Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Cooking Bug Bites Again!

As the temperature drops and darkness settles in like a tired old mutt after circling the block three times I find myself back in the kitchen, beer or wine in hand, cooking food for friends. It's like shrugging on that well-worn robe you forgot on the back of your closet door all summer.

Last night I wanted to caramelize onions. So I decided to make pizza and invite over my friend Hooman, thinking he would likely ask his roommate, my friend Emrah, along with. I arrive home to a funny coincidence: my roommate Meredith is cooking dinner for Susan, Emrah's girlfriend, and told her to invite both boys along. Ahhh, Serendipity ... not just a delicious restaurant in NYC.

I like to use Whole Food's 365 brand GF pizza crust. It's very difficult to screw up and can be spread to your desired thickness (that's right, you don't knead or roll out GF dough, you spread it.) I threw in a generous helping of Italian seasoning to the dry mix for an extra flavor boost.

For toppings I skipped the sauce and threw on some hunks of fresh Gouda plus a heaping amount of aged Gruyere (one of my all time favorite cheeses.) Piled on top of that were the onions I'd caramelized and some trumpet mushrooms I sauteed in evoo, butter, and some Adobo seasoning. A sprinkling of fresh, hand-torn sage followed by 20ish minutes in the oven and viola!

All of my friends were genuinely surprised at how tasty it turned out. So tasty, in fact, that I didn't take the above picture until after work today when I reheated a slice (the beer, as you can see, is Bard's sorghum beer.)

Tonight I spent some time with another dear friend, Alisa. I had a craving for bruschetta which she was only too happy to help make and then consume. Bruschetta is an easy one with some wiggle room for fun ingredient manipulation. This time being my first, however, I played it simple: chopped tomatoes heated in evoo (about 1 Tbsp oil per pound of tomato) with a sprinkle of salt and hand-torn fresh basil tossed in at the end, just long enough to release some flavor and aroma.

The bread is Against the Grain baguettes, halved and split lengthwise, then fried in evoo and some butter. And then before piling the thick, slightly crunchy, slightly chewy slices with tomatoey basily goodness I rubbed them over with a garlic clove half. YUM.

If it's your thing, you could also drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top. Or add more salt. I'm not really a salt person.

Later days.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Vino Veritas

My roommates and I hosted a housewarming party this past weekend, preempted by a dinner party for the friends of ours who helped us move in. This means that once again my secret powers of sangria making were called upon.

This time I made both a red and white (well, blush, really.)

cheap box wine (I don't really know of another brand besides Franzia, do you?)
green apple
ginger ale

cheap box wine
red apple
pomegranate seeds
ginger ale

Of course the beauty of sangria is that you can truly make it your own and continuously experiment with fruit variations but I gotta tell you ... the red was down right phenomenal. Though I should have remembered that we had added rum to it before consuming so much (oops.)

I'm aware that I still haven't posted my trip from a month ago yet but ... yeah, I have no excuse beyond the fact that I love having a full social calendar. And for the next two weeks while my friend Mike is visiting from China I will absolutely spend as much time with him as possible.

I suppose all I can do today is leave you with a poem (which still needs an edit or two):

It was someday in the middle of some month and I was walking home from work on the Mass Ave bridge.

The sky was the color of watered-down orange drink. Fat, purple clouds loitered over the Charles. The lampposts hunched over, asking me to stop and play hangman with them.

I realized I hadn't thought of you all day which was interesting because that past weekend was the first time I'd seen you in 5 months since you'd punched me in the face and tried to steal my best friends.

I felt as gray and bored as the concrete beneath my sneakers. The only variable which way the wind would blow my hair.

I needed change like a Diabetic needs insulin. Life just wasn't sweet enough anymore.

Still my feet carried me over Boston's aorta. And I tucked my hair behind my ear. And I pretended to be upset because you looked and smelled and felt exactly the same which was cold.

But really?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Soon, I promise!

I may not have many readers but for my own sense of accomplishment I've been getting antsy about my lack of posting.

The problem: my roommates and I still do not have internet access at home.

