Lazy Days

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Well, to be totally honest, you’re probably not going to get a cooking post from me this week.  Jesse and I have been whipping up simple little meals here and there — a tofu broccoli stir fry before going out in our neighborhood last Friday, a pasta dinner to eat while we packed for Christmas last Saturday…but we just got back last night from four days out in the Ashland woods with 6 of our friends, and while we ate like kings and queens the whole time, not a single picture was taken, aside from this table, eagerly awaiting breakfast on Christmas morning.


Which was, in case you’re curious, chive-cheddar-cracked-pepper biscuits with homemade veggie gravy, sauteed sausage and mushrooms on the side, and a giant bowl of scrambled eggs; mimosas, and endless rounds of coffee.

What else did we eat?  Oh man.

Christmas Eve Dinner:

  • Wine and cheese appetizers while Kate and Zack gracefully prepared an amazing meal
  • Veggie lasagna
  • Pineapple glazed ham
  • Roasted yams
  • Homemade bread
  • Gingerbread pumpkin cheesecake
  • Regular cheesecake with raspberries

Christmas Dinner (which a bunch of us collaborated on)

  • Channa masala
  • Lemon couscous with roasted veggies
  • Greek salad
  • Curried chicken
  • Warm pita bread
  • Homemaide raita
  • Bars of dark chocolate and a 33-year-old bottle of port for dessert

Other than that, it was a whole lot of hanging out, playing board games, trekking around Zack’s property with snowshoes, making fancy cocktails, opening presents, hanging out by the big wood-burning stove in the middle of the house, and knitting.  It was also a weekend of a lot of firsts for me: first time sledding, first time watching Christmas movies, and I even shot a rifle!  As Zack put it, “Well, we wouldn’t send you out for food, but that wasn’t half bad.”

This Week’s Groceries

Safeway 12/16

  • Orange juice: $3.00
  • 3 cheese blend: $2.99
  • Crimini mushrooms: $2.18
  • Brussels sprouts: $2.49

TOTAL: $10.66



Fred Meyer 12/22 — Mixers for Christmas cocktails, and fixings for Jesse’s yummy sausage pasta!

  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Bacon
  • Canned chili
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Italian sausage
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Yellow onion
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Navel orange
  • Pear juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • V8 Splash
  • Hazelnut creamer
  • Apple blueberry juice
  • Shell pasta
  • Marinara sauce
  • Half and half

TOTAL: $54.38



New Seasons 12/21 

  • 2 dark chocolate bars: $7.58
  • Zante currants: $1.74
  • Tofu: $2.59
  • Lemons: $2.17
  • Olive: $3.80

TOTAL: 17.88



Grocery Outlet 12/18

  • Whole milk: $1.99
  • Cottage cheese: $2.39
  • Butter: $2.59

TOTAL: $6.97



Portland Fruit Company 12/18

  • Yellow onions
  • Zucchini
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip
  • Rutabaga
  • Parsnip
  • Red peppers
  • Oranges
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Green cabbage

TOTAL: $17.04


Angelhair Pasta with Parmesan Zucchini, Sauteed Bell Peppers, and Blackened Salmon

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Sometimes it’s those nights where I’m cooking by myself, thinking I’m going to just whip up something quick and easy, when nobody else is around to witness it, that I wind up eating masterpieces for dinner.  I guess that’s how this blog originally started, but now that I live with Jesse those nights feel more rare.  Not that he won’t eat anything that’s put in front of him, and probably seconds and thirds as well, but when we’re cooking together, or even just when I’m cooking for both of us, I find myself sticking to the tried and true, even using recipes more.

So Monday night, while Jesse was out bowling with the boys, I found myself out running errands until just before dinner, and en route home totally ravenous.  I so rarely do this — stop at the grocery for like a single item — but I was craving some sort of fish.  The Johnson Creek Freddy’s actually has a pretty decent seafood department, so I pulled over totally impulsively and bought a piece of salmon.  This was no big splurge — it was less than $7 for the whole piece, which I only used half of and froze the rest (and wound up with leftovers for lunch, still!), but it still felt nice to treat myself to exactly what I wanted, and make a delicious meal, just for myself.  Like I always used to do!


This was partially inspired by a super simple Ina Garten recipe (I’m currently reading through the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook), urging me to cook my zucchini slices in small batches so they brown and crisp instead of steam and get mushy, and then cover them in parmesan, for good measure.  She’s right, I realized, this is the reason I always forego the zucchini, because it always gets mushy and overcooked, no matter what I do.  And the pasta?  Angelhair pasta was undoubtedly the carb-y texture that I was craving that night, and we just happened to have a partial package of it in the pantry.  Bingo.

