Monday, December 27, 2010

Eating a Monster

My Dad is a hunter and while I often think "hunting" is code for "sitting in the woods for a little bit then drinking with your friends" he does on occasion bring something home. Although I've been making an effort to think more about where my food comes from, there is a line past which I don't really want to go. However, this year was a bit different, and I managed to listen to lots of dead deer stories and even peruse some pictures because my Dad scored a "once-in-a-lifetime" deer. A great, clean shot (i.e. the animal didn't suffer) and one big ass deer. So big, in fact, that some of the North Country locals have named it and while drinking beers after, Dad and friends had to chain it to the camp to prevent carcass theft. (Don't ask me, we're talking super North Country here...)

Anyway, the "Milebrook Monster" as it is known doffed ten points and weighed in at 240 pounds. Even a city-dweller like me knows that is, as I said before, a big ass deer. Said big ass deer provided us with A LOT of meat, which Dad kindly shared. For the longest time I swore I didn't like venison, but let me tell you, when cooked properly it is yummy yummy stuff.

We had some loin tonight. The meat was pre cut into thin steaks which Western One seasoned very simply with salt and pepper. A quick sear (I think he did a minute or so per side) in a hot cast iron skillet and the steaks were perfect. Medium-rare, juicy and not the least bit gamey. A simple black beans and rice dish on the side and he had a great meal. We still have some steaks, stew meat and sausage in the freezer so I'll have to figure out how to prepare some different cuts. While I don't see myself out field dressing a buck anytime soon, it was kind of nice to know, in no uncertain terms, exactly where my food came from.


My mom made a big turkey dinner for Christmas, so despite our non-turkey Thanksgiving, I was able to stuff myself with juicy bird, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and, most importantly, pie. I make an okay pie. I whipped up a couple of pumpkin pies this season but never got around to apple. I'm the first to admit I'm bad at crusts and currently don't even own a rolling pin (something that I hope will soon be remedied by my woodworking Uncle who has promised me a homemade french rolling pin) so my apple pies almost always have a crumb topping.
My mom, however, does make a good pie. And, more importantly, she always makes extra. One of my favorite rituals is pie for breakfast. It's no different than a sugary danish or cinnamon bun and is often tastier.

We were sent home with a selection of slices. I scarfed down one slice of mixed berry for breakfast the other day but hadn't touched the stuff in a day or so. We're leaving town tomorrow and it would be sin to let the pie go bad, so I grabbed the tin for a little dessert buffet. Clearly we have an elf in the house - I did not take a bite out of the remaining slice of berry, and Western One swears it wasn't him. I'll let you decide, but it looks like a fork scar to me...

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I've apparently been sucked into the end-of-year cliche musings about days past. It's a chilly Saturday morning, I should be braving either the mall or the office, likely both, but instead I've been bunkered under the covers organizing photos.

Can't you just taste the summer?

My digital photo collection, with the exception of our big road trip this summer, largely consists of pictures of food and pictures of wonderpup. There are a few of Western One scattered in there too, lest he feel unappreciated. I've deleted a TON of food pics and still they persist. There are pictures of successes, failures, images for spectacular blog posts that I never got around to writing.

Oven-dried tomatoes from my friend the Tomato King

I can't help but wonder how many of those pictures represent an idea I tried so I would have something interesting to write about here, or a meal I forced myself to stay at home and cook instead of ordering take-out. I went back and read my very first post, and was relieved to see that I'd predicted some pitfalls on my road to more thoughtful cooking and finding a general balance in life. From its start back in March, I do believe this is post number 117 here on Green Peccadilloes. Some months were more prolific than others, and some posts were downright cringeworthy, but I'm getting there and most importantly I'm having fun and learning a lot. Thanks to all of you for making that the case.

Here are some of the dredged up images that made me smile this morning. I'll see if I can get my butt in gear and resurrect some of those "lost posts" soon!

Just 'cuz the thought of cold beer
and cowboys made me smile

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Manufactured Leftovers

Since I've been unable to shake the real turkey sandwich craving after my bovine-based Thanksgiving, I finally decided to just give in. I grabbed a turkey breast at the store today, something that I really would never think to make for a dinner. Ah, but cold the next day, that's another story. There is a nice ziploc baggy of sliced up meat in the fridge, just crying out for salt, pepper, mayo and white bread. I think it also has a little date with the leftover bacon from this morning.

Now I know I could make something fancier with my "leftover" turkey. Some great sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado and greens. But that's not what I've been dying for. I want simple, bad for me mayo and white bread goodness.

This also helps me solve my lunch dilemma for a few days. I'm not a big cold cuts person so the easy sandwich is often out of reach. That is excepting PB&J, of course, but there are two problems with that for me: 1. I so enjoy a good PB&J that I usually can't wait until lunchtime to eat it and scarf it down at my desk around 10, thus defeating the purpose, and 2. Wonderpup is OBSESSED with peanut butter and until I actually remember to buy more, I just don't have the heart to slather the last of his favorite treat on bread for myself.

Finally, I'm trying a new stock-making method - in the oven. It wasn't quite done when my bedtime/blog-drafting time came around, so Western One is in charge of wrapping it up. Let's see how that goes...

Monday, December 6, 2010


Ok, what the hell is this? Someone needs to teach me how to properly wrap a wrap. But hey, I actually made myself a healthy lunch today - veggies and hummus wrapped, er, folded up in a device that is supposed to be for wrapping, but apparently is not. I'd like to pretend this sad sandwich got smooshed in my bag, but it pretty much went in looking like this.

