Entries from November 29th, 2012

2012 Gift Guide: The Garden Geek

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29.11.12

seed bombs and sling shot // gardeners hand healer // triangles terrarium
 seed kit // farmer’s market tote // tree id dishtowel
bird notebook // air plant garden // indoor compost bin

It may seem like forever until spring gets here, but your garden geek doesn’t have to wait until the crocuses sprout up to prep his or her spring and summer garden.

2012 Gift Guide: the Manly Chef

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28.11.12

whiskey stones  //  maker’s mark cherries  //  the art of shaving starter kit
canned guitar picks  //  bulleit rye whiskey  //  recipes every man should know
guitar picker’s wallet  //  fir needle beer soap  //  deni 1-qart deep fryer

All of the gifts I chose would be great for a man that enjoys good food, good beer, and good cocktails. I’m assuming the guitar-playing man is also a connoisseur of at least one of those things. And the toiletries are because, well, we care about our men looking and smelling good while they cook for us. Am I right, ladies?

2012 Gift Guide: The Coffee Lover

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27.11.12

creamer and sugar // filter holder // carafe // krups grinder // frother // espresso machine
red french press // airtight storage // mustache teapot // bamboo tea box

Well, let’s be honest. I’m addicted, you’re addicted, we’re all addicted to caffeine! Helping your friends and family members spruce up their home or office coffee station makes us all happy, productive human beings.

2012 Gift Guide: the Chic Chef

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26.11.12

crinkled mini baker // escontria pitcher // petrified wood magnets
measuring hedgies // forelle salt & pepper shakers // folk and flora rolling pin
birch paper straws // dachshund towel // scottie oven mitt

Making Mayonnaise

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20.11.12

Last night, I had a dream that two of my close friends in DC picked me up in a car that I did not recognize. We were going on a road trip.

Like most dreams, the scenery is familiar to me when I’m in the dream, but when I flashback after I’ve awoken, every road and every mountain is unrecognizable.

Thinking it was a simple road trip, in the dream, I realized that my friends were driving me to Philadelphia. In the dream, I recognized the city (reality: I’ve never been there, nor do I actually know what it looks like). They revealed to me that I was kidnapped because I had a job interview for an Art Director job at Runners’ World.

The great thing about this whole dream is that if this had ever happened in real life, I wouldn’t think twice. It’s not beyond the love or insanity, and the excitement and happiness I felt in the dream was pretty close to how excited and happy I’d feel if that same scenario had happened in real life.

I’ve been at my job for almost five months, now. And I’ve loved almost every moment of it. It’s weird (and unmistakably wonderful) to finally be in a good place. And I don’t only mean the workplace. But then again, my work is my life, and my life is my work.

After failing at turning down freelance clients, I’ve been on social lockdown for the better part of a month. Some projects are great; others are nightmares. Such is what happens when you take your passion and turn it into your source of income.

But when the nightmares are gone, and my projects are awesome, it’s beyond worth it. And every other option, if there were one, would feel contrived.

I lived in Tanzania for a summer when I was nineteen. There were so many things I’d change about myself back then, in the same I’m sure many of us would thoroughly enjoy turning back the clock and smacking our former selves with a brick of humility and then wipe off the resulting selfishness from the floor. And then torching the selfish sponge.

But I guess everyone was young and stupid at some point.

One of the things I look back on and appreciate the most was the simplicity with which we lived our lives. We ate, slept, drank and sang together in a beautiful house, just a five minute walk from the Indian Ocean, and about five feet from the gate to our house was a little vegetable stand. On warm days, a couple of the volunteers and I would make tomato sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, mayonaise, salt, and pepper. When we had electricity, we would “toast” the bread between the plates of a waffle iron. Almost seven years later, I find myself making the exact same sandwiches — comfort food, for the former international development worker.

I’ve always wanted to go back. To visit the friends I made who stayed there, to meet their husbands and wives, and their kids. To actually learn how to make chapatis, and to buy a lifetime supply of Chai Bora. To wake up to a glass of freshly squeezed passionfruit juice every morning.

