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!

 

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.

 

 

The Mindset Needed To Create This Fritatta

“Don’t let failure be final”. -Steven H. Shomler

 

I love this quote and it lends itself beautifully to the concept of embracing improvisation; in cooking and in life. If you give up after one fuck-up and remain afraid to try new things, you will never progress.

This is exactly the mindset needed to create something out of (seeming) nothing. Like this frittata. I made it this morning from odds and ends I found in my fridge and pantry. It took me some time and lots of experimentation to get a good feel for how to throw stuff together like this. Has every single one turned out perfectly? No. But so what? They were still edible ( most of the time). I just filed away the errors I made or the tweaks I thought would improve the dish and incorporated that knowledge into my next effort. Cooking without a script is so much fun though – there is reward in that all by itself.

Back to that frittata: It is a cozy Saturday morning here at HavenHome and I knew I had some goodies in the fridge from last night’s dinner and lunch last week to use up. So I chopped up the tater tots, some red onion and leftover cooked bacon. Tossed that into a greased baking dish. Added some diced green chilis from the pantry and some pepperjack cheese. Then whizzed up some eggs and coconut milk (unsweetened and unflavoured). Seasoned with salt, pepper and dried tarragon from the garden (I am obsessed with tarragon right now and add it to whatever I reasonably can). Baked it in the oven until done. So good with crusty baguette toast topped with butter and marmalade. If I didn’t have shit to do today, I’d also have a ruby sunrise (champagne and ruby red grapefruit juice. WAAAAYYY better than a lameass, boring mimosa).

Cooking is science, but it is also art. No wrong answers here. The worst thing is to become so afraid of failure that you stop trying. Cooking can be a daily, creative outlet that nourishes both body and soul. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

 

 

 

 

Just Like Kool & The Gang Sang…

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate” -Oprah

Everyone needs a champagne stopper. It instantly removes the barrier from going ahead and opening that bottle of sparkling wine, champagne, prosecco or, my favorite, cava. It allows us to celebrate more often without having to commit to the whole bottle (if you’re a quitter. JK).

*

Celebration and sparkling don’t have to be reserved for just ultra-special occasions. I keep a bottle ready to go in my fridge at all times because I like being prepared to celebrate at the drop of a hat. A book contract, a windfall, surviving a challenging work week, the full moon, Tuesday night. Big things, little things, silly things, why not?

*

And I believe in the inherent value of celebrating as much as possible. Because celebration is the manifestation of gratitude and that’s a great place to have your attention. Keep focused on what is good, what is working, what is right with the world.

*

So get yourself one of these gadgets, get something nice chilling in the fridge and pay attention to what needs celebrating. However small or seemingly insignificant. Try it, it’s fun!

*

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle”. – Albert Einstein

 

Pimento Cheese

Fancy Cheez-wiz. You can claim you are too sophisticated and you don’t love this, but no one will believe you.

Long story, but through my dear husband we wound up with a refrigerator full of cheese. I’m not kidding, the bounty took up an entire shelf. And all good stuff too. Picnics are fun and all, but there are only so many cheese and cracker plates I can stomach.

I was leafing through my  book of old recipe clippings, from ancient days when I used to take the newspaper everyday. I know, crazy. I came across one for pimento cheese using fancy cheeses. Yes! Of course I didn’t have the same cheeses as in the recipe nor an inclination to obey their prescribed amounts, but it still turned out sinfully great!

Into the food processor went some regular cream cheese (room temp, believe me on this detail) and chunks of various cheeses including Jefferson Cheddar and Touvelle from Rogue Creamery, Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, and Face Rock Creamery Horseradish Cheddar. You can really take liberties on the cheese selection (I sure did). I also added some chopped up roasted red and yellow peppers (I roasted my own, but you could get them out of a jar too), some celery seed and a splash of milk just to aid mixing. Chill it. That’s it. End of story, easy cheesy delight! The next day it was even better. This makes a lot so the next day I stirred some into hot cooked pasta for the most decadent mac and cheese you can imagine. Also guiltily good by the spoonful right outta the fridge. Shhh, don’t tell.

