Every Vote Counts, Dammit!

Every Vote Counts, Dammit! Recipes are merely a Suggestion K.C. Shomler

 

I feel bad that I kind of lost it with a friend the other day. He is one who enjoys politics as sport; loves to dissect the minutiae and talk about how idiotic it all is. In the best of times, I merely tolerate politics. I generally find it discouraging and frustrating to follow. But I do so grudgingly, enough to remain reasonably and respectably informed anyway. But currently, this fucking mess refuses to be ignored or kept at any kind of a safe distance to preserve my sanity. It is everywhere! It’s like passing the scene of a horrific accident and being unable to look away. And I am exhausted by it! The worst parts of ourselves and our country are continually on display. All of our country’s dirty laundry is just hanging out there for the world to see. Every. Ugly. Part.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. But it is painful and discouraging when these truths come to light. Growth often is painful and discouraging.

My frustration with my friend was about his insistence in repeating “my vote doesn’t matter”. I finally had to ask him to stop saying that (maybe a little firmer than I wanted to), at least around me. I get what he is trying to say – his one vote won’t affect the electoral outcome of our historically blue state, so why bother? The way I see it though, is that the exercise of voting has intrinsic value all by itself. It matters! Not just as a means to an end (impacting the outcome), but as an exercise of a right we enjoy that many around the world do not. Therefore, we need to take it seriously and use it or lose it. Once we allow others to make these important decisions on our behalf, we have ceased to be active engaged members of our society. Then we’ve really lost everything.

I’m not saying that any one of the candidates for president, or for any other office for that matter, will get us exactly where we need to go. But we can at least vote for those that are heading in the right direction, whichever way it is that we think is best. We have an opportunity and a duty to make our voices heard, and that always counts.

Every Vote Counts, Dammit! Recipes are merely a Suggestion K.C. Shomler

Gift from The Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This book is tiny, but mighty. Written by an obvious introvert, so she basically had me right there.

It’s a little dated, but still relevant. There is an assumption that the majority of women do not work outside the home, but remember this book was written in a totally different generation when that was true. When you look past that, there are all sorts of gems found here.

Beautiful words and imagery couch some incredibly deep analysis of changes women (primarily, but also men) go through, particularly at middle life. Her writing speaks to me on a deep, heart level. She has eloquently put into words the internal and external struggles I have been feeling over the past few years. Who am I, where am I going, what is my purpose, why am I not satisfied with what I have?

I feel understood and validated that this is a less well-defined but nonetheless predictable developmental stage in life and it is ok, even expected and natural that I am feeling this way. Most developmental theory seems to kinda gloss over these middle-aged years (especially for women). Lots of emphasis on your body beginning to break down, your mind starting to slip and how you just soldier on with raising kids, working and making money with nothing particularly interesting happening. Oh, except maybe you are also lucky enough to be caring for your aging parents as well (right here) or perhaps having a middle life crisis. But this is a crock! Not the part about helping parents (that’s a privilege, at least for me it is), but the part about this stage of life being a yawn-fest that sometimes culminates in an epic, tragic, negative struggle.

It sounds a little cheesy, but I prefer to think of this transitional time in life less as a “crisis” and more as a huge opportunity to start a new and fun chapter. It is not without any struggle to be sure, but overall, I feel like my life has gotten richer and deeper. I enjoy using my brain which feels powerful – like a muscle car amped up on experience, creativity and wisdom. It is fucking fun to drive this thing around! I feel like I am breaking new ground, letting go of shit that no longer serves me and I am excited to see where this new creative phase of life leads me. This book is a great reminder that getting older doesn’t have to be a downer, but rather, offers its own charms and opportunities to those of us who choose to see it this way.

Excellent Eggs

I just spent the last 5-10 minutes at my kitchen sink washing chicken shit off of 3 dozen eggs. Why, you ask? Because fresh eggs are totally worth it! And we eat A LOT of eggs.

Whenever we run out, instead of toddling on down to the Safeway to collect some sad, sad commercially raised chicken eggs, I instead head a little farther east and pick up some fresh eggs from a neighbor that raises backyard chickens.

They are affordable ($3/dozen), but require a little more effort (less convenient than the grocery and require aforementioned washing). They aren’t uniform and come in all colors, shapes (yes, even shapes) and sizes. If you’ve only ever used commercial eggs, you are in for a surprise! To my eyes, the variability makes them even more appealing. I feel like I’m eating something real.

And the taste? Absolutely delicious. They have brighter, more vibrant yolks, richer flavor and commercial eggs literally pale in comparison. The process of washing and drying the eggs is also rather meditative, not entirely unpleasant. Go ahead, find a neighbor or local farm and just try it.

The Artist’s Journey

This book really kicked my ass. Into gear.

I’m taking a lot of liberties here, but the main messages I took away from reading this succinct little book of wisdom include:

    • Our creative or artist side (whatever our medium of choice) exists on kind of a parallel plane to normal everyday life.
    • It is up to us to find our way and tap into this other reality and let our creativity flow out of us.
    • Problem is, we let stupid shit get in the way of this = resistance.
    • The best way to access our internal wisdom and creativity is to regularly sit down and just fucking do it. For example, if your medium is writing, you’ve got to create habits that get you in front of that keyboard on a regular basis.

I also appreciated how this author’s voice careens back and forth between classical literature to pop references, brass tacks tough love to woo-woo wacky existential stuff all the while merrily ignoring the accepted “rules” of how to write a traditional book. This delights me to no end! It’s a wild ride of a trip through one artist’s stream of consciousness about how to unleash your own brand of creativity but does not suffer for this format. It is at once entertaining and incredibly inspiring, but thankfully, avoids the pitfall of shaming readers for not just doing it already.