What this means: though I may be able to paint an acceptable picture of my adventure with words alone, the coolness factor is seriously upped with the sparse but illuminating pictures I took. These pictures are on my home computer. Ergo, I eagerly await my internet fix. Stolen moments at work do not easily lend themselves to a Wikipedia binge.

The solution: the Verizon dude is coming tomorrow to see what's the what. Cross your fingers.

Footnotes: 1 my grad school applications have been received by the institutions to which I applied. All I can do now is wait to see if I get interviews. 2 I will be donating my eggs again this fall. I have re-submitted my gene pool for chlorine level testing (don't want their eyes to burn) and updated my array of photos (I'm cuter now than in college. Does this mean I'll age well?) 3 To supplement my paltry income I'm going to start coaching again. Only basic skills group lessons but hey ... I get to be on the ice again. That is more than worth giving up an hour or two on my weekends.

Addendum: While The Travelers Notebook and their affiliated sites capture my ADHD-driven attention span, my current favorite travel blog would have to be that of Mr. Colin Wright: Exile Lifestyle. My jealously is kept to a minimum by his straightforward, reflective writing. It just has such a great flow to it. If there is anything lacking in my writing it's flow. Even in my poems I tend to lose track of the point.

So get ready, prepare yourself for a photo-filled, link-a-licious blog soon to be gracing this page. I'll apologize in advance for the less-than-awesome photo quality. I'm asking my parents for a much better camera for Chrismukkah this year. Necessities: black, protruding lens with auto-focus, button that makes a *clack* noise when you take a picture, not 7 years old and with fewer megapixels than my cell phone's camera.

Later days. Wish me luck on making it through my Yom Kippur fast today!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

And Now for Something Slightly Different

I have moved! So, so very far away. An entire 1/2 mile, in fact. I still have the same zip code, which you would think should have made the process somewhat less of a hassle.


After nearly busting my ass trying to avoid hitting an oblivious pedestrian on the ride home I drank two glasses of cheap red wine (three buck chuck cab from Trader Joe's - had to finish the bottle anyway) in quick succession to calm down and immediately began to move. Two van loads and three car loads later I was able to pass out in my somewhat navigable new bedroom at midnight.

Though I was a complete zombie at work yesterday I managed last night to set up the kitchen with Meredith (roommate for another round) and later we set up the living room with Dan (new roommate.) Once again a pass-out time of midnight.

However a set-up kitchen plus cooler weather means I was able to stretch my cooking muscles last night. So much counter space! And a dishwasher! Magical.

I finally fulfilled my pasta craving from the other week, though I couldn't find GF farfalle so I used fusilli instead. Cooked that up to squishy perfection and coated it with olive oil in which I had sauteed diced bell peppers (red/green/yellow, wish I had had the time to mince them but was far too hungry at that point,) some diced onions leftover from my other dish, and roasted garlic. Topped it off with Adobo seasoning for some serious yum. Also: vegan. Brought in some leftovers for lunch!

The other dish was a wilted spinach salad, this week's craving. Got a bunch of organic stuff from my much smaller but much closer neighborhood Whole Foods. Threw in the aforementioned diced onions, some minced non-roasted garlic, and chopped grape tomatoes. Topped it off with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and feta cheese crumbles. Seriously? Sometimes I impress myself.

Hopefully these two dishes will feed me through Saturday when I will be getting on a plane to the Left Coast! So excited for my trip. Spending Saturday through Wednesday just outside of Portland with my youngest aunt, Trish, then spending Wednesday through Sunday in San Diego with my friend Luke. I simply cannot wait to cook for these two. I love to cook for people important to me and try to impress them. Especially Aunt Trish, since she's such an amazing chef herself!

I'll report back on my gustatory and other adventures when I'm back on the Right Coast.

Later days.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Increasing My Ground Speed

I have purchased a bike! It is a red-brown Raleigh Sprite, with all it's original parts. Not sure what year, but it's in great condition and I've managed not to destroy it on the six rides I've made so far. Being a bike owner/rider opens up an entire new world for me. I find myself overcome with the urge to buy pants that stop mid-calf and the need for a miniaturized tool kit. Before you know it I'll have various body parts wrapped in reflective tape and dreadlocks. Viva la bicyclette!