Now that it's frigid, getting outside for a walk at lunch is considerably less appealing. This is good because I really need to be better about bringing food to work. I try to pack up leftovers, but I'm so bad at eating the same meal twice in a row. I'm not a big lunchmeat person, what with all the crap loaded in cold cuts, so I'm trying to get creative. This wasn't too interesting, just cukes and red pepper with a healthy schmear of hummus, but it was tasty. Any easy lunch ideas, dear readers?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rosemary and Black Pepper Roasted Walnuts

I don't often post recipes here per se, because really, I rarely use them. Don't get me wrong, I'll bop around Epicuruous with the best of 'em, but usually just for inspiration or proportion guidance. I'm not going to pretend that my failure to use recipes is a result of my natural genius in the kitchen. It's more like I'm not good at making lists or following directions. I never seem to have everything just the way a recipe requires, so I improvise.

I made these rosemary roasted walnuts last year about this time and they were awesome. They are the reason I have a big terra cotta pot of rosemary in my house right now. (because a quarter cup is a lot of rosemary, who can afford to buy it at the grocery store?) I tried to make them again from memory and they were just lacking something. Maybe I didn't measure right (that'd be because I didn't measure...) and I totally forgot about the sugar. My outcome was ok, but certainly not what I'd remembered. I'll give it another go and actually follow the instructions this time.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Giving Thanks for blue cheese, and goat cheese, and...

I'm finally getting around to the details of our turkey-free Thanksgiving. There were just four of us, which was spectacularly stress-free and wonderful. Western One took the lead with the steaks and made potato-leek-tarragon soup and a side dish of sauteed-grape tomatoes with basil. I played around with the apps and realized my vision of blue chees
e mashed potatoes. Yeah, I said blue cheese mashed potatoes. They were out of control decadent but oh so good.

I caramelized about 3 onions and set them aside. I always heat up my milk and butter before mixing in with the taters, so I just added chopped up blue cheese to the saucepan and let it all melt together. When the potatoes were cooked I mashed them up with the cheese-butter-cream/milk combo, folded in some finely chopped rosemary and the onions and seasoned w/ salt and pepper. The blue cheese flavor was subtle, but just right.

We put away a few nice bottles of red wine, munched on cheese, smoked salmon and other goodies. I am pretty proud of my lovely cheese board and goat cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto. I can't pretend I really did anything special to make the dates awesome, it's really pretty hard to screw up with goat cheese and prosciutto. One good tip though - wet hands are helpful when trying to manipulate goat cheese.

The steaks were perfect and all in all it was a lovely way to spend our first holiday entirely in our own home. I have to admit, I was a little wistful about not having cold turkey sandwiches or my mom's stuffing but I can always do a mocked up turkey day sometime soon.

So in addition to figuring out how to make great potatoes and learning that steak makes a fantastic substitute for turkey, I learned one other important lesson: drunken wii bowling with a rambunctious 60 pound pup is a potentially dangerous proposition!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm told I am in trouble. I've been a very negligent poster of late, a fact that I lamented a few weeks ago and promised to rectify. I'm really good at dropping the ball with respect to resolutions - this is why my gym loves me. Currently, I am suffering from some nasty professional writer's block and procrastination issues, so what better time to get back in the blogging saddle, right? Maybe fun writing will shake something loose...

So, speaking of the gym and love - I've got lots of the latter for Western One and am really going to need the former as a result. Another highlight from my much-drawn-out birthday series ....


In my defense, due to some shipping snafus the delivery was a good few weeks late so I haven't been sitting on this one for all that long. I'm showing really phenomenal restraint and have only opened the Salty Caramel so far, but I will be sure to report on some of the flavors I've never had like Wildberry Lavendar, Brown Butter Almond Brittle and Bangkok Peanut.

Getting an ice cream delivery from the mid-west is exciting on multiple fronts. There's the obvious, of course. But then you can pretend that you're really something special because you're having ICE CREAM SHIPPED to your door. I mean, it's not caviar straight from Russia, but who needs fish eggs when you have Salty Caramel? Finally, dry ice is always a fun toy...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Leading up to today, I've been referring to the event as Un-thanksgiving as we were staying home, laying low and cooking steaks. However, as we all know, Thanksgiving isn't about turkey and cranberry sauce (although I'm really jonesing for some leftovers... anyone wanna share?). The fact that there were just four of us and we had beef instead of poultry doesn't make the holiday "un". We were reminded of that fact this morning, in a shocking manner, when Western One learned a friend of his had recently been through a stunningly violent and traumatic event. I've never met this woman, yet I've found myself haunted all day and wanted nothing more than to have my loved ones close. I got that tonight, plus a great meal. Who can ask for more?

Just yesterday, I had a silly car incident that had me frustrated and feeling sorry for myself, and today such trivialities were quickly put in perspective. So today was most certainly Thanksgiving. We are all luckier than we know, a fact that's so easy to forget when we get wrapped up in our own lives. Lots of pics and details regarding my fantastic meal to come, tonight I'm going to revel in my food coma, wine buzz and the general feeling that I am truly blessed. Happy Thanksgiving all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I've mentioned before that Western One did a lot of wooing with his cooking. I recognize that I'm pretty lucky we're a culinary couple. My dear friend in the South reminded me of this fact recently when she mentioned her husband isn't too keen on her cooking Indian dishes. I gasped because throwing veggies and or meat into a simple simmer sauce and warming up some naan is one of our signature "we're too tired to cook" meals. The whole "he doesn't like this" and "he doesn't like" that thing is just something I really don't have to deal with. So we both like a diverse range of food and we can both cook. Pretty freggin awesome, if you ask me. (Please pardon the giant link to nowhere .... Wonderpup, in a desperate plea for tug of war, knocked something on my computer and I can't make it go away. I simply don't have the energy tonight to fight technology!)

