Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Christmas Dog

This post is not like the others. It’s not about things homemade so much as it is about what makes a home.



Rocky, I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since you came home and instantly became our brother and Christmas Dog.  You were, without a doubt, the best dog our family ever could have had. It's hard to express how much you meant to me. All I know is that the hole in my heart is immeasurably huge.


You were an incredible dog.

We knew pretty early on that you were special when we tried to teach you to play “fetch.” One gorgeous summer night, we were out in the backyard with you, throwing a rawhide bone across the grass. You’d happily run after it and pick it up, but then you would not come back. At all. You’d plop down and chew, or wander around the yard a bit, sniffing things, but at no point would you head back to any of us for another throw.


I guess it didn’t bother you that this behavior wasn’t exactly in line with your breed standard. You were born a Labrador Keeper. Champion lineage, be damned.

When we’d be out walking you, people driving by would roll down their car windows to comment on how handsome you were. They were right, but what they didn’t get to see was your snaggletooth. Even when you were being your most salty and insistent about something, it was hard to be stern with you because your upper lip was all caught up at your gum. You looked ridiculous and it didn’t deter you in the slightest.


One of the things I loved, and will always love, most about you is that you had an insatiable taste for butter. I never knew cold butter straight from the fridge had a smell, but you showed me otherwise. You could smell cold butter from clear across the house and you never missed an opportunity to angle for a pat. Foil wrappers were of no consequence to you; you’d swallow those sticks whole, aluminum and all, if given the opportunity. Having done that “chew on a foil gum wrapper” myself when I was a kid, I have no idea how you did this. Your passion for butter specifically and food in general was matched by few. I like to think you would have given Jeffrey Steingarten a run for his money, had you ever had the chance to compete head to head.

I’ll always cherish the photo of you with your head stuck in a cereal box, your butt backed up into the cabinet in a half-sit as you’re trying to extricate your head from the Multi-Grain Cheerios. It’s on my bedside table. 



Sandy and Liz and I knew when getting our breakfast that we always had to select from the rectangular boxes as the rounded ones bore your mark as much as if you’d been able to put pen in paw and sign them.

Of course, you couldn’t. You didn’t have opposable thumbs. Man, we really loved to make fun of you for that.


Is it ridiculous that I’m crying as I type this?

My very favorite memory of you was the week that Mom & Dad left to go to Yellowstone and put me in charge of the house, you, and our sisters. You kicked off that week by snatching half an avocado out of my hand and swallowing it whole. You thanked me for that treat by puking in the middle of the night all over the kitchen floor.


Not to be outdone by yourself, a couple of days later you ate a small box of Godiva truffles. I still can’t figure out how you got them. When we found you, all that was left of your dirty deed was the plastic wrapper and a small bit of cardboard. I guess you didn’t find cellophane to be an appropriate amuse bouche.

I was panicked, Rocky. The parents were unreachable off in the woods and I was so worried the chocolate would kill you. Your bright and cheery demeanor, tail wagging aggressively, did not fool me. I was sure you would die on my watch and I was absolutely terrified. I called the Emergency Vet (because you were thoughtful enough to pull this stunt on a Sunday night, of course), and we assessed your condition. Thankfully, because you were so fat, the Emergency Vet was cautiously optimistic that you’d be fine.

I know that sounds mean, but really, you were seriously fat. At one point you weighed more than me. That’s why we started feeding you baby carrots. I’m sure that for the rest of my life I won’t be able to look at a baby carrot without thinking of you. Because of you, in our house, “the ‘C’ word” took on a whole new meaning that had nothing to do with nasty words for lady parts. 

Anyway, on the Emergency Vet’s advice, I cooked up a large pot of plain boiled rice and ground beef. I fed it to you, and, in your typical manner, you ate as if you were coming off some sort of prolonged hunger strike. You ate every meal that way. I love you for that.

As it turns out, you were fine. You didn’t even get sick. I was amazed, but mostly I was relieved. You were okay. You were happy. You were hoping I might give you some more boiled beef and rice.


While your approach to food endeared you to me early on, I have especially always admired your approach in making new friends. The less someone liked you – and it’s hard to believe anyone would not like you – the harder you tried. You would not leave their side. You would be a constant companion at the foot of their chair. You refused to accept anything less than love from everyone, and you weren’t afraid to work for it if you felt that person needed convincing. You were a very insistent, very persuasive guy. You converted many a dog-hater. You were just that charming.


I love how you were afraid of the floor vents in the kitchen.

I love how when I once accidentally stepped on you in the dark and simultaneously poured a glass of water on your head, all you did was look at me with shock and mild irritation.