Is It Time to Say Yes to Mr Rightnow?

I feel like my creative analogies are becoming hopelessly mixed up with each other!  Or, perhaps more optimistically – intertwined.

I talk and write about dating and relationships, I write about cooking as a metaphor for carefree, creative living and both of these are currently informing how I think about my job prospects! What a world of wonder. Anyhoo, as mentioned before, I have been on a journey away from the rat race and toward a more fulfilling professional life. I left a perfectly good, full-time corporate healthcare job on principle and for a while anyway, frantically sought to replace it with another just like it. I was trying to follow the recipe for what grown-ups my age are supposed to do; Have a steady job and provide for their families. This desperation slowly morphed into a new attitude toward work; a more mercenary approach to work as a transaction, a way to simply make money to fund other more personally important creative projects. Oh, and keep my family afloat. And less tangled up with my identity. I could work, but not have it define or consume me.

And it has been good. Mostly. Emotionally and creatively it has been fantastic. I don’t have to choose between my family and work. I am rested enough and not burned out so my creative energy for writing and podcasting has been amazing. I’m cranking out content like nobody’s business! The not so great side of it all? I have to think about money more, like where and how to get it. So far, knock on wood, I have managed to cobble together enough freelance work to survive. Comfortably, if not lavishly. My work-related stress is at an all-time low since I am not a regular employee anywhere; just a pinch-hitter, so to speak. Another bonus – all of the politics and other shit that comes with regular employment does not affect me. I have to buy my own health insurance which hurts the wallet, but otherwise, this is all working out.

To use a dating analogy, I’m dating casually right now but not jumping into any long-term commitments. I’m biding my time and waiting for Mr Right (my independent, creative “job” that I don’t know if it exists anywhere or ever will, but I’m still going for it). Here’s the wrench though – I’m kind of tired out with dating (working freelance). I might be ready for a break, but I still haven’t found Mr Right and I’m not going to settle for less. Enter Mr Rightnow. One of my freelance jobs wants to hire me as a regular employee. Do I take it and relax in the warm embrace of a steady paycheck, crappy but covered health insurance and an office to hang my degrees? Not for long term, but just for now? Is it worth it or am I going backwards? How will I feel having a set schedule again? Will my kids be ok with this? What (if anything) will this do to my creative energy?? So many questions, not enough answers. I think I will at least allow the offer process to play out. And, seeing as how I am now clear about approaching work with the goal of money and not identity or long-term commitment, it may feel like less of a noose and more of pleasant boat ride where I can put my feet up and cruise to the next stop on my journey. I’ll still do a good job of course because that’s who I am, but I just won’t let it become my whole life. We will have to see how good the offer is…stay tuned.

 

Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel

Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler

Potato salad has never been beloved by me, though I understand it holds a dear place in many people’s hearts. I’m talking that gloppy, light yellow, faintly eggy mess that my mom, and probably many other moms made in the summertime for barbecues. To me it has always been just ok.

The one I made yesterday though was a game changer.

I guess I’m currently in my lemon period, because I’ve been putting that shit into everything lately. But here, in lowly potato salad, it really shines. Transforming something that is at best mediocre in my mind into a divine dish. Here’s how:

Boil up some potatoes, I used gold ones because that’s what I had, but anything would work. I peel mine before, but the skins do slip off easier after boiling. I guess I just enjoy the meditative ritual of peeling them beforehand. Whatever, you do you. Drain them once they are tender to a fork, but not falling apart. This isn’t a mashed potato recipe. Cool them off while you mix up the dressing in the bottom of a bowl. I made mine with mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest, garlic olive oil, salt and pepper with chopped up fennel fronds. I love roasting fennel bulbs but was stuck about what to do with the leftover beautiful and bountiful fronds – this was my solution! Instantly added color, texture and a faint hint of anise-y flavour (don’t fear the fennel, it is really subtle used in this way). Then I added the potatoes, some red onion (why do we call them red onions when they are really purple??). Mixed it all together and added more salt and pepper to taste. This is destined to become my new signature potluck/BBQ contribution. At least until I enter my next flavor phase.

KC Shomler

Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler

Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler Lemony Potato Salad with Fennel Recipes are Merely a Suggestion KC Shomler

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name? by KC Shomler Recipes Are Merely a Suggestion

You know, I’ve never loved my name. It didn’t ever feel like it suited me. I always dreamed about being a Julie when I was a kid (Why this particular name, I have no idea. Possibly the cruise director from The Love Boat?!). In high school my close friends started calling me by my initials, KC. That became a treasured nickname. So I guess even my friends didn’t see me as a Karen. For a while I entertained the idea of having a nom de plume or pen name. The name I came up with? “Serendipity Chance”. Ha! Sounds so cheesy now, but it might have been ok if I was going to write erotica. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Later, a friend and I decided we would each have alter-ego names to suit the non-mom side of our personas. She was Coco and I was Veronica. Sounds more daring and a hint glamorous. We had some good adventures. I still kind of like the idea of Veronica.

There was a story about my name this morning in the New York Times. The goddamned New York Fucking Times! All about how “Karen” has degenerated into shorthand for a middle aged, white racist asshole of a woman. Jesus! My name has morphed from an ill-fitting suit of clothes to something akin to a  Nazi swastika. Before, I just sort of tolerated my name but didn’t ever really identify with it and now…well now I don’t even know what to do with it.

What’s in a Name? by KC Shomler Recipes Are Merely a Suggestion

Changing it seems cowardly and perhaps somehow like I am admitting guilt. I get it that sensible people probably won’t assume that just because I have the name and I am middle aged and white that I embody everything about this particular meme. However, I also know that people are often lazy thinkers. So, there will be plenty of people that will make these assumptions about me based on my name. Nothing I can do about that I guess, but it still irks me. My name has been hijacked.

