Don’t worry, I did finish all my wine

First important thing I want to discuss:

Swimming for cardio is a crock. (It’s also a pain in the butt and I don’t like it, but that’s a different issue.) Twelve minutes and I burned a measly 60 calories. Fine, it was only 500 yards (I’m nursing a tender shoulder today) but still. I’m sure I burned more than that just getting into my bathing suit, cap and goggles. Swimming sucks. Yes, it’s a great lung-capacity builder, core strengthener, easy on your joints (except shoulders) blah blah blah. Talk to the hand. Cycling: 60 minutes, 581 calories. Now that’s more like it.

Second item of note:

I might be getting this braised chicken thing down to an art form. Tonight I braised it with red & green bell peppers, onions, and some Pinot Grigio and it was hands-down our favorite combo so far. The sauce perfect, the smells amazing. Yes, the g~d~ smoke alarm went off again as I was browning the chicken but I’m almost used to that by now. I think we’ll make this the next time we have the neighbors over. BYOS style – bring your own skillet – as I can’t fit enough of everything for 7 people in the one that I have. And they’re such easy guests that a request to bring a skillet along won’t phase them in the least.

After the first piece, the peppers & onions, the sauce and the bread, I wasn’t hungry anymore. Sure I would have enjoyed finishing that second one because it just. tasted. soooooo. good, but ~say it with me now~ when we’re not hungry anymore, we stop eating. Better for our bodies, better for the planet. Maybe I’ll have it with some leftover mushroom soup for lunch tomorrow.

Everything was prepped and ready to go once the chicken finished browning

I recommend you try making it yourself, it’s pretty easy. Just get everything in order beforehand because the steps move quickly. Plus it gives you an excuse to bring out those adorable, color-banded prep bowls that you love to look at. You have your own adorable, color-banded prep bowls that you love to look at, don’t you??? What, you’re ordering some right this minute? OK, good.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Yes, seriously. Pre-heat the oven. It matters.

Wash, dry and then rub 6-8 chicken legs/thighs with a goodly amount of kosher salt and fresh, coarse-ground pepper. Like Jeff, you may think of it as an almost obscene amount of salt and pepper, but shhhh there’s no need for talk like that here.

Heat a 12″ oven-safe skillet and 1 T vegetable (high heat) oil over medium-high heat to shimmering. Place the chicken pieces in oil, skin side down for 4 minutes, until well-browned. Cover with a screen or lid to keep it from coating you, your stove, your whole kitchen with grease. That’s just nasty. Flip with tongs and brown 3 minutes more. Remove chicken to a clean plate.

Add 1 onion sliced thin and 1 red & 1 green bell pepper sliced thin, stirring for 4 minutes. Add 2 cloves garlic sliced thin. Stir for 30 seconds. Add 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon marjoram or oregano, and 1 Tablespoon flour. Stir for 1 minute. It’s going to start smelling amazing right about now.

Pour in 1 cup Pino Griogio (have the rest of the bottle with dinner) and stir for a minute to get any remaining cooked on food loosened off the skillet walls. Add 3 cups low-salt chicken broth (preferably homemade) and 3 plum tomatoes, deseeded and cut into 1/2 inch chunks. Stir and bring to a boil.

Turn off the heat. Place the chicken pieces in the liquid, skin up. Cover and place in the the oven for 20 minutes. Remove cover and cook additional 20 minutes.

I served it in shallow pasta bowls to keep the sauce and peppers from going everywhere.

Sides: we always eat this with fresh bread but egg noodles or rice would be good too. Anything to soak up that rich, pepper-wine sauce. I toyed with the idea of making some oven-roasted new potatoes but Jeff and I weren’t in the mood to get it ready, so it was a one-pot meal only tonight. It was plenty filling.

Mushrooms are medicinal, he’ll live

The doc gave Jeff the all-clear which means that his hunger could finally be addressed once we got him back home, but having no food in you for a while means that you have to be a little careful about hopping right back into solids. This is not the time for a large, chunky plate of anything. Not even if you whine about it.

Since I’m firmly coming to believe that good food, mindfully prepared, is one of the best means we have of showing someone love and affection (People who have known me for a while are now demanding to see my passport, thinking ‘WHO ARE YOU?’), AND Jeff loves mushrooms, it was time to break out the creamy mushroom soup recipe I’d been side-eyeing for a while.