Last night two new Couch Surfers arrived from NYC, Emily and Arielle. They brought me a gift: two slices of the most moist, flavorful, mouth-wateringly beautiful gluten-free carrot cake in the world. This cake can be purchased for a surprisingly non-exorbitant fee (surprising given its miraculousness) at Risotteria in Greenwich Village. They also serve GF risotto, pizza, panini, salad and BEER, amongst other desserts. Even the table bread sticks are GF!

The desire to cook continues to elude me. Though outside temperatures and humidity may be slighty improved my apartment continues to retain heat like ... like ... like water! (Get it? Because water has such a high specific heat? Just go in the ocean late at night, you'll feel it.) What I mean is I neither want to be inside nor do I want to be home, specifically. Though that part is unavoidable, packing must occur. I can't tell you how super excited I am for my new huge kitchen! Prepare yourself for an Autumn/Winter full of dinner parties and recipe experimenting!

I did help prepare a small, light dinner with good friends Sunday night - leafy greens with a vinaigrette, pan-roasted corn and tomato salad, oven-roasted asparagus, Caprese salad, blackberries, a cheese plate, and a glass or two of red wine. Enjoyed on the back deck with a relieving evening breeze. Parfait!

I leave you today with a poem. I wrote it for my best friend's wedding toast, as was my duty to compose and recite as Maid of Honor this past Friday. It is also the poem I will be performing at open mic tomorrow night sometime between 8-10pm, if you happen to be in the vicinity of the Cantab Lounge in Central Square, Cambridge.

Her love is Spring. The cheerful pastels of youth, the scent of warmth on each mild zephyr, the coiled energy in its name. And the determination of each new flower as it burst through the soil and proclaims "I am here!" The art of creation. The dimple in the year's cheek.

His love is Summer. The ever-present, life-giving sun, scorching in its passion and echoing with children's play. It makes and keeps the promise of hot, lazy, breakfast-filled weekends, settling into your belly with the warmth of home.

My love is Autumn. Ever-changing and unpredictable, a tumultuous jumble of color, punctuated with teasing winds. But hidden inside from this bitter exterior is a house filled with comfort foods and familiar aromas and a sense of settling down, readying yourself for what's to come next.

Our love in Winter. Still and calm. Uniform and reliable. Though piercing winds may lash at exposed skin it only drives us inward, back to the core of our being. Together, we can withstand any Nor'easter.

And your love ... your love is without season. It is the audible hum of life present on the longest and shortest of days, during drought or downpour. Your love holds the entire year in the palm of its hand. It stretches its fingers, reaches out, and nearly grasps eternity.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Concern with Cocktails

My lapse in blogging is directly proportional to my lapse in cooking. My desire to cook is indirectly proportional to the temperature. You pickin' up what I'm throwin' down?

Due to a lack of funds Nacho Quest 2009 is temporarily on hold. Instead, I've returned to making my own nachos. I've got to say, my favorite combination, based on flavor and price, is thus:

Trader Joe's Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips
Trader Joe's Colby Jack Cheese
Trader Joe's Spicy, Smoky, Peach Salsa
(Sour Cream, depending on my mood)

Still, I experiment from time to time. And on the topic of experimenting, I am surprised to report that Mark Bittman and I have something in common. Money? Fame? Ingenuity in the kitchen and with the written word? Nope. We are both moving. And hence, we are both trying to empty our stores (a.k.a. pantries) in order to lessen the burden of moving.

My first pantry pilfering attempt was an unmitigated FAIL. I wanted rice, something akin to the fluffy, limey, cilantro-enhanced vats produced at Mexican chain restaurants. But with a few extra ingredients.

In my pantry = long grain brown rice, can of diced tomatoes in olive oil and garlic.
Purchased = 1 onion, 2 limes, bunch of cilantro

Result = too soupy! I couldn't figure how to get all that extra liquid out of my pot. In addition, it's not the greatest pot. It's an old metal thing, not tempered or layered or whatever it is they do to pots these days to ensure even heating and lack of things burning and sticking to the bottom unless you watch it constantly. They were a hand-me-down from my mum, to whom they were given when she got her first apartment in the early 70s, most likely purchased sometime in the 30s/40s. Oy.