First I sauteed up half an onion in some super delicious olive oil.


I’d made some homemade feta a few weeks back, which you can store at room temperature, as long as it’s submerged in oil.  I had added some rosemary in there for good luck, and now that all the cheese is gone, I’m left with this wonderfully dank olive oil to cook with!

Then, the zucchini.


Like I said, I cut the salmon steak in half, and stuck the rest in the freezer.  This part, I stuck straight into the skillet, (which I had now cleared of the zucchini, keeping them warm in a covered bowl), skin side down.  After about five minutes I flipped it, and now the skin peels easily off, as if it were never even attached.


I covered it again and let it blacken with all the residual salt, pepper, and cheese flakes that were in there from the zucchini, and then added a sliced red pepper in there along with it.


I make popcorn, like, almost every night.  Pretty much, yeah.  Someday I’ll show you how the pros do it, but for now all you need to know is that I make a little mixture to sprinkle on, that involves nutritional yeast (fine grain), Lawry’s salt, pepper, and oregano.  After each batch of popcorn, there is a thick layer of detritus at the bottom of the bowl from where these seasonings missed the kernels and sifted through.  I save this in a little bowl and sprinkle it on just about everything, because it is unbeatably delicious.  So if you ever hear me referring to just general “herbs,” this is probably what I’m talking about.


Watch out for the kernels.

Meanwhile, I’m boiling some water and cooking some angel hair pasta — just enough for a single serving.  Jesse and I had big plans to cook risotto on Tuesday night, so I’m not looking for leftovers here.

Once the pasta was done I strained it, threw it right back into the pot, and added some butter, a few shakes of nutritional yeast, a splash of cream, a few squirts of lemon juice, and some cracked pepper.


I mixed that all up and poured it onto a big plate, serving as the “bed,” and then on top of this added the zucchini, peppers, and salmon.  They had all been waiting for this moment.

Don’t tell Jesse, but sometimes salmon tastes best when you’re eating alone.


Curried Coconut Carrot Soup

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Well, I totally forgot to take any pictures leading up to the completion of last night’s dinner, but that’s probably okay, since this is one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make.  I’ve made many variations of carrot soup before, but this one had a few new elements to it — inspired by the Esalen cookbook which I’ve been slowly working my way through all the bookmarked pages of, I also added an apple to the mix, and roasted this along with the carrots instead of simply throwing them in to the pot to boil.  I don’t know how much of a difference that really made, but this soup was delicious so let’s just go with it.

The first thing I did was chop my carrots into thirds — nothing too labor-intensive here — along with a cored apple.  These got coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted in the oven for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, I did the usual soup-prep thing: chopped up an onion and a few cloves of garlic, and this some some ginger, too.  I sauteed these all in some olive oil, along with a few spoonfuls of my Indian curry powder.  Once the onions were translucent, I filled the pot with broth (using Better Than Bullion these days, since until last night, we haven’t roasted a chicken in ages!), and let that simmer until the veggies were done.

Once they were soft, I took them out of the oven, added them to the broth, and brought this to a boil.  I was too lazy to get out the blender, so I mashed the carrot and apple pieces directly in the pot with our potato masher (an immersion blender is #1 on our list when we go to Kitchen Kaboodle to spend the Hanukkah/Christmas gift cards we received from Dad and Kathy this week!), and added half a can of coconut to give the soup some creaminess.  And because coconut milk is delicious in just about anything.


For the rest of this meal, I have Jesse and Hollis to thank — Hollis, who brought over some kale which I quickly sauteed in the skillet in a bit of coconut oil, slat, some Balti seasoning from Penzey’s, and a few squirts of my favorite lemon juice — a perfect green side dish to accompany this meal; and Jesse, who swung by New Seasons on his way home from work and already had the chicken roasting in the oven by the time I got home in time for a nice Thursday night dinner with two of my favorite people.

Oh, but this wasn’t just any chicken roasting.  It was a chicken slathered with this.


He also injected this directly into the breast of the chicken with a syringe, if you want to really know how this went down.  This rub is courtesy of one of my vendors at the Urban Craft Uprising, and it is amazing.  I mean, I even though it was amazing when I sampled it off of a wooden stick at the show, as well as smeared onto a crust of some leftover baguette and topped with brie while impatiently waiting for the carrots to finish roasting for the soup.  But hot damn, rub it all over a chicken and pop it in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour, and you will never be able to eat a regular roasted chicken again.


This is but one of half a dozen different flavors that we acquired from One Screw Loose at last weekend’s show, and be warned: this may be appearing on most meat we consume for the next few months.