We do, of course, have our specialties, and Mexican or Southwestern is Western One's. I've dabbled but will never hold a candle. The other night he decided to whip up a dish ... in a nutshell - black beans, homemade guac, skirt steak marinated in chipotle and grilled, all atop a tortilla and accompanied by fried plantains and a lovely mango-cilantro jobby. It was great - now I just can't decide whether I should keep practicing or just make him cook when I have a hankering for Mexican. What I do know, however, is I am so glad I don't like with a picky eater!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I didn't sleep well last night as a result of the chicken bone incident, so I'm dragging (and procrastinating...) today. I did manage to pack myself some breakfast in the form of english muffins and a little container of peanut butter. At the 3 o'clock slump, however, leftover breakfast became a sugar rush. Yup, I dipped hershey kisses in peanut butter. Don't judge, you know it's awesome. It's natural peanut butter at least...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scary Chicken

I made a pretty simple chicken and potato dinner tonight. Nothing noteworthy and I didn't even plan to mention it here (although I did toss the taters in my homemade chili-infused oil). But then we learned major lesson when the meal was all over. Dear Wonderpup, who has been a little bold with the garbage can of late, was just a bit too quiet. Western One went to investigate and discovered pup choking on chicken bones he'd dug out of the garbage.

A scared puppy and a panicked call to the emergency vet later, I think we dodged a bullet.
My little buddy seems to be ok, but we have to keep an eye on him for a few days. I think we were more shaken (not were...I'm still shaken) than Wonderpup was. The little shit went straight back to the garbage can as soon as he'd stopped choking. But, even when he's being a little shit, how can you not love a face like this??

Tour de Albany

I just realized I promised all sorts of back posts that I indicated were just waiting in the queue. Well, they were in the queue in my head...and then my week got away from me. My birthday celebration earlier this month led me on quite the culinary tour of Albany. While I don't often play the role of critic here, I do have some observations to share. First the tour, then the observations.

We started at 74 State for drinks on a Thursday, which was a colleague's birthday, and a smaller group of us wandered down to Jack's for dinner afterwards. The next evening led us to Cafe Capriccio for apps and some tunes from the lovely Julia Donnaruma. Western One and I were up bright and early on that Saturday (my actual birthday) and headed off to the Biergarten for some EPL action and my birthday boot.

Yes, that is a boot with coffee, and I have witnesses that can verify I had it in my hands before noon. That's about as badass as I get at this age. Home for a rest and off to Dale Miller for Dinner. I needed a detox from the food and booze, but my friend Hammer (sorry, buddy, you'll always be hammer) and I hit up The Brown Derby the next Friday to enjoy a joint birthday celebration.

You read that right: Jack's, Capriccio and Dale Miller in 3 days. And Brown Derby a week later. I'm not sure what I think I am (besides poor).

I have to say, my meal at Brown Derby was stunning from beginning to end. (check out our pretty desserts!) Kudos to the folks there that have revamped the menu. Appetizers and wine in the bar at Capriccio is probably one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, and it didn't disappoint, nor did Dale Miller (we ate at the bar and watched the Breeder's Cup, way more our style than the dining room). The bison short ribs, if not necessarily rave-worthy, was a well-rounded, very good dish. In another category, beer, soccer, mac and cheese and ping pong at the Biergarten was a perfect way to ease into 30+) At the bottom of this list, sadly because it is an institution, is Jack's. Way at the bottom. The oysters were great, but everything else was ... meh. The stunningly-overcooked tuna appetizer was beyond meh and just full-on wrong. It makes me a little sad to say it, but it's true.

And now, after my stunning display of opulence, I'm back to my own kitchen for a while. Neither my wallet nor my waistline can maintain that pace.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Things I love

Some things I love:

1. Wegman's
2. Goat Cheese
3. Really, there's more to life?? .... ok,
4. Balsamic

These things I love combined to make a great meal the other night. We are trying to work through the random collection of groceries in our pantry and freezer. Despite my protestations that there's never food in the house, there is. A ton of it. Often it just doesn't add up to a meal, but we're getting creative. I had this jar of roasted red pepper bruschetta tucked away in the pantry since (obviously) a previous trip to Wegman's - which was a long time ago. Western One had left chicken out to thaw so I figured it was as good an opportunity as any to use up the jar.

I sauteed some shallots (from the CSA) and garlic then browned up the chicken a bit on the stove top with a generous dose of olive oil. I cooked up the remaining half a bag of orzo I had in the cabinet. We have so many freggin partially consumed packages of pasta, I couldn't take it any more. I pulled the chicken out for a moment, deglazed with some balsamic, poured the orzo (cooked only half way) into the pan, reserving a bit of the pasta water just in case, and put the chicken back in on top. I've never baked orzo like this before, so I wasn't sure how it would work out, but the half cooking plus a little extra oil, balsamic and pasta water worked

Then I topped the chicken with the Wegman's special, threw the cover on and popped it in the over to finish. When it was about done, I added some extra goat cheese and tossed in some chopped up rosemary and black pepper roasted walnuts (made with rosemary from my garden) to give the orzo some texture. All in all, it was a pretty great meal... I used up stuff in my pantry, did not have to go to the store, and the chicken was vegetarian fed, hormone/anti-biotic free and normal sized for not a ridiculous price - not perfect but a step in the right direction (Thanks BJ's).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tales from the Drought

I've been awful lately. Not cooking. Not writing. Certainly not writing about cooking. Heck, I couldn't even manage to write about not cooking. Ah well. I've recently been re-inspired on a few fronts and I have a nice backlog of fun ditties to share with you all. Many are connected to a recent anniversary of my 30th birthday. The first is the lovely box I came home to find on my step today.

My dear friend from the South and I have a fantastic tradition. See, we quite literally became friends because of food. Through the misery of the first year of law school, we bonded over our mutual love of eating and cooking. We dined out way through Central Ohio and now I have a friend for life. I'm not sure how it started, but we exchange foodie gifts for our birthdays. It was she who first taught me that you could ship ice cream. (I'd been at my job for less than two months and I squealed like
a child when a box of Jeni's arrived at my office ... my colleagues must have thought I was a total nutter!). I returned the favor and introduced her to Penzey's. The tradition has become great sport, it's just as fun seeking out a new, fun treat to send as it is to receive one.

