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The Ripper

ripper

Day 2.  Do you have any idea how many serial killers are out there?  Obviously, no discussion about serial killers is complete without talking about the original.  Of course that’s the one, the only Jack the Ripper.

If you’ve read anything ever in the last 100 years or seen any movies, you know all about him.  He was a Mason protecting the royalty.  No, wait.  He was a doctor, or a butcher or an undertaker.  No!  He was Lewis Carroll! (Yeah. I KNOW.)  No, no.  This thing has totally been solved now.  It’s fine.

It’s not all creepy killers all the time around here.  Lately I’ve been obsessively looking at duck recipes.  This weekend is going to be duck breast.  Oh, and squash.  I made this delicata squash thing on Monday.  And bread.  I’m doing this soup and bread thing on Sunday evenings and it’s been really fun to stretch my bread making skills a bit.  Of course I’m going to totally laze out and do fat, fluffy rolls this weekend instead of crazy “start it the day before” fancy-pants bread.

And now for something completely different:

Cute Overload – there is probably something there to make you happy.

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October!

Little known fact about me:  I am utterly obsessed with serial killers.  Which, if you know me is totally insane because I am pretty easily scared.  When I was younger, I almost obsessively checked out this book on the spooky legends of Indiana, and there was a story in there about the “Ax-man” in Bloomington, IN who preyed on young college co-eds and rode around on the top of their car.  (Seriously how is this plausible even as an urban legend?  Did no one notice the dude WITH AN AX riding around on the top of a car?)  Anyway.  Supposedly he was notorious, but really he was just a cautionary tale.  Don’t go out with boys and stay out late or else you’ll die alone, scratching at your own door until your fingers are bloody nubbins!  Oh, and you’ll have an ax in your head, sorry.

Back to the point.  It’s October and every year I want to tell everyone about some of my most favorite serial killers because, you know.  Halloween and cool nights and it gets dark earlier and HOLY CATS WHAT WAS THAT NOISE BETTER TURN ON ALL THE LIGHTS.  Maybe that’s just me.  So here’s a start.

 October 1: Belle Gunness

SO CREEPY

Oh man.  Belle Gunness was straight up a cold-hearted BITCH.  Seriously go read that Wikipedia article.

Are you back?  She is easily in my top 3 of favorite serial killers.  She’s huge! And strong!  She left no survivors!  She just wanted to watch the world burn, and then collect the money!  And now she is immortalized in beer.  Also she really did kill EVERYONE.  She invited suitors in to her home and then watched them sleep.  Or just straight up murdered them, she could go either way.  Then she faked her own death and ran.  Belle Gunness is creepy, and ruthless, and completely out of her gourd.

And now for something completely different, here are a few links for things that are rad:

This sandwich.

These pencils.

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What is best in life?

What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, drive them before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.

I’m not going to lie, some days I agree with Conan. (Above quote is from the movie Conan the Barbarian.  And some days I go to work and, well, let’s say it feels apropos.)

What is really best in life?

A big ass bowl of chili, with sour cream and jalapenos (I really like the pickled ones, is this weird?), and oyster crackers.

It’s getting cold out there. Bust out your favorite big pot (or crock pot) and make your favorite chili. Or make my favorite chili.  But whatever you make, eat it with friggin oyster crackers, I promise you’ll love it.

Maggie’s Favorite Vegetarian Chili

Actually that’s a misnomer, I haven’t even bothered to try any other vegetarian chili.  It’s a riff on Madhur Jaffrey’s Tex-Mex chili, only much, much lazier.

2 15 oz. cans chili tomatoes

2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, chili beans, or a combo of both

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, or 1/2 of one or none at all.

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup lentils, rinsed

3-4 1/2 c. water or veg broth

1 1/2 t. ground cumin

2 t. paprika (I use smoked, but I’m cool like that)

1/2 t. dried thyme

1/2 t. dried crumbled sage

1 t. dried oregano

1/4 t. cayenne

1 1/2 t. salt

—-

Heat up your pan and add about 1 T olive oil.  Plop in the onions, garlic and bell pepper, stir and fry for a couple minutes.  Add in tomatoes (with their juice), beans, lentils and all the seasonings.  Mix everything around really well.  Pour in your stock/water – I did about 3 cups.  So, here is where I get super lazy and I just put this in the oven at 350 for about 2, 2 1/2 hours or just leave it simmering on the stove for about an hour or until the lentils are smooshy.  Then, of course, put it in a bowl and eat it.

