Archive | July, 2010

3 Penny Acre

30 Jul

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing 3 Penny Acre at my good buddy Brian’s house (making this a record-breaking two-house-concerts-in-a-week kind of week).  They’re charming, talented, fun and lovely conversationalists.

I highly recommend checking them out if they’re coming to your neck of the woods this summer.  Or else just buy a give them a listen and buy a CD.

Bayard Blane and David Glaser

This is just what I pictured my life would be like when I moved to the south.

Three Penny Acre

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Thai Chicken and Noodle Salad

30 Jul

In hot weather like this, it’s nice to have cold meals.  I made this one from Cooking Light with a few modifications (Pho for bean noodles and macadamia nuts for peanuts).  Tasty, spicy and refreshing!

Ingredients

  • 1  (3.75-ounce) package Pho noodles
  • 2  tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  fish sauce
  • 1  teaspoon  sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) or chile paste with garlic
  • 2  cups  shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1/2  cup  matchstick-cut or grated carrot
  • 1/2  cup  red bell pepper strips
  • 1/3  cup  thinly sliced shallots
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2  cup  chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

Preparation

1. Cook Pho noodles according to directions

2. While noodles soak, combine vinegar and next 4 ingredients (through sambal), stirring until sugar dissolves. Combine chicken and next 5 ingredients (through mint), tossing well.

3. Drain and rinse noodles with cold water; drain well, squeezing to remove excess water. Snip noodles several times with kitchen shears. Combine noodles and chicken mixture, tossing well to combine. Drizzle noodle mixture with vinegar mixture; toss well to coat. Top with macadamia nuts.

Cocktail of the Week: Watermelon Margaritas

28 Jul

To celebrate the very talented Marshall Ruffin’s concert at my friend Lila’s house tonight, I decided to make watermelon margaritas.  Naturally, I had to taste the concoction before serving it to others and perhaps it was the delicious combination of watermelon, triple sec, lime and tequila that caused me to lock my keys in my car right before leaving.

I figured I might as well post the recipe as I wait for the locksmith.  Don’t worry- I’ll still make it to the concert on time.  And these margaritas are worth the $30 I’ll spend in locksmith fees.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 3 1/2 cups cubed seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon triple sec (orange-flavored liqueur)
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

  1. Place 2 teaspoons sugar in a saucer. Rub rims of 6 glasses with 1 lime wedge; spin rim of each glass in sugar to coat. Set prepared glasses aside. Combine watermelon and next 4 ingredients (watermelon through triple sec) in a blender; process until smooth. Fill each prepared glass with 1/2 cup crushed ice. Add 1/2 cup margarita to each glass. Garnish each glass with a lime wedge, if desired. Serve immediately.

Journal Feature: Elam in New York

27 Jul

I’m so happy to share my dear friend Elam’s words and images.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Once upon a time there was a boy. His name was Elam. One of his first artistic act was melting crayons on the heating vents. He was a Waldorf child. At Waldorf school imagination was the sun. He orbited best he could. Elam believed all his childhood he would be an artist. That may be the one thing he regrets in his life now. Not going to art school and melting more crayons.
In college he almost completed a minor in Art but wasn’t interested in taking art history. Way to stick it to the man! Elam didn’t major in art. Elam’s major was writing long sorrowful poems about people who hurt his feelings. Then his friend John taught him an E chord on the guitar. Elam wrote an embarrassing song that night. He hasn’t stopped writing songs since then. They’re less embarrassing now.
One summer’s end Elam lived in NYC. In his grandmother’s brownstone in the Bronx. It was New York’s centennial. They were celebrating with free concerts everywhere. Elam saw many at the world trade center.
Whistle guy (sketch) was guarding a fountain. In the center was a sculpture Elam admired frequently. It survives today.
Occasionally Elam ventured out. He read more than at any other time in his life. He wrote many songs. It would be the last time he’d see his grandmother and call New York his ancestral place in this world. Those hot nights taught him to sleep naked. The unfurnished apartment taught him to take big steps and stare out windows. It was the last time he lived with his big sister who was upstairs in her apartment.
Elam loved to walk down to the dank basement where a turned over bucket served as a chair. He’d watch the world cup on the antique television. Amongst grandma’s art books and boxes.
Elam listened to many of his grandmother’s albums and went to visit her about once a week at the convalescent home. Where they’d play scrabble. Where they discovered their like for each other. Elam mostly sketches in the margins of things these days if he sketches at all. Mostly faces. Elam misses New York names like Van Cortland Park, Mosholu Parkway, Saxon Avenue and Grandma Jill.

Don’t forget to check out the ever-growing journal gallery.

Life After Facebook

27 Jul

Folks, the days are long and my energy is high.  It’s times like this that I decide to stop screwing around and get serious about… something.  Some days I think I should get serious about cooking.  Some days it’s my (sadly long neglected) Etsy store.  Lately it’s been writing.