Did you know that sliced onions are the scouring pads of the food-has-been-browned-in-this-pan world? I had no idea until we started getting serious in the kitchen and now I can hardly believe that I’ve ever sautéed onions FIRST in a recipe. Try it, brown anything — mushrooms, ground beef, chicken thighs, anything. Get the pan to that point where you just know it’s going to take some serious soaking and scouring to get it clean again, and then toss in a sliced onion. Start stirring. It’s as if Santa, the Easter bunny and Rosie from the Bounty paper towels commercials have all come bearing gifts. Like a really well-fitted bra, the oils in the onion lift the stuck on food and separate it from the surface of the pan.


In the end, we both agreed that despite the kitchen smelling heavenly while it was being prepared, the flavor itself was a bit weak and the texture somewhat uninteresting. It wasn’t bad, per se, just… muffled. Since the recipe made a hefty amount, I think I’ll halve the stock and reduce the milk by a quarter next time – and not run the immersion blender quite so long. That should allow the mushrooms to play a larger role in the final taste and give it a bit more heft on the tongue.

Look at me getting all cocky and decisive with instructions. Ha-wah! Recipe ninja. I blame the rare afternoon glass of wine.



A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend coming up

Jeff has a medical procedure on Monday morning which has had some pretty stringent food and drink requirements this week and will have him off all solid food for the entire weekend, so things are going to be pretty blah in the house for us. Thus, there will be no goodies from the kitchen to tell you about, but also no new burns or cuts  — so there’s that.

Enjoy your weekend. See you in a few. (It’s been a rough couple of days and I don’t anticipate them getting any easier for the next 72 hours, but things will be back to normal soon.)

My hypocrisy or yours, take your pick

In which I reply to Suzette about being an omnivore with a soft-spot for vegan recipes.

So, Suzette. Eating meat while loving a good vegan recipe. It’s a big topic for this small space, but let’s give it a go. Here’s the way I see it. A person can go one of two ways with minimal hypocrisy food-wise: responsible omnivorism and veganism. Why not just be a vegetarian with a side of smug self-satisfaction? Strap in and try to hear what I’m about to say.

Let’s start with the ugly truth of dairy and egg production:

  1. The animals that create these products don’t produce these food products forever. When they are no longer laying eggs or giving milk, they aren’t put out to pasture with a pat on the ass and a hearty Thank You For Your Service. Farms do not continue to feed cows and chickens during their remaining years out of gratitude. There is no retirement cow pasture or chicken coop. These animals are butchered and sold as beef and poultry products and by-products.
  2. Dairy cows must give birth in order to begin and to maintain a milk supply. By doing this, they also conveniently generate new heifers (females) for eventual dairy production. Since cows produce male and female offspring at roughly a 50:50 ratio, half of the calves produced will be bull-calves (males). That’s basic biology. Those calves, having no useful purpose on a dairy farm will either be immobilized for veal (a truly deplorable practice) or raised as beef. Therefore if you eat eggs and dairy products, you personally contribute to — as you put it — the murder of innocent animals. I’m going to be blunt: I think you already know this. You might ignore it because it makes you feel better, but you know it.
  3. Leather comes from the hide of animals – primarily cattle. The hides of retired dairy cows, beef cattle, and veal (e.g., silky calf-skin gloves) become the leather that we use on a daily basis. I’m always surprised by the number of ardent vegetarians who have no qualms about buying and using leather shoes, boots, belts, briefcases, saddles, gloves, wallets, purses, chairs, car seats, and etc., and yet are bold enough to lecture others about meat consumption. If you wear or use leather products, you’re participating in the death of animals for human consumption.

So, is veganism the best way to show our love and appreciation for animals around the world? Should we make that an international goal? You bet, unless:

