Sunday, December 18, 2011

When I have a plan...

Thursday night went really well. That's what happens when I have a plan. Even though Gusty had street hockey until 4:30 and we didn't get home until almost 6:00 we managed to get all the homework done, practice the cello, have a real home cooked meal, watch a 1/2 hour of Boomerang and and still get to bed at a normal hour.

Dinner was braised tofu sticks with green beans and rice. I had never made tofu sticks before and was unsure what to do with them. If you've never seen them, they're available at Asian markets. They come in a bag and look like giant, yellow, gnarled witch's fingers. I have gotten them before and they languished in the cupboard and ended up in the garbage. Not this time. Inspired by Gusty's desire for a reproduction of the roast "duck" served at the vegetarian Chinese joints, I looked into their preparation. Suffice to say that they will become a regular on the meal roster.

I put them to soak in the morning before we left the house and when we returned home I put them in a pot with star anise, cinnamon sticks, sugar, rice wine, soy sauce, a few dried chilies and ginger. After a 40 minute simmer they were ready to eat along with simple preparation brown rice and some garlic sautéed green beans. Gusty, who originally complained that he would be eating something brown (huh?) ate them with wild abandon and we all enjoyed the chewy texture along with the sweet and savory broth. A topping of garlic chili sauce didn't hurt either.

The braising broth was complex. It had some spice, some sweet, some savory... I wondered what it would taste like if I simmered it until a reduction ensued. After refrigerating the tofu, I put the pot back on to simmer for about 45 minutes and I wasn't disappointed with the results. The broth reduced to a more pungent version of itself and I tried it over vanilla ice cream. That was good too but next time I'll sprinkle on a few sesame seeds. The plot thickens.

When I make the tofu sticks again I'm going to soak them in a more flavorful concoction, maybe some tea and peppercorns. They absorb a ton of liquid. Why shouldn't that liquid have some taste.

On Friday night we had tofu pups and popcorn for dinner. I definitely did not have a plan.

Decisions Decisions

Over the last month or so I have been strugglinh with a decision to let my Mother's storage space go. I had been paying for first 3, then 2, then 1 storage locker since 2007 when she got sick. In the process of eliminating lockers we eliminated a lot of stuff. Stuff from Shelter Island. Stuff from her office. Stuff from her home. So much stuff. I hope I never have that much stuff.

A few months ago it became prohibitive for me to pay for the locker and unable to even get into the space I stopped fretting over the contents. I started wondering how much I had spent over the years to keep this stuff and while there were a few things I really would have liked to retrieve the thought of forking over $700 to spend a week going through boxes of books to locate a few photos and old 78's was not worth it. Over the years most of what had meaning for my mom or myself had been removed and most of what was left was expendable. Of course there is that word; most.

I have to remember that I have my memories, her few special pieces of jewelry and what's left of these plates which I'm pretty sure were a wedding present to my parents oh so many years ago. I think I'll put some corn and little yellow tomatoes on them in her honor but that will have to wait until summer.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

If you only shoot close ups...

When you begin occupying a new space all you can see is the big picture, rooms full of boxes and the detritus of your existence.  As you work to put things together you begin to see close ups of normalcy, a corner that has come together with art and a certain grace, or a bedroom you can actually relax in (especially if you can't see the rest of the house).  Then you pull focus to see that there is still disarray.

It's ok.  The doorways are clear, I can walk from one room to another without tripping (as long as some family member hasn't left something right smack in the middle of the floor) and there is space to play and for me to lie on the floor and enjoy my little bed of nails. Small pleasures.

This week Gusty was sick and so I stayed home.  "Yea," I thought.  We'll sit and do some art, maybe make something out of Sculpy, I can find a new knitting project.  Instead I relocated glasses, vacuumed, emptied more boxes, went shopping, made dinner and played Cranium.  It was still a good day even if I didn't make any money or lovely little items.

Dinner was a simple affair.  On my walk I went to Pastosa's Ravioli where I got some extremely yummy fresh angel hair and some surprisingly vegetarian pasta and bean soup.  The angel hair was excellent topped with pesto and chopped toasted walnuts and served with fried broccoli.  Producing a meal is definite sign that things are on an upswing.  The leftover angel hair and broccoli went to my lunch the next day, a spaghetti omelet topped with extra sharp vermont cheddar cheese.  I love spaghetti omelets.   Gusty got the pasta and bean soup.

Today fresh waffles for breakfast and quinoa cakes and more fried broccoli for dinner.