Fuck it; from now on just call me Veronica.

KC Shomler

What’s in a Name? by KC Shomler Recipes Are Merely a Suggestion

A Grief Explored

A Grief Explored by KC Shomler

I finally realized that I am grieving for my country. Duh. I’m no stranger to grieving, but this is new.

I’m grieving for the loss of any sense of an attitude of cohesiveness, shared burden and basic common decency toward each other. It appears we are increasingly out for our own interests, every man for himself, fuck you I got mine.

I’m grieving for the absence of a presidential president. Someone with class, vision, leadership and, well, couth. Or maybe even someone who at least recognizes the value in appearing this way (I’m not naive).

I’m grieving for our loss of place in the world. We used to be great. Maybe rather brash and crude at times, but still, perhaps arguably, a commanding and inspiring world leader. Now? We are basically the laughingstock of planet Earth. And slowly imploding in a fiery ball of unchecked rampaging virus, civil unrest, racial injustice, economic freefall, and a healthcare system finally unmasked for the total shitshow that it really is. Now is the time for us to come together to fix this. Sadly,  we can’t even to talk to each other when so much needs to be said. I thought we were better than this. My heart is heavy.

 

KC Shomler

I Love Lemons

I Love Lemons Karyn Shomler kc is me Recipes Are Merely a Suggestion

Lemons, fuck yeah. More versatile than you think too.

Of course the prime use is as a twist in my vodka martini, but that’s obvious.

I Love Lemons Karyn Shomler kc is me Recipes Are Merely a Suggestion

Other uses for a bit of that signature yellow brightness: Squeezed over roasted vegetables. In a mustard vinaigrette. Zested over steamed asparagus or broccoli. In dips like hummus or guacamole. In pestos and pistous. Might even be good in pea soup. Zested or juiced into chicken soup. Sweet stuff: lemon bars, lemon curd, lemon cheesecake.

I Love Lemons Karyn Shomler kc is me Recipes Are Merely a Suggestion

And make your own damn lemonade, plus or minus booze. Add the zest (that’s flavor, don’t trash it). Squeeze the juice (after zesting, much easier). Add water to desired level of tartness. Make a simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar, warm til dissolved then cool). Sweeten lemonade to taste with the simple syrup. Could even keep the sweetener separate so people can sweeten their own. Fuck that Country Time nonsense, just a can of chemicals.

KC Shomler aka kc is me

I Love Lemons Karyn Shomler kc is me Recipes Are Merely a Suggestion

Hunger, by Roxane Gay

Hunger Roxane Gay Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion Karyn Shomler

I read this book in one day over a month ago and I am still thinking about it.

The subject matter is relevant, to be sure; I think we’d be hard pressed to find an American woman today without “body issues” and/or a history of some sort of sexual abuse.

The honesty and artistry of the telling though. That’s what really got to me. The openness to her own vulnerability and willingness to share it was incredibly awe inspiring. I felt exposed myself by virtue of her exposing her deepest self. There could be no hiding anymore after reading this account.

So beautifully written too. A casual tone and an economy of words, but with nothing left unsaid. How does she do that?! Truly a work of heartbreaking beauty. Makes me want to run right out and read everything she has every written and give her a hug of gratitude (which she wouldn’t want, the latter that is).

KC Shomler

Hunger Roxane Gay Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion Karyn Shomler

Hunger Roxane Gay Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion Karyn Shomler

Hunger Roxane Gay Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion Karyn Shomler

 

The Tyranny of The Shoulds

The Tyranny of The Shoulds Karyn Shomler

The goddamned shoulds are everywhere and they are out to get you! In fact, they came for me just this morning while I was on the most pleasant walk with my dog. Luckily, this time at least, I was able to tell them to GTFO. I’m not always this successful. The shoulds are wily, insidious and come in all different shapes and sizes.

The Tyranny of The Shoulds Karyn Shomler The Tyranny of The Shoulds Karyn Shomler The Tyranny of The Shoulds Karyn Shomler

Little shoulds: I should be weeding my yard. I should read that pile of magazines that is gathering dust on my coffee table. I should update my kids’ memory books. Big shoulds: I should learn a foreign language. I should work out more and lose weight. I should paint the house and fix the front steps. Super-sized shoulds: I should be making more money. I should have a full-time job like everybody else. I should be saving more for retirement and my kids’ college educations.

Shoulds are tyrannical because they prevent you from enjoying your present moments. They guilt and shame you for not doing what you think you oughta be doing instead of whatever it is you are doing. And consequentially, they suck the pleasure out of your activity/day/life. They prevent you from really inhabiting yourself. They leave you torn between what is not happening now but you think is a “better” use of your time and what IS happening now. That’s a total mindfuck and useless to boot!

So, do just that – boot those shoulds out of your head and own your decision to really do whatever it is you are doing right now and ENJOY it. Try to be just there and there alone. Wherever “there” is. I’m not perfect at this, but I keep trying. When a should lands on me, I throw it back. Starting with the small stuff to build up my anti-should muscles and working my way up to the bigger ones. Definitely a work in progress.

Kitchen Gadget Haiku

Stupid Kitchen Gadgets Haiku Poem by Kc is me AKA Karyn Shomler

Where stupid kitchen gadgets abound,

Overflowing drawers and cabinets,

I use a knife.

 

Not really a classic haiku, but when have I been known to follow the rules?!

As I’ve already stated, ad nauseam, I prefer to use simple, versatile tools. Like a knife instead of a garlic peeler, an avocado cutter, banana slicer or pizza scissors. Rarely do I find these single use gadgets to be time savers or more effective tools (except my hard-boiled egg slicer, judge me if you must). Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE stupid kitchen gadgets! I find them entertaining, puzzling, often hysterically funny and sometimes just plain odd.