So back to today. It's been a long week, and I dragged my sorry butt home to discover a box from the Salem Baking Co. in North Carolina containing all these goodies! (yeah, wonder pup thinks he's getting in on the fun, but he will be sorely disappointed) Caramel cookies with fleur de sal, dipped in chocolate and topped with toffee. Are you kidding me?? Best part is each cookie is individually-wrapped so they stay fresh if you crazy and want to let them sit around the house. I've also already done some serious damage to the gorgonzola cheese straws. Yum.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Campfire Orange Cakes

This post is a tad belated, as this little culinary adventure was developed at our camp earlier this fall, but I was sans camera both times we made it and it's just not the kind of thing you can write about without a photo. Many thanks to M&K for supplying this particular fire, photo and a great evening of conversation. Thanks to mother nature for the setting.

I'm taking credit for this, even though it is entirely based on a childhood memory of Western One's. He vaguely remembered making oranges filled with cake over a campfire as a kid back in the dark ages. But he was a kid and he didn't actually do it then, nor did he implement this time. I'll warn you now, this is a bit labor intensive, but if you do it right, you get some nice, fresh-squeezed oj out of the deal too. (which Western One used to make a fantastic fizzy orange tequila drink - will TOTALLY give him credit for that).

Basically, here's what you do: Halve oranges and dig out the orange. Ideally I suppose it would help to keep specific halves together, but I neither had the space nor patience for that at camp. You'll need to run a knife between the flesh and the skin, so don't drink too much before this step. Fill one half of an orange with cake mix prepared according to the instructions. We used white the first time, this picture is of our chocolate attempt, which was awesome. The batter can heap a little bit over the top, but not much. Place the second half of emptied orange on top and wrap tightly with foil. It helps to have an extra set of hands for all this. Ahem.

Stick the foil-wrapped oranges in hot coals/around the edge of the fire. Take care to keep them right-side up (as in, batter-filled half on the bottom) Crack a beer. Move the oranges around a little bit every now and then to cook evenly. Have more beer. After 30 min or so, they should be good to go. I'd say this is more art than science, so check a test orange. The cake will be moist and flavored with just enough orange essence. (which is why the chocolate was awesome). Is it the best cake you'll ever have? No, but it's certainly a fun campfire trick!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

'Til next year, dear farm.

Tonight was our last CSA delivery of the season. Western One made a fantastic tarragon potato soup, of which I did not take a picture (sorry). But trust me, it was something to behold. It's important that I acknowledge the awesomeness of this soup to set things right with the world. I was leaving my workout a little after 8 tonight, famished and exhausted, and some of my fellow torture victims and I were discussing dinner. I said "I really hope dinner is done when i get home, I'm dying. But with my luck he will have prepared soup. He seems to have a knack for making soup when I could just about eat my right arm." Not that Western One doesn't make a fantastic soup, because he does. But you know what I mean. I instantly felt guilty because I'm super lucky to have someone at home cooking dinner for me in the first place, but my growling stomach did give me a little punch when I walked in the door and saw soup was on. But this was a nice, hearty soup that really worked as a meal. Especially when coupled with half a brick of pepper jack inhaled while it was cooking.

So this final delivery (and some vicious insomnia) has caused me to reflect on the growing season. I feel like we were even worse about utilizing our share than we were last year. I could be wrong, but it feels that way. I didn't get much done in terms of preservation - I have a few jars of pickles, some frozen sauce and maybe a baggie of frozen green beans.

Still, I don't regret participating in the CSA and I will certainly do it again next year. I have a slight urge to espouse all sorts of resolutions about being better next year, learning to can, cooking every night, etc etc etc., but it's 3am and I don't really have the energy for bullshit at the moment. Even considering the fact that we are not able to consume or preserve all that we get from our share, I find the whole experience worth it. We've had some fantastic meals, many of which were the direct result of needing to come up with something to use CSA bounty. There were at least a few nights we stayed in to use share veggies instead of eating out or ordering takeout. And, of course, it feels good to support a local farm.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Turkey Time

I learned today that my family will not be holding big Thanksgiving festivities. I tried to contain my squeal of joy as my mother mentioned that 3 of 4 of the folks still living at home will be working, and that it's just not in the cards. Don't judge - let me explain.

My family is, well, like most I assume. Trying. I feel safe saying this here because I do not believe anyone from my immediate family reads this blog. If I am wrong, I will pay. There is always drama, there is always noise and Western One and I are not the type of people that thrive on that. So after a recent family wedding which was full of drama, noise and discussion about Thanksgiving, I couldn't shake the thought of a holiday in my own control. I am an adult, in a committed relationship complete with house and dog. I work hard, I'm tired and I'm entitled to a holiday on my own terms every now and again, right? Does this desire make me a bad person?

I'm also Irish and loaded with genetic guilt. So while I'd been fantasizing about my very own holiday, in my own home, without anyone to answer to, I knew I would never have the guts to say "Yeah, I'm not coming home. No, we don't have other plans, I'm just not coming home." It's tough when one family is close and the other is too far away to garner equal holiday time. Then, today, while driving beautiful Rte 7 between Manchester and Bennington, VT (complete with a 6-pointer AND a flock of turkeys hanging by the side of the road) I get the news that indeed I am in control of my own holiday. I feel a little bad for saying this, but, yay! We may cook and have people over, we may go out, we may drink beer, eat pizza and watch football. I have no idea. But for the first time, I get to decide.

Fungi part duex

This picture isn't the best. It was taken surreptitiously on my phone in the middle of a restaurant. (Western One gets embarrassed when I photograph my food in public) But it's important nonetheless because it captures two very special moments. This is a photo of the remains of a gnocchi dish at The Gingerman. I love gnocchi. I love the Gingerman. I love this gnocchi. It made my week. It was light, flavorful and autumnal. That in and of itself is wonderful.