On Wednesday I went out with some girls.  More signs of normalcy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Hard to be a Domestic Goddess When You're Moving

I hate moving.  In the last four years we've been in three different apartments and two different art studios.  Our first move occurred just before Thanksgiving 2007 and now it's Thanksgiving 2011 and we are moving yet again.  I guess that makes four apartments in  four years if you include the one we moved out of in 2007 and the one we're moving into now.  All this after living in the same apartment for 15 years.  We're a frustrated family.

Last night Gusty spent the night with a friend and Denial and spent the evening watching films noir and arguing.  We didn't even go out for a drink.  Now it's Sunday morning and we need to get down to the serious business of putting our life in boxes, again.  I guess the good part is that we're pretty good at it now.  Denial is "no nonsense" packing like a machine.  I tend to be slower and more sentimental about it.  Oh well.

When the house is in such a state of disarray it's hard to think about meals, knitting, writing or any creative endeavor.  The Christmas hats are on hold.  The maple pecan pie is on hold.  Homemade pizza, macaroni and cheese, quinoa cakes, coconut tofu curry all on hold.  Heck everything is on hold.  No two ways about it.  This sucks.  Having said that Ill get on with my day.

The good part, in two weeks this will be over.  We'll be moved in and semi unpacked.  We'll have more space although we will certainly fill it up fast.  I'll have my own crafting corner.  This apartment will be cleaned up to the landlord's liking.  Christmas will be on the way.  The new apartment will fill with the smell of chocolate chip cookies and maple pecan pie.  Until then boxes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My friend David is a gem...

My friend David is a gem.  He fancies me to be some kind of domestic goddess when the truth of the matter is that I just scrape by.  "Write a blog!" he says, "You'll have lots of followers."  I remain skeptical.  Still I try. 

How does one go about this?

I take photos of stuff, document moments when I see beauty in the mundane, try and make dinner worthy of being photographed then forget to photograph it.  Blogging moment missed.  I am however undeterred.

I ask myself questions:  How candid should I be?  How much should I praise my family and partner?  How much should I kvetch about my family and partner?  Is this dish, action, anecdote good enough?  How do I take photos of myself or myself doing stuff?  I can't trust anyone else to do it consistently and well.  Denial is a fantastic painter but often his photographic prowess as far as my creations are concerned is lackluster. How do I make interesting salads every night?  Actually, how do I make salads every night interesting or otherwise?  Should I aim to entertain, educate, or become educated myself?

As I ponder this and more there are fries with garlic in the oven and there will be Gardenburgers with cheddar cheese.  Sometimes you have to just get by.  I haven't been to the store for a decent shop for ages and our pantry is suffering.  We even need olive oil and garlic.  This week.  I promise.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese Wars

Macaroni and Cheese Wars

In my family we all enjoy macaroni and cheese.  Who doesn't?  On occasion I have made the bad mac-n-cheese, too grainy, too loose, too dense.  You are all probably aware of the pitfalls that one can fall into striving for mac-n-cheese heaven.  My grandmother, god rest her soul, made terrible Mac-n-cheese but we thought it was wonderful.  After all it was homemade with love but... she just wasn't a very good cook.   It was baked with chunks of cheese interspersed within it and the casserole must have weighed 10 lbs.  I thought you could only get creamy Mac-n-cheese out of a box and that was 40 years ago.

Well I grew up, started cooking and discovered that the stuff I thought was good wasn't.  From a cookbook  I learned to make it by making a cheese sauce beginning with a béchamel.  This method is risky and a pain in the ass.  I don't know about you but I want my mc to be delicious, reliable, and easy.  I know that we all have our favorites but I want to share two of mine; one baked in a casserole, the other stirred in a pot.  They are different from one another and both are delicious, reliable and easy.

The first one which is Denial's favorite came from the New Your Times.  I can't take credit for either of these recipes.  It is unexpectedly made by mlixing dry noodles into a wet puree of cottage cheese, milk, shredded cheese and spices. I always add more spices. It all gets baked together with yummy results. Here's a link to the recipe:

One nice thing you can do with this recipe is that you can add cauliflower to this mix and bake it in the casserole.  Its also nice to top it with panko during the last 1/2 hour of baking time.

The second one is Gusty's favorite.  Being a kid he likes boxed mac-n-cheese.  This recipe came from Good Eats on The Food Network.  It also seemed improbable, but works beautifully.  Whisk together 2 eggs, 6 oz. Evaporated milk (I must that admit when I made this dish for the first time it was the first time I had purchased evaporated milk since my grandfather was alive), and spices (dry mustard, hot sauce, nutmeg, salt, pepper).