A few of my favorites: The motorized ice cream cone (so you don’t have to turn your cone manually to avoid drips, like a sucker). The countertop rotating pizza cooker (um, oven?). The egg cracker (when you just can’t be bothered). Corn cob kernel remover (for those who don’t own, say, a knife?). Would you believe I actually owned the hot dog maker at one point in my life? It was called the “Hot Diggity Dogger”. It looked like and pretty much functioned as a classic toaster. Load the appropriately shaped slots, push down and heat your hot dog bun and frank at the same time (Thanks Darlene). Ingenious! And soooo many more!

I welcome any great finds out there, send ‘em in.

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Stupid Kitchens Gadgets from kc is me AKA Karyn Shomler

 

 

Who Am I and Where Am I Going?!

 

Who Am I and Where Am I Going Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion kc is me Karyn Shomler

I am really feeling this one lately. I grew up and into a person that wasn’t me. Not blaming anyone, I let it happen, but changing direction at 48 is no fucking picnic! Without the protective invincibility of youth, striking out on your own and away from what is tried and true, especially with a family in tow, is really scary. I began this journey, somewhat reluctantly, about a year ago.  Continuing to live my life as a full-time working zombie in the American healthcare system was no longer tenable. Not sure how much actual progress I have made since leaving that life behind, but I’m still going! And I am (mostly) happier on a day to day basis compared to when I was a full-fledged member of the rat race. Except for the minutes, hours, days, weeks that I allow my fears to get the better of me – How is this all going to work? Will we run out of money? Am I good enough? What does my family think? How does this story end??

It is difficult to move away from the only shore you have ever known and stay the course when you aren’t even sure where the fuck you are headed! There is folk wisdom that advises “think from the end, from where you want to be”, but what if I don’t know what or where “the end” is for me? I mean,  I do have some ideas (I want to be self employed and creative), but there are no guarantees that  promised land even exists (for me) and no roadmap to get there. I can be very goal oriented, but that doesn’t work here. Its not like before when I decided I wanted a career in healthcare and there was a very well-defined path  and series of steps to get there. This is something else entirely and involves multiple and consistent leaps of faith while also remaining relaxed enough to just roll with it and have peace that everything will work out. Historically, these have not been strengths of mine!

I have been following “the rules” for so long, living in a (mostly) socially acceptable way, that it is hard to even imagine what my life could look like without them. And I’m a pretty creative thinker! But, it’s almost as if I’m afraid to dare to dream. To really sink into what I want for myself and indulge those thoughts because somehow, it is naughty to do that. And prideful – why should I have a better, more dazzling and fulfilling life than anyone else? What have I done to deserve that? What makes me think I am talented enough to make a living off of the power of my own creativity? Besides, I’ve got it pretty good right now; great family, solid, recession worthy job, tidy suburban home in a safe neighborhood, my health and health insurance (such as it is) – I’ve got “The American Dream” so why ask for more? Isn’t that greedy? And ungrateful? And unnecessarily risky? Am I just lazy and shirking my responsibilities as a grownup? Yet, I chafe. And my mind and heart and soul won’t let me drop it. I don’t want more, I want different.

I don’t know exactly who I am going to become or exactly how I am going to get there, but I do know that who I have been in the past no longer fits. Best keep swimming and keep my eyes open for a tantalizing new shore. And have faith I will recognize it when it appears.

Who Am I and Where Am I Going Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion kc is me Karyn Shomler

Laptop Confessional

I’ve got a confession to make:

I’ve got a big ol’ crush on Richard Branson!

This book –  Like a Virgin offers a glimpse beneath the mane. Great business mind, kind heart, likes to break the rules (for good), empowers his employees to take exceptional care of customers. An all-around Rockstar who is not afraid to take risks. And he owns his own private tropical island.

Yeah, that last bit kind of gets me. The risk part, not the island part. I could take some lessons from Sir Richard’s example and dismantle my own aversion to risk. One of his mottos after all is “Screw it, let’s do it!” I could definitely benefit from more of that attitude in my life, more courage to go for it and pursue what interests me and what I find personally fulfilling. Damn the consequences!  And… that tropical island bit wouldn’t hurt either.

 

More Ways With Wasabi

More Ways With Wasabi Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion

I think everybody knows how to eat wasabi with sushi, but there is so much more to this cute lil’ plant! I am fortunate enough to have a local source for fresh wasabi from Oregon Coast Wasabi, but they do ship, so that means you can too. And not just the root (or more accurately, rhizome) which is the most familiar part, but the whole plant. Yup, you can eat the leaves and stems as well and you should, because they are delicious! You can even grow your own wasabi at home because they sell plant starts. I’ve got one on my front porch in a pot that I completely ignore but it continues to grow for me. Unconditional wasabi love, sigh.

The stems are one of my favorite parts of the plant. They have a crunch like celery when they get bigger in size, but with a wonderful peppery punch of flavor. I snack on them as is. They would not be out of place on a crudité platter with some creamy dreamy dips (hummus, ranch if that’s how you roll, others). I’m convinced that adding some chopped bits for crunch in chicken or tuna salad would rock. When the plants are smaller, the stems look and taste a bit like chives on steroids. I add them to mashed potatoes along with some crumbles of blue cheese. Soooo good!

The leaves can be enormous and almost prehistoric looking! Beautiful, dark green and heart shaped, cue the awwwww. They have a deep green/verdant flavor with a distinctive aromatic heat at the end when eaten raw. I like to tear a few into a salad for some added interest or when I need a peppery bite on a sandwich. Think arugula or watercress and you get the idea. I bet these leaves would be delicious as a stand-in for boring butter lettuce in lettuce wraps or as a bread substitute – fill with chicken or egg or tuna salad, maybe even a burger. I’m definitely making that for lunch soon!

