Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bonus... Bean Dip!

This hardly counts as a recipe, but in keeping with our cracker-based meals (10 Ritz crackers = well-balanced dinner for lil P.), I whipped up some white bean dip on Sunday. I got sick of hummus... too much lemon, too sharp tasting, when what I really want is smooth/creamy/garlicky/salty. (There was an exceptional hummus brand available at the Pittsburgh Whole Foods that was super-garlicky and delicious. I can't find it here in Rhode Island, and don't remember the brand name to ask them to order it--- anyone in PA know what I'm talking about???) The bean dip/spread was exactly what I wanted... and isn't that the beauty of home cooking?

Here's the "recipe": two cans of cannelinni beans (drained and rinsed) + 1 bulb roasted garlic + 3 T chopped fresh rosemary. Throw all ingredients into the food processor, pulse/puree while slowly adding olive oil til you get a creamy consistency. Add salt to taste.

August's Pickle of the Month: Red Onion

I love pickles. I ate so many pickles when I was pregnant with P. that I was afraid he was marinating-- in utero-- in brine rather than amniotic fluid. I still dream about a jar of Amish pickled green tomatoes that B. brought me back from Philly's Reading market. (I polished the whole thing off in about 2 days.) High time to explore the wide wonderful world of preserved vegetables...

Last night I made red onion pickles from a recipe posted on Orangette (originally based on a Zuni Cafe recipe). Lots of steps, but easy ones and relaxing in a repetitive, mindless kind of way. They smelled up the house a bit, but we opened the windows and ran the exhaust fan, so there were no lingering vinegary fumes this morning.

The pickles are a lovely hot pink color. I like the idea of making some pickled carrots and combining the two on a plate for a hot pink/bright orange color combo that would be pretty. They look especially nice in the turquoise Mason jars that P. gave me once.

The flavor is unusually complex for a pickle--- it's sweet, tart, smoky, hot/spicy, peppery. The vinegar is not the first thing you taste, but just heightens the mouth-watering sharpness.

The recipe says these pickles are super-versatile--- good on grilled meats, cheeses (esp. goat or cheddar), and straight-up on a cracker. It also says they're best after marinating together with the brine in the jar for about 48 hours, so I'm trying to restrain myself from eating them all before they reach their peak flavor.

Still I'm going to go out on a limb and based on my preliminary tastings, give the verdict: 9 out of 10. An excellent introductory pickling experience and a terrific addition to the refrigerator condiment crowd.

Monday, May 25, 2009

May's Cookie of the Month: Lemon Poppyseed Shortbread

One of the things I find most annoying about blogs is the incessantly recycled content.  Maybe I'm not diversified enough in the blogs I follow, but the same cute nursery designs and delicious-sounding pickled ramp recipes get posted on multiple blogs I follow, getting progressively less cute and delicious-sounding with each post.  [Now that a student explained it to me (thanks Pat!), I understand that "RT" in twitter parlance is a "re-tweet": essentially forwarding someone else's tweet like an email to your followers.]  

So it is now with some shame that I join the ranks of the lazy bloggers and re-hash a decent cookie recipe I found on Lottie + Doof.  Good blog (excellent food photography, solid recipe selection)... so-so cookie.  Not hard to make exactly, but lots of refrigeration time between mixing and baking, and I'm not sure shortbread is worth the wait.  They look pretty, though, and could be customized with your cookie cutter collection or you could go crazy with some freehand designs.  The verdict: 6 out of 10.  Eh.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Big Brother in Baltimore

Check out this article on Baltimore's network of surveillance cameras in Governing magazine. Comparisons to "The Wire" are too easy, but since I've been away from the blog for three months now, I'll swing at the softball: a real-life Lester Freamon, an "after hours club" called Lil's Place, a Lil' Wayne concert (one wonders if he partied after hours at Lil's Place...).  I hear the last line growled in Slim Charles' inimitable voice: "Well, it do's and it don't."
Anyone troubled by the civil liberties aspects of this?  I'm not sure you have a right to privacy if you shoot someone on a city sidewalk.  Should you shoot them in the comfort of your own home, now that's another story...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Crafty Days of Yore...