This Week’s Groceries

Portland Fruit Company 10/4

  • Garlic
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Chard
  • Red onion
  • Globe grapes
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Asparagus
  • Cilantro
  • Broccoli

TOTAL: $23.74



An Dong Market 12/6 — Jesse’s World-Famous Curry!

  • Sorry, folks.  Every item on this receipt just says “grocery.”  I’ll have to get him to blog about this sometime.  It’s outta this world.

TOTAL: $41.23



New Seasons 12/13

  • 5 lb. bag of carrots
  • 1 apple
  • Bulk popcorn
  • Dozen eggs
  • A whole chicken
  • Whatever else Jesse decided to buy…?  We’ve got to have a talk about saving those receipts!

TOTAL: $27.54


Hodgepodge Minestrone Soup

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Whew!  The busiest two weeks of my year are officially over.  With the Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show officially under my belt, my regular dynamic well-rounded life can resume!  Jesse and I pulled into the driveway of our new, much-missed home late Sunday night, driving straight back to town after tearing down from the show.  We both passed out on the couch without making it through even a single episode of Parks & Rec.

My “weekend” Monday/Tuesday after UCU is all about unpacking, deconstructing, and reorganizing…basically getting the shop back to looking like nothing ever happened.  Ha!

So Monday morning I slept in for the first time in weeks, and didn’t leave the house at all, except to go for a long run just before it got dark out.  I had the house to myself all day, and got to do exactly what I was craving: catching upon emails, drinking coffee, unpacking my suitcase, stowing show supplies until the next one (next July!), counting my money, running loads of dishes and laundry, and wearing yoga pants all day long.

I knew I wasn’t even going to pretend to make it to the grocery too, and we had fled the house last Thursday morning with an unsettling amount of produce still left in the fridge, which by Monday night, was looking woefully unperky.  Time for some minestrone soup.  With the house now clean and my slate ready to start December fresh, I wanted those veggie drawers empty, ready to be restocked with new and exciting ingredients for some hunker-down winter meals.  We’ve been eating catered sandwiches and takeout all weekend, and I’m stoked to turn on the stove again.

Here’s what I had at my disposal.

That’s a lot of root veggies.  Lucky for me, I keep New Seasons’ dried 12-bean mix in my pantry.  So while I poured my second cup of coffee in the morning, I also set a cup of these in a pot of water to soak for the rest of the day.  And when it came time to make dinner tonight, I cooked those for about 30 minutes until all the beans were soft enough — even those gigantic ones.

What’s the basis of all veggie soups?  A mirepoix, of course.

I started sauteeing this mix directly in the soup pot, in some olive oil, along with a few bay leaves.  Meanwhile, I skinned and diced those other root veggies (rutabega and parsnip).


Into the pot those went, as I filled it up just a couple inches below the brim with some water and bullion to make a nice broth — cranked the heat until it boiled, then let this all simmer on medium-high until the veggies were just done.  There was also a package of sliced mushrooms that I threw in there, which didn’t make it into the photo shoot.

Then, I added about 2 cups of V8 veggie juice, to give the broth a nice rich tomato flavor, added some salt, the beans which were now cooked and drained, and half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  A winter soup needs some kick!


Oh, and the rest of those root veggies that didn’t make it into the soup for fear of overwhelming it, I chopped up and roasted in the oven with a simple mix of olive oil, nutritional yeast, Lawry’s salt, pepper, and oregano, just to have a yummy, crispy side dish to have in the fridge for the week.  Here they are pre-roasting.

What about the beets?  I’m a pretty big beet separatist because…well…you know what happens when beets touch anything.  And in my world, beets don’t go in soup, not even borscht.  I’m one of the lucky ones who loves beets for what they are, so I just wrapped those up in foil, roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour.

Then I slid off the skin and sliced them up, stuck a wedge of blue-brie cheese in between the hot slices so it got all melty, and drizzled some balsamic over it all.

Now this is just sheer luck of the draw, but I happened to snag some leftover swag from one of our awesome vendors, Honest Biscuits, as we were closing down the Ex Hall at the end of the show.


Heated up in the toaster, this made the most delicious accompaniment to a winter minestrone soup anyone could dream up.

Jesse was out for the night, so I got to enjoy my dinner in one of my favorite ways: while reading through a new cookbook and bookmarking pages.

This Week’s Groceries

None!  Iron Chef-ing it with what’s left in the fridge, baby!  Plus, when we’re up in Seattle on official business, UCU treats us to all our meals, so we were indulging in the rare dining-out vacation.