Boil elbow noodles until al dente.  Strain.  Turn off heat and return the noodles to the pot. Pour milk and egg mixture into pot with the noodles and stir.  Here you do need to be careful not to let the eggs in the mix cook too fast or the cheese will be curdley.  Over a low flame incorporate 10oz. of grated cheddar cheese until it is all creamy, melty, good.  Done.

You'll find the recipe here:

Sit down with a giant salad or roasted veggies and enjoy with a nice brew. Sixpoint's The Crisp would go nicely.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Like Cocktails

I like cocktails and while rarely drunk I will have a nightly libation. While I love interesting and complex cocktails my at home repertoire usually consists of the vodka and juice variety. Once in a while though when my budget and energy level allow I will make something more ambitious. The caipirinha incredibly simple with lime sugar and cachaca. The gimlets, vodka and gin, essentially made the same way. The martinis, vodka and gin, garnished with a cornucopia of pickles and brined goodies. Lately my favorite toppings are cornichons and caper berries. Then there's the Carte Blanche. I found this recipe in an advertisement for Hendricks gin and went shopping immediately for all the ingredients. This is not a cocktail for every day and in fact the first time I made them I so enjoyed them that I ventured into a third with not so pretty consequences. Won't do that again. Make one for you and a loved one. You won't be sorry (unless you drink too many).

1 ½ parts Hendricks gin
½ part fresh lime juice
½ part simple syrup
a few dashes of orange bitters (the recipe calls for 2 healthy ones)
3 cucumber wheels (I like 4)
brut sparkling wine (I use prosecco)

In a mixing glass muddle 2 cucumber wheels. Add gin, syrup, lime juice, bitters and ice. Shake well and drain into cocktail glass. Garnish with remaining cucumber wheels.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Stick to Your Own Lane

If you've never ridden a bike over the Brooklyn Bridge at 5:00 PM on a summer afternoon here is what you can expect:

  1. You will be sharing the bridge with hundreds and possibly thousands of pedestrians, at least ½ of which are tourists.

  2. You will be sharing the bridge with tens and possibly hundreds of bicycles going in both directions and sharing a narrow bike lane on the north side of the walkway.

  3. You will need a bell and possibly a set of healthy lungs for the inevitable shout out.

  4. You will need patience, a keen set of eyes and some intuition to recognize which peds and fellow cyclists pose a risk to you and others.

  5. You will most likely NOT look up much to enjoy the classic structure and phenomenal view.  I try and slow down and do this more often.

Yesterday on my morning commute over the bridge I was surprised to find a smattering of workers in yellow vests making an effort to keep people on their respective sides of the bridge, a noble but thankless effort. You will still find the occasional outright idiot as the following story illustrates.

On my way home after the downpour yesterday I was enjoying a relatively uneventful ride over a relatively empty bridge.  I was rounding the east tower cautiously so as not to hit some picture taker taking a leisurely stroll across the bike lane. Then I saw not one but two jerks on bikes in a row going too damn fast and heading strait for me. The first one avoided me but did get to hear my heartfelt, “You're going too fast!!” as he passed me. I told you that a heathy set of lungs comes in handy. The second jerk on the other hand was really heading strait for me, wearing headphones and traveling a pretty good clip. As he approached me I yelled the “too damn fast” mantra and braced for impact. He slammed on his breaks and fishtailed putting his rear wheel right in my path. Bam. It's a good thing I wasn't going fast because the whole thing could have been much worse.
This guy was of a stereotype I can't stand; big, beefy, muscular, handsome and full of himself. I would have hated him immediately on general principal but when the asshole shows his stripes... let's just say I ripped him a new one while he tried to apologize. As he blubbered, “I'm sorry” over and over again, I let loose with a line I use on Gusty when he pees on the seat and leaves it there, “Don't apologize, just don't do it you shmuck!!” I leave out the “shmuck” park when speaking to my son. I must admit I enjoyed having the opportunity to tell some jerk exactly what I thought of him without recrimination and he gave me an opportunity to use the word “shmuck”. For this I thank him.

I hope the tourists enjoyed the show.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who Needs Limbs? Who Needs Heads?

Yesterday Gusty and I were on the subway coming home and I was talking to him about school.  I had questions about some methods the teachers are using to boost reading comprehension. The conversation went on for some time during which a gentleman got on and sat opposite us.  A few stops later this gentleman got up to leave the train but not without saying to The Prince, "You are a very lucky young man.  You have the best mommy in the world.  Have a great day."