Now that I'm employed, I miss the radical freedom of unemployment and all of the fun artsy-craftsy projects that I was able to do.  Some turned out better than others (Peter's pillow), some are yet to be fully implemented (my scissor lino block printing, destined for t-shirts large and small), and some just turned out wonky (the sweater dog).  Hopefully it's wonky in a "I love my mom for trying" sort-of way... see for yourself above.

In other art news, my nifty Brown ID got me in to the RISD Museum (for free!) at lunchtime yesterday to catch the Harry Callahan show before it closes tomorrow.  The Museum is 3 blocks form my office and will be a regular stop on my lunch hour as I explore their collection.  Callahan actually established the photo department at RISD, but there were not too many pictures in the exhibit from their time in Providence.  Chicago is featured prominently, to the point that the city is almost like a family member in the photos.  Callahan's photos of his wife Eleanor (and later, daughter Barbara) are so technically brilliant and tender/intimate at the same time.  A remarkable talent to combine those two aspects.  You may have seen the one where Eleanor is emerging from the water of Lake Michigan looking like something out of a Botticelli painting.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Warm House

Know what I love more than our new best friends at After Dark, LLC?  (No it's not some skeevy 1-800 number "for singles"--- it's the HVAC repair people who show up within 60 minutes of calling them on a Friday evening when your house is freezing cold, expertly disassemble your furnace and get it back to tip-top shape in short order, all with good humor and quiet voices and at a reasonable price.)  So, back to what I love more than them...

Friday Night Lights.  Best Show on TV.*  I was searching for an image to poach and couldn't find much beyond the cheesecake/beefcake pics of Lyla (Minka Kelly) and Riggins (Taylor Kitsch). Admittedly, there are some VERY attractive people on this show, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.  To say the show is authentic is to use a word that has been cheapened beyond acceptability.  Let's just say good.  Damn good.  [The Landry-Tyra storyline of last season was the only one that seemed to go beyond the pale.]  The two adult anchors of the show are Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), who's married to new Principal Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), whose new principal-ness adds a powerful dimension to their already complex, fiery yet solid-as-a-rock marriage.  My favorite exchange between them thus far this season, right after Tami took the principal's job (she was a guidance counselor before):
Eric: "You know who I miss?  The coach's wife."
Tami: "Huh.  Well, you know who I can't wait to meet?"
Eric: "Who?"
Tami: "The principal's husband."

This show reliably makes me tear up every Friday night, in a good life affirming way.  Not like the tearing-up caused by the abrupt shuttering of Domino magazine, about which I remain too sad to blog coherently.  I think my friend JK summed everything up nicely here.

*[My friend PD recommended "FNL" ages ago.  Come to think of it, she also recommended "The Wire," for which I take some credit because I loved "Homicide" and read all the David Simon books.  But back to my point... how does someone who DOESN'T WATCH TV get the inside scoop on all the best shows???]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Furry Red Menace to Society

I am a big Sesame Street fan... watched it religiously as a kid.  I am also one of those people who thinks that Sesame Street has gone WAY downhill since the good old days when only Big Bird could see Snuffalupagus, when Roosevelt Franklin was a regular character, and when Mr. Hooper was still alive.  Before P. came around, I especially hated the new Muppets-- Zoe, Abby Cadabby and most hated of all was Elmo.  So syrupy with that voice-- no edge to him at all.  None of the slightly scary menace of Herry Monster, the endearing screw ups of Grover, the grouchiness of Oscar the Grouch.  And suddenly Elmo was the alpha Muppet, appearing on all the toys and getting a disproportionate amount of air time on the show.  An egomaniac media hog, like A-Rod or Paris Hilton, and clearly a Muppet created by the corporate powers that be, instead of lovingly and creatively dreamed up by Jim Henson.  