Anyhow, the rice was tasty and edible (and GF and vegan) so I will consume it this week. The remaining staples in my pantry to be experimented with: black lentils, quinoa, lots of GF flour/baking mixes. Too bad it's been in the 90s and unbearably humid or else I'd be baking up a storm, seeing as how I have 10 eggs in my fridge.

To catch up: Maine was lovely. Swimming, napping, eating, and oh yes, excessive drinking. I finished my 31 days of sobriety 2 weeks ago but didn't really dive back into that lifestyle until Maine. Reminder to self - drinking eats up a lot of time, money, and calories, in both meanings of the word. This past weekend was slightly calmer, with my only adventure being a refreshing jaunt out to Walden Pond (side note: I didn't realize until high school that Walden Pond was famous) followed by a brief stop at my parents' house. Just to say hi. And pet the dog. And look through some clothes my sister is giving away. And eat.

This week's craving: farfalle with a light garlicky oil and minced bell peppers.

News Flash: I ate some guacamole on Saturday. And ... actually enjoyed it. This is huge news for all of my avocado-obsessed friends. The reason I was able to enjoy it? Made fresh, in front of my eyes, with excessive overuse of cilantro and lime, at Ole in Inman Square. The best damn (nice) Mexican restaurant in The Greater Boston Area. Perhaps it is time to start giving guac more of a chance ... since apparently it's everywhere in San Diego, one of my upcoming adventure destinations.

Later days.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Audibly Awesome

Yesterday was exciting. It was exciting because I was trained in a new skill. Yes, that's right, there are people in this word who trust me with the well-being of their patients. Surprised?

My new skill is ear irrigation. This is for when people are too incompetent/oblivious/incapacitated and do not realize how much earwax has built up in their external auditory meatus (canal.) First, I was shown how to use an otoscope to visualize the tympanic membrane (eardrum.) The LPNs said I was a natural because I could find it on every ear in the training session. While doing this you peek around for wax.

If there is wax, the removal is quite simple. Using a small "syringe" (tiny tube) hooked up to what looks like your average spray bottle by a large bore catheter (thick long hose), you squirt warm water repeatedly into the meatus. If the cerumen (wax) is too compacted you may need to put a drop of soap in the ear to chill for 15-20 minutes first. This is an easy thing to do. And since I know how weird it feels, being used as a patient during training, I won't be surprised by patients' reactions. Cool!

Other happenings: I quest ever onward in my search of nachos. Last night we went to Cambridge Common (warning, music upon clicking link) between Harvard and Porter. An overall average experience with one horrific realization - their nachos do not come with sour cream. It must be ordered with guacamole on the side. GASP! Unacceptable. Luckily my palate was sated with some BerryLine afterward.

Personal realization: I dislike Woodchuck Cider. Strongbow is by far my favorite cider, served the way the Brits do - in a glass over ice.

This weekend I am embarking on an adventure. It's only up to Maine but that is out of state so hey, I'll take it! My ride is picking me up in an hour. I am packed and I have snacks. On the topic of snacks, I find the first thing I grab is often cheesy and crunchy. For years the obvious choice seemed to be Pirate's Booty. Ubiquitous, delicious, and the name made me giggle. However I soon came to realize that Pirate's Booty, like numerous other large, name brand companies, does not quite agree with my GI tract. I was lost! Distraught! Broken!

Then a man named Joe came to my rescue ... Trader Joe. He showed me a bag of cheesy crunchy twice as big, if not more, for half the price! Yes, I speak of Unburied Treasure. Yes, there is an unopened bag sitting behind me, as ready for this mini road trip as I am (3.5 hours.) And the flavor ... oh! If you hold any doubt over the viability of cheese dust as sustenance, look no further. Your questions have been answered.

Also I have chocolate covered raspberry sticks.

Later days

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Snack Attack!

Yesterday I had a dilemma: I craved artichoke.

This was a dilemma because not only is it hotter than Hades in my kitchen, even without the oven on, but I had a limited window between getting home from work and arriving at a very swanky hotel bar for a good friend's (Emrah's) send-off party.

