Archive | September, 2012

Yeah, I’m Crafty

19 Sep

“Oh my gosh, I’m so not crafty!”  Sitting at the kitchen table, glue gun webs of melted plastic draped from my fingers, I exclaimed my pretty obvious observation.  My good friend, Caroline, and I took the night to make crafts out of bags of saved wine corks, something we have both wanted to do for a while.  It seemed like a productive and rewarding way to use the evidence of years of wine drinking – I mean “tasting” (no, I really mean drinking).

Caroline was fashioning cork trivets out of antique picture frames, and I, to much avail was trying to make a wine cork wreath, uber fitting for the upcoming entertaining holidays.  The glue guns were smoking, the four-letter words were flying, and the martinis were flowing.  Needless to say, we weren’t near the perfectly imperfect Martha Stewart excellence.  However, in the end, I think Ms. Martha would have been proud.

There’s something so unique about a girl’s night; they can be simple or extravagant, gossipy or humble, over-emotional or relatively quiet.  Whatever the circumstance, day of the week, or excuse it takes for girls to get together, something memorable usually occurs.  While I know I’m not speaking to a large, albeit less numbered, half of our population, I think it’s important for every man out there to know that girls nights are 1) needed so we don’t yell at you about not wringing out the sponge, 2) not about pillow fights in negligée (sorry to burst some lingering pubescent floating bubbles of desire), and 3) a great excuse for you to watch that Pawn Stars episode with that man trying to sell the Days-of-Yore-this-is-worth-at-least-10,000-dollars-ok-maybe-$75.50 musket.

(Side note: as I literally finished writing that, Rob came upstairs and said, “Hey babe, I’m watching this really cool show about guns!”  No joke.)

After three hours of chatting, glue-gun burns, ignoring Sig (he learned to give up early), and, “Are you sure this looks ok?” reassurances, we had finished our little projects with sore hands and a sense of accomplishment.  By golly, we actually were crafty.  Caroline had created her trivets, and I had made my wreath.  Aside from feeling like we had actually done something worthwhile with our Saturday night, the process of cutting each cork perfectly to fit its puzzle-piece spot left us sighingly remembering each bottle of wine we loved, and just liked, and enjoyed with friends and family over laughs and good food.  Needless to say, the projects resulted in more than just our finished products.

To celebrate (and to secretly make Martha proud), dinner was in order, and a good one at that.  Our CSA basket is still giving us beautiful, bounteous baskets full of harvest summer fruit and veg, including lots of sweet corn.   I stuffed Poblano peppers with a colorful corn sauté, and eating this rustic Pacific Northwest meal gave us a different sense of accomplishment – like we had done something good for our community (and our stomachs).

The next morning, the leftovers were calling my name.  With a mixture of sautéed corn, cabbage, bacon, cranberries, and Manchego cheese, a breakfast burrito with a fried egg built itself in my mind putting my hands and sauté pan to work.  The foggy-morning dance of frying an egg until it is just cooked through has become second nature to me.  Using the benchwarmer microwave to cheatingly heat up my tortilla, I layered a little hot sauce, my harvest summer sauté, and the fried egg; breakfast was served.  And on the becoming increasingly rare occasion, breakfast was slow and savored.

With fall just around the corner, I can’t think of a humble breakfast that says goodbye to summer, and hello to autumn, better than this one.  Maybe it’s just because the memory of discovering my inner craftiness pairs as well as a mimosa would, or maybe it’s because it really is that good.  You be the judge.

Happy almost fall!

Harvest Summer Breakfast Burrito
(this recipe will give you enough filling for about 4 burritos, or extra to stuff roasted Poblano peppers!)

  • 1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut off cob (raw)
  • ½ head green cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 3 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced 
  • 1 large carrot, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler
  • ¼ c dried cranberries
  • ½ c + ¼ c beer (light ale)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • ½ c Manchego cheese, grated
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 4 eggs
  • a dash of olive oil
  • basil for garnish
  • s&p
  • hot sauce optional

Brown the bacon in a large sauté pan over med-high heat until crispy.  Remove bacon and set aside on a paper towel to drain off the excess grease. 

Pour out all but 1 tbsp of bacon fat, and add the diced onion.  Season with s&p and sauté until softened and translucent.  Add the jalapeño and deglaze with the ½ c of beer.  Let simmer until the beer is almost completely reduced, and add the cabbage and corn.  Season with a pinch of s&p again.  Add the extra ¼ c beer and cook down, until no extra liquid is in the pan and the cabbage has wilted. 

Turn off the heat and mix in the carrot shreds, cranberries, and crispy bacon.  Sprinkle over lime juice, and taste for seasoning. 

At this point, heat up the tortillas, and either mix in the grated Manchego cheese, or layer it within the burrito (I like to layer it in rather than mix together – it keeps different textures alive within the burrito). 