I’ve also been getting a lot of mail from MICA, the school I almost started a graduate program at this summer. I even found myself browsing their MFA curriculum. And before I knew it, I was emailing my contacts there.

A few weeks ago, after a high school musical production and a late night dinner, I received two fortune cookies. The first’s fortune was forgettable. The second, however, read “Be assertive when decisive action is needed.” I stuffed them into a jacket pocket for safe keeping — it had been years since I actually kept a cookie’s fortune.

Yesterday, while waiting for the metro, I reached into my pocket and remembered the fortunes. Except the only one I had found in that pocket was the one I had forgotten about. Somewhat somber because I realized that I lost the good one, I crumpled the lesser fortune into the smallest morsel of paper I could. But I did not forget the fortune that I loved. Because you know what? It applies to everyone, and as of late, I’ve been alright. But sometimes, we need a little reminder.

Mayonnaise

Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 pinches sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolk salt, mustard, and sugar. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a separate bowl, and then vigorously whisk half into the yolk mixture. With one hand, whisk briskly, while slowly adding the oil a few drops at a time with the other hand. The liquid will thicken and lighten a bit (it’s emulsifying!). Once it starts thickening, you can slow down the whisking, and add the oil in slightly faster.

Once most of the oil is added, pour in the rest of the lemon juice mixture.

Continue whisking until all ingredients incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours then refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Music to Cook To

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19.11.12

For when you wake up on Thursday morning and need a bit of a wake up call — we all
know I’ll be drowsy-eyed and throwing stuff into the oven with my two closest friends in DC.

There will be coffee. And champagne, as always.

 Spotify playlist link here.

It’s also a pretty good work playlist. This is, anyway, music that I’ve been playing on repeat throughout the month of November.

Vanilla Souffles

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15.11.12

Sometime in the past few months, I realized that I have been living in Washington for more than three years. I actually had the day marked in my head: September 17th, your three-year anniversary of moving to DC. But the day came and went and I had completely forgotten about that day’s significance for at least a few days.

I’m generally pretty bad at remembering important dates — even though I spent a decent amount of time thinking about my three-year mark in the days and weeks leading up to it.

I often find myself thinking about the moment when I knew I had to do something about my life. It was absurdly iconic, looking back. Rachel had given me a gracious tour of the National Mall, which, up until that day, I had thought was a shopping mall (this new knowledge brought new meaning to my favorite Decemberists song). After a good deal of walking, admiring handsome passers by, and talking about the possibilities that we had ahead of us, I realized that I was ready to do something with my life.

With our feet in the fountain amidst the National Sculpture Garden, under the National Archives, I told her that I wanted to move here. And before she could even roll her eyes, I retracted the statement, and declared that I would most definitely move there.

Three weeks later, I packed a new suitcase that, to this day, has only been used three times. Because there is only so much you can do with a suitcase so large that you could smuggle yourself in — and that is to pack your life in it and take it someplace new.

My friends will back me when I say that I’m a light packer — even the slightest of hangovers will keep me from packing an actual suitcase to go anywhere. And all I really need is that brown, corduroy Jansport backpack that has been serving its purpose since my high school days, back in the Chaminade parking lot. Back then, it hauled student newspaper mock ups and AP study guides. These days, it’s usually stuffed with my running clothes and the latest samurai sudoku.

My first winter, ever, was here in DC. Before I left California, when I told my family how excited I was to experience something different, something I had never really felt before (winter). My stepmom’s immediate reaction was “I don’t know how you are going to survive out there.”

And so goes the California mindset.

The funny (maybe not so funny… perhaps, just factual) thing is that most of the country actually lives in a place that experiences some sorts of seasons. And most of them are just fine.

On a regular basis, I’m reminded by both Californians and non-West-Coasters of how wonderful that place really is.

I’ve had my December trip to California on my mind — a few nights of salsa dancing, a day trip to Santa Barbara, and having coffee on my patio with my parents, brothers, and Cody, our yellow labrador. Can’t wait.