I will try and remember this man the next time I want to rip The Prince's limbs off.

On a less pleasant note not only should I be glad that we have some art at school but I should be glad that we have a school and that our teachers are safe.  The Acapulco drug wars rage on with tens of thousands dead and no end in sight.  These thugs are holding what was once a major tourist destination hostage.  Their latest extortion targets are the teachers.  Its almost October and many schools haven't opened because the teachers are scared and they should be.  They have been told to hand over 1/2 of their pay to the gangs or they will be killed.  Most recently severed heads were left on the steps of a primary school.  I have no idea how to help these people but knowledge is power they say.  This short piece from NPR will help to illustrate the problem.  I can only hope that their children will smile again as Gusty does in the photo below.

Acapulco Teachers Threatened by Drug Gangs

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I think I can...

Up at 6:00, shower, dress, put on makeup while sweating.  It's nearly October.  I should no longer endure sweating while applying makeup.  Listen to utterly depressing story about Acapulco teachers being threatened by drug cartels.  If the teachers don't hand over 1/2 of their pay to gangs by October 1st they will be killed.  Before the story aired 5 severed heads were left in front of a primary school in Acapulco.  Next.  Pack lunch for The Prince, out the door by 7:10.  Ride subway to 59th St. , the Bloomingdale's stop where I spent so much time with my grandmother. Walk The Prince to school for 8:00 drop off.  Return to subway and take R train to Prince St.  This self imposed walk from Prince to Franklin is practically all the exercise I get in a day.  Work.  2:30 return to 59th Street and retrieve Prince.  Take F train to 2nd Avenue and go to Whole Foods for snack and some homework before 5:00 capoeira class.  4:45 walk to capoeira.  5:30 leave capoeira and go to Saxelby at Essex Market for cheese, eggs, milk.  Go to subway to return to The Prince's school for meet the teacher night.  Wait for train.  As soon as train arrives realize I've left my iPad at capoeira.  Return to Rivington and Suffolk and climb 3 flights to retrieve iPad.  Notice Denial who has come to collect The Prince and take him home so I can return to school. Hand him bag of groceries since he's not carrying anything.  Return to subway and arrive at meet the teacher night 30 minutes late.  Learn that because of budget cuts art will be taught as a segment in the second semester.  Remind myself that we're lucky to have any art at all.  Take 5 train back to Brooklyn accompanied by at The Clash and Allure magazine.  Buy vodka.  Go home to discover that Denial has produced penne and red sauce.  Make and drink screwdriver, eat small bowl of penne, make and drink another screwdriver.  Fall asleep on Denial's lap after having had discussion about the sorry state of art in NY public schools and enjoying a little Spartacus.  Up at 6:00.

Link to Our Capoeira School

Corn Chowder

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk pondering the fact that I had not enjoyed nearly enough corn this summer. This is not what I am supposed to be doing at my desk. Suddenly it hit me, "corn chowder!!". I spent the rest of my time at work trying to figure out how I was going to do all that I had to do and secure quality ingredients for my stew. I was on a mission.

As much as I want tot say that I always produce healthy, fresh, nutritious meals for my family, those instances are fewer and farther between than I would like. Yesterday I happened to be wearing "killer" heels against my better judgement. Wearing "killer" heels is always against my better judgement but that doesn't stop me from wearing them. As a result my shoes and I went shopping with The Prince at Union Square after school. It was a good day at the market even though I can no longer go there without considering all the farmers not making it in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

$20 and two stops later my feet were killing me. I mean really KILLING ME.

The Prince was no help when to came to carrying the 25 lbs. of groceries home so I soldiered on in my"killer" heels; the "killer" becoming more appropriate with every step. An older man on the subway actually offered me a seat. Was my pain that apparent? The Prince wanted the seat, but I held firm.

Finally arriving home I removed the shoes and got down to the business of corn chowder. I shucked and removed the kernels from 6 ears of corn and used a box grater to get at the corn milk. Potatoes, poblanos, onions, celery, tomatoes, some spices and a healthy dose of dairy pulled it all together.

The Prince was working on his homework and I sat dutifully updating my resume. Denial arrived about 7:00 and proclaimed that the house smelled good. Hooray!

Homework, dinner, update resume (for about 15 minutes), Adventure Time With Finn and Jake, Regular Show, put The Prince to bed... suddenly the resolution I made to tackle the list of things that needed to be done that I made at work, instead of working, is looking more and more impossible. The best of intentions, the best laid plans.

Knitting, TV, sleep.