  1. You also value diversity in the animal kingdom and the continuation of most domesticated animal species. With no market for animal products, the 250 distinct breeds of cows worldwide would largely disappear. The same for the more than 500 breeds of chickens. Without a financial motive to raise, feed and care for them, most farm animal breeds would quickly wither away. Piglets are cute when they’re small, but they grow up big and powerful and require a prodigious amount of food to maintain. For convenience, I’ll ignore all other farmed animals such as rabbits, goats, bees, spiders, and sheep (if honey, silk, and wool harvesting was also abandoned).
  2. You believe we should attempt to limit or reduce our dependence on oil, both foreign and domestic. Without the use of leather, wool and silk for durable goods and clothing, we will be wearing and using even more products made from petroleum and coal derivatives than we already are. And that’s not considering the huge variety of items that currently use some type of animal by-product in their production. E.g., beer, condoms, bagels. Sure we can get 100% non-animal and non-oil/coal work-arounds for some things — wood, rayon, linen, cotton, hemp — but not everything.
  3. You’re concerned about the increasingly large monocultures of thirsty corn, soybeans and wheat that is blowing away the topsoil, draining the aquifers and polluting waterways with ever-increasing amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.
  4. You’re ready to relocate and financially support the thousands of people worldwide who currently live in areas that aren’t amenable to significant crop farming and rely on locally raised animals for sustenance.
  5. You’ve found a solution for people that don’t properly digest many grains and therefore find it near impossible to get complete proteins without meat or eggs.

Am I suggesting that meat-eating is without harm or blame? Of course not. The current state of typical dairy, egg, and meat production in the North America and Western Europe is often horrific, barbaric, and I don’t want anything to do with it. So what’s the solution? Well, here’s what Jeff and I do:

  1. We make the effort to think about what we’re eating, how much of it, and why.
  2. We research local food production options and purchase from farmers and companies we know something about and feel we can trust.
  3. We pay more. Treating animals well and caring for them as creatures worthy of respect isn’t cheap. The increased expense reduces our meat consumption in a natural way and makes us more cognizant of the choices that we make.
  4. We buy eggs, chicken and vegetables from a local farm cooperative where the chickens are allowed to run free, play in the dirt, eat bugs, etc. The chickens are butchered individually with care and gratitude.
  5. We order grass-fed beef from a local farm that allows their cattle to roam across many lush acres and has a relationship with a local butcher they trust and respect.
  6. We buy pork from a farmer with similar values and views regarding animal care at the local weekend market during the summer.
  7. Dairy is a particularly sticky issue at the moment, so we look for companies that label their products as having raised their animals in a way we can support. I’ll continue to look for local providers whose farms I can visit in person.

In short, my ultimate goal is to only eat meat, eggs & dairy from animals that only have had just one bad day in a life that was quite well-lived.

Does everyone have the flexibility to make the choices we do? No, and I know that. That’s why I supported legislation to allow people receiving food assistance to use their vouchers at the weekend farmers’ market. That’s why I always vote against the expansion of large-scale animal operations and mass butchering facilities and for legislation that makes them more accountable and ethical. That’s why I visit the farms that I buy from, unannounced and more than once.

This, Suzette, is why I make an effort to include a large number of vegan dishes in my weekly menu planning. Traditional vegetarianism while using mass produced (CAFO) eggs and dairy seems to me a convenient way to hide the role that we play in animals being raised cruelly. I’d much rather eat an omnivorous diet that I can be honest with myself about, interlaced with a large number of plant-based meals.

Note to self: French silk pie should be refrigerated before serving

I’d like to apologize to anyone else in the downtown area that might have wanted to purchase some fresh basil yesterday. Because you were denied.

In a pack, on a plant, in a cooler, on a shelf.
I took them, one and all; I took them for myself.

And the double batch of pesto they made was delicious. It’s true, we denuded three whole plants for dinner. I’m hoping the few little baby leaves remaining will be enough to help the plants regrow near a south-facing window. But if not, I hope they feel some plant-y comfort in the knowledge that many people enjoyed their sweet, fragrant leaves and the farfalle pasta they coated so admirably. If not, sucks to be you whiny little basil bush-lets!

Do you like mushrooms? Normally I’m not a fan of them. The texture, the taste, the very concept of them. Fungi. Ugh. But the mushrooms we had today were amazing. Decadent. Anointed. They were also super easy. But at 20 minutes, they were a bit of a time sink as you have to attend to them almost constantly. In other words, they’re the perfect task for that one dinner guest that insists on doing something or a cooking partner who constantly feels the need to poke and pick at anything in a pan. Not that I know anyone like that. Not that I am that person from time to time.


Something important to keep in mind is that mushrooms cook down. A lot. Mushrooms are mostly water. Cooking releases that water. A –> B –> rather minimized C. I bought three containers of white button mushrooms, filling a 12″ skillet to almost overflowing. They ended up barely stretching to five diminutive, but oh so savory, servings. Big became little. White became brown. Mouths watered. It was worth it. Thank goodness for the one staunchly anti-mushroom person at the table. The bottom left photo is after a few minutes in the pan. The one on the right is after only a single serving was removed.

