Monthly Archives: May 2011

Crowded House

I like moving. It gives you the opportunity to go through everything, to re-evaluate what is important and what isn’t. We closed up shop at the other place last weekend and we are now completely moved into the townhouse. Living as we did with nothing in the house for weeks has given me a new eye for all the STUFF that is now in our house.

For the most part the move was painless. I packed intelligently and most items went from place of use to box to place of use. However, there are some ten boxes left to go through, and I’ve been putting them off because they are all boxes of crap that were just thrown together last minute. A few of them are even boxes from our previous move that never got unpacked for the same reason, and I know of one that never got unpacked when my husband and I first moved in together four years ago. They don’t really have crap in them, they simply need to be sorted between what’s useful and should be put away, and what is no longer useful and should be given away or sold.

I’m being much more ruthless about this last category. I don’t want to fall into the trap of expanding to fit the space. I like the feeling of openness that this place has, the airy sense of light that can be very rare in the darkest of winters.

My final push for the boxes will come over this next week, and once everything has a place, then I will start going through it all again to cull out what is no longer loved, what is no longer useful. And I will do it again after that, and again, ever onward, in small doses that keep me mindful of what I own, keeping me from constant curation of my possessions.

A Return to Television

So we have television again. It’s such a little blip on the things that are important that I can’t even remember the last time we had it: perhaps when we were living in the 1950’s house two or three years ago. I think we had possessed a cable box for six or seven months, and when we finally got it set up, we watched an hour of America’s Funniest Home Videos, and then never watched it again while we were living there.

My husband works for a local phone/internet/cable company, and we get a certain amount of free services. Traditionally, we have spent this on cell phones and internet services, but when cable has been included, out of preference and habit we just don’t watch a lot of it.

I like to listen to podcasts while I work at home, but since my iPod bit the dust this past winter, I’ve been doing without. Since the cable was installed earlier this week, I’ve been listening to various shows on Food Network and HGTV as they strike my fancy. I’ll probably expand that to other history/science related channels as I run across them, but I still don’t see myself watching a lot of television, or rearranging my schedule in order to watch something with regularity.

I’m curiously fascinated with “personality cooking shows” as most of them seem to consist of the host awkwardly narrating and telling odd stories while they cook really pedestrian dishes, and tasting things with exaggerated moans and rolled eyes of yumminess, which I feel is sort of fake and creepy, kind of like porn.

I watched a few episodes of Chopped, which feels very snobbish, but I was glad to see Joshua Stokes of Grill-a-Chef win his competition. His mission statement and blog is very cool.

I also saw an episode of Cooking for Real with Sunny Anderson from 2008 called North of the Border. I’ve never heard of this lady or this show, but I thought I’d wing several recipes since I had a great deal of the ingredients at home. Note that I did not use any of her actual recipes, I simply cooked from what I remembered from the show. I’m including her recipes for reader reference.

I adapted her Chicken Flautas with Avocado Cream for what I had on hand. I substituted ground pork for the chicken, and I added the ingredients to make up a salsa right in the pan rather than using a canned brand, which I don’t like and never buy. I didn’t have any tortillas and I didn’t feel like making any, so I just added black beans to the pot. I seasoned with Ancho powder, New Mexican Chile, and Cumin from the local Summit Spice and Tea. I used fresh sweet peppers from costco and finished it with my favorite jalapenos: Mrs Renfros, which I process to a relish for easy addition to dishes. They have a very vinegary pickle that brings out the best in the high heat of the jalapenos and keeps their texture quite crisp and fresh. I did not use any cheese, simply because I did not think it needed any. I paired the Avocado Cream with spinach for a salad.

The Corn Pudding was a revelation. It was so good that I’m sure it will become a regular feature. Somehow I’d never heard of tempering eggs like this. I mean, I vaguely remember it from when I make custard with egg yolks, but never I realized you could just do it to whole eggs as well. I love custard, but I don’t make it often because I have to find something to do with the egg whites and I’m not always keen on freezing them or making meringue. My husband absolutely adores creamy vegetable dishes and this is an excellent way to achieve a creamy texture without using sour cream or cream cheese.

Overall dinner was incredibly well balanced between sweet and spicy, heavy and light, green and starchy, meat and vegetable. I simply wish I would have made the lime soda, as it would have finished this meal off extremely well.

I was feeling under the weather, so for dessert I made a batch of Mexican Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon, Vanilla, Cayenne, and Ancho Powder and sipped it while I watched Julie & Julia on DVD.

We’ll see if I continue watching much TV once the novelty wears off.

Smitten Kitchen’s French Onion Soup

Today felt like a lost day while I waited for the repairman for the leaking toilet. He was supposed to show sometime around ten, and he came sometime after four. Toilet fixed+no charge=happy me.

I did decide to make Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Julia Child’s French Onion Soup, and it is a winner.

I used three large sweet onions instead of yellow. I replaced organic, low salt Better than Bullion in place of the beef stock, for lack of the latter. Instead of the dry white wine, all I had was a White Zin, so in it went, and I finished it with brandy instead of cognac–a step I was dubious about but which finished it beautifully. I toasted half a baguette sliced lengthwise covered in swiss for dipping sticks instead of the croutons, and it was a good substitute for the broiled crouton-in-soup approach.

Overall the soup was caramel sweet, incredibly rich, yet still light and not at all too salty as is often the case with this type of soup. I will definitely make this again, doubling the onions.