 

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Ten little pumpkins, sitting in my belly

Because it’s fall.  And suddenly all I want to do is eat stuff with pumpkin in it.  Or squash.  Or sweet potatoes.  I can just see my dad, wrinkling up his nose a little.  (Ok, maybe a lot.)  Sweet potatoes? Where did I go wrong?  It’s cool, Dad! I’m not eating any beets! Yet.

I’ve been working up a list I call “interesting things I want to make this fall/winter”.  Things like lamb raguRoasted marrow(warning! This link shows a lot of kind of gross raw bones).  A veggie cassoulet.  A crispy duck.  Oh hells yes, crispy duck with an orange sauce and sweet potato rolls.  Then, of course, duck fat potatoesMarmalade.  I have an idea for some s’mores brownies kicking around in my head that I want to attempt.  Onion jam.  I did some onion jam last year and made some sourdough bread and then the Archaeologist ate it and declared that it should be a thing that I did all the time.  But it involves slicing 4 pounds of onions and wow.  Even with my mandolin it is a lot of onions to slice.  Totally worth it, just not something I want to do every week.  I have some honey whiskey liqueur hiding in my pantry right now.  I can rack it in a week, and let me tell you, I’m already trying not to drink all of it.  I have a list of salad combos that I want to try out, something other than just lettuce, carrots, cabbage, celery, dressing.  I don’t know, we’ll see how it works out.  Anyone have any opinions on fennel?  I also have something like 800 million new vegetarian recipes to try.  Oh and pie.  Sometimes in the next month I’m going to start messing around with pie recipes.  (Friends, I will let you know when that day comes, because I am going to need help eating pies.)

Yum.

All this is a really long-winded way of saying, I have plans.  Kind of grand plans, in a way.  Things I want to try and taste and see.  But none of the above really satisfies my craving for something warm and pumpkin-y.  Enter my favorite banana bread.  Wait, what?  No, you heard me correctly.  10 minute banana bread.  It’s fast, it has a short ingredient list and it really lends itself to an open interpretation.  I’ve made it with applesauce instead of butter, peanut butter instead of butter, ½ yogurt, ½ butter …. put in add-ins like chocolate chips, dried fruit, you name it.  So one day I’m thinking about pumpkin bread.  My very favorite pumpkin bread recipe is almost more like pumpkin cake and makes 3 very heavy loaves.  This is fine but some times that’s just too much fuss.

Before you mix it all up, the pumpkin looks… well, gross.

Reader, I did what any sane person would do.  I googled “3 bananas = how many cups” and discovered that it was 1 cup of banana.  And then I subbed some pumpkin in to my banana bread recipe.  I use applesauce and 1/2 white whole wheat flour.  The good news is, this makes a tasty pumpkin bread that is actually not too terrible for you.  I like to take this for a mid-morning snack to have with my coffee, and my husband will eat most of the loaf by himself – when he’s not hoarding it.  I appreciate having something that tastes like a treat and is a treat, but is better for me than, say, a cookie or a donut.
Pumpkin Bread

As I said above, I use 1/2 white whole wheat. If you decide to use regular whole wheat, you can really only sub about 1/3 c. in to the recipe.  More than that and you end up with a very tasty brick.  When I feel crazy I mix up my own apple pie/pumpkin pie spice and put that in this as well.  Cinnamon is delicious on its own but personally I’d recommend a shake or two of clove to give it a more pumpkin-y spice taste.
1/4 c. applesauce

2 eggs

1 c. pumpkin puree

2/3 c. brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix these all together well.  In a separate bowl combine:

1 1/3 c. flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon
Add wet ingredients to this mix and mix until everything is blended.  Really. Resist the urge to over-mix.  Pour in to a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for ~50 minutes.

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Hi! I made soup!

It’s been a while.  I haven’t been on an awesome vacation. No jetsetting. I’ve been doing, well, stuff.  Finishing things, mending things, cooking things.  Beers with friends, knit nights, date nights with my husband. Laundry.  Reading. I finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d never read it! It should have been required reading. I think in high school I was too busy being obsessed with the Beats.  I missed a whole swath of literature because, man, Kerouac was so, you know, profound, man.  Now I’m in that stage of reading where I’m floundering around with the beginning of Swann’s Way for like the umpteenth time.  It always seems like a good idea until he starts going on about madelines for four thousand words.  He and Melville need to form a club called “I have a real passion for weird things like cookies soaked in tea and/or whales”.  Maybe not.  That’s a pretty exclusive club.

Ok then. Moving right along.  Things I have done recently: I had Korean BBQ for the first time and forgot to take pictures! We had a taco night at the house that was amazing and I forgot to take pictures!  I went to the Girl and the Goat in Chicago and took, like two pictures. I ate a crème brûlée donut and forgot to take pictures. I have been drinking beer with friends, and didn’t take any pictures! I have been running like 4 times a week! No one wants pictures of that, not that I actually took any. Maybe you’re sensing a trend here.  I do things and then don’t take pictures.