*Rogue Creamery pic

Squash Soup

Autumn is my favorite season of the year; I love the colors, the smells, the beginnings of a chill in the air and this soup is Fall in a bowl. Make this for your friends and they will think you are fancy as fuck! They don’t have to know how easy it is. For real.

My kids love this soup. We often eat it as an alternative to that sickeningly sweet condensed mess that most people call tomato soup. It also happens to be pretty healthy, just by accident, not by virtue. I suppose you could add some more rich and fatty elements, but I really don’t think it needs it. No need to gild the lily! It is especially good with a crusty grilled cheese sandwich on the side for dippin’.

I have no idea why so many recipes call for peeling the squash first. If you roast it, there is no good reason to make yourself crazy doing this. Just hack that baby in half, put it on a sheet pan and throw it in the oven to roast. This is a good tip for roasting pumpkins for pie or other uses as well.

I’ve used both acorn and butternut squashes and pumpkin for this soup. Pick what you like. Cut it, place cut sides down on a lined sheet pan or any other baking dish and roast it in the oven at somewhere between 350 and 400 degrees, you decide, until it is easily pierced with a fork. Let it cool a bit until you can easily handle it (I usually skip this step due to my own impatience and pay the price of burned fingers). Use a big spoon to scoop out the seeds and other stringy stuff from the middle. Then scoop out the flesh into a blender. Incidentally, my dogs (and cats I have had in the past) go nuts for the leftover skin; waste not want not! Add a spoonful of broth paste (I use Better Than Bouillon @betterthanbouillon), chicken or veggie. Salt and pepper. Thin out with a milk type product (I usually go non-dairy) and blend til smooth. You can thin this out as much as you like, just adjust the amount of liquid added. Then pop it into a pot and warm it to serving temp on the stove. I like to finish mine with a drizzle of Navidi’s @navidiscamas white truffle oil and some good grindings of black pepper.

Black Sea is Brilliant!

Black Sea; Dispatches and Recipes Through Darkness and Light by Caroline Eden is my kind of “cookbook”. 4 things I love about it*:

  1. It has a sexy cover
  2. Lots of beautiful pictures of food and places.
  3. Provides historical background.
  4. It includes Turkey! The next big stop on my lifetime itinerary.

*Noteworthy that none of these mention recipes, heehee!

Do Yourself A Favor And Read Chillpreneur

4  valuable things I learned from Chillpreneur, many thanks to Denise Duffield-Thomas:

 1.       Making money doesn’t have to be hard or painful.

 2.       Just start! It doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate.

 3.       Protect the golden goose (take care of myself or I will lose my creative energy).

 4.       I have valuable stuff to share and it won’t suit everyone’s taste, but that’s ok.

Scalloped Potatoes, the “Recipe”!

Ok, so now that you have the background on the significance this dish holds in my family, I can tell you how to make it. Kinda. It turns out different for me each time and I am ok with that. Adds a bit of excitement. If you, however, like things to be predictable, you have certainly stumbled into the wrong territory here. Turn back now and return to the safety of your cookbooks, hurry!

I’ve used all kind of potatoes in this dish and any of them will work. Use what you got. Russets, golds, reds, purples, whatever. I’ve even made this with some sweet potatoes thrown in with russets and one time I made the whole thing with parsnips instead. I was getting a CSA box at the time and had to do something with them. For the record, it was good, but maybe even a little too delicate for my taste. I crave this dish when I want something hearty and comforting, decidedly not fancy or challenging to my palate in any way. Just  being honest!

This dish can easily be made vegan with non-dairy milk. I steer away from cow’s milk myself, but I do add cheese. I like sharp ones such as an aged cheddar or even a blue. Stronger cheeses don’t require adding as much to give good flavor.  Sometimes I’ll add ham or hot dogs (Reserve judgment! Its family tradition). Green onions are a nice addition, leeks would also be good. Anything oniony combined with a sharp cheese is perfection in my world. I’ve gotten more creative with add-ins in the past (green peas, sausage, peppers, jalapenos), but these days usually stick to the basics (potatoes, cheese, some onion thingy, plus or minus a pork product).

