Archive for the ‘food’ Category


This is the most photogenic thing I’ve cooked in a while.

I’ve been having terrible cravings for Vietnamese food lately. We have amazing Laotian food in Madison, but the (vegetarian) Vietnamese options are a little disappointing.

The dog is bored by this. He is also bored to death with winter, which has put an end to our long strolls through woods and prairie. Instead, he chases the cats around and looks at me like this. Then we go outside, and he tries to walk across the snow without putting all four of his feet down at once. Also, he eats a lot of snow. Then, moments later, we dash back inside.

Smashing peanuts works so much better than trying to chop them. I don’t know why it took me so long to buy a mortar and pestle.

Vietnamese-ish food in my Virginia Woolf-themed Pottery Barn bowl. Strange bedfellows. Did you know there are many recipes out there for fish-less fish sauce? I wasn’t convinced by any of them, so I ended up with an unscientific mixture of pressed garlic, boiling water, rice vinegar, sugar, and chili garlic paste. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.

Lots of snow melt today. Drip, drip. I even opened a window for a while.

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Things I Like to Eat

I put some of my jade plants outside to get some sun—and now it’s snowing on them. Meanwhile, I’m performing the rather incongruous task of bringing my spring and summer clothes out of boxes. I’m also watching The Lord of the Rings. It turns out that it’s been long enough now since I last saw these movies—I’m constantly surprised by how things turn out. Gandalf came back!

But this post is not about my nerdy tendencies*.

It’s about artichokes. They’re thorny, awkward, and sometimes even muddy inside—but they are beautiful.

And they are one of my favorite things to eat on Earth.

Last year, I discovered this almond-saffron dip. There’s a lot to be said for melted butter, but this makes an artichoke or two into a meal.

And then you can eat as many of these as you like.

That’s what I’m telling myself, at least. They’re vegan! with flax seed! so healthy! and so tiny!

*Long ago, I had my own Magic: The Gathering deck. That’s how I learned what a juggernaut is. My favorite card was “Will ‘o the Wisp,” because of the illustration.

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Ok, so I went to Trader Joe’s to buy cannellini beans and almonds. While Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a monopoly on these items, they are significantly less expensive there among the other food stores on my rotation: Woodman’s, the soulless but cheap one, Costco, where I end up with too many strawberries, the Co-Op, where I get nice produce with lots of hipster/hippie attitude, and Sentry, which is the only place that carries my favorite English muffins. Picky, picky.

As is generally the case with Trader Joe’s, I came in for two things and ended up with quite a few more than that. I’ve learned to rein it in when it comes to impulse buys there—I know what I like by now (frozen tamales, Gravenstein applesauce, Thompson raisins, Apricot Stilton, vegan citrus gumdrops) and what I should never fall for again… like freeze-dried rambutan. Freeze-drying is a questionable food preparation method to begin with, but that’s really a different matter*.

This time, I was seduced by the floral displays and ended up with daffodils, a bunch of ranunculus, a tiny potted tulip, and a geranium. I blame the weather today for my floral disorientation—I actually felt “hot” for the first time in many months and it was confusing.

It’s been kind of a rough week already and I’m content with my floral shopping spree. Except, of course, that these things tend to end badly in my house. I will definitely not be keeping a jar full of water anywhere near my computer…


*Except for astronaut ice cream, which, as I recall, is ambrosial.

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I love pansies (and violas—are these violas?). I think that my affection for them dates back to early viewings of the Walt Disney animated Alice in Wonderland. Those singing flowers get me every time. I’m prefacing this post with a pretty image because the next one looks a bit gruesome:

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia is so boring. Even the cats were sleeping. So, at 3 am, I decided to try making overnight muselix. Generally, I can’t be bothered to think that far in advance. However, my options were rather limited and I’d already read the latest issue of Real Simple*, which I enjoy but also find infuriating—it always reminds me of how the gift shop at Walden Pond (?!) sells “Simplify” mugs. I can’t think of anything less simple than a mug—doesn’t everyone already own too many of those? My collection includes questionable choices such as a pretty hideous purple mug from the Rainforest Cafe. I’ve tried to get rid of it several times, but I’m a little attached and it’s the perfect size for a latte.

Anyway, I mixed together roughly equal amounts of Greek yogurt and rolled oats, added in some frozen mixed berries, a squirt of agave, and what turned out to be an overly large pinch of salt. After my insomnia fit last night, I finally woke up right before noon and enjoyed a lazy brunch of iced Starbucks via*  and a bowl of muselix. It was pretty good—next time, I think I’ll thin it out a bit with some water. I was worried that the frozen berries would make it soupy as they thawed, but they didn’t.

Lately, while unloading the dishwasher, it’s become clear to me that I almost exclusively eat things that go in bowls. I seldom have any plates at all in the dishwasher. That’s kind of weird—but also not, since my standbys are breakfast quinoa, granola with strawberries and yogurt, and bowls of tofu and stuff. Even the pansies are in a bowl. And I think they might be edible, too.