More Ways With Wasabi Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion

More Ways With Wasabi Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion More Ways With Wasabi Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion

More Ways With Wasabi Recipes Are Merely A Suggestion

I have found that the more you process the fresh wasabi leaves, either by cooking or through other machinations, the mellower they get. In one flash of inspiration I blanched the leaves and used them in place of spinach for spanakopita. It was good, but I was surprised to find it far less assertive and wasabi-like than I had expected. But really, how can you go wrong with cheese and greens wrapped in pastry?! I would make it again. But where the leaves really shone in my book was in a pistou.  I whirled up a whole mess of them in my mini food processor with lemon juice, lemon zest, hazelnuts (not too many, they can overpower), salt and olive oil. That’s it and the result was a paste of magical bright deliciousness with multiple applications that I’m still discovering. And accidentally vegan too! We found it tasty on cauliflower gnocchi one night as well as over roasted potatoes and slathered on a pork tenderloin another. I expect it would be equally good atop toasted rustic bread with tomatoes for a riff on bruschetta.  I can attest that a spoonful stirred into brothy soup is absolutely transformative and swoon worthy. If you want it to have more sinus-clearing clout, you can add in some pure wasabi powder or seasoning salt or even a sprinkle of Coleman’s dry mustard in a pinch to amp it up. Who knew wasabi was so versatile? Now you do, so go git yourself some!

 

Cryin’ Over Wine

My sweet brother John sent me some fantastic wine in the mail and what do I do when it arrives? I burst into tears.

Not happy tears either. Deep, soul-level sad tears.

Not an expected reaction to a nice gift, you say? Well, let me tell you a little about grief:

It is sneaky. My older brother Mike died over 7 years ago, but the arrival of this particular wine that we had shared many times over the years to celebrate a variety of special times brought a big wave of grief crashing back on me. It caught me unawares, such a visceral reaction so long after losing him. But that’s another thing about grief – it eases up over time, but never completely goes away. And another weird thing about grief? Even though it is an uncomfortable feeling, I also sort of welcome it when it shows up because it reminds me of some important things: I was lucky to have such a great brother in my life and that we took time to make some really great memories together. I am grateful for the great brother I still have and that we can continue to make great memories, and share old ones. It also reminds me that life is pretty unpredictable so remember to focus on the things that really matter and bring you joy on a daily basis. I’m so grateful for all of it.

Morning Madness

Why do I leave my house in the early morning to get to my workplace  long before it opens? Why do I then sit in my car outside my office typing on my computer in the dark? Because to me, this simple act symbolizes that my personal work, the work of writing and creating, comes first. So on my way to my paying job, I make time for this concrete reminder of who I am and what is important to me.

Its important and that’s why I leave my house an hour earlier than I need to in order to get to work on time. Just like I make time to cook and feed myself and my family real food. Its all about priorities. What do your priorities say about you?

What I am trying to say with mine is: my creative life is more important than my money-making job and I will always strive to put it first. My brain also works best in the morning (sometimes VERY early mornings) so this arrangement works well for me. My creative work gets my best brain power. This makes me feel good, or at least better, about spending time at my job that pays the bills because I’ve already taken time to feed my soul and further my creative dreams.

It’s a tangible way I can express my priorities in life while still taking care of business (earning a living). It’s a Jedi mind trick, that prevents me from feeling like I’m selling out my dreams to make a buck.

You Don’t Win Friends with Salad

You Don’t Win Friends with Salad Recipes are merely a Suggestion K.C. Shomler

Or maybe you do win friends with THIS salad! It was one of my usual wingin’ it dinners, this time with an Autumn theme. I was feeling Fall and these things I had in my kitchen filled the salad bill way beyond expectations. But this one was admittedly kind of special. My kids even like it. And talked about it the next day! Please note, that’s a major achievement with teenagers so allow me a moment to bask.

Plus, it’s pretty.

And, OMG, accidentally healthy! Bonus!

I started with a bed of mixed greens, because that’s what I had, but any lettuce would do. I liked the dark green background though. Then some red onions sliced thin, yellow bell peppers, pomegranate arils (aka seeds), toasted pepitas and my homemade (world not-famous) croutons. The dressing is where a lot of the magic happened. Into my adorable mini-blender went some chopped up apple (I can’t remember what kind, probably a Fuji or maybe it was a Granny), apple cider vinegar, a little sugar (honey or whatever other sweetener would work here too), tiny bit of dried tarragon from my garden (it’s easy to overdo that flavour, but other herbs could be used), avocado oil (I wanted a light oil with little flavor of its own), salt and pepper. Blended til smooth and it was great tossed with everything else.

You Don’t Win Friends with Salad Recipes are merely a Suggestion K.C. Shomler

 

I’m No Prepper

I’m not a meal planner or prepper. I know a lot of people find these strategies  useful for planning purposes, eliminating food waste and preserving the brain power and energy involved with getting food to the table on a regular basis, but they just feel way too restrictive for me. What if I have chili planned for Tuesday but then when Tuesday rolls around what I really want is chicken piccata? I’m no good at following rules, recipes or scheduled menus.

