Up Past Bedtime

A-hoy-yy! So many tidbits & salutations to be offered: happy almost-weekend! Happy belated birthday to my mom, the rockingest lady around! Happy SUMMER! Solstices are rad, even for those among us who appreciate them strictly on a physical (and not ideological) level. I’m talking about increased daylight, people, the thrill of evening extending beyond its prestated limits, eating away at the night. Incidentally, if I had to choose one or the other — night or day — I’d choose night. The trees are much more striking then, laced in shadow as they are. At night, I have my best ideas.*

These days, my summer traditions are few. I owe this to two factors: my nostalgia’s slow fade and the Bay Area’s dearth of True Summer Weather. I do love living in a seasonless zone; time passes differently here, and I welcome the chance to wear sweaters year-round.

At the same time, I miss the constants of Midwest summer: electrical storms, humidity, calamine-dotted mosquito bites. Aloe vera sticky on your shoulders and thighs; ice cream eaten in an air-conditioned backseat. These joys of my youth embody the season, and I do mean embody: memories of Augusts past give me pause, cause my gut to sink in the best possible way. Without these joys, summer veritably ceases to exist.

It does exist, though, and I’m developing new traditions. Among these is my ceremonial preparation/enjoyment of the caprese salad. When spring loosens into summer, I develop a taste for fresh basil.  Never mind that the climate doesn’t sync with the calendar; this craving is rooted deep. Tomato season rolls around, and suddenly all I want to eat is tomatoes: sliced and dashed with salt; wedged in a hella greasy grilled cheese; chopped, tossed with balsamic and oil, and added to a pretty little bed of romaine.

My favorite preparation is the caprese salad. Bright and fresh, a snap to prepare, the caprese is a great pretender, assuming an air of elegance that belies its humble origins.

On a warm day last week, I made this salad. I purchased one large tomato, tiny balls of fresh mozzarella, and a basil plant. The plant, now somewhat withered, sits on the back patio, but the day I brought it home it was vibrant and half the size of a rosebush. I take my time constructing these salads, slicing the tomato into even rounds, placing the basil leaves just so. With the salad featured here, I had a Glenlivet and soda. I listened to the Talking Heads as I put away the dishes. Then, changing into shorts, I laid out in the backyard with a book and a Pellegrino and conjured some Midwest memories.

***

* I almost spun off into a nostalgiathon about My Walks Through The Galesburg Industrial Park, but I stanched the desire. You’re welcome.

Advertisements

In the News…

It’s been a good while since I shared some links, but this morning I read two articles (err, one article, one blog post) that captivated my oh-so-fleeting interest. And, in the interest of spreading the wealth, I’mma share these pieces with you!

Over at XOJane, Rebecca Kelley details how she fed her family for a month on a skimpy budget of $129.99(!) Honoring the whims of my inner grad student, I love (love, love) reading about cooking on a budget. Kelley’s account of her Hunger-Games-esque challenge is lighthearted and funny. It’s also a solid reminder that, yes, eating well on a shoestring requires extra effort and planning, but it can be done — and it isn’t as painful as one might think.

Rebecca Kelley: forager extraordinaire! (Photo taken from XOJane.com)

The second piece, written by Andrew Weil for HuffPo, considers the concept of Intermittent Fasting, which is, in effect, just as it sounds. Weil denounces Americans’ tendency to eat small, frequent meals — a practice, he maintains, that encourages constant eating — advocating instead for three squares a day punctuated by the occasional fast.

Full disclosure: I’ve never fasted, but I’m intrigued by the process. Some months ago, I attended an Ayurvedic cleanse workshop, though I’ve yet to, uh, actually go through with the cleanse. Weil’s piece reignited my interest in the topic; I’m gonna scan my Ayurvedic cookbook tonight! Stay tuned for updates on Ayurvedic cleansing: Garky Edition.

***

Photo source: [1]

With a Twist: Banana Chocolate-Chunk Muffins

G’day, Garkyfriends! Not sure how your week is panning out, but mine is A-OK, despite climatological gloom + a persistent headache. You know what, though? Gloomy weather makes working indoors seem like less of a task, and this headache will surely be dispelled with some ibuprofen + coconut water. Voila! Attitudinal magic works wonders.

These past few months, I’ve been really into buying flowers. Not only do blooms brighten the common spaces, but buying cut flowers seems like such an adult thing to do. I mean, it is an adult thing to do, but some actions — dry-cleaning delicate garments, scrubbing the bathtub, turning in early on a weekend night even though you don’t have to wake up early the next day — seem robustly more adult than others.

Fridays, returning from acupuncture, I stroll past a wholesale floral shop; it was there I got the red bouquet, plucked from a flimsy plastic bucket and cradled for the duration of my trip.

Friday flowers are becoming a ritual. Establishment and practice of rituals — small and large alike — is what drew me to writing. Likewise to cooking. I am, by nature, a collector, and these activities fortify my amassment tendencies.