I love how you’d grumble from the back of your throat when you wanted to “talk” to us.

I love how you would sit like the Sphinx, with one paw tucked under.


I love how you’d never bark unless someone came to the door, and then you’d let out a single, deep, intensely scary woof.

I love how you’d chase rabbits in your sleep.

I love how you’d walk around a puddle rather than through it.

I love how you’d snatch food tossed in the air as if you were an alligator.

I love how we had a shared passion for fine leather goods. And shearling. Me for wearing, you for eating.


I love how every time one of us would come home, no matter how short the trip, you’d run immediately in search of a toy to bring us.

I love how you brought so much joy to all of us, especially Liz.


All dogs go to heaven, Rocky, and you’re no exception. I hope when you get there, you find a gigantic doorless refrigerator stocked with an unending supply of baby carrots and Plugra butter. You deserve nothing but the best because you really are the best dog who ever lived. 

I love you.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Health in a Bowl

As I mentioned last month (cannot believe it has been that long - ugh!), I've spent a couple of weeks feeling rather under the weather recently. Being sick for a few days sucks. Being sick for two weeks is really a whole other story that I hope to never experience again. At some point in week two of this malaise I decided what I really needed was a bunch of vegetables. I'm sure if I owned a juicer I would have been going crazy with that thing.

I don't own a juicer.

I actually am kind of anti-juice. I don't understand why or how juice could possibly be better for you that eating the whole fruit or vegetable itself. But I'm funny like that. Juice is just not my thing.

On the other hand, I can really get behind a good, brothy veggie soup. This was another "let's be thrifty and environmentally responsible and everything and use what's already in the fridge" move. Also an "I feel like crap and don't want to walk a block to the grocery store" move. And with a few supplements, I had a pretty tasty vegetable soup that I will happily make again, only in probably half the quantity as I've discovered that three consecutive days of a vegetable soup meal represent my absolute limit.

If you want to feel healthy, or if you have a lot of veggies in the drawer that are about to go, this is your recipe.

Doesn't this gorgeous kale just scream "I AM SO GOOD FOR YOU!"?
Kate's Vegetable Soup
Makes four big servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small red or white potato (thin-skinned, not Russett), peeled and diced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups chicken broth (I'm a fan of Swanson Natural Goodness)
1 can diced tomatoes with their juice
parmesan rinds (optional)
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 roasted red pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 bunch of kale, chopped coarsely
kosher or sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions

(Before you start, I highly recommend pre-chopping all the veggies.)

1. Roast your red pepper if you haven't already. I only had half a red pepper but I still just stuck it on the burner. (God, I love having a gas stove.)


2. Once the pepper is good and blackened, put it in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the pepper steam for about 10 minutes. Then use paper towels to rub off the blackened skin. Chop the peeled pepper.


3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium-high and saute the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes. You don't really want to brown it here. 

4. Add the potato, spices, chicken broth, and tomatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Toss in one or two parmesan rinds, if you have them. 


5. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until the broth looks a little cloudy and starts to smell delicious. 

6. Add the zucchini, red pepper, and kale.


7. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so, until the zucchini is tender but not mushy. 

I love all the gorgeous colors. It's like rainbow soup.

8. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with some whole grain crackers. And a big spoon.


I finally kicked that crazy flu a couple of days after I made this soup for myself.
So clearly, this works. Sample size of one. I'm a believer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Fall Salad and My Perfect Granola

Hi Blogosphere,

I miss you. It's been awhile. A lot has happened since I saw you last. Although nothing very exciting, to be honest. I made a bunch of food. I took some pictures. I did a lot of work. I went to some concerts. I had lots of fun with friends.

Mostly, I didn't blog. But I'm back and I'm vowing to do this more regularly. I'm sure I'll regret this. But like taking my packet of vitamins each morning, I believe it's good for me. Kind of like this salad.

Because I've been a bit under the weather lately, I've been doing a lot of working from home. The benefit to working from home (i.e. one of the few benefits to being sick) is making lunch for myself, on the spot. For some reason, I love making lunch for myself. A couple of days ago, I opened the fridge and decided to just make a salad from what was in there. Here was the result - a very tasty autumnal salad.

Mixed greens, sliced fennel, mission figs (fresh!), green apple, halved grapes, sliced parmesan, toasted walnuts with a dressing of sherry vinegar, olive oil, a little bit of honey, and salt and pepper.


It was a delightful little lunch and I think it even made me feel a little bit better. Food can do that, you know.