But see all that junk left on the plate? Um, yeah, those would be mushrooms. Well, there's some pancetta in there too, but still, mushrooms. Most of you know how I feel about mushrooms. But I was a big girl and a gave one (an oyster) a try like an adult. I did not squeal or gag at the table. I chewed, swallowed and was done with it. Baby steps.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A little Friday inspiration

Speaking of sticking with something, even when it's a struggle ... (and who doesn't love a sweet dad story!??)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Last night was so frustrating. I got home late - tired, hungry and grumpy so I succumbed to Western One's suggestion we go out to eat. I could hear the angel and devil on each shoulder:

A: "There is plenty of food in the house, you can come up with something quick. You should cook that burger."
D: "No cooking, no dishes, no problem..."
A: "Seriously, it's cold. Who the heck wants to go back outside?"
D: "Cold? As in beer? There's no beer in the house...."

And out it was.

I got over my guilt fairly quickly and we had a lovely meal at one of our favorite places. But then, this morning on the way to work, I realized we both totally forgot the farmshare. So not only did we spend money, waste the meat I should have cooked (because I also didn't make it tonight and now I have it in my head it's been thawed too long....), but we left veggies out in the cold. Not my most efficient evening. But the frosty pint of Brooklyn was great.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ok, so I shared my sweet cooking from the weekend already, but that just barely scratches the surface of my kitchen toils on Sunday. I was happy though that my coworkers enjoyed the tray of crisp I brought in. It's hard to go wrong with a boatload of butter, sugar and spices.

A few weeks ago, Western One and I realized how insanely off-track we'd gotten with eating at home. Out had become the standard, hence the dearth of blog posts about balancing work with cooking at home. Anyway, we made a deal that we were only allowed to eat out once a week for the month of October. I realize this is an obnoxious deal and that we're crazy lucky to be able to eat out once a week, but it's our deal nonetheless. While we've been fairly good (I think we've stuck to it, although that's not a huge accomplishment as we're not even on week 3) I realize I've been really bad about lunches at work as well.

So during my massive shopping/cooking adventure yesterday, I resolved to make and package up some lunch foods. First on the list - a big ole pot of chili. I make pretty basic chili - ground meat of choice, tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, a healthy dose of chili powder and red pepper flakes along with a few choice secret ingredients. A good, hearty dish. I am super excited though because my mom booked a cooking class for me as a birthday gift. I will be celebrating the first anniversary of my 30th birthday learning to make chili. My technique, like most of my cooking, is entirely self-taught, so I can't wait to learn what I've been doing wrong.

But this batch came out pretty good, and made for a nice, packed up and ready to go lunch today, Western One had some for dinner tonight and gave it a 7 out of 10. From Mr. Southwestern food snob, I will take it as a compliment.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


My house has smelled awesome all day, if I do say so myself. Apparently I'm back to cooking with a vengeance. I whipped up a batch of chili for lunches this week and roasted a chicken for Sunday dinner. But the best part of marathon day in the kitchen is the apples! It was such a beautiful fall day that I just had to go to the orchard and came home loaded down with a bushel of apples, cider and doughnuts (of course).

I'm not much of a baker because I am not good at following recipes. I get too distracted, or bored. But crisps are something I can make without (usually) ruining or rushing. I can experiment and try different things that I'm not usually comfortable with in other types of baking. Although I toyed with throwing some blueberries into my crisp, I decided to stick with straight apple. Thanks to Penzey's, my apples were well spice. I tried a new crisp topping - oat based with chopped toasted hazelnuts. It came out good, and my only regret is I forgot to have Western One pick up vanilla ice cream when he was at the store.

Between two trays of crisp and a big ole' pot of sauce, I think I'm done with peeling apples for a while!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Let me count the ways I find this disturbing...

1. A dear family member thought it was appropriate to send me this picture before 9am. (I get the whole clam/tomato juice bloody mary connection, but still ... I think this explains many of my problems).

2. It contains "Natural flavor and certified color". What is God's name is certified color?

3. It's BUDWEISER AND CLAM JUICE. Not vodka. Budweiser.

I'm not one to begrudge anyone a cultural speciality (yes, I'm making some assumptions here based on the packaging). I mean, I'm Scottish and eat haggis, I don't get to judge. But, it's BUDWEISER AND CLAM JUICE. Wow.
Anyone out there wanna set me straight on this? Am I missing the only tolerable way to consume bud?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oh my gosh, has it really been two weeks since I last wrote? I wish I could blame the hiatus on wild and exotic adventures that took me far away from internet access. Alas, no such luck. It's partially work's fault but mostly I have COMPLETELY fallen off the "good food prepared by my own hand" wagon and I've been too embarrassed to admit it. You folks don't want to read about the fact that I had mozzarella sticks and beer for dinner on Friday. I can't tell you the last time I set foot in a grocery store, although it couldn't have been that long ago because my milk hasn't gone bad yet. Yikes. For all my musing about fall meals, I have yet to prepare any.

I suppose this is proof that I'm human. Making an effort to eat well and maintain some sanity in life wouldn't be a narrative if it were easy, right? I do have to say that although I did eat out tonight, I shared a beer and a good meal with two of my oldest friends. Friends that I have let languish on the "I need to call her" list way way way too long. You know good friends when, despite a too-long absence, it's like a week went by. That was absolutely worth skipping a home-cooked meal for!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

River Dreams

Those of you that have had the pleasure of taking a train from points north to New York City understand what a spectacular ride it is. Our flagship river eases its way through a lush valley toward the City, wide, gentle and proud. In the past year of so I’ve seen bald eagles hunting in the early morning, a truly spectacular sight. Yesterday morning I was taking the ride through a grey and dreary fog. Focused on work and irritated that the train was late, I was hardly taking advantage of my window seat and ignoring the view that so often makes me almost happy to get up at 5:30 to catch an early train. Then I turned to look at West Point standing tall at the banks of the river and could hardly turn away until we hit Yonkers. Two sailboats sat silently in the fog while ducks and even a few swans fished with the first touches of fall colors providing the perfect backdrop. Although the weather channel app on my phone told me it was a balmy 60-something, I imagined a crisp chill in the air and longed for the smell of fall.