Banana bread was my mom’s go-to baked good. She made it for PTA meetings and potlucks, gifting foil-wrapped loaves to the neighbors. As a kid, I wasn’t crazy about the bread — my extreme sweet tooth wasn’t sated by its subtle flavor — but I’ve come around. Flavorwise and associationally, banana bread is a gem. It’s quick to make, and it offers an outlet for the scratch-and-dent bananas that would otherwise land in the compost bin.

Instead of baking one loaf, I made muffins, which bake more quickly (20 minutes!) and are easier to store and eat. I made a few other mods to mom’s recipe, namely reducing the amount of sugar and oil, adding a bit more banana mush, and tossing in some coarsely chopped, sea-salt-flecked dark chocolate. This tinkering yielded delicious results.

Sweetish but not cloying, toeing the line of wholesomeness, these muffins are a new standby.

Banana Chocolate-Chunk Muffins (makes 12)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Two eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup mashed bananas (appox. two large)
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used Turbinado, but use what you have on hand!)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • One high-quality chocolate bar, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a muffin pan (or line each cup with cupcake papers — you do you!).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine oil, eggs, and bananas.
  3. In a large bowl, mix well all dry ingredients, including chocolate. Once dry ingredients are mixed, add wet ingredients, mixing just to combine.
  4. Spoon batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup only 2/3 full.
  5. Pop the pan in the oven, set your timer for 20 minutes, and clean up (or not). Muffins are done when a fork inserted into one comes out clean.

 

Image

Happy (Belated) Donut Day!

e40e21c2ac1211e19dc71231380fe523_7

Happy Day-after-National-Donut-Day, friends! And a fine National Donut Day it was here in SF: sunny, breezy, not too cool. Post coffee and pre acupuncture, I wandered through Noe Valley and snapped the above picture to document the lovely weather.

Confession: I almost didn’t partake in NDD festivities. I KNOW, I know: totally blasphemous thinking, but when I yawned and stretched and made myself coffee, I was more in the mood for a bagel than anything else. But you know about the bagel situation in this city; if you don’t know, rest assured that the bagel scene here is nonexistent. (Note: Haven’t tried bagels from Wise Sons yet, but it’s at the top of my to-do list.)

Like a champ, I rallied and headed to the Jelly Donut.

I knew before I reached the counter which donut I’d order. That’s one of my strengths, you know: Extreme Donut Decisiveness. As last time — as always — I selected the oblong buttermilk fritter cloaked deep in chocolate frosting. Here’s a visual:

Big as a lumberjack’s fist, this lit’l guy called to me from the display case, beckoning with a heavily frosted finger. The cashier threw in a few (three) donut holes for my snacking pleasure, and I was on my way.

I settled into one of my whiskey barrel chairs and ate slowly, using a fork and knife. Silverware wasn’t the best idea. The donut crumbled under the pressure of the knife, but no matter — I scooped up the frosting crumbles because, as we all know, frosting waste is to be avoided at all costs.

Another confession: I couldn’t finish my donut. (I’m expecting you all to be like, “What happened to you out there, Baumer?”) The truth is, the donut was just too much: too big, too sweet, too oily. Its frosting was half an inch thick, and as much as I love frosting, I love my tooth enamel more. To my credit, I ate about 2/3 before throwing in the towel. Alas! Next year, I’ll have my game face on and select a less formidable opponent.

I’ve gotta hop in the shower and prep for a picnic, but happy belated National Donut Day to you all!

Pizza Overload (or Total, Unabashed Laziness)

Friends, I did not think I’d hear myself say this, but I’m quittin’ pizza for a while.

Yeah. Let’s take a moment to process that statement, its severity.

Last week was the Week of Pizza, practically and theoretically*. If I were to be honest with myself and y’all — and, DUH, I’m gonna be totally upfront — I ate pizza on five occasions last week. FIVE. I’m embarrassed even to write that, but confession is a form of catharsis, is it not?

Gee, Kate, you might wonder, How were you able to eat so much pizza? Lemme break it down. One night, happy hour with Bree turned into many happy hours, and when I got home I ate half a leftover frozen CPK pizza (BBQ Chicken variety; not recommended). I heated these leftovers in the toaster oven so generously given to me by Sabina. But, unfamiliar as I was with the settings of said oven, I burned the hell out of that pizza. Did I eat it anyhow? Oh, yes I did: in secret and in shame.

The next night, lazy as I was, I ordered pizza and a Greek salad from Serrano’s. Which was much more food than I thought it would be — half the salad and two pieces of pizza left me feeling uncomfortable. Friday, I had pizza for lunch AND dinner. Sunday, after a day of so-called revelry, I horqed (oh god) the remainder of my St. Francis’ Chef’s Mess and a slice of SARAH’S LEFTOVER PIZZA.

When you’re eating your roommie’s leftover pizza, you know you have a problem. I staged my own intervention.

See that? That’s one of my lovely quinoa salad casserole things, a dish I make (almost) weekly because 1) It’s simple; 2) It’s delicious; and 3) It provides more nutrients than most ‘zas. I made this Quinoa Thing Monday night — an effort, however small, to right my seriously off-course eating habits.