Heat oven to 375, 400, something like that. Grease a baking dish, I use butter or whatever. Slice potatoes into rounds, peel them or not, I don’t care. Put the potato slices in a big mixing bowl and sprinkle them with flour or cornstarch. Dice up some butter (vegan or regular) and toss that in the bowl. Grate and add some cheese, or leave it out. Same with the onions and other mix-ins. Salt and pepper. Pour over some milk (I use unsweetened almond or coconut), it should be pretty wet, but not soup. Toss it all together until there aren’t any big clumps of flour hanging out. Tip that all into the pan and kind of pat it down. Add more grated cheese to the top if you want. Cover with foil and put it in the oven. Cook until the potatoes are tender; I don’t set a timer or watch the clock, but I think this takes about 30-40 minutes generally. Then remove the foil and let the top crisp up. I’ve even been known to up the heat to broil on this step when I’m impatient. You are going to want to dig in right out of the oven, but you will be rewarded it you wait a little bit first for it to cool. Plus avoid tongue burns that will definitely ruin the experience!

The Historical Significance of Scalloped Potatoes

This dish is legendary in my family. I am the youngest of 6 (sadly, now 5) and this was a crowd pleaser when we were growing up. My mom totally rolls her eyes at us when we (still) ask her to make it. From her perspective at 81 years old, it is too fussy and time consuming and she ain’t got no time for that. My mom would never be accused of being overly sentimental, but that is definitely a big part of her charm!

I first started making it for myself and my hungry, clueless-in-the-kitchen college roommates. And it WAS time consuming. At least how it was written in The Joy of Cooking, which was my only cookbook at the time and I had yet to learn to bend recipes to my will. There was peeling, soaking, layering and pre-cooking involved. But I did it anyway because it was a taste of home and a bit of comfort to all of us big kids living away from our parents for the first time.

Many years later, my dear (late) chef brother opened my eyes to a better way. He did that a lot! He was probably my biggest role model and  inspiration in cooking without rigid recipes. He was a classically trained chef, but ironically, never followed a recipe and made it all look effortless, fluid and fun. Maybe the recipes were in his head, IDK. Anyway, he took all kinds of liberties and was something of a MacGyver in the kitchen (you’ll have to be as old as I am to get that reference). I remember one time I was hanging about while he catered a fancy meal for a bunch of fancy people at an estate deep in the wine country of St Helena, California. VERY far from any kind of market. He was making a skewered chicken app and forgot the skewers. Without a moment’s hesitation, he ripped some rosemary stalks from the yard and threaded the meat onto those. Genius! Looked and tasted fucking amazing. He would do shit like that all of the time. Miss him so.

So back to scalloped potatoes – my brother and I were together one Christmas far from home and decided to make the old family favorite. So I started to peel and chop and was about to start parboiling, layering and pre-heating the milk when he (thankfully) stopped me. “You know you can just mix that all up in a big bowl and toss it into the baking dish right?” Mind. Blown. Duh. So I’ve made them that way ever since and it is way more fast and fun and I never measure a bit. Just trust myself to make it look right, even if it is different every time. Which is part of the fun.

You Could Just Have a BLT, But a BELT is Better!

My sweetie loves BLTs and so does my mom. I’ve never really been a big fan, but I do understand their appeal, in theory. Very simple, good quality elements come together and elevate the whole sandwich.

How could I put my own spin on it though and make it more appealing to myself?

Then it hit me – no one eats BLTs for breakfast, but they should! I think there could be a niche for them there in my world. I am all about the savory breakfast after all!

I always cook my bacon in the oven these days on a foil lined sheet pan to make the cleanup easy. No more standing over a pan patiently turning bacon strips while the fumes coat my hair and then having to deal with the disposal of a shitload of grease. For my sandwich I chose pepper bacon and then picked some cute lil’ cherry tomatoes and basil from my yard. I chopped those guys up along with some white onion. Tossed all with olive oil, salt and pepper then roasted in a slow oven on a lined sheet pan til soft and squishy. Cooled them down and ran them through the food processor with some balsamic vinegar. I left it pretty chunky. Once the bacon was done, I fried up an egg, toasted an English muffin and spread some of the tomato onion mix on there. Then layered the egg, bacon and lettuce. My egg got a shot of Tabasco, but you don’t have to.