Unlike the salad, which I made up on the spot, this granola recipe has been several months in the making. I actually honed it at the end of July but, as previously discussed, have lacked the time to blog about it. By which I mean, I totally didn't prioritize it. Clearly, I had time. I just didn't make time. So now. I'm making time now. Even though I did a terrible job taking pictures of this granola. Oh well. I'm out of practice. Or something.

Anyway, I've finally got My Perfect Granola. I still can't believe how easy it is to make. I'm never buying granola again. For real this time.

This recipe is super easy to modify. You can add or change the quantities on pretty much anything. I like the balance of this one. It's just a little bit sweet and just a little bit nutty.

I certainly don't know anyone like that. 

Kate's Perfect Maple-Vanilla-Pecan-Coconut-Pepita Granola

Ingredients
3 cups old-fashioned (not quick!) rolled oats. Quaker Oats. Obviously. 
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons real, pure maple syrup

Directions

1.     Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.     Combine oats, pecans, pepitas, coconut flakes, and pinch of salt in a medium to large bowl. 

3.     In a small bowl, combine canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla bean seeds. Whisk to combine.

4.     Pour maple syrup mixture into oat mixture. Stir until all the future-granola bits are coated evenly.


5.     Dump granola into baking pan and evenly distribute across pan.


6.      Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir once in the middle of baking.

7.     Cool completely, then store in an airtight container. I like to keep mine in a glass jar with a rubber gasket like this one. 

8.     Eat! I like mine over Fage 0% Greek Yogurt with whatever fresh berries I can get my hands on. Or peaches. 

Or straight from the jar with a spoon.





Monday, August 27, 2012

Cooking For Yourself

Ages ago, I picked up a cookbook called "Cooking For Yourself." It was part of the Williams-Sonoma canon and I snagged it on deep discount while I was working there.


I wasn't feeling all militant and single or anything - it just had some good recipes. And some good thoughts on how to buy food without wasting it, and without eating the same thing for a week. Despite the whole foreword about how you shouldn't feel bad about yourself because you're cooking solo.

I kid. It doesn't really say that. Well, not in so many words.

Anyway, I latched onto one recipe in this thing right away, and it's still something I make, 10+ years later.


It is, in fact, ideal, when you are cooking for yourself. As I was, tonight.

Also, I was super hungry. And also, I'm eating lightly this week so I can wear this certain dress to Rayleen & James' wedding this weekend. A very pretty dress. A very unforgiving dress.

Eating lightly for me means fish and veggies. For some reason, that seems to work for me. So I went back to my old salmon-in-a-packet standby.

It's so easy. Even if you're not cooking for yourself, you should add this to your repertoire. Just multiply the ingredients and packets.

And if you are cooking for yourself, I have a bunch of tricks that make this super single-person friendly.

Here's how it goes:

Go to the store and get yourself a nice piece of wild, line caught, salmon. Then go to the salad bar. Get corn, red peppers, and jalapenos. You want about 1/2 cup of corn, 1/4 cup red peppers, and a couple of tablespoons of jalapenos. And cilantro, a few tablespoons of that. If you remember to get cilantro, which I did not. 



Chop up the peppers if you need to. Try to get the pieces roughly the same size. Perfection is not required here.

Salt and pepper the corn/jalapeno/pepper mix and put it on a piece of foil. Add a few dots of butter.
 

Put your piece of salmon on top of the pile.

Oh. Crap. Set your oven to 450! You should have done that before! Do it now!

Ok, and then take a wedge of lime and squeeze it over your salmon on the pile of veggies. Salt and pepper it, and place lime wedges on top and then dots of butter.


Pull up the long sides of the foil and fold over the top so it's sealed. Then roll up the ends.
 

Now bake it. For 15 minutes. Or 20 minutes if you have a super thick filet, but I suggest you cook it for 15.

Be super careful when you take it out as you don't want to burn yourself on the steam coming from the packet of delicious.

It'll look like this:


If you, like me, had a piece of salmon with the skin on it, remove the salmon with a spatula to a cutting board. Flip it over and peel off the skin.


Tasty! (And healthy!)

The juices are delicious, by the way. You may want to consider serving this in a bowl so you can drink the juices at the end. Luckily, you're dining alone so such behavior is totally ok.




Thursday, August 23, 2012

Blue Suede Shoes

It's summer. Also I evidently have insomnia tonight. Fun. Seems like a good time to write a blog post. Sorry I've been such a slacker.

Here's a dinner I made the other day. Man, I love summer produce. This was a nicoise-inspired thing. A little steamed red potato and green beans, a few halved grape tomatoes, some dijon-ish vinaigrette, and a nicely seared piece of tuna.