I’ve been trying to cut out unnecessary time-sucks (remember the electron vacation?) and make better and more mindful decisions about how I spend my precious moments (the actual moments, not the creepy porcelain dolls), and Facebook happens to be a big one for me.  I’m not proud of it, but I’ll go on to look at pictures someone’s tagged of me and end up wasting more time than I care to mention here figuring out which friends fed their virtual goats that day and which did not.  During my fast, though, instead of going on Facebook, I decided to write about it.  I read this piece at the Knoxville Writer’s Guild Open Mike (joining and attending Guild meetings are another prong of my “Write, for the love of God” self-attack).  As part of my commitment to writing more frequently, I’m going to try to share short (you’re welcome) pieces of writing here at least semi-often. Here, my friends, is a little cautionary tale.

Dan has told himself he will not look at Facebook. He tells himself this as soon as he gets up each morning, each time he sits down to his computer at work, and each time he opens the door to his dark apartment at the end of the day.  But every night, after thousands of tiny exercises in self-control, he types his email address into one box and his password into another and clicks to her profile, feasting on it like a gooey midnight snack.

Here’s Maya holding her cat, left arm reaching off the screen to take their picture.

Here’s the back of Maya’s head at a baseball game.  She’s wearing her favorite purple shirt.  Dan remembers how he hated that shirt.  Now he kind of likes it.

Here’s Maya behind a plate of tacos and a giant margarita glass here eyes are droopy and Dan can see she’s buzzed. He studies the elbow next to Maya’s and tries to decide who it belongs to.  It’s female- that’s certain and comforting. If it’s Susan’s elbow, they probably finished their meals and went on home.  But if the elbow is Jenny’s, Dan is certain she pushed Maya to have another and go out dancing.  Jenny has never been good for Maya.

Dan stares at Maya’s profile.  He does not write on her wall, he knows better than that.  he does not poke her.

Dan blinks hard when her status tells him she’s just four blocks from his house, at the neighborhood bar Maya had always talked about wanting to try. Dan stand and reaches for his coat. The update is from eleven o’clock. Maybe she’s still there.  Surely she’s still there. He puts his coat on.  She will be there and Dan will see her.  He takes his coat off.  He sits down.

Dan knows he won’t be able to pretend he just stopped by for a drink at midnight. Dan doesn’t do that sort of thing and Maya knows it. Dan clicks to his profile, tries to see it through Maya’s eyes (if Maya ever looked, but Dan is sure she doesn’t).

“Dan is tired”

“Dan decided on frozen pizza again tonight. Three for three.”

“Dan is bourbon on ice and this shitty recliner. It could be worse.”

He changes his status.

“Dan is happy.”

Even he doesn’t buy it. He writes it again in all capitals.

“DAN IS HAPPY.”

Happy doesn’t suit Dan. On Maya it’s natural and cute.  On Dan it’s desperate and defensice.  That was always Maya’s problem with him.

At 12:30, Dan turns off his computer and rubs his eyes, promising not to sign on again, to delete his account, to find another girlfriend like Maya, to make her love her like Maya did, to keep her from leaving like Maya did.

He goes to bed.  he still uses the purple sheets she bought him, even though he hates them.

Hot Dish Series: Chicken and Biscuits

26 Jul

I just got back from a trip to Minneapolis and White Bear Lake, Minnesota for my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary party.  It was a lovely time and reminded me of all the Minnesota traditions that make me love the Scandinavian Midwest- people saying “oofta,” fresh walleye, and my favorite, hotdish.  For those of you who don’t know, “hotdish” is Midwestern for “casserole.”  It’s easy to point out the differences between Southerners and Northers, but one constant between my Midwestern roots and current Southern existence is this multifaceted creamy baked concoction.  No, it’s not seasonally appropriate, but it’s never to hot for hotdish in my book.

Chicken and Biscuits (via Epicurious)

Ingredients

For biscuits

  • 2 cups self-rising all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • All-purpose flour for dusting

For chicken

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken (from a 3- to 3 1/2-lb rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Make biscuits:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Blend together flour and butter in a bowl with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Stir in milk with a fork just until a sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead 7 or 8 times. (Do not overwork, or biscuits will be tough.) Pat dough into a 9- by 6-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface, then cut into 6 (3-inch) squares. Arrange squares 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until almost, about 12 minutes. Cool to warm on baking sheet on a rack.

Make chicken dish while biscuits bake:
Cool oven to 350. Cook onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper in butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in broth and thyme and bring to a boil, stirring, then boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.

Add half-and-half and chicken to gravy and gently simmer until chicken is heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

Assemble and bake:
Place chicken mixture in 8×8 baking dish.  Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese if desired. Halve biscuits horizontally and place over biscuits.  Bake for ten minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

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Greenbean Casserole Reinvented

25 Jul
I went to a potluck last week and decided I would play a game I sometimes like to play with myself called “What can you make with the ingredients you already have in the house?”  This game is born from my love of challenge, my desire to exercise my creativity, and my serious dislike of going to the grocery store.
I opened my fridge and the first thing I saw was a mess of greenbeans given to us by my sweetheart’s father, who grew them himself.  I decided to go all Top Chef and do my own interpretation of traditional greenbean casserole.  I honestly have NOTHING against the old classic made with canned greenbeans, cream of mushroom soup and canned onions.  I love the stuff!  But I decided to make it a little lighter (and just a tad yuppier).  I made a sauce out of some melted goat cheese seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon thyme from the garden.  I then dredged some thinly sliced onions in flour and fried ’em up.  OK, so the finished project really tasted almost nothing like the classic, but it was still mighty tasty.