But I have to say, Elmo is growing on me, mainly because P. LOVES him.  I watch P. light up and laugh hysterically when we watch Elmo's Alphabet Rap and I just melt.  Parenthood is complicated.

The Resemblance is Striking...

My friend M.'s Christmas card featured Ralphie from "A Christmas Story."  We have it hanging in our kitchen with the rest of the Christmas cards.  Every time P. walks by it, he points and says "Mama!"  Should I be offended???

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things: No. 2

DIY Toner. So easy, it's ridiculous. And you get the satisfaction of making your own beauty product, with none of the mess of those yogurt/honey/oatmeal masks that probably work but are too much like slathering your breakfast on your face.

All you need is a generic bottle of drugstore witch hazel and a little vial of essential oil. Put a few drops of the oil into the witch hazel, shake to dissolve before using (each time-- the oil will float to the top of the bottle) and you're done. I like to decant the stuff into a squeeze bottle, both for ease of use and for aesthetics. (I've thought about designing a pretty label, but alas, my impending employment will probably get in the way of that project.)

Witch hazel is a great toner--- fights acne without drying, preps the skin for moisturizer, removes makeup and dirt. (It's also a very pretty plant!) I like the grapefruit oil that you can get at Whole Foods (a fresh astringent pick-me-up smell), but you could also use any mint oil, eucalyptus, lemon, rose, whatever suits your fancy. All for about $3 for a 12 oz. bottle.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Breaking News...

Brown University's hiring freeze has thawed and my formal job offer has finally materialized. (Pending a brief, pesky but ultimately not worrisome background check.)  My days of lounging around the house, eating bon bons and watching All My Children are soon to be over.  

Now what shall I do with my last few days of leisure???  One last craft project?  Immerse myself in daytime TV and catch my fave ABC soaps for what will be the last time until my next sick day? Do some research on the internets to demystify Twitter once and for all?  Take the train to NYC and see a show or two?  Clean the house and make several months' worth of casseroles to freeze for when we are once again a two-earner household? Redeem my excellent and indulgent spa gift certificate?  

I hate to fritter away these last precious few days, but I also feel like frittering is exactly what these days are for.

A Few of My Favorite Things: No. 1

Poe's Tobacco perfume by Tokyo Milk.  Very unusual-smelling: a combination of tobacco (like the leaves, not cigarette smoke), apple (but not squeaky clean green apple shampoo smell, more musky, like late fall apples that have been lying on the ground for a while), tea leaves and amberwood.  That description doesn't do it justice and makes it sound like it smells like an apple rotting in an ashtray, which it doesn't at all.   It's warm and kind of savory and smells like the perfect olfactory counterpoint to a crisp fall day.

I couldn't stop sniffing myself after I tested it out at Mignonette, an amazing shop on Wickenden Street that has all of these niche fragrances, hard-to-find make-up brands like Lipstick Queen by Poppy King, lingerie, etc.  Super girly and all in very good taste, most of it too rarefied (read: expensive) for me.  Anyhoo, the Tokyo Milk brand has about 20 different perfumes, although most of the ones I smelled were too sweet and cloying. Their perfumes are a bargain ($28 for 1 oz.) and have cute packaging.  Used to be hard to find, but it's available on Amazon and was recently featured in Oprah's magazine, so they'll be everywhere any day now.

I smell good.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Wish It Would Stop Snowing.

We got another 7 inches or so this morning.  Nice that I didn't need to go anywhere (my weekly Target run to North Attleboro was yesterday) and nice also that tomorrow's a holiday, but I'm pretty sick of the snow.  At least it's warmer here than in Pittsburgh.  B. took P. to the playground in the toddler backpack thing.  They looked very cute but I was quite happy to stay in, make some phone calls, keep the laundry going, and snack on my cookies, thank you very much.  Maybe I'll venture out tomorrow.