I wanted to get off the train right that second and go make soup. And risotto. And applesauce. And squash loaded with brown sugar and maple syrup. (real syrup of course, there is no room in my life for any imitation). I love summer and the bright, fresh flavors it brings, I really do, but I am ready to spend chilly Sundays filling my house with the rich, comforting smells of the kind of food you just don’t make in the summer. It’s time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm not one to say I told you so...

... but I TOTALLY told you so!!! Way to go Jeni's (once again...) Here's a not so great shot of my one scoop goat cheese and roasted cherries, one scoop salty caramel from my recent Columbus visit!

Garden saves the day!

I've never been so proud to have Montana roots! I also wish I handn't let my zucchini die... (thanks to my tomato king for the tip!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The "I'm starving" challenge

The coolest thing about getting joy from cooking, or food in general, is having friends that share the sentiment. Better yet, having friends that give you cool stuff. My friend, colleague and garden mentor JC arrived at my office door the other day with a present - a lovely little mason jar filled with oven-dried tomatoes packed in oil. He also came bearing the recipe. I'm guilty of getting mired down in culinary ruts and always excited to break out with anew idea. As I've never really managed to have a successful garden (this year was a big step in the right direction) and my first experience with a CSA was last year during the tomato blight, I haven't had occasion to oven roast the juicy little buggers. I still haven't, of course, but now I know how, and better yet I got to make a fantastic meal with the fruits of someone else's roasting labor!

I came home one night last week ready to kill I was so hungry. Thanks to the jar of tomatoes, some CSA spinach and a handful of feta (plus some other flavors of course) I was able to construct a fantastic pasta dish in the time it took me to boil water and cool the pasta. Actually, I even had time to play a few turns of scrabble on my iPhone (super, super But if you do, track me down and you can beat me like Western One does). See, I have proof. (and before you look at the clock and think I'm being a drama queen for the murderous hunger at 8pm, we never "sprung" our kitchen clock ahead, so it was really almost 9.) Take that you semi-fake/30 minute crap food celeb cooks - real, local fantastic dinner in 27 minutes!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Return of Sunday Dinner

I can't take much credit for this meal, although I did make one heck of a sous chef if I do say so myself. And the gremolata was all me - as you can see, that's some serious chopping. Early this week Western One took some osso bucco out of the freezer, proclaiming he'd have time to prepare the labor intensive dish mid-week. I didn't actually utter the words "you're full of shit" but I think my face betrayed the sentiment. Needless to say, we prepared the meat Sunday night. I'm not one to gloat when I'm right, but I'm just saying... Still, I'm glad it worked out that way.

Once upon a time we were pretty good about cooking a nice Sunday dinner, just the two of us. We both like to be in the kitchen and it's a really great way to wind down the weekend andease into Monday. I'm not quite sure when the ritual fell by the wayside, but the busy summer, time at camp, etc. has kept it at bay for quite a while.

This dinner fit perfectly into an ideal Sunday afternoon. We did some prep, tossed the dutch oven into the oven and headed to the bar to enjoy some autumn patio time. The meat was lightly coated in flour, browned, then surrounded by carrots, onion, garlic, lemon zest, kalamata olives and fresh tomatoes. A bit of bouquet garni and it's off to the races. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but like I said, this was the boy's project.

The white beans in the stew were an afterthought based on a comment one of our bar buddies made when we mentioned we had osso bucco in the oven. They absolutely made the dish, so I'm extra glad we went out for a beer while dinner cooked. We came back to a house that smelled like home and settled in for a great meal. I even decided to crack open the bottle of wine I'd bought myself for my 30th birthday.

As you can tell, the meal was just awful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Food coma

I had lofty intentions of chatting about my productive weekend (by productive I mean full of good friends, good beer and good food) and the resurrection of Sunday dinner, but alas, Sunday dinner has had its way with me. I'm under the covers with a pup softly snorting at my feet, enjoying the afterglow of a great meal and a great bottle of wine. Really, what more can a girl ask for? We brought Sunday dinner back with style, in the form of osso bucco and I promise pics and details soon. But for now, my friends, I hope everyone is enjoying the waning hours of the weekend - I know I am!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Less junky junk?

As I was wandering around our new Fresh Market* the other day with a grin on my face ususally reserved for munchkins on a certain day in December, I stumbled across portable little mac and cheese cups that weren't loaded with garbage. I won't say they're the healthiest thing in the world (they have a lot of sodium and, c'mon, it's mac and cheese), but they're quick, easy and desk drawer-worthy so that's enough to make me a happy camper. I have to say it was pretty good - tasty in that boxed mac and cheese sort of way, with a reasonable portion size to get me through the afternoon munchies and home to a real dinner. I've come a long way from the day-glo orange stuff with hot dogs cut up in it, but sometimes you just need crappy comfort food!
*I kind of have a thing for grocery stores, especially fun, pretty, unconventional grocery stores that carry an abundance of products I will actually eat. Hi, my name is Green Peccadilloes, I'm addicted to food shopping...

Monday, September 13, 2010

The joy of cooking (...and eating)

A good friend sent me a Ruth Reichl post about the joy that she gets from cooking, and it got me to thinking. Yes, I really love being in the kitchen, even when I have to drag myself there. Sometimes it’s those nights, like tonight, when I’m dead tired that cooking is most powerful – while a quick meal out may seem like the easiest way to satiate myself, I rarely feel as good about scarfing down take out as I do after I’ve eased into the evening with a chef’s knife in my hand.

