Monday, March 24, 2014

The Short List: Part I

Saturday was a beautiful day with clear skies, a gusty warm wind, and everyone and their brother outside. We all three of us went to the playground in the park. Me, Justin, and Evelyn. Evelyn happily kicked her legs as we pushed her in the stroller. She pointed at random things and said, "Hi!" to people way far away. We enjoyed the togetherness and sun. "Isn't it so nice to be together?" I asked Evelyn as we set out on our playground adventure. She looked like she was thinking seriously, and then said, "Yeah." I think she knew what I was asking.

The playground was crawling with kids, to be expected. Evelyn hustled up there with the big kids. She is as tall as most two-year-olds. She got to the top of the biiiiiiig slide. A parent was up there among the taller, older, noisy kids. She pointed to Evelyn, and pointed to me, and I nodded. "She's about to go down the twirly slide. You see her? She's gonna go down." "That's ok!" I yelled. "My husband is at the bottom. He's going to catch her." Down she went, over and over and over again. The look of sheer delight as she came zooming down the slide thrilled me. She literally caught some air off the end as she sailed in my arms and I swooped her high in the air. "Again?" I asked. "Yeah!" she said, her back already to me. 

So what does this have to do with the short list? Nothing. I just wanted to share.

I've been thinking lately about what I would serve someone with just a few hours notice. Which recipe would I take out of my bag of tricks? What dish never fails? I wanted to create a short list of go to recipes that I tend to use weekly. As I browsed through my past blog entries and through my cookbooks, the listed started to get too long. So I broke it down into breakfast and dessert, with a lunch/dinner list to come later.


- Fried Egg Sandwich and Omelets (and omelets and omelets)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Shall We Dance?

Justin and I signed up for dance lessons. It has been a dream of mine for years. We both love to dance, but he didn't know how to lead, and I didn't know how to teach him to lead. Our dance package includes six private lessons, six group lessons, and three "parties" (and the parties start at 7:00 pm -- that's our type of party these days). In addition to learning how to dance, this turns out to be fifteen guaranteed dates. Whee! Saturday morning dates are fine by me. We get dressed up, just a little. He wears cologne. I put on makeup. Our dance lesson is preceded or followed by a trip to Atwater's for coffee and pastries.We love to sit at the bar and watch the baristas flurrying around. The waiters bustle orders out to diners at tables. We share chocolate croissants, triple ginger muffins, and mini loaf cakes. We love the pour over coffee, and I love the pretty mugs they come in. It is fun to have toddler-free time together.

Have you ever partner-danced before? The most important rule is: he leads, she follows. It doesn't work to have both lead, or both follow, or to switch off who leads and who follows. One would crash into the other time and again (alas, this was us at many weddings...until now). At lessons, it is so relaxing for me. I get to zone out and become like putty. All I can do is follow Justin's lead. He, on the other hand, is doing all the learning and thinking. It is fun to watch his eyes narrow with concentration and his tongue stick sideways. He has gotten better with not looking at his shoes, but now he will often look at me without actually seeing me. His mind is on the steps and the beat.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Winter Brunch

I would love to share this brunch with you. But first, a love story.

Our friend Mike is a renaissance man. He knows how to do pretty much everything, and if he doesn't, it still comes across that he does. He met a girl online. Andrea. She is Mexican, and was about to move to Baltimore for school. They started dating and we quickly realized how lovely and genuine she is. So, on April Fools Day last year, they eloped. We were shocked! They marched themselves down to City Hall and got married. Turns out their lawyer advised them to just get hitched so that Andrea's green card process would be sped up. April Fools Day was the perfect day to do it.

This was the first of three weddings for them. Last fall they had a beautiful wedding near Mike's parents house. Blue skies, warm sunshine, and autumn leaves. (Their third wedding will happen in Mexico in the spring). They requested no gifts. They had no registry, and said that if we really wanted to be creative, we could draw a picture or write a poem. Something from the heart. We decided to make them brunch, but not just any brunch. I believe the invitation went something like this:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Food Grace

I received some birthday money in the mail a couple weeks ago. I stick to a budget very well, but it is hard for me to save any extra cash for very long. I like to spend it on what some people might view as frivolous: restock my wine, buy some good chocolate, maybe a pair of earrings I don't really need. Spending extra cash on whatever I want is an outlet that helps me stick to a strict budget.