Vanilla Souffles

Makes 4

Ingredients
Butter, at room temperature, to coat 4 ramekins
3/4 cup skim milk
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Icing sugar, to dust

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a pastry brush, coat four ramekins with a layer of butter. Set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine your milk and cream, and heat on medium for a few minutes. Once the solution starts to bubble, remove from heat.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk your egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar until evenly mixed. Add cornstarch to the mixture and continue whisking — the batter should thicken.

Like we’ve done with ice cream, we’re going to temper the egg mixture with a few tablespoons of the hot milk and cream. Spoonful by spoonful, add the cream mixture to the eggs, whisking vigorously to ensure that the eggs do not cook. As you add the cream mixture, you can add a larger amount with each batch. Once the eggs are liquidy, you can go ahead and combine the whole thing. Continue whisking, and then transfer back to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, and the custard should thicken to a pudding-like consistency.

Beat your egg whites in a stand mixer on high speed. After one minute, gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, and beat the eggs until stiff peaks form. Transfer the custard base to a large mixing bowl, and combine half of the egg whites into that bowl, incorporating with a whisk. Then, gently fold in the remaining egg whites with a rubber spatula.

Fill each of the ramekins with the souffle batter, and gently tap each ramekin on the counter to make sure there aren’t any air bubbles. Place the ramekins in a cake pan, and fill the pan about 1/3 full with water.

Bake the souffles for about 30 minutes, or until the tops rise and are a golden color. Turn the oven off when the timer goes off, and let the souffles rest for 5 minutes before opening the oven door. Remove souffles from the oven, dust with powdered sugar, and serve immediately.

True Blood Cookbook

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13.11.12

This calls for a second post today. Holy CRAP. How did I not know this exists?! Someone buy this, stat.

The True Blood Cookbook.

Shredded Brussel Sprout Slaw

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13.11.12

Save the years when Christmas is all about gifts (aka childhood), I’ve never considered myself much of a gifter.

Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love giving gifts. Making someone else happy is probably the best feeling in the world.

But after I went through college and learned that I had to learn how to support myself, I realized how trivial it was to be grown up and making lists of things that I wanted other people to buy for me.

Because, you know what? Things are just things. If they were that important to me, I should be able to buy them myself.

That’s just my opinion, anyway. To each her own.

I’ve always been a fan of doing things myself. Making my own lunches, designing my own invitations, and growing my own vegetables — these are things I’ve been into lately.

For the past few years — basically, since I started supporting myself — I haven’t been so much into giving or getting gifts. Gifting season often gets out of hand; and I realized so much when my family set a ten-dollar limit to Christmas. Children were the exception, and there were and still are only two. For the kids, we go crazy. But for the grown-ups, we keep it simple.

It basically converted Christmas into the family’s cheap booze exchange, which I have no complaints about whatsoever. When I only have a few days in California, I either drink it with my family as fast as I can, or fork over a few bills to check a suitcase filled with wine back to DC, where I drink it with my friends over homemade dinners as fast as we possibly can.

Despite the facets of gift-giving getting ridiculously out of hand, I think it’s safe to say that the feeling you get after giving a really good gift is one of the best feelings in the world.

This year is the fourth Thanksgiving I’ll be spending away from home. I’ll be thousands of miles from my family, just three hours ahead, but part of going off on your own and not looking back means taking some things into your own hands.

Thanksgiving will be at my house this year. This will be on the menu. I recommend it.

Shredded Brussel Sprouts with Lemon Mustard Dressing (adapted from the New York Times)

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (my favorite whole seed version)
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound brussel sprouts, fresh
2 apples of your choice — the tart ones are best
1 shallot, finely diced

Instructions

If you have a food processor with a shredder, then trim the ends off of your brussel sprouts and just shred away. For those of you like myself, you can just chop them up. The easiest way is to first slice each sprout in half, and then, starting at the top of the sprout, make skinny horizontal slices until you reach the end, at which point, you can just toss the end of the sprout in the trash.

Also finely dice your apples, and the shallot. Toss them in a mixing bowl, and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it all up.

Combine all of the  dressing ingredients in a bowl or a mason jar, and stir or shake until completely mixed.

Toss the salad right before serving, or let it sit in the dressing for about 30 minutes to make it more of a slaw. Dress with some pretty apple slices, and enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner.

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