People act like cooking is a big deal, but it's not. It's actually simple if you follow a few basic rules.

1. Buy and eat what's in season. Guess what this means? No tomatoes in March. Sorry. I know you love tomatoes, but too bad. You'll appreciate them all the more when they come into season in August. You'll eat your face off with heirlooms and beefsteaks and dry farmed early girls, and cherry tomatoes in four different colors. It's worth the wait.

2. Keep it simple. I can't tell you how far a decent ($15 a bottle, not $40 a bottle) olive oil, some kosher salt (for God's sake, it doesn't have to be pink Himalayan sea salt or cost $60 a pound, but please, please ditch the iodized salt. It is 2012. You don't need to worry about goiters. Seriously.) and some FRESH ground (DO NOT BUY PRE-GROUND!!!) pepper can take basically ANYTHING and make it tasty. I'm serious. Start with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Try it on raw veggies, steamed veggies, roasted veggies. Try it as a preparation for all kinds of meats, including shrimp and fish. Which brings me to rule #3…

3. Overcooking is the devil. This is hard. I have a lot of trouble with it. I get nervous about undercooked chicken (Salmonella! OMG!!) and then I really dry out that nice, organic, pasture-raised piece of chicken I just paid way too much for at Whole Foods. Or…who among us hasn't accidentally forgotten to set the timer for pasta or veggies? We've all done it. Mush and gray. Awesome for the gruel in Oliver!. Not awesome for your food. The only time overcooking works to your advantage is when you are roasting some veggies that are on the brink of extinction. It is at this time - when you need to caramelize the sh*t out of something - that overcooking is ok. But otherwise it's not. So learn how to not overcook things by practicing. It's like hemming pants: you can always do more but you can't do less.

4. Play around! Challenge yourself to cook once a week without a recipe. I'm serious. I don't mean that you should memorize your recipe before you start. I mean, attempt to assemble something using just your wits and your experience. You can do it. And do you know what? If it sucks, you can order Thai. Don't worry about it. Just try. And try to remember that you'll always learn more from your failures than your successes. This is true in the kitchen and far from it.

In sum, cooking isn't a big deal. It just takes practice, patience, and attention to what you are doing. Be open to making mistakes and learn from them when you do make them.

It's not rocket surgery (as a darling colleague of mine likes to say). It is NOT a big deal. For real.

Ok, so guess what?! I did a craft. Holy crap, Kate, something homemade that we can't eat? Yes!

Aren't you excited?

I bought these shoes the other day because I wanted an alternative pair of comfortable heels to wear so I don't wear out my favorite black patent pumps before their time. These were cheap. I found them at DSW.



Only problem is…they have this gross disco heel.


Ew. Blue and fabric-covered and shimmery? Really?? Last time I checked, I wasn't a tranny. Something had to be done about this. This being the heels. Not my not being a tranny.

Ugh. Nevermind. Just keep reading.

Alright, in the interest of full disclosure, these are Jessica Simpson shoes. I know, I KNOW. It does hurt me a little on the inside. Really, it does. But I have to give Jess a little credit - the color of the suede is kind of perfect - a "new neutral," if you will.

Oh - which totally reminds me of when I turned 21 and Mer gave me this AWESOME fuchsia bag from Coach that I was OBSESSED with (I still have it) and, drunk, on my 21st, went all about town telling basically anyone who would listen that "hot pink was the new black."

Yeah, I'm that girl.

But I digress.

Anyway, Jessica Simpson shoes: great but for the ugly fabric covered heel.

So I painted them.

Yeah. You can do this, too. Don't think you have to accept things as the manufacturer makes them. You are better than that - you have more style. Go for it.

It's easy.


Get some craft paint that works on fabric and a nice, small brush. This will set you back about $4.71 at Michaels.

Put down some newspaper.

Paint. Cover everything but don't get too gloppy or thick.

Wait an hour and paint again. 



And voila. Shoes that don't look like you're moonlighting as a "shots girl" at Northstar.

Which I'm not.

In case you were wondering.






Monday, July 09, 2012

I'll Have the Whale

Yesterday was the halfway point of my trip. I feel like I've been gone for approximately a month so I think this vacation is doing what it's supposed to. Lobotomize me. I mean, refresh my brain.

 

Before the weekend, it was stunningly beautiful here. Perfect sunny weather. We tried to go to the famed Bird Island of Runde, known for its many, many puffins. It was a beautiful drive and then, just a few kilometers away from the island, this extremely dark and large cloud started to roll over the mountains in front of us.