January's Cookie of the Month: Oatmeal Coconut Lace

This recipe from Gourmet magazine is incredibly good... easier than it looks and the results are both tasty (super crispy, like a cookie composed entirely of the edges of Pamela's crepe-like pancakes, topped with chocolate) and elegant. I skipped the white chocolate and the cookie was excellent with just the dark chocolate.  It's fun to get in touch with your inner abstract expressionist with the chocolate swirls-- I had a few very nice designs but I ate them before I took the picture, so the cookie at right does not represent my best work.  Make the cookies a little smaller than the recipe says--- they say to use a rounded teaspoon--- I'd use a scant teaspoon because there's so much butter in these that they spread a lot.  Mine ended up being huge, and because they're so fragile, that makes them kind of difficult to keep in one piece when you're eating them in bed or on the couch.  Also, you don't need a Silpat liner (which can cost between $20 and $25 each); just use parchment paper to line the cookie sheets and you'll be fine.  The verdict: 9 out of 10. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hooray...DIY Textile Design!

Today's NYT had an article about a company in NC that will produce your homespun textile designs... it's too good to be true!  The fabric selection is limited, but they plan to have more options soon, so I'm one step closer to designing my own upholstery fabric to recover my grandmother's rocking chair (currently covered in a fairly hideous mauve floral print-- not my bag).  Now if I can find someone who will take that textile design and make a laminated or rubberized canvas, I'll be able to build my handbag design empire...

A Present from Carrie

Check out the beautiful necklace that my sister Carrie brought me from Mozambique... it's so delicate and the color is my absolute favorite--- my poor photography doesn't do it justice.  The rope clasp is a little unravelled but I should be able to get that fixed at a local bead shop.  Now I just need somewhere to where it.  Too fancy for work??? 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pop is MIA.

B. pointed out that many of our children's books have a subtle but pernicious bias toward the mother as dominant child rearer.  I perused P's bookshelves and found countless examples of books where the mother is the only parent mentioned (Dad is nowhere to be found and may have abandoned his family years ago, going out for a pack of smokes and never returning).  Some higher profile examples include Where The Wild Things Are, Llama Llama Red Pajama (I'm tempted to give this one a pass, since it's a great book and Mama is a no-brainer in the crucial rhyming scheme), Where Is Baby's Pumpkin?  ("Is [Baby's pumpkin] behind Mommy's bowls?"... as if a father has no use for bowls, come on), Quack Quack Come Back, Five Little Dinosaurs and many more.  Hop On Pop, a Dr Seuss classic, includes fathers but they tend to be put-upon sad sacks: Exhibit A: "Dad is sad.  Very very sad.  He had a bad day.  What a day Dad had."  Exhibit B: the Pop who is hopped upon.  Physical abuse is not very nice.

Two books stand out for their even-steven parenting treatment: 365 Penguins (B's favorite) and Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever.  The Scarry book must have been done back in the 70s because I remember it from my childhood, and it's a little dated.  My one quibble is that while both Mama and Daddy Rabbit are cooking in the kitchen, Daddy Rabbit is wearing a suit and clearly headed to the office after he finishes frying his eggs while Mama Rabbit is wearing an apron and undoubtedly will spend the rest of the day toiling on the home front and maybe reading Betty Friedan.  But overall, it's a good book and nicely balanced on the gender role stuff.

A related phenomenon is the fact that every single tv commercial for a cleaning product will feature a woman or more specifically a "mom."   

My most hated commercial character these days is the Glade (or "glah-DAY") woman.  She's constantly trying to pass off some bo-bo grocery store air freshener or candle as a "boutique fragrance."  After she's been repeatedly busted as a pretentious lying cheapskate, why do people hang out with her anymore?  How in the world does she have friends left who are still coming over for yoga?  Why hasn't her husband left her for someone who isn't a total phony poseur?  A mystery.  But I'm not alone in my loathing.

All this also reminds me of the old birth control pill commercials where they went to great lengths to prominently feature the wedding ring on the woman's hand... because single ladies were undoubtedly saving themselves for marriage and had no need for the Pill.  (More recent commercials seem to be less rigid on this point.)

And this post is the sum total of my extensive coursework and deep intellectual interest in Gender Studies back in college.  Sad.