This Quinoa Thing included the following ingredients: Quinoa, prepared per package directions; Bacon, pan-fried, cooled, and crumbled in at the end; Brussels sprouts and chickpeas, tossed in EVOO/maple syrup/s&p/red pepper flakes and roasted for half an hour; One Fuji apple, diced; Salt-and-pepper pistachios; and lemon-parsley vinaigrette adapted from one in this month’s Bon Appetit. Oh, and goat cheese, because I eat goat cheese every day of my lyfe.

Quinoa Thing is delicious and masquerades as healthy food. Sure, it’s got bacon, cheese, nuts, and oil, but it also has protein! And a vegetable! At the very least, it doesn’t have a crust. Monday night, I took pride in my Adultish dinner, and the pride has lasted this entire week.

*Lest you think I forgot about Theoretical Pizza, you’re wrong. Last week was Pizza Week because of what I ate (obvs), but also because  I was seeking comfort in all realms of my life. I burrowed in my bed, wearing my new AmApp hoodie. I listened to tons of Nite Jewel. And I leaned heavy on my oldest comfort food. Not the greatest week, to be sure, but hey! It’s a new week. Yes, it is.

A Day In the Life

When I say I eat like a frat guy, I’m not kidding around. I thought of this a moment ago as my glance lighted on the plate that, just minutes earlier, had held BBQ-chicken frozen pizza and a s’mores Pop Tart. (Yep, it was that kind of night.)

As an ode to tried-and-true features in women’s magazines everywhere, I thought I’d post a tru-lyfe account of my day in food. Ahem!

I allllllmost bought these, but resisted. #admirablerestraint

8:30: Woke up; a bit rugged. Put coffee on before I showered and, post-shower, horqed said coffee and a small bowl of hippie cereal (feat. flax, pumpkin seeds, oats, etc.)

1:00: After a leisurely Target jaunt during which clearance wine, cat litter, and a king-sized box of Cheez Its were purchased, it was lunchtime. Klassy dames that we are, Sabina and I hit up the adjacent Hooters, where I enjoyed most of an order of boneless buffalo wings and half a plate of fries. Also a bloody Mary: Grey Goose and extra olives.

It should be noted that our lunch visit coincided with a casting call for the show “Bad Girls Club,” which I’ve never seen. Our waitress described the show’s premise as “ghetto girls fighting with each other.” I don’t understand the absence of an apostrophe in the title. Moving on!

6:00: Returned home, where Sarah, Brent, and Kent were sippin’ Tecates. In solidarity, I also sipped one.

6:47: Hunger strikes! Noshed Cheez Its while chatting with mother on phone.

7:47: Dinnertime. Rather than cooking Actual Food, I succumbed to my baser urges and popped in a frozen pizza. Ate half of said pizza while scanning my G-reader and listening to The Kinks. For dessert? A s’mores Pop Tart straight from the freezer. Frozen Pop-Tart filling has a consistency similar to that of saltwater taffy, which is one reason I like the treats frozen rather than cooked.

***

There you go: a day in the dietary life of Garky. I’ll admit, I wrote this post mainly to amuse myself, but if y’all gain secondary enjoyment from reading about my simple-carb consumption, all the better! Perhaps A Day in the Life will become a recurrent feature? We shall see.

PS: Totally listened to “A Day in the Life” while writing, natch. Hadn’t heard the song in years but man, has it held up.

Office Lunch/Tiny Pride

Changes are afoot. Rather than working 9-5, we now work 8-6, which may not seem as vast a difference as it is. Oh, but it is vast! Such a radical shift in my schedule will undoubtedly impact — has already begun to impact — every aspect of my life: the social aspect, most notably, but also how I consider food.Will I begin to eat frozen entrees with greater regularity? (God, I hope not.) Will I eat out more? Will I make a big-ass batch of soup (or chili, or hearty grain salad) on Sunday and eat that for an entire week until I become so tired of that week’s dish that I enter an Involuntary Fast Mode? These questions remain to be answered.

What I can say is this: I’m damn proud that I cooked for myself last night. Got home at 7:08, had to be out the door not long after that, but I made one of my Quik & Ez Stir Frys. This particular stir fry was ultra-simple: trimmed asparagus, cubed tempeh, three cloves of garlic (minced). Seasoned this dish with Bragg’s, chili paste, sesame seeds, s&p, and ground ginger. Served it over udon. DONE!

Simple though it was, it was decidedly good — for once, I used the right amount of chili paste. More than that, though, it reminded me to remind myself of what’s important. Yeah, I was dog tired when I got home (not as tired as I am today, which, oof). Yes, I was craving The Simplest Carbs. For a glint, I convinced myself that a potato-chip dinner would be a more efficient option, but then I un-convinced myself.

Preparing and eating nourishing food is part of adulthood, and I’m an adult. I’ll intone this statement the next time I want to dive nose-first into a Sharing Size bag of Cheetos.

Oh! Finally, the second picture in this post is from Saturday’s dinner. I included it because the Instagram filter makes the halved heirloom tomato (top-right sector of the plate) look a bit like a snail(!) Didn’t taste like snail, however.