 

By the time we got to Runde, the temperature had dropped and it was cold and windy. (It actually looked a lot like when the fog rolls into San Francisco this time of year.) So we bailed on bird island and found a sunny spot for a hike.

Foreground: Mashall learns to blow dandelion seeds.

Background: Chrissy applies SPF 2000 to Josie.

 

This was the view from the top.

It's hard to tell from the picture, but I think we were walking on some kind of bog. It was very spongy moss that was rather springy underfoot. Kind of like that gluten-free McDonald's bun from Stockholm. (By the way, did I mention that the Big Mac is called a McThomas in Sweden?)

 

Chrissy's husband Will has been on a business trip to Singapore so the next day, Chrissy and I took the kids on a mini vacation to Trondheim.

It takes about 6 hours to get to Trondheim, including two ferries, and a lot of tunnels and bridges.

This one looked like a modern version of the Golden Gate bridge. Only not golden. And only two lanes.

Six hours is a loooong time in the car but the kids were really, really good.

Trondheim is incredibly charming.

 

Our hotel, the Rika Nidelven, was lovely and situated right on the river that runs through town.

When we arrived, we took the kids to the Trondheim Science Center which is a kid-oriented museum with LOTS of hands on activities. It was super fun.

Josie especially loved the spinner.

She was on it for hours.

I also loved that to the side of the kids' outdoor play area was this:

 

Yes, that's a catapult. A discarded catapult. Not, like blocked off or anything. Just put aside. It doesn't even have a sign on it that says not to touch it or play on it.

 

I guess the Norwegians just assume that people don't need to be told these things.

Fascinating.

 

I also loved that one of the "Did you know?" signs in the museum had information about when the cheese plane was invented. Norwegians are very into their cheese planes. It's how they slice brunost, a traditional Norwegian cheese.

 
 

After the science museum, we were all ready for dinner. We took the kids to a fancy adult restaurant. While Josie and I were washing our hands after touching EVERYTHING at the Science Museum, the waitress came over to tell Chrissy about the dinner specials.

 

When we came back to the table, Chrissy was very excited.

 

"The fish of the day is halibut with a tomato-y sauce, and the meat of the day is whale."

Whale! Obviously, we HAD TO have some whale. When else do you have a chance to have whale?

Hopefully it wasn't baby whale...

 

We order.

 

Chrissy: "The kids will have child portions of the halibut with all the vegetables and sauces on the side and I'll have the whale."

Waitress: "The vale?"

Chrissy: "Yes, the whale."

 

Here's the whale.


You might notice that the whale looks a lot like VEAL. Because it is veal. Turns out that "veal" said with a heavy Norwegian accent sounds just like "whale."

Anyway, the whale was delicious.

So was the halibut.



 

We followed this delightful meal with some ice cream, because Norwegians love two things: dessert and hot dogs, and then rolled ourselves back to the hotel. We had a big day to prepare for on Sunday.

There was a massive breakfast buffet at the hotel for us to take down.

 

I didn't photograph it all but this is by far the best hotel breakfast I have ever seen in my life. It had everything: cured meats, many cheeses, hot meats, several kids of eggs, at least half a dozen types of salmon, a giant yogurt/cereal buffet, salad, a fruit buffet, a fresh-squeezed custom juice station, a slice-your-own-bread-station, and many, many trays of baked and griddled breakfast treats.

They even had a special section of gluten free breads and crackers. I love it here.

Fishcakes in the foreground.
 
Many delicious cold fishes. Don't worry, I sampled them all.
Josie's very excited about breakfast.
That brown flat thing toward the back of my plate is brunost. Please also note the half-eaten soft boiled egg in the middle. Look at how yellow (orange!) that yolk is! These eggs did not come from a factory farm.
 
After lunch, we rolled ourselves over to Nidaros Cathedral, which was originally built in the 11th century. It was really impressive, although we were not allowed to photograph the inside, so all I have for you is this:
Then I went over to the train station and bought a one-way ticket to Hell.

You know, just in case. It's good to have these things onhand. You never know when you're going to need to give this to someone.

 

It was a rainy day so we skipped the outdoor museum and headed home. Not two minutes outside of the city, it was lunchtime and the kids were claiming hunger despite our enormous breakfast binge, so we stopped for gas and a very Norwegian lunch of cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

No, seriously. Modern Norwegian cuisine bears a striking resemblance to carnival food.

We also had ice cream on the ferry. It was a banner day for food, that's for sure.

 

We also discovered an awesome Swedish pop song.

We really can't get enough of it.