*those Amazon $5 subscription deals are hard to resist. I also get the Oprah magazine…
**I know how to make cold brew, but I’m lazy…and I like iced Via (I think it’s gross when hot)

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Quinoa Muffins

A few nights ago, I decided to make muffins. I’ve been in a bit of an experimental mood lately, so I’ve been trying all kinds of new recipes from my library of cookbooks. These were the Apricot Almond Quinoa muffins from The Veganomicon, which is great* (and was a gift a few years back from Ricky’s lovely and thoughtful grandmother!).

I made muffins, and I also made a rather large mess—which, given the diminutive scale of my kitchen, doesn’t take much more than a spoon left out of place.

That artificial light really isn’t doing my hideous counter and hideous tiles any favors. It’s pretty hard to get organized for a semi-complicated recipe on my very small counters: mixing things, grinding almonds, chopping apricots. Someday, I will have more counter space because someday, the microwave will not be hulking itself all over the place on a chopped-off-mismatched-and-not-level piece of laminate. Some other day, I will live in a house with a less infuriating kitchen. The temptation is just to eat take-out and/or cry (and I do a little of each). Given that I like to cook as much as I do, it’s something of a miracle that I’ve learned to tolerate this setup as well as I have—I’ve turned out all kinds of pies and complicated dishes through a series of juggling acts. Really, it’s pretty scary to pull two half-sheet pans out of a 500 degree oven and then try to figure out what to do with them next. It usually involves me frantically shouting at Ricky and/or the cats to back up or risk singed hair/whiskers. But I digress. I created the ugliest, most cramped mise en place ever, followed by the worst quinoa-boil-over ever.

Ugh. Obviously, this is a post-panic picture, after I’d wiped up most of the liquid and scraped the ruined quinoa into a heap. I’m still finding quinoa in every crevice of the kitchen. In the end, the muffins were pretty enough—especially since I waited until the morning to photograph them (again, that nighttime light is really awful).

Turns out, the muffins not only looked better in the morning—they tasted better, too, after spending the night in the refrigerator. I had one for a snack today, with a banana and some iced coffee. I’m so glad it’s finally warm enough for me to contemplate iced coffee again.

I liked the flavor of these, and the quinoa adds an interesting dimension. I really like the chopped dried apricots and cardamom. The texture was a little off-putting at first; when warm, they were a bit too much like a quinoa-cake and not at all like a pastry. They settled into something more densely bread-like by morning, but then I saw a fix for the recipe that suggested adding in some baking soda. I’ll make these again, and I’ll try that.

I will also try not to flood my stove with an ocean of soupy quinoa. Sometimes, I wish I’d gotten a gas stove.

Other times, like when I remember that I was in the middle of studying for our insanely stressful (and now extinct) Master’s exam when my “Magic Chef” stove breathed (baked?) its last—

or when I boil pots of quinoa—or rice—or oatmeal—all over the place,

I’m pretty happy with the smooth surface, as imperfect as it may be. Living with imperfection, after all, is the story of home-ownership. And also of these muffins.


*I’ve liked every recipe I’ve made from the book except the spaghetti and beanballs. Maybe it was user error, but they were a mess.

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I got a new camera.

I made granola, which made me think of my dear friend jellyspoon and her lovely mother. I love this bowl, one of a set of three that Ricky gave me years ago. They’re from Anthropologie, so I knew that they had cost too much. I was hesitant to keep them, but I’m glad that I did. Using them makes me happy. Ricky and I tend to fight over the green one, which has a small frog painted in the bottom. I even kind of like that the red one (bird at the bottom) has a small chip in the side—this is somewhat shocking, given my perfectionist tendencies. But I like the chip because it reminds me of how much use—and pleasure—I get out of these gifts. I like them even better than their predecessors, a set of pastel-hued “Easter Egg” bowls from Pottery Barn that had a tendency of exploding in the microwave (ahem).

Look at the high-quality cat pictures I can take now! Ricky says that looking into Keats’ eyes is like looking into the eyes of insanity. Unfortunately, it’s hard to capture the true effect because his irises move rapidly when he’s looking at you. Apparently, this is a breed-specific characteristic that made my vet think that Keats is a fancy show cat. In reality, he’s a (formerly) wormy barn cat. Now he’s a Pottery Barn cat (I saw a cartoon of a fat cat sitting on the back of a couch with that caption, years ago–maybe in The New Yorker?).

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lunch at my desk

Oh, the perils of “working” at home. I saw this recipe on 101 Cookbooks this morning; since then, I have been sitting at my desk and accomplishing nothing. Time for a lunch break! Oddly, enough, I happened to have Shichimi Togarashi but no rice. Or mushrooms. I can’t remember why I bought this little orange jar in the first place—some recipe I saw and then forgot about, probably—but I was glad to try it out, at last. It’s kind of spicy, but not very. I added some extra sesame seeds. And soy sauce, because that much kale needs some serious salt.

And now, back to staring at my Word document. But maybe I should bake some bread. Or hem the curtains, finally. Oh, home.


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