Hasty solution: I sidled into Trader Joe's on my walk home from work to procure a log of garlic & herb goat cheese and a can of artichoke hearts. At home I had a box of hazelnut Nut Thins. Ta da! A simple, tasty, no-cook dinner to be consumed while watching an episode of Cowboy Bebop and drying my hair.

(By the way, did you know that any two note fanfare, such as ta da, is called a tush? Well, according to a friend's father who teaches music at Phillips Academy, anyway.)

The bar that required me to actually do my hair and put on a nice dress and heels was Alibi, in Boston's Liberty Hotel. Very posh. I broke my 31 days of sobriety with a sidecar, which I have christened as "my drink." For the time being, anyway. Caught up with my friends, got to bed at a reasonable hour, still managed to 'feel' that one drink this morning. Ah, liver ... I'll try to be kind to you, not put too many toxins into our system.

Later days

Monday, August 3, 2009

Home is the place where ...

I spent this past weekend in New York City. Having lived there for three and a half years, my NY weekends are not what you would expect. Mostly I spend time with my friends, walking around, playing video games, watching movies, and trying out new gluten-free fooderies.

This weekend, however, lacking somewhat in funds, I only revisited two favorites: Ivy Bakery by my friend's place in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn for a gluten-free carrot cake cupcake (still the best GF cupcakers I've found) for "breakfast" on Saturday and a huge, glorious dosa from Hampton Chutney Co. (the one on Amsterdam between 82nd & 83rd) on Sunday to consume on the bus ride back to Boston. yum.

Otherwise the most NY thing we did was re-explore St. John the Divine, the largest cathedral in the world and by far my favorite (it has peacocks! live ones!), and meander from there (110th and Amsterdam) to a Red Sox bar called Professor Thoms' on 2nd ave between 13th & 14th. a roughly 6 mile walk, as shady as we could make it in Saturday's sunshine.

The reason we ventured back to our old NYU neighborhood and a Sox bar (my friends consist of a Mets fan, a Phillies fan, and an agnostic) was to try their nachos. According to my online research, the nachos offered at this establishment are the best in NYC. So I considered it part of my sacred duty as chairperson of Nacho Quest 2009 Boston to dive into these nachos face first.

While excellent in the categories of portion size (it came on a pizza tray!), price, and salsa, they only fared average in cheese, sour cream, and extras. The chips themselves were sub par and while we received a lovely little pile of jalapeƱos there was an overall lack of flavor. A zestlessness, if you will.

If Nacho Quest 2009 has taught me only one thing so far, it is that the chances of finding nachos better than the ones already holding spots numbers 1 and 2 in my heart are slim to none. Still, we march on. There are many nacho providing establishments in The Greater Boston Area still on our quest. And I have compiled a short list for my NY friends to explore on their own, so that when I next visit mayhaps my nachoing experience will be somewhat improved.

If you care to test my favorite nachos, head over to

1.) Sunset Grill & Tap (or Sunset Cantina, since they're the same franchise) in Allston (off the B line) and order the South-of-the-Border Giant Fiesta Nachos. Now, to be fair, the straight-up Buenos Cheese Nachos are beautiful in their simplicity and still executed expertly but let's get real - you want a gastronomical challenge. The word "giant" is an understatement. The full plate can comfortably feed 4 average to somewhat-above-average eaters. Even if you are starving you could never hope to finish an entire half plate by yourself. Unless, maybe, you practiced. Unsurprisingly my go-to chili choice is the Veggie 3-bean. Delish!


2.) CBC (Cambridge Brewing Company) in Kendall Square: tri-color chips, top-notch distribution, amazing extras, including some seriously hot peppers if you like your bites to be super spicy!

And remember, readers, the motto of Nacho Quest 2009: If we didn't layer our nachos, what would separate us from the animals?

Meanwhile, back on the farm, I passed my Kaplan audition. The next step is a one-on-one interview to make sure the fit is right and to figure out where and when I can train. As long as it doesn't get in the way of the wedding or my Left Coast trip, I'm gold. Otherwise I can always try to get back into coaching.