What’s that? You want to make them too? I can respect that. Follow along.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large (preferably nonstick) skillet over high heat until it shimmers. Dump in 1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms, quartered. Stir them constantly until they’ve given up all their liquid (~8 min). Continue cooking and stirring until they’re deep brown (~10 min more). Add: 1 finely minced shallot, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves (discard stalks). Cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Remove from heat. Add: 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon lemon juice (~ 1/2 lemon), 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter. Stir until butter is melted. Taste, add salt/pepper as desired. Serve immediately if you can. (I popped on the lid and covered it with a thick towel for a few minutes tonight.)

We put some fresh bread and butter on the table, poured the wine our guests brought. Dug in.

Oh and that French Silk pie? Yeah, it really should have gone into the refrigerator before dinner. As we didn’t do that, it was a gooey, delicious mess. One pie, six ugly servings, big ass grins digging into it at the dinner table. We had this Brunch Playlist simmering in the background. It can be hard to accommodate everyone’s musical tastes, but it did a good job.

Now, many hours later, I hear the snowplows thumping past the house again, pushing and shoving last night’s contribution toward what might possibly turn into a record annual snowfall. We’ve already hit record low temps this winter. I think more than a few of us are quite done with winter.

19 Truffles with which I pledge my fealty

I didn’t eat a one before he got home.

Yesterday I had a migraine, a whopper of a migraine, a grand-daddy migraine, a ‘thanks-be to the gods and goddesses that whispered in my ear that I probably wanted to clean the bathroom right now because I was about to get up close and personal with it soon’ migraine.

At 2pm, it was a threat. “Tylenol, some water, it’ll pass.”
By 3pm, I was on the couch hoping a nap would knock it out.
At 4pm, the reality that this was going to be a doozie was all too *gag* clear.

Just before 5pm, Jeff called to say he was going to have to take a visiting colleague out to dinner and then to the airport. I asked if he could pick up our bi-weekly veggie order from the co-op first, as I knew I wouldn’t be in any condition to walk over and get them. Hearing the pain in my voice he, husband of husbands, immediately found someone else to deal with the colleague so he could come straight home. Dude has my back.

After getting me some more meds, water and leaving all the lights very much OFF, he ran to the veggie pick-up, made himself a quick dinner of leftovers, and checked to ensure that I was as comfortable as possible. Then he headed out to the gym for a quick round of weights (at my insistence) but skipped the usual post-weights swim.

Once back, he whipped up some scrambled eggs with the hope I could keep something down but it was a no-go. Two bites in and I had to stop. His beautiful, delicious, it’s-his-new-super-power, perfectly scrambled, light and fluffy eggs ended up in the bin. It was a goddamn high protein tragedy, I assure you.

Clutching the hand-rail and with his arm around me, I climbed the stairs at all of 7:45pm, turned the corner into our room, and crawled straight into bed. Never have I been so thankful for blackout blinds, cozy sheets, cloud-like latex pillows, a warm shoulder to rest on, and a tender hand stroking my hair. I don’t think I woke up once the entire night.

Maybe being sick doesn’t make this such a romantic story for a post on Valentine’s Day, but he was pretty damn loving last night and that’s better than dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in my book. We’ve never subscribed to the the Big Date aspect of the holiday. A card maybe, certainly a text, an extra kiss during the day. Call it good. Maybe we’re dull by others’ standards, lazy/cheap/curmudgeon-ish in some eyes, or just content with quieter and less date-dictated forms of affection. Whatever, it works for us.

This morning I woke renewed, hit the gym for weights, a dreadmill run, and a quick swim. I walked to the grocery store, picked up the truffles, had a nice chat, and put out the fancy Luxardo cherries I’d found for Jeff. A card AND a gift?!? I know, I was on fire.

For dinner, I made braised chicken legs with white wine, fennel and pancetta over brown rice. I didn’t much like the flavor. It happens. He love, love, loved it though so I’m happy about it in that regard. We drank the rest of the wine with dinner and enjoyed a few of the truffles afterwards. Flowers and candles are per usual on the dinner table, but tonight they both seemed a little more vibrant to me.