But more importantly, I’ve realized that food and cooking has brought me much more. Just like how people are drawn to the kitchen during a party, food brings people together in a broader sense. One of my dearest friends is exactly that because of our mutual love for all things yummy.We met in the kind of environment where it’s easy to stick with folks like yourself, but the fact that we come from different parts of the country and sometimes have very different perspectives on the world (things I truly value about her, but also factors that I recognize sometimes inhibit the kind of friendship we have from forming) didn’t matter while we were searching suburban Columbus for what the Food Network called the best brownies in the country. (frankly, I disagreed and I can’t even remember the name of the company anymore!)I’m richer for having a friend like this, and it’s food’s fault.

I have other friends who likely would have ended up in that category anyway, but we still connect over food. Whether it’s sharing tips and techniques, a meal or a drink, food brings us together. It can be a dinner in a fantastic steak house in New York, or steak and brownies consumed in a crappy college apartment during a snowstorm – it doesn’t matter. I started this blog as a way to examine and celebrate the ways food and drink make life better. For me, that often means finding ways to make time for the good things in life. (the good things in life, of course, include puppies and beer, and making time to enjoy both!) Sometimes it’s a stumble, or even failure, on the way to that goal, but that makes the journey all the more interesting.

What I didn’t expect was to become part of a community – all of these people whom I will likely never meet in person but who are teaching me things and challenging me to be more creative. I've pushed myself to play with flavor in new ways, sometimes just so I can write about it. (case in point below...quick and easy Indian) It’s amazing that the act of growing, preparing and consuming a food can provide both individual solace and an amazing sense of community, all in one shot.

As you can see by the banner that’s been gracing Green Peccadilloes lately, I’m participating in something called Project Food Blog. The first task was to describe what defines me as a food blogger and why I should be the next star. I’m honestly not really sure about either. I can’t tout my genius recipes because I’m rarely organized enough to follow a recipe, and frankly don’t often enjoy it anyway. It’s certainly not my gardening tips. What I do know, however, is I’m having so much fun conversing with old friends and new and as a result Green Peccadilloes has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thanks so much to all who have been coming along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh come let's sing Ohio's praise

I’m headed for a quick visit to Columbus, Ohio soon and while I’m excited to see old friends and catch up over a libation or two, I am nearly beside myself with excitement to revisit some of my foodie favorites. Here is a selection of what has me giggling:

1. My chocolate guy. Yes, I have a chocolate guy, and while he’s gone all Hollywood and stuff now I like to say I knew Daniel “when.” My friend Amy and I discovered this gem early in law school and became regulars. We got the tour behind the counter, got to know every variety and learned that a little chatting and occasional hug led to free chocolate. Go ahead, call me a candy whore, I don’t care.

2. . Dear, sweet Jeni. This is not the first time I’ve raved about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream here, and it won’t be the last. This stuff is truly special and folks, they ship. You get the coolest package loaded with dry ice and it is worth every, single cent. Salty caramel, I’m coming for you…

Pumpkin Love. There’s a great little bar in Columbus’ arts district known as Betty’s. It might have changed in the past few years, but when I lived there is was a bit of a hipster place. You know, the kind of joint that sold PBR tall boys next to Fin du Monde. Ah, but pumpkin love. This is a messy pile of custardy, cakey goodness. We once tried to replicate it and got close, I’ll have to take good notes and try when I get home.

This isn’t even including the fried pickles, Greater’s ice cream (with giant chunks of chocolate) or other goodies I miss, but I’m only there for 36 hours. A girl can only take so much.

A North Country Feast

There's nothing better than some quality time in the woods with quality folks. Toss in some good food and plentiful drink, and you have yourself a holiday weekend. We had some friends come hang with us at the lake over Labor Day weekend, so there was lots of fun in the woods, on the water and playing with fire. And meat. Lots of meat. Our friend A, an avid hunter, took care of the carne on Saturday night and grilled up some fantastic venison steaks. Let me tell you, venison done right is some good stuff. (the bite sized pieces were for the munchkin, I wasn't drinking THAT much... well, at least not by dinner)

I love to cook things in open fire, and have become pretty adept at doing so (except for freggin potatoes, I have no idea why...I've tried everything and always time them wrong. anyway...).

I roasted up some corn, a weekend standard, but A's wife H took the cake by roasting red onions. She just wrapped them in foil, skin and all, and tossed them in the coals until they were a sweet, roasted surprise. We also occupied the four-year old by giving him garlic on a stick and set him to roasting. Kids'll do anything if you give them a stick and point them to fire! Here's little Max's garlic-roasting contraption. It could've worked if only we could have taught him some patience! Alas, a perfect plan foiled... tee hee hee. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Part of the Problem

This post isn't entirely about food, but the lessons translate well. News broke this week that a really cool local music joint and coffee shop known as the Bread and Jam Cafe is closing its doors tomorrow. The Bread and Jam is the kind of place that has it all - great atmosphere, amazing support for local music and a location in a city that's "this close" to renaissance. For those of us who like local, this place was it.

Now is the time for me to admit my hypocrisy. We only made it over to the B&J a few times - each time exclaiming its virtues and swearing we'd make the trek more often (it's about a 15 min trip for us, which in a world where we can walk to most of our haunts, is a trek). This is utterly ridiculous. I have a number of local musician friends who played there regularly, one band - the Tern Rounders - even hosted a monthly event. There was always an excuse... "we'll be at camp" or "it's a work night" blah blah blah. So here, even as I felt great disappointment upon hearing of the Cafe's closing I know that I am part of the problem. Even as I write this there is one last open mic night under way, but it's hot, and I'm tired, and my Buckeyes are playing their first game of the season.

Would my presence there four or five more times have saved the place? Certainly not (I mean, I like my coffee and cakes, but not THAT much). But how many out there are like me, saying they should get to some great place more often, but never quite following through? How many local places in all of our communities, who are doing great work, be it by supporting local music, sourcing local produce or just generally trying to make their little part of the world a bit better fall victim to the sloth and excuses of folks like me? This has been a good, if sad, reminder that I should be better.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bed beat beets

We got beets in last week's CSA box and thankfully they haven't started to soften up on me yet. I just haven't been able to bring myself to have the oven on long enough to roast them this week. I could make an entire meal out of roasted beets and goat cheese.