So this morning, before story hour at the library, Evelyn and I wandered into The Wine Source. We were the only customers in there at the early hour of 10:00 am. I pushed her around in the shopping cart while she took off her hat, pointed to the cash registers, chewed on the expensive coffee bag I handed her, and wanted to eat the comté I selected from the expensive cheeses and salumi.

I bought a couple bottles of liqueur to use for a brunch Justin and I are hosting on Saturday, a demi baguette to go with my comté, some dark birthday beers, and another bag of Counter Culture coffee. Birthday money well spent, in my opinion.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Favorite Room + Basic Polenta


You've probably guessed. It's my kitchen. It's where I spend most of my time puttering around, whipping something up, cleaning lots of dirty dishes and spills, cooking, baking. It's where I automatically go when I arrive home or come downstairs, even if I don't actually need anything. I just end up there. I get euphoric about recipes that turn out well and comforted by old favorites. Justin bikes home from work and heads straight for the pantry to pull out the peanut butter, raisins, or a handful of granola for a snack. Evelyn helps unload the dishwasher, pulls things out of cupboards, and tries to climb the refrigerator shelves whenever she gets a chance. We do a lot in this kitchen. 

So allow me to share some photos with you. Take you on a tour. And then maybe a little recipe at the end. Come along, friends, my kitchen welcomes you.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Your Guide to Spectacular Salads

Greens with summer tomatoes, cucumbers, hummus, and tuna

I'm back after a bit of a holiday break. And, no surprise, in need of a break from sweets and over-snacking. Christmas was filled with truly good food: lots of veggies, grass fed beef, whole grains. But it was also filled with a lot of extras, such as snacks here and there, coffee and croissant out with my mum and aunt, Christmas cookies...everywhere. My favorites are the tea time tassies ("triple T's" as my brother calls them) with a cream cheese crust and a nut filling. Oh, but we were talking about salad, weren't we?

Yes, salad. It's so good. Switch your mind away from sweet for a bit and think about crunchy vegetables, savory vinaigrettes, protein-filled toppings, and dried fruit. And some nice bread on the side.

How to build a spectacular salad:

- Choose greens that you like. Branch out and try new greens. Think beyond romaine and iceberg, and try arugula, radicchio, kale, butter lettuce, spinach and swiss chard. My favorite flavor of greens is arugula. Kale gives really nice crunch and bulk, and benefits from sitting in a dressing for at least 30 minutes. Romaine and iceberg lettuce are usually cheaper, so you can use them as a base and mix them with pricier greens.

Herb vinaigrette

- Make your vinaigrette. In my opinion, making your own salad dressing is easy and tastes better than bottled. You also control what goes into it. Instead of a low quality oil in a bottled dressing, you can use all extra virgin olive oil. The basics are a 1:3 ratio of vinegar (balsamic, red wine, apple cider, or white wine vinegar are great options) to oil (I always use extra virgin olive oil). Add some salt and pepper, and there you go. Extras include minced garlic or shallot, herbs, and dijon mustard. I put everything in small jar, screw a lid on top, and shake it to emulsify it. Here's a great beginner vinaigrette.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Spanish Club

"Hablas español?" the sweet-faced Puerto Rican gentleman asked me in Hope Depot. Evelyn and I were out getting a Christmas tree. "Sí," I responded. Thinking I was also Puerto Rican, he initiated a conversation to coo over Evelyn and use his native language. I was eager to practice my second language. We chatted about where he worked (the kitchen at Mercy hospital), how I wanted Evelyn to be exposed to Spanish, and how his grandchildren, sadly, don't speak the mother tongue.

I majored in Spanish in college, spent a semester in Costa Rica, then a year in Nicaragua. I had an internship advocating for immigrants, where I used Spanish. Why, then, many years later, do I shy away from speaking it? I feel I have lost so much of it, but it is all still there, ready to tumble out if I make the effort.

I have a few friends who also know quite a bit of Spanish, and one who knows it as a first language. We've said for years, "We should get together and speak Spanish!" So finally, I took the plunge. "Come over for s'mores and Spanish!" I told my friends. They came. We spoke. It was awesome.

Matt built the fire. Candice made lovely almond muffins. Andrea and her friend Marcela brought stuff for s'mores, and I made tea and cocoa. We sat around, talking about anything and everything, in our beloved español. Every so often there would be a pause and a request for how-do-you-say- such and such. But over all the conversation flowed so nicely, and the range of basic beginner to absolutely fluent worked well.