I took a picture of a wind farm though! That’s … uh… important, right?

Lucky you, I did make soup and take some pictures. It isn’t just any soup, it is my favorite.  I eat it all the time.  This soup is for Monday nights when you ate too much over the weekend. It is for the doldrums of Wednesday. It is for a night when I refuse to actually plan a proper meal because I just want something hot in my belly. It, well, it is mostly for people that like tomato soup.

I will warn you, this is more complicated than opening a can of soup.  BUT. This soup changed my life. I’m not even kidding!  About 5 years ago I thought that all tomato soup came in cans.  Interesting fact: IT DOESN’T.  One day, I was just minding my own business when I ate tomato soup at one of those soup and sandwich places and it tasted different. Not like Campbell’s soup. Like … tomatoes and basil and just a little orange zest.  For the first time in my life I ate something and thought, I could make that, and I could make it better. And I would eat it all the time.  I promptly came home and found a recipe on the internet. Then I made it better and made it my own. The end.

So I say more complicated than a can of soup, but this can be as complex and complicated as you want, or as simple as you need.  You need a pot, an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a can of tomatoes, and stock(and of course salt, pepper and probably some italian herbs). I use my own veggie stock because I am a snob.  Hah! Honestly it’s because that’s what I usually have in the freezer.  Then it’s really just chop, chop, smash, dump and walk away.

It should look something like this.

Unless you want a sandwich. Then don’t walk away.  I happen to be pretty pro-sandwich.  One of the only French phrases I still remember is “Je voudrais un sandwich.”  Also I like saying sandwich. My go to is a grilled cheese, so clearly that is what I recommend.

A few notes about the recipe.  Usually I find it’s not quite thick enough for my tastes. If you want to combat this without adding fat, just reduce your liquid or up your solids.  If you’d like a little fat, mix up about 1 tablespoon of flour with about one tablespoon of butter (or oil) and whisk it in to your soup and let it cook an additional 4-5 minutes after pureeing it.  If you taste it and find it’s missing a little je ne sais quoi, add a squeeze or two of lemon juice and toss in just a touch more salt.  The tomatoes you use can be literally ANY KIND of canned tomatoes.  The only kind I haven’t used is whole peeled tomatoes, though I suspect they would work. Honestly I just don’t use them because they come in honkin’ huge cans.

Tomato Soup

  • 1 medium onion, in chunks
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 cups of stock
  • 1 can(14.5 oz) tomatoes (usually I use italian diced tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp. dried italian herbs

Heat up your soup pot with a little olive oil.  Dump in your onion and garlic and let it cook for about a minute.  Add stock, tomatoes and italian herbs.   Let simmer until onions and garlic are very soft.  Using a food processor (ok but please be careful, and also, possibly do this in batches), a blender (a little better, but still be careful) or an immersion blender (best), puree the everlovin’ crap out of that soup.  Taste it.   Add salt and pepper until you are happy.  This is the point where you would thicken it, if you thought it was thin.

This is my immersion blender. I love it. I think I’ll call him Henry.

Enjoy!

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Back to Reality

Or, I Went to Greece for a Week and a Half and Now I’m Going to Talk About Tacos

So uh… yeah. I went to Greece for a bit with the Archaeologist and it was good times. Great times actually and I will hopefully have some pictures up later this week to at least talk about the food that I ate there. Which was spectacular. And now it’s back to things like work. I’d say grocery shopping and laundry but I did those in Greece. They were just better there because it was vacation chores. I hung out laundry to dry in view of mountains in Athens. It just rings of romantic tomfoolery! Of course it was better!

And here I am.  The laundry isn’t as romantic, the grocery shopping isn’t as exotic, I have to wake up and go to work and not drink beer in rooftop tavernas. This is an instance where really, the only thing to do is make tacos. If I am beyond cranky and hate life, tacos are my go-to comfort food. They keep me from laying on the floor and listening to soulful music and writing bad poetry.  Also, they’re easy and fast.