That being said, I am a champion pantry stocker, larder liner and food repurposer. I detest food waste and these strategies allow me to keep good food moving through my kitchen and into the bellies that I love without winding up moldering in my fridge or relegated to the compost heap. I also have an uncanny ability to keep an accurate mental inventory of my food supplies and when they might be approaching expiration. I have a pretty good idea of what we have on hand at any one point in time, unlike others in my household who shall remain nameless, but are responsible for multiple open containers and redundant buys that clutter our fridge and cupboards. Ahem. Moving on…

I think part of the secret here is keeping a consistent stock of staples. These are the majority of my shopping (probably 80%) and are highly versatile so that I can make most of the stuff we like to eat on a regular basis. For instance, we always have carrots, onions and celery in the fridge because we make a lot of soups and other dishes that have these as a starting point. We always stock broth in a jar, noodles, rice, potatoes, olive oil, garlic and tons of spices. I’m not going to go through my whole larder, but you get the idea. I also make a point of keeping spares of frequently used items and immediately replace the spare as soon as I put it into action. For example, when I open my reserve jar of stock from my pantry, it goes right on the next shopping list so I never run out at an inconvenient time. Its smart to make most of your stock stuff that use regularly, then you always know mostly what you have. Only about 20% of the stuff I buy varies, usually seasonally but some times opportunistically. Like berries in the summer or when we are given some fish or meat or hazelnuts or we get a wild craving for something not typically on the menu. The 20% is harder to keep track of in my mental inventory and these items are at highest risk of being overlooked and rotting. The 80% comprises most of our meals and allows me to make use of the 20%. Is that too math-y?

Repurposing is another favorite strategy and has become something of a game for me. Much to my family’s amusement. Or maybe whatever the opposite of that is. But they indulge me. Leftover rice, meat, omelet, cooked, frozen or fresh veggies are fair game for fried rice. Bones and veggie tops are gathered in a Ziploc bag in my freezer for making stock. Aging, wrinkly tomatoes get roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt then blended up into sauce. Wilty greens get a second life sauteed and added to soups, frittatas or pastas. Leftover mashed potatoes become tasty “glue” for breakfast quesadillas; I made my husband one the other day that incorporated mashed potatoes, a couple of straggler spaetzles, sliced chicken schnitzel and red cabbage; it was a teutonic feast! Leftovers and scraps are culinary creativity just waiting to happen.

 

 

50 for 50

I can’t believe I’m in my 50th year of life. How the fuck did that happen?!

I like birthdays. Its like your own personal holiday. And I’ve never felt weird about my age or getting older. I’m not feeling bad or sad or mad about turning 50 in 2021, but I do feel a certain sense of wonder. Like, wow, that’s a lot of years on Earth.

I am also reflective; a lot has happened in that time span! Both good and bad, happy and sad. Hard to believe it is all part of the same story, my story.

I love stories, especially those found in books. Fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, travel books, self-help, philosophy, memoirs – you name it. Books have been constant and treasured companions during my life.  So I’ve decided to include them in a little commemorative challenge I have set out for myself during my 50th year  – read 50 books before my 50th birthday. That’s a lot of books! And my social media consumption is likely to suffer, but I am committed. I’m a little over a week in and already 3 down, stay tuned!

Rainbow American Diet (RAD)

I know so many people that, sadly, eat the SAD (Shitty American Diet) and it makes them feel shitty. Processed crap, little to no fruits or veggies, precious little that resembles actual, real, satisfying food. Comes in a box or a bag with more than 5 ingredients on the label? That’s not food. Obtained through a drive thru? Most likely not high quality food (only weirdos with poor taste order the fast food salad which is invariably kinda limp and pale).

Real food is colorful and makes you feel good. Kinda like rainbows. Don’t tell me you are too busy, too poor or too lazy to eat right. It is not that hard. And you should be a priority to yourself. Food is fuel and you are what you eat, so improve the quality of what you put into yourself for chrissakes! Don’t get all overwhelmed either, you can start by simply adding some color.

Here is one very basic thing you can do to start turning things around that hopefully won’t send you running back to the drive thru for comfort: Buy frozen veggies and fruit. Whatever you like. They are cheap and already cut up for those of you who are poor and/or lazy. Plus, they won’t go bad very fast, they require almost zero prep and you don’t even have to know how to cook; you can just add them to stuff you are already eating, even if it is crap. Throw a handful of mixed veg into your ramen or mac and cheese. Roll some corn and peppers up in a tortilla with cheese and refried beans. Put broccoli on a baked potato with some salsa. Mix green beans, carrots and a can of kidney beans with pasta and broth for a quick minestrone. If that is too hard, start by adding some mixed veg to canned soup. Make some rice and put your favorite veg in there with soy sauce for pseudo fried rice. Whatever you are eating, think about if you can add some fruit or veg to it. You can do this.

My goal is to eat veggies with every meal; yep, even breakfast. How do I get them into breakfast? 2 main ways – on top of toast or mixed into eggs. Toast topped with hummus or avocado then add diced bell peppers and onions, sometimes cucumbers. Sometimes cheese toast with green onions and pickled peppers. Does require fresh veg and minimal knife skills, I know, but not very complicated. Fritattas or scrambles are a cinch and you can use fresh, frozen or even leftover veg from another meal. It’s basically just scrambled eggs with colorful stuff added in; made in a pan on the stove or baked in the oven. Easy. If you are more of a fruit lover (unlike me), try putting fresh or frozen berries or apple slices on top of peanut butter toast. Ever tried freezing orange segments or grapes? They are delicious little mini popsicle snacks. Add fruit to yogurt or cereal. Its ok to start small, but get some color in there! Eat RAD not SAD (I am aware that I am a dork).

Your Are A Badass

This book spoke to me on many levels. The author’s voice is delightful and was a total joy to read! I wish I could write like this, goals.  Like a trusted, potty-mouthed friend who wants to help light a fire under your ass so you will reach your goddamned potential already. No Eeyores allowed!