Pasta, Oil, Three Types of Garlic, and van Etten

“You’re very quiet today.”
“I just want to feed people and be silent.”

Today the table offered Pasta with Oil and (3 types of) Garlic, roasted Brussels Sprouts, red wine and chocolate cake.

Pasta with Oil & Garlic
In a large skillet, cover the bottom with olive oil. Smash 4 cloves garlic and sauté until golden – about 4 min. Remove and munch on them when they cool down (or discard). Add 4 cloves sliced garlic and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes. Cook until just beginning to turn golden – about 1 min. Add 4 cloves minced garlic, stir until fragrant – about 30 sec. Remove from heat and set aside. Do not over cook the garlic.

Cook spiral pasta al dente in well-salted water, retain 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain – DO NOT RINSE – and return to pan. Immediately pour garlic oil mixture and half of the retained pasta water over the pasta and mix to coat. Use the rest of the pasta water if needed to get all the pasta coated with sauce. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Serve.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Pre-heat oven to 500F. Yes, 500F.
Remove ends and discolored or damaged outer leaves from sprouts. Halve the sprouts. In mixing bowl, coat with olive oil, Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Spread on heavy baking sheet or rimmed pan, cut side down. Pop in oven for 10 minutes. Flip onto curved side and check for nice browning. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes more or until sprouts are fork soft, tooth tender and slightly sweet. Serve.

Thank baker for the gorgeous chocolate cake you had the good sense to purchase.

Pour wine of your choice throughout the meal.
Sip. Smile at the people gathered around your table. Enjoy their chatter.

Clean up.
Play Sharon van Etten’s brilliant ‘Are We There’ on repeat when you get the house back to yourself again 5+ hours later.

Sometimes you just want to curl up and ignore the weather; this was one of those weeks.

It’s been a weird week, ok, week and a half. But weird as it’s been, all is well. A family member had some sad news, one friend had very exciting news, another was sicker than a dog, an acquaintance made me an interesting offer (which I declined for the most part but embraced partially), and best of all: Jeff embarked on a new workout routine with me. Twelve weeks should find us both in a healthier, leaner, stronger place.

Culinarily, it’s been pretty boring here this week, but much enjoyed: comforting, full of foods we know well, recipes we’ve made before, there was even Jeff’s guilty pleasure of *eyes lowered in shame* tacos from a box tonight. I know. Even he said he thought it felt like cheating, like eating blue box mac & cheese instead of taking 30 minutes to make something worth eating, so a shelve’s worth of cookbooks have been put on hold at the library. Soon we’ll be making proper Mexican food at home: tacos to make you drool, burritos to sell your soul for, tortillas to wrap your hopes and dreams in.

Thursday, in the middle of a freezing cold, icy snow storm, we saw some lovely black and white photography from a pair of local artists at the local botanical gardens. It’s always mid-summer under the dome. My favorite was an abstract stand of thin black trees along the upper third of a snowy background. Friday, we cuddled, held hands, and patted each other’s arms for comfort during the first of three showing of Oscar Shorts. This group was Documentary. Documentaries are usually not too festive, and only the final one was anything even remotely outside of the devastating category. I highly recommend both “Period. End of Sentence.” and “Black Sheep.” One was full of joy and hope; the other broke our hearts.

Three more small bags of things that we didn’t use and don’t need were donated to the local charity shop. Yawn, snore. Nothing new there. Of actual news is that one of my bicycles, an older steel Giant hybrid, is off to a local refugee to help them get around the city more efficiently and cheaply. It’s the end of an era. It’s been loaned out several times, but it’s time to let it go for good. There was an emotional tie with it that was tough to move past. But I have another bike for getting around the city, a road bike for distance riding and triathlons, and a shared gravel bike in the works. I can’t remember the last time I’ve wanted to take the hybrid out for a ride, so it’s been sitting unloved and ignored in between loans for the past couple of years. No more, it’s time for it to be an important and regular part of someone’s life again.

I’ll end this is the exciting fact that we’re watching The Incredibles 2 tonight and I had forgotten how much I adore Edna Mole. I vote for more Edna Mole. So much more Edna Mole. Tomorrow brings pasta with 3 types of garlic and oven roasted brussels sprouts, some good friends for lunch, and who knows what for dessert afterwards – but it’ll most likely involve chocolate!