Tonight I did what I call “vegetarian mess” tacos. (Patent pending) Basically it’s just onions, peppers, sweet potato, black beans and garlic. If I’m feeling frisky I add zucchini. Or tomatoes, jalapenos, chipotle, whatever captures my fancy or looks good. The process for this is dead simple. Saute onions until translucent. Add peppers. Look at your sweet potato and try to decide how you want to cook it and realize that if you want to eat dinner tonight your only choice is to microwave it. If you possess something called “forethought” you could, obviously, bake it, roast it, boil it. Whatever gets it cooked so you can cube it up and toss it in with the rest of your cooked veggies and the black beans. Then add salt, chili powder (my favorite is Penzey’s Chili 3000. SO GOOD.) cayenne, cumin, pepper. Truthfully I cook a lot by feel with the spices, so start with small amounts of everything and taste and adjust until you’re happy. This is the part where you can really ramp up the heat if you want. Or not. It’s flexible.  Once it’s all cooked through and hot, turn that mess in to tacos.

Maybe this sounds obvious but if you want meat in there, you would add it at the beginning and brown it up before you started adding your veg.

But wait! Before you start slicing your onion for the tacos, make some rice to go with this. I’m not going to disown anyone if they decide to use a box and make “Spanish Rice” (If you do a box, get the Zatarains, it’s pretty good!). Honestly most of those take as much time as doing it “from scratch”, and sometimes they want you to add just as much stuff!! It’s onion, canned tomatoes – I use the ones with chiles because I like it a little spicier – rice, salt, chili powder, water. That’s it! Saute your onion in a little oil, throw in your rice and toast it for a few minutes, add everything else – tomatoes go in juice and all – and let it bubble away while you make your tacos. I find they’re usually done around the same time. Unless you use brown rice, so don’t do that. Ok, you can do that but it takes longer to cook.

Then, you know, eat it and feel better about life.

Mexican Rice Recipe

1 small onion, chopped

1 T oil

2/3 c. rice

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 c. water

Saute onion in oil until translucent. Add rice and toast for 3-5 minutes. Add everything else and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until water is absorbed and rice is cooked.

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Roast-y Toast-y

YumIt’s Monday night and your freezer is on the fritz so you spent 10 minutes vacuuming at the behest of your landlord. Your work day was spent fielding phone calls from your boss every 15 minutes who is across the hall from you, he can see you from his desk. No? Just me. Ok then, moving on.

Nights like this call for pasta and cheese. Wait, hang on. ALL nights call for pasta and cheese but sadly I’m told this is a poor lifestyle choice. I’m just as disappointed as you are to hear this, I promise. I guess that’s ok, because honestly it just doesn’t do it for me these days the way it used to. I know, that’s practically crazy talk. So what’s a girl to do?

Seriously I just like saying "booty"

Enter the farmer’s market booty. That’s… 2 onions, a massive zucchini, 3 peppers, some red potatoes, yellow tomatoes, a yellow summer squash and a partridge in a … I mean, a bulb of garlic. You’re going to say, that’s a lot of produce. I know. You might think, wait, isn’t she feeding herself right now while the Archaeologist is in Greece? Yes, you would be correct. You’re thinking, so… what the hell was she thinking? Ok, for starters the Farmer’s Market was all arsed up on Saturday for some event so thought #1 was, where the hell is that guy that I usually go to who has the great yellow tomatoes? Thought #2 was holy crap! Summer squash for only 50 cents! My day is made! Then I was back to being confused by the tents and the people so I just shoved some money in a poor old man’s hand and stuffed produce in my bag and ran off. Then I let it sit on my counter for 2 days because I’m awesome like that.

I wish I could tell you I was going to do something totally amazeballs with this produce but once I got home and the produce high wore off, I looked at all of it again and I knew the only answer was to roast it. People will wax rhapsodic about roasted veg and how they never liked (fill-in-the-blank) vegetable until they had it roasted  and I won’t lie, it’s pretty terrific. It’s a good way to handle veg slightly past their prime, it’s easy, and you don’t have to watch them. I vacuumed my fridge, took out the trash, cleaned and screwed around on the internet while these were in the oven. Even the prep is easy! Just chop whatever you have in to roughly the same size, toss it in a pan, coat with olive oil and salt and pepper and done!

I love this pan. I love it pretty hard.

The only real downside is it’s HOT. So, do a bunch up at once, then put them in baggies and freeze them and you have roasted veggies forever! Or until you eat them. Whichever comes first. I have a big ass roasting pan. If you don’t have one of these  your options are 1. Forget this whole paragraph. 2. Use 2 9×13 pans 3. Use 1 9×13 pan and do several batches, but I don’t recommend that. 4.Just roast fewer veggies. I guess.

BECAUASE I ATE THEM!

When it comes out of the oven, the first thing you do with roasted veggies is eat all the burnt potatoes out of the pan. Bonus points if you can also find crispy caramelized onion bits or other burnt bits. You have to save everyone from eating those crappy burnt bits. Serve with pasta, grate some parmesan on top of your pasta, and have some salad with it.  A good finish to a crappy day.