Saturday, September 25, 2010

Retro Cooking Shows

I'm not sure if we have the book/movie Julie and Julia to thank for the recurrence of some of the classic food TV shows that are cropping up on the Food Network's offshoot, the cooking channel. The channel debuted last spring and has been gaining momentum (and subsequently new programming). The premise has been a food channel for food people, and part of that has been bringing back old programming, including a number of shows from the UK. My favorite so far has, hands down been the galloping gourmet, with his great love of clarified butter, and inability to keep a straight face. However, I'm loving the Two Fat Ladies (Bubble and Squeak anyone?), Nigella reruns and the queen of food TV, Julia herself. I know this probably sounds like an epic commercial for the channel, and in a way I guess it is. However, rarely does something come across the airwaves that excites me enough to get me to pick up the keyboard and write about it. Anyhoo I'm hunkered down in front of the AC unit watching people create mouth watering works of art reminding me that it's not all about the most exotic ingredients or insane nitro-techniques. Watching Juilia roast a chicken, or the galloping gourmet magically pull a roast from the oven makes me want cold hearty food weather. Yum.

Best thing I made this week:
Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta with spicy wilted greens*:
*Adapted from Food&Style

the polenta
3 cup water
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or stock
1 cup corn grits for polenta
1 cup butternut squash purée (cube squash and roast in the oven at 425 for 45 min or untill tender)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon crème fraîche (I used greek yogurt and it was great)
1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the wilted greens (I used chard, although the original recipe calls for spinach, I assume beet greens would be really good with this too)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon Paprika (the original called for 1/4 hot hungarian p and 1/2 spicy hungarian p)
5-6 large leaves of chard– rinsed and dried
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

Step 1: Bring the water and broth to a boil in a heavy-bottom saucepan. As soon as the mixture boils, add the corn grits. Whisk vigorously until the mixture starts to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer the polenta, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes until it is thick and al dente. Add the salt, butternut squash puree, parmesan, crème fraîche (or yogurt), salt and black pepper. Stir well until well incorporated. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Step 2: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the oil, garlic and paprika. Sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the garlic softens, but doesn’t brown. Add the chard and salt and toss until just wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.
Step 3: Spoon the polenta into bowls. Top with the wilted chard and spoonful of the juices.

Simple, tasty, good.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Mornings

My days used to start like this: Beeeep!!! Shmuttle Shmuttle murmer grumble (goes the alarm clock and the radio alarm tuned to NPR). Stretch, a weekday...ANYTHING but a weekday-maybe I forgot to turn off the alarm and it's really Saturday...wait...that's the morning stock report...crap I'm so late! Now my days start the following way: Streeetc-OW! oww oOW!! Yaaaawn-cough splutter-"What!?! IS THAT IN MY MOUTH!!! WHY DO I HURT!?!?!!" and the eventual realization that my mouth isn't under attack from some giant glob of dried glue but instead am biting down on my new mouth guard assigned to arrest the nightly attempts at grinding my teeth to pulp. Then grudgingly allowing that I most likely wasn't beaten in the night by some strong guy with a large stick, but in fact am ridiculously sore from whatever small task I foolishly thought I was in good enough shape for the day before. I stumble out toward the kitchen spitting my nightguard into the bathroom as I pass and blindly grope for the coffee pot. In some households people go through the nightly ritual of making sure the house is locked up, cars put safely away, and people question each other to make sure everything is secure before they drift off. In my family however, the main question...well really the only question asked before people go to bed is..."Is the coffee ready for tomorrow?" Usually my first actual complete thought in the morning is a feeling of gratitude for this remarkable foresight. There is no sleepy grinding, pouring or! This is all done in the evening when the mind is sharp and focused, not left to the caffeine deprived state of Morning. It's a beautiful system.

My days now are passed in attacking what has become labeled "Moze's Mighty List" which is a wish list of sorts, compiled of everything large and small that could be accomplished on a 5 acre parcel of land. Most of the tasks are in the small range, although I suspect if my Dad was given access to it things like "Plant Vineyard and establish New Winery customer list" may surreptitiously appear on it. The thing about this list is that it's very sneaky indeed. It grows in the night! I wake up in the morning and peruse it only to find that the evening before (when I must have have fallen victim to too much sun...or wine...or both) I adventurously added new tasks willy nilly!! Clearly not taking into account the man with the big stick who MUST beat me in the night making me so sore upon waking. What's great however is the ability to look out at not a stack of signed and dated time cards as was the case a few weeks ago, but at actual progress- physical THINGS that have gotten done. Small...and really not that earth shattering tasks, but visible nonetheless (or at least untill the advancing Spring grows in and covers it all up...which probably happened during the time it took to write this blog). And being able to see great. Hopefully I'll have some pictures soon so YOU can see it too..but for now you'll have to trust me and that guy with the stick.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Week 2 Limbo lifestyle - Roughing it urban style