Just a few minutes ago, while showering off dog park dust I got the bright idea that I should pickle the beets tonight before they go bad. It's pushing eight o'clock and I have to meet my boss at the office by 6:30 am for a road trip. Under no circumstances should I be pickling beets tonight. (I am not one of those people who function with no sleep). I went as far as to start researching recipes when good sense kicked in and I decided a little cleaning, then netflix in bed was a better idea.

I probably won't get to the beets for another day or two, due to the road trip and all, unless I can convince Western One to jump in. This gives me time to solicit some favorite beet ideas from you fine folks and cross my fingers the little guys hang on...

of seltzer, soda and soapboxes...

We rarely drink soda in our house. Occasionally Western One will drink strong ginger beer by the gallon, but as it's too spicy for me I rarely partake. Don't getme wrong, there are times when a cold soda tastes really good (like when I'm too hungover, um, tired for hot coffee) but for the most part I'd rather just have water. I'm thankful for my beverage preferences because it saves calories for beer and cheese and leaves space in my synthetic food limit for more satisfying indulgences.

We drink a lot of seltzer and lately have been accessorizing with a dash of fruit juice. Tonight Western One went for a more substantial beverage of half Mandarin seltzer and half mango puree, while I, nostalgic for my days in Ireland, opted for black currant juice. The brand name made me giggle...remember that show?

Anyway, this post is about more than "look at me, I drink seltzer, not soda." As most of you who have read Green Peccadilloes for some time know, I like to spend time thinking about food policy. In the interest of full disclosure, I spend a good bit of my workday thinking about health policy more generally, so this isn't a huge stretch. One proposal that has been kicking around New York for two budget cycles, and is gaining national steam, is the "soda tax." While ostensibly the concept makes sense, the way it has been approached, at least here, puts me right over the edge. The tax only applies to "sugary beverages" or, in other words - regular and NOT diet soda. The implication of course being that people should switch from one evil to another.

Now there is plenty of room for debate about this approach generally. It, like most consumption taxes, is regressive, but in a world where hunger and obesity paradoxically go hand in hand and it is cheaper to buy your kids 2 liters of soda than a gallon of milk, I'm not sure I have a problem with that. There's the free choice argument, but this certainly wouldn't be the first time we used the tax code to influence behavior, and it won't be the last. I understand that the objective correlation between calories in regular soda and obesity and related public health issues is an easier connection to make than similar issues associated with artificial sweeteners and other crap in diet soda, but to completely ignore the latter strikes me as ludicrous.

I'll get off my soapbox now, but I'm very interested in the thoughts you all have as I know I'm not the only one out there thinking about how to focus on good food...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

BLT Blasphmey

I am really embarrassed to admit this. We are weeks into a fantastic tomato season and it took me until tonight to make my first fresh BLT of the summer. What the hell is wrong with me?? Granted I'll give into a halfway decent sandwich shop version every now and again, but nothing beats a real BLT, piled high with fresh juicy tomatoes.

Wonderpup and I are on our own tonight and after a riotously good time at the dog park, I got home later than I wanted and just didn't feel like real dinner. I stuck my head in the fridge, prepared to settle in with a brick of cheese and a beer, when I realized we had bacon. BACON. The wheels started to turn... Amazingly, and without any planning, I had all the ingredients for the perfect summer meal - super fresh lettuce and tomatoes in the CSA box and bread, which much to my surprise had not yet started to grow mold.

Now I've seen all sorts of fancy takes on the BLT but I'm a purist. You don't cover U2, generic Cheerios suck, and you don't mess with the BLT. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and toast. Take or leave the salt and pepper - I had pepper bacon so I skipped. It was so good I had two! (and yes, that is a New Yorker cartoon on my plate - best plates ever!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We had a bunch of veggies to get rid of before the onslaught of today's CSA delivery, so last night I decided to use up as much as I could. Try as we might, we just haven't been as good about eating and preserving our bounty as much as I'd like. I'd reserved some of the sauce I made over the weekend so I just sauteed the veggies and made a quick pasta. It was done in the time it took me to boil water and cook the pasta. I LOVE dinners like that - it's so easy to throw together simple and tasty when you have great, fresh ingredients. I'm going to miss that.

I was walking Wonderpup the other morning and I could smell the end. Not quite the scent of fall, but there was that tinge on the air that foretells the demise of summer. I found myself taking a deep breath, savoring the smell and meeting it with ambivalence. I love fall, and not just because I'm a fall baby and self-centered, it's just my season. But this year, when for the first time in my adult life I've worked hard and almost succeeded at cultivating a garden, I'm meeting the end of the growing season here in the Northeast with a bit of sadness. I know, I know, it's not even Labor Day, but it's coming.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When did my garden become Sleepy Hollow?

I figured it was time for a quick garden update. While my tomatoes have been doing ok, I've had some setbacks in other areas. Below you can see that many of my strawberries have been consumed. Alas, not by me. The plants seem to be doing well and are busting out of their bed, but I am only managing to salvage a quick berry here and there (typically as a snack while I'm weeding the herb garden).

I tried out upside down tomato gardening. Supposedly it helps avoid fungi and other problems that can plague tomatoes. However, it requires very consistent watering. Not compatible with busy schedule (aka totally flaky) gardening.
And the most frustrating of all... headless broccoli. You can sort of see from the below picture how tall the plant got, but neither of the two I planted ever sprouted a head. What good is broccoli sans head? I thought I'd overlooked some simple step that every gardener knows, but apparently not. (or maybe my expert gardening friend was just trying to be nice to me on a bad day...)

See.... no head!
While not quite producing in bulk, my Caribbean red peppers are doing well and have produced some nice little fireballs. Of course my celtic roots can't handle such heat, but Western One enjoys them.