Later days

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Now That You're Here

Summer has finally arrived in Boston! While appreciated, it seems awfully sudden without the meandering stroll up the thermometer that usually happens in June and the beginning of July.

Due to this heat and humidity, I have absolutely 100% no desire whatsoever to cook. The warmest I'm willing to go at the moment is microwave.

Hence my genius dinner plans for the rest of this week: frozen yogurt. Or as I endearingly call it, fro yo. My absolute favorite place to obtain this tart, cold, creamy, low-fat treat is a local Boston chain called BerryLine. There are three locations: between Harvard and Central Squares, between Harvard and Porter Squares, and by the Fenway T stop. The first store is conveniently a three block walk from my house. Yes, I go there all too often. I've already gone through one "rewards" card and had my free medium with one topping.

Oh the toppings! Feeling healthy? Numerous fruits to choose from, as well as granola. Nursing a sweet tooth? A solid selection of candy options is also at your beck and call. BerryLine and I were meant to be.

In other news, tonight I am 'auditioning' for Kaplan. If hired I will be instructing a prep course for the GREs. This will be the first time in my life I will have two jobs concurrently, unless you count being a student while working part-time in college.

The Kaplan audition consists of giving a 5 minute how-to presentation to show that you're capable of teaching somebody how to do something. While engaging the audience. They recommend choosing a topic with which you are fairly familiar to make yourself more comfortable in front of the audience. So I've decided to give instruction on how to take a blood pressure. Considering I take BPs, on average, 15-20 times a day it's safe to say that I'm familiar with the topic.

So wish me luck! These days we could all use a little extra income.

Friday, July 24, 2009

In Media Res

Sometimes I do things I know I'll regret later just because they're so enjoyable in the moment. For example, drinking. Though not so much lately, being 20 days into my month of sobriety.

In this moment I am thoroughly enjoying the dregs of a box of salt water taffy that my co-worker Natasha passed on to me. I'm quite aware that the sugar high will end, leaving me to plummet into a headachey oblivion (in my mind I picture this as Wild E. Coyote suddenly realizing that the ground has run out beneath him, holding up a 'Yipe!' sign.)

Last night was a gustatory adventure. My roommate Meredith, our good friend Nicolas, and I had a dinner party. While using the CouchSearch function on to figure out just where our profiles came up, we realized just how many Surfers there are in Cambridge and Somerville whom we've never met. So we did the logical thing and messaged three strangers each to invite them over for dinner!

Meredith made her infamous butternut squash enchiladas (gluten-free, vegetarian.) The ratio of squash to cream cheese to scallions, smothered in even more cheese, easily makes this dish our go-to dinner party/potluck choice.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas
1 medium butternut squash
4 oz. cream cheese
4 scallions
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander or cilantro
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
48 oz. salsa
1 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
shredded iceberg lettuce

Split squash down the middle & bake at 400 for 45 to 60 minutes [probably more] until soft on an oiled pan. Scoop out 2 cups and mash with cream cheese, spices, and scallions until fairly smooth. Soften tortillas by frying or steaming [I nuke each one for 12 seconds]. Apply half of the salsa on the bottom of a casserole dish, roll filling into tortillas, and bake with cheese and remaining salsa on top for 25 to 30 minutes at 350. Garnish with sour cream and lettuce.

I "helped" Nic make some Mexican rice (gluten-free, vegan when replacing chicken broth with vegetable broth, from my America's Test Kitchen cookbook. Thanks mum!) to accompany the enchiladas. Also the night before I had thrown some sliced grapefruit, green apple, bosc pear, and lime into some blush wine with orange juice for a lighter summer sangria, adding some gingerale just before serving.

Our guests pitched in as well, mostly with beer and wine, but also with some nice cheeses and Nut Thins to hold over our appetites. One pleasant surprise was a salad thrown together by the two women currently surfing with Meredith and I - spinach, strawberries, and chopped walnuts with a lovely ginger miso dressing from Whole Foods. YUM!

I predict more new-friend-dinners like this in the future.

Unsurprisingly the Surfer I talked to the most was the one visiting his brother from San Juan. Of course now my new fantasy is to save up enough money to go visit in December where Geo promises to teach me how to surf and longboard. We'll see ...