I have a problem- no it's really more of an addiction that I just can't seem to kick. So subtle, so pervasive was this problem that untill my source was yanked out from under me, I didn't even realize I was dependent! I got my fix sometimes mutliple times a day without batting an eye! Wasn't even claiming I could quit whenever I wanted. My dirty little secret? Promise you won't judge... I Love to shower! Yes it's true. Even further, I love HOT showers. I've been the butt of more than one joke pointed at my love of hot, slightly longer than normal showers. Which is why, on day 1 of week 2 in my limbo lifestyle, I found myself entirely befuddled at 6:30am staring at the ice cold water spewing out of the shower head in the apartment I was "sitting". Now as much as I love hot water, (and believe me, I could write Odes to it) I hate cold showers. I have been known to end my shower on cold from time to time, but that was only after cranking the heat up to skin scalding levels that made the switch to cold bearable. After staring at the shower and watching icicles form (only slightly exaggerating) I dumbly trudged into the OTHER shower - "Surely the problem is localized" I thought, ignoring my construction site upbringing and shusshing the memories of making plumbing house calls with my father. Amazingly not only was the water cold in shower number two, but out of all of the faucets in the house as well! What are the odds! By the time I had established this fact in my still sleepy, yet oh so scientific way it was nearing 7 and my window for both making it on time-ish to work and not looking like a porqupine on speed was narrowing. I showered and I'm pretty sure I set a record for the fastest one ever taken. That night, with a help desk call put in to my aformentioned "He-can-fix/build-anything" Dad. I scoured the building, creeping into dark and webby places looking for the water heater that I might ether then fix or kick (I hadn't decided). Unfortunately niether was to be, and I embarked on what could be called an Urban Adventure! While my dear friend Chelsea was home, I soaked up the hot water at her house. I found myself prowling the streets in my brave little Jetta, peering up into peoples warm-lit houses at night...."bet they have hot water"...I'd mumble before puttering off into the night. Chelsea however, was forced off to Orlando on business, and this week I have taken to the gym showers with something less than gusto. Maybe it's the fact that I dont like other peoples shower water running in from their stalls and pooling around my feet in inches of soapy-post workout mystery, maybe its the fact that I can't seem to remember everything I need and that Shampoo ALWAYS falls to the wayside so I end up using the gym shampoo that makes my hair feel like I washed it with a bar of Dial. Who can say? What I do know is that if, after a week of twice a day workouts, I don't start looking like a super model, and I mean SERIOUSLY (the hair, skin and full makeup crew included) I'm going to be extremely disgruntled! ....which now that I think about it, is pretty much par for the maybe not that different after all.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Beware the Ides of March! *

*As promised, my account of moving day.

I'd been gearing up for this moment for weeks, months even. Boxes had been routinely gleaned from work. My closet had been thinned and bags upon bags taken to Goodwill, with still more bags left to be taken. Movers had been scheduled and confirmed(repeatedly), storage paid for, troups rallied, and now sleeping on makeshift beds all over my de-assembled apartment all ready for the final push.

I woke up early Saturday morning, March 15 with the realization that I wanted nothing more than to lay in bed all day nursing my sore throat and chills. But, staying home when "home" is is a fluid concept, is not an option, so I hauled myself out of bed just before dawn and into a hot shower hoping to steam whatver bug had hold of me to death. The movers where scheduled to be there at 9:30 to move the furniture so I figured that left me a few hours to collect myself, pack some final things, and start cleaning. As the rest of the troups (for troupers they were) started waking up and went out in search of coffee and pastries, I dissasembled my bed. At some point I became slightly nervous-I hadn't heard from the movers as of yet, and since my phone refused to charge, I was in danger of losing my window of "communication time" before the battery ran out. At 9:50 I called and was assured that they would be there in 20-30 minutes. Perfect! We chorused! Ever the bunch of optimists. This gives us time to get things MORE organized, to start to clean, to get a better handle on things before there's a team of burly men stomping around. another hour ticked by, we again became worried. I tried more phone calls, but suddenly my oh so reliable mover team couldn't be reached. Also not to be reached, was my roommate, who's car, significanly larger than mine I covetously glanced at in it's parking space as I left Meredith and Ryan in charge of the apartment and set off in my stuffed little Jetta for my storage unit. I'd spent severa hours at my storage unit the afternoon and evening before and had been somewhat surprised to discover that the hallways after a certain hour fill up with the homeless population of Pasadena seeking shelter from the elements. Everyone that I interacted with was friendly and polite, but it is still somewhat disconcerting to run into someone brushing their teeth in the night when you think you're in a deserted coridor. But I digress. By the time I had offloaded my stuff and depositied it in my storage unit Meredith was calling asking if she should try looking on craigslist for new movers. When I got home, they'd found a mover advertising last minute moving, bonded (no idea what thata meant, and frankly it made me a little nervous), insured, and trustworthy!!!! Also unavailable, as we discovered when we called. Throughout the nail biting hours I'd been putting logging increasingly threatening voicemails to my original mover. The last one had something to do with kidnapping his pet gerbil and holding it ransom if I remember correctly....but then it's all a little fuzzy now. Finally we found a mover who not only could do the job, but could be there in an hour and lo and behold...HE WAS! Two strapping guys showed up and literally bounded in and out of my apartment for the better part of an hour tossing my hugely heavy furniture (including the stuff that stubbornly refused to be sold on craigslist) around like jugglers.