There is so much no-nonsense wisdom packed in here as well. One bit that sticks out in particular for me (and I may or may not have it framed on my wall as a reminder) is about how you shouldn’t assume that just because something you enjoy comes easily to you it doesn’t have value. And can (hopefully) make you rich. That was sort of revelatory for me because I think I had it in my mind, somewhere deep, that work is both hard and, well,  kind of sucks. I like this idea much better!

This is a book I will probably go back to over and over again when I need a shot of courage. Well, this and maybe some tequila. But seriously, it is very difficult to step out of the socially sanctioned rat race and try to do your own thing. I’m doing this and I often feel simultaneously naughty and terrified. It helps to have a voice of reason and encouragement to turn to at these times.

I like just seeing it on my shelf too  – its a good reminder that I am indeed a badass! And I’m getting closer to owning it.

 

Pickled Red Onions

 

I’ve never met an onion I don’t like. Seriously. Even from a young age I was all about onions. I can remember when I was in elementary school and making myself toasted cheese sandwiches on white bread, tillamook mild cheddar with green onions on top. For breakfast, of course! Now that I’m all grown up, I still can’t get enough onions. I’ve been known to eat a slab of sharp cheese (think Cougar Gold, one of my favorites) on top of a slice of onion. Fuck crackers!

I spent a few months in Belize at one point in my life and was delighted to find pickled onions everywhere!  One particular dish from my time there that I still make to this day is called garnaches. Its basically a smashed bean tostada, but with pickled onions plus or minus carrots and cabbage on top, sometimes a bit of crumbled white cheese and lots of Marie Sharp’s hot sauce (at least in my world). The flavors and textures combine perfectly.

Now I keep a jar of pickled onions in my fridge to liven up so many things. Garnaches, hummus on toast, mexican tortas, sandwiches, grilled cheese. Anything that may benefit from a pickled onion snap. The possibilities for onion lovers is endless.

To make your own easy pickled onions, cut up some onions (red onions turn a pretty color, but white or yellow work fine too). Put them in a jar and add a brine. I mixed apple cider vinegar and warm water to dissolve some honey for my last batch, but you could experiment with different vinegars and sweeteners if you like. Just none of that fake sugar shit. That stuff’ll kill ya. Adding some herbs might be fun too – I think some fresh tarragon might be nice. Or maybe go the non-sweet route and leave out the sugar product, then add dill or even garlic. Tuck them snugly into the jar, put the lid on and let them marinate in the fridge for a bit. Mine were tasty even after a day and I’m still snacking on them 2 weeks later with no signs of impending spoilage or symptoms of botulism. Having a jar in the fridge ready to go is so satisfying for my onion loving heart.

 

Hummus Among Us

I made the weirdest hummus today! But wait til you hear how I ate it, that’s even more bizarre.

So I make homemade hummus pretty frequently and always (loosely) follow the basic recipe – garbanzos, tahini, lemon, olive oil, salt, take some liberties with other add-ins and flavourings. But that’s the basics and its so good. Today however, I got a wild hair and just ran with it.

Cooked up some dried garbanzos (or chickpeas, if you will) in my slow cooker. With a slow cooker (AKA CrockPot), this is really easy; you can even put them on before you go to bed and they will be done in the morning then store them in the fridge for a couple of days until you get around to using them. You can skip this step and use canned, but I just find it kind of satisfying to make my own. Plus, they are way less salty. Back to hummus, garbanzos and a bit of their liquid went in the nutri bullet (or whatever inferior blender you have) then I added cumin (not so weird), some salt and a splash of pickle juice plus the habanero and jalapeno peppers from a jar of Aidan’s Atomic Pickles, level 3. I get it that these parts are usually what gets thrown out after all of the delicious pickles are eaten, but it seemed too good to throw out! Sometimes I use the leftover pickle brine a few times by adding carrotts or other good pickling veg, but I digress from my hummus story. Blended all of that up until it was just right with a little olive oil added to achieve texture perfection. So how did it turn out, my pickled pepper hummus? Fucking awesome!

Best part though? Eating it the next morning spread on jalapeño cheddar sourdough toast with pickled red onions and sprinkled with savory granola for crunch. Yesirreee!

Forgot to take a photo with the crunchy granola topping on the toast…you’ll have to imagine it there.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Comfortable

I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.  -Brene Brown

 

I’ve been cooking with reckless abandon and a devil may care attitude for as long as I can remember, but I still get intimidated at times. And I think that is good for my growth!

Case in point: my sweetie and I were left to our own devices on Christmas day this year with nary a commitment in sight. We had planned to take ourselves out to a dive bar breakfast, but once the cold foggy morning dawned, the lure of a cozy house complete with warm fireplace and cute cuddly dog was too hard to resist.

What to make though? Should be something special given that it was Christmas, but not require a trip to the store which would defeat our whole hermit plan…then I got it. But I kept quiet and let the thought roll around in my head for a while before saying it out loud. I knew he would pounce, but I was feeling unsure of myself. Can I actually pull that off? Leap of faith time: “How about eggs benedict?”

Then I was committed. And I did it, not without vulnerability, feelings of clumsiness and uncertainty, but I did it. And I felt a sense of accomplishment  like I haven’t felt in a long time, because I chose to stretch myself. What’s your “eggs benedict”? Hint: Doesn’t have to be about cooking either 😉

The Savory Breakfast Revolution is Alive and Well!

If I can make my husband shake his head and say WTF to a new recipe idea, I know I’m probably on the right track.

This one was inspired by a new condiment we got in our swag bags from the Portland Wedge cheese festival in October. Kindly provided by Rogue Creamery was a blue cheese powder. My mind was on fire with all of the fun things I could do with it – popcorn topping, mashed potatoes, very sophisticated mac ‘n cheese, creamy soups. Then out of nowhere a new idea emerged…

Savory granola with blue cheese powder.