To fry the egg, pour a dash of olive oil into a non-stick pan, and crack in the egg.  Season with s&p, and leave be to cook over high heat, and then flip when the edges start to brown.  Cook to preferred doneness (runny yolk, medium, or hard cooked), and put on top of sauté in the burrito. 

Pour over some hot sauce, if you like it spicy in the morning, garnish with basil, and fold like, well, a burrito.

Enjoy!  

Bouquets of Freshly Sharpened Pencils, and Tomatoes

10 Sep

Yes, it’s that time again.  New clothes, three-ring binders, pencils, red pens, and those annoying snap-in three-hole punches that leave perfectly little round paper confetti all over the industrial carpeted floor.  The kids are back tin school, and my feet hurt.

It has been three years since I’ve been in a self-contained classroom, and while having worked as a single-subject teacher, a specialist, and then an instructional coach have all been incredible, and memorable, learning experiences, I’m so glad to be back with the kids.  Each day is different, and frankly, kids are cuter than adults (usually).

But getting back on the horse of the day-to-day-is-completely-different expectation has limited me on some of the things I have loved doing.  Such as waking up at 7:30 and watching the Today Show.  Taking long walks, catching up on food blogs, and reading cooking magazines.  And more than anything, spending most of the day in my perfectly L-shaped kitchen, making tomato jam, blueberry sauce, and tomato sandwiches.

In the August edition of Bon Appetit magazine, Adam Rapoport did a little blurb on Hellman’s Mayonnaise – it’s tang, it’s smoothness, simply it’s perfection.  Especially paired with a still-warm-from-the-sun tomato.  Finally, to read from someone who agrees with me about eating that mayo from the jar (well, I guess I learned from the best: Mom and Uncle Tom).  That little written oration, almost so easy to miss through the early pages of the mag, speaks passion and more than anything, a real summer taste.  Tomatoes, mayo, period.

Until now.  I have been playing with tomatoes for weeks now, and refuse to let one succumb to the overripe gods of the compost pile.  During the bitter, rainy winter/spring months, there’s sans a tomato in sight in our kitchen, so now is the time for indulgence.  I’ve even brought them to school and eaten them like an apple, brushing off my colleagues’ I’m-trying-not-to-look-at-you-but-it-seems-a-little-weird stares.  But the sauce I made, not originally intended for tomatoes, has made the lycopene-laced fruit speak loudly and with force: Peach and Fig Butter.  It’s sweet, tangy, subtle, and giving tomatoes a run for their money.

A friend’s mom was visiting from NorCal (where almost every fruit, veg, and leafy green has the ability to flourish wildly), and brought some Adriatic Figs to share.  These figs were so ripe they were about to pop – their bright green skin thin and stretched, like a, well, tomato ready to pop.  Adriatic figs are milder and less holiday tasting than the common black Mission Fig, and pair well with many summer flavors.  Two of my favorites being tomatoes and peaches (which I mix often), I imagined the perfect combination of a thick, smooth fruit butter to spread on tomatoes speckled with a creamy Gorgonzola.  Paired with a crisp Oregon Pinot Gris, can’t you just taste it now?

It was fabulous.  I took a shortcut with the butter by immersion blending the fruit after it had been simmering for a bit (rather than starting with a puree), shortening the thickening process drastically.  Despite the name, fruit butters don’t actually contain butter, but get their name from the thick, smooth quality the long simmering process renders.  Thick this was, and tasty.  The figs cut the sweetness from the peaches, and the subtle “warming” spices rounded out the fullness of the flavors.  Slathered on a tomato, our taste buds sung.

I teach 6th graders this year.  They are a lot different from the 4th, or even 8th graders I’ve grown accustom to teaching.  They, unlike my 4th and 8th graders, don’t care so much about my cooking stories.  They think talking about Fig and Peach Butter on a tomato is weird.  Maybe it is.  Not much is cool, unless you have a knack for really dry, overly intended sarcasm, which I, unfortunately, remember exuding all too well.  Call it the hormones, or maybe just the “transition year,” but I’m hoping they will come around to understanding the idea of having a passion for something as much as they understand an author’s voice in writing, or variables in algebra.  Having a passion is cool.  It made Adam Rapoport write about mayo.  It made me pair unlikely ingredients.  Hopefully, they will realize the coolness, too.

Fig & Peach Butter (makes 1 pint)

  •  5 large Adriactic figs, very ripe, diced
  • 2 large yellow peaches, peeled and diced
  • ¼ + 1/8 c organic sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¾ c water

Heat all ingredients in a pot over med-high heat until bubbly and liquidy. Add the ¾ c water, and blend well using an immersion blender or spoon into a stand blender.  Cook over low heat until very thick (when running a spoon through the butter, it should leave a trail).  Note: the butter will sputter when cooking; use a deep pot unless you want your stovetop to get covered in random, sticky, Jackson Pollock looking splotches. 

Let cool (it will thicken even more), and slather over tomatoes, toast, dollop on oatmeal, or whatever your heart desires.  Enjoy! 

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