In no time at all the first load was ready to go and I set off to open up the unit so they could offload it. "Zooooom!" went the brave little Jetta off in the direction of Pasadena. I sighed a little bit in relief. It was about 4 pm, the apartment was about half way cleaned and the walkthrough was looming on the horizon, but I felt fairly confident that...if everything sailed smoothly from here on would be ok. Right about the time I let out that little sigh, my car sighed too. Only instead of a little puff of breath, it sighed a big cloud of steam. Glancing down I noticed my car was running only a tad hotter than normal...perhaps the steam was a fluke...but started pouring out in earnest from under the left side of my hood. The little temperature guage flicked ever so slightly upward. We were only a few blocks from the storage unit and as I limped into the parking lot praying that something wouldn't catch fire, or explode, I felt the rest of my day dissolve into a puddle.

To be honest with you, from where I sit now it really is just a greasy black smudge in my memory. Tidbits stand out, like the storage facility gate closing on my mover's truck and derailing, leaving the "secure" facility wide open for at least a couple of days. (The facility people's approach to fixing it involved a guy coming out of the office, putting on work gloves, and kicking the crap out of the gate. Why he needed gloves to do this is still a mystery). I know that at some point I limped my car (clouds of steam billowing forth) across town to my mechanic, who was closed and abandonded it, full of belongings, in his parking lot. I also dimly remember riding back to the apartment on top of my roommates furniture in the back of the very loaded car she sent with her fiance (apparently she had been located around 5pm sometime after my car explosion) to pick Chelsea and I up, sliding around the corners and hoping the rocking chair wouldn't careen forward and smoosh me into the seats in front. At some point we did the walkthrough, the manager gestured wildly and promised a check in the mail...a point I didnt have the energy to contend with...and I drove away from Glendale for the last time. Leaving behind neighbors with cold stares, and parks full of little old men playing cards and dominos, the treelined streets where I used to walk my psychotic dog and hide him behind cars so he wouldn't spot other walkers or their dogs and launch a kudjo impression on them (there was also the clover clump he'd sit for hours in with his head on my lap looking adorable-almost making you forget the Jekyl/Hyde aspect of his personality).

Later that night, after an extremely hot shower and watching Chelsea attempt, unsuccessfully, to order pizza no fewer than six times. I realized that in addition to feeling like a walking petridish recently run over by a freight train, I had no mode of transportation, no form of communication (telephone now refused all attempts at charging), and was in a very literal sense, homeless. For those of you who are familiar with the childrens' book the Verry Worried Sparrow, you'll understand my sentiment at that moment when I say: Meep!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Week 1 Limbo Lifestyle

Well as promised I am updating this blog on my newfound limbo lifestyle. I moved this weekend, and although much can be (and will, I promise) said about that particular experience I find I cannot now do so without an overabundance of expletives. SO...that will have to come at a later date. Suffice it to say, I am now comfortably installed at Chelsea's house for the remainder of the week. I'm rediculously spoiled, having baked goods at every turn, and overwhelmingly taken care of. I stayed home sick yesterday and stumbled out in the morning to find an array of mac&cheese and soup options laid out on the counter for me next to the packets of emergency balancing atop a water glass. I am immeasurably blessed to have friends and family that take care of me so.
So I spent the day yesterday feeling both sick and sorry for myself, and I'm back today in the land of beige cubicles and flourescent lights being lulled into that familiar feeling of numbness by the soft clicking of the analysts analizing ....whatever it is they do...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Moving Day!

Well just to keep this and anyone who reads it, up to date. Today is moving day for me. My apartment is in massive disarray and my car is loaded with boxes headed for the black hole of my brand new storage unit. Look at me! All grown up with my own storage!
Unfortunately with all the excitement this week my body grew jealous and launched a campaign for attention of its own...and now I'm croaky and feel pretty much gross. My throat hurts in a way that makes me seriously doubt the thoroughness of the surgeon who removed my tonsils when I was 5. (it was so long ago, did it really happen at all?) But I shall move! No more ghetto-style living for me! Well, until I find a new ghetto place to live. No more ice cream trucks that play "Godfather Theme" instead of nursery rhyme music. My friends have graciously allowed me to crash on their couches for the next few weeks while a few job prospects play out. Who knows what this next step will bring? But my stay in the eastern block neighborhood of Glendale is coming to a close. Stay tuned for more updates on my homeless adventure.