Weird, I know, but stay with me. I took my usual sweet granola recipe and turned it on its head. Oats combined with smoked almonds, pepitas, chopped pecans, black sesame seeds and the blue cheese powder bound together by coconut oil, a bit o’ honey with a dash of Worcestershire sauce to harken back to the Chex mix days of my youth. Stirred together and baked in the oven. The house smelled AMAZING! It wasn’t as nicely chunky as the sweet variety, probably due to the insufficient sugar product to bind, but the taste did not suffer one bit. This morning I topped some cottage cheese with this new creation and it hit every right savory note. I think I’ll try it on plain Greek yogurt too; that’s usually sweet, but I bet we can bribe it over to the dark and savory side with this yummy topping. If I can keep my kids from eating it right out of the bowl that is. Oh and my husband? Yeah, he’s a believer now.

following the rules is overrated

i chafe at being told what or how to do something. i quit my full time job in favor of mercenary work that allows me control of my time. i avoid flu shots when i can get away with it. my way to get “there” may be different from yours since i drive for work and typically know 3 or 4 alternate routes. i don’t like punching a time clock so i have consistently avoided jobs where my punctual presence for a prescribed amount of time is required. and you already know how i feel about recipes.

some rules make sense to follow though. traffic lights are good. i wear my seatbelt. avoiding mixing bleach with ammonia is a solid idea. ignoring ikea directions is probably not a recipe for successful furniture building. theft, rape, murder – i’m ok with rules prohibiting those.

wisdom is knowing the difference.

i ignored grammar rules and avoided using capital letters in this entire post – did that affect the conveyance of my meaning? sorry to my 7th grade teacher mr whipple, but the answer is no.

The Sandwich

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, soft squishy rolls, that crazy crack that is green bean casserole?

Well not me, nope, I live for the sandwich the next day.

Toasted everything bagel, cream cheese on both sides, thinly sliced red onion, turkey and cranberry sauce. Lettuce if you wanna make it healthy. You’re welcome.

Canned Cranberries Have Their Place, But…

Can-shaped cranberry loaf is definitely the stuff of my childhood Thanksgiving memories.

And why were those cranberries included in the meal anyway? Nobody seemed to ever eat them and the jiggly red mass wound up in the trash. Sad and untouched. It was really just obligatory holiday table decoration. Maybe they were neglected because they were so bad.

We can fix that though. Easily. Just make your own! Throw some raw cranberries in a saucepan, add some water (not too much) and as much sugar as you like. I stay on the tart side, but you do you. Then get it cooking at a good bubble but not a boil until those babies start snap crackle and poppin’. Reduce it down til it’s almost how thick you want it, and keep in mind it will thicken up more as it cools. That’s it, voila, cranberry sauce.

This next bit is where you can get creative. Cranberries and sugar are super all on their own, but some other add-in options if you want to experiment might be orange or lemon peel plus or minus some of their juice, cinnamon sticks (very pretty), star anise (extra pretty), apples. I’ve even seen recipes that include booze! Totally brilliant, I’ll probably try that this year. Don’t mind me crouched in the corner with the bowl of tipsy cranberry sauce and a big ol’ spoon hiding from my family. Use your imagination and say no to the can! Unless you are doing so for nostalgic purposes and then I wholeheartedly approve (as if you needed MY permission).

Possibilities…

Basic Soup Skillz

I love soup. It is warmth and comfort in a bowl that just keeps getting tastier the longer it sits around. Day three is primo in my book.  I also think of it as a good way to get my veggies in the fall and winter months when salad sounds decidedly cold, stark and unappetizing.

Ever do that thing where you ask each other what your final death row meal would be? Well, ok, maybe my friends and family are weirder than yours, but my meal is definitely my mom’s navy bean and ham soup. I can still taste it in my mind! She made hers by boiling the beans with ham hocks and the whole house smelled like heaven. I can remember chilly winter Sunday nights, cuddled up with a bowl sitting in front of the tv with my dad and watching one of the movies we liked (Kelly’s Heroes, The Great Escape, LOTS of James Bond movies). She made many wonderful soups, but that one was always my favorite. I’m waxing nostalgic; I’ll give you that recipe next time I make it. Now back to basic soup. I make my own soups using my mom’s technique, but, of course, I’ve added my own twists! Shocker.

 I made turkey soup last weekend from a stock I created using a carcass I had saved in the freezer (don’t throw those bones away after a good meal!). Chicken or ham hock would work to make stock too. I just threw the bones in the slow cooker, covered with water and added some bay leaves. You can also add veg scraps here, like carrot stumps, celery butts, onion ends. You can either compost that stuff or cook it! Later that day, presto, stock. Drained off the liquid for the soup and threw away everything else. I don’t always make my own stock, most of the time it is Better Than Bouillon, and that works great too.

Pretty much every soup I make begins with lightly sautéed carrots, onions and celery. Mirepoix, if you’re fancy, or um, French. From here, you can go in any direction.  Just add the sautéed veg  to the stock (or vice versa) plus some chopped up meat and/or beans if using and whatever seasonings you like.  Don’t skip sauteeing the veg first though, because that’s how you amp up the flavor. Your soup will be sad and bland if you don’t. You’ve been warned. I usually add some herbs (dried basil, thyme and sage from my brother Tony’s awesome yard) and a shit-ton of salt if I’m using homemade stock. Let it hang out on low for a bit for the flavors to mingle and get to know each other. You can do this in a pot on the stove (faster) or in the slow cooker (um, slower).  Then boil up some noodles on the side, or use up some leftover sides (pasta, rice, quinoa, potatoes). Ladle the soup over the starchy item in individual bowls so nothing gets mushy. I like hot sauce on mine. Another shocker.