotions at my old job. i figured i could just search my gmail for each of my job titles and find the oldest message, assuming i’d sent an excited email to my parents or friends upon receiving each promotion. sure enough, i found those gleeful, timestamped emails! but my search also turned up email threads with ex-boyfriends from the same period as the promotions. and in addition to exciting job news, those threads contained embarrassing, scrambling pleas; painful evidence of flailing relationships; pitiful last-ditch attempts to prevent everything from crumbling. just briefly glancing at them brought awful, visceral feelings from when they were written — knotted stomach, pounding heart, short, quick breaths. such a strong effect, even so many years later.

hidden in my gmail account are reminders of times i don’t look back on too fondly. but still, the nostalgic packrat in me can’t quite bring myself to delete them. maybe on some level, it’s comforting to be able to look back at the dysfunctional ways i communicated with and related to others — to prove i got through it, to show i’m making progress, and to confirm i don’t ever want to go back.

—–
“i held you in the coldest days, i held you in the coldest ways, i never know what to start to pick up and change.” – raa