10 November 2010

mid-november thoughts

My time in the lovely state of Oregon is quickly coming to a close. It seems like just a few weeks ago I embarked on this adventure - an adventure that took me across the country and out of school for the longest time since I was three. And you know what? I have no regrets.

My time here has given me the leisure to examine myself a bit more than I would typically have time to, between juggling two jobs and a full-time class schedule in Asheville. I am glad that I had the opportunity to come to the west coast... even if initially it wasn't under such happy circumstances. This climate, the flora and fauna of the Umqua valley, and the people I've met have made this an unforgettable seven months.

I'll miss you, Pacific northwest. Thank you for sharing some of your majesty with this girl from the south.
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01 November 2010

A 'quickie'

The passage of time here is punctuated and segregated into periods of Safeway deli life and getting lost in the expanses of free time in between. What a schedule is, I'm not sure since week-to-week I am kept on edge, unable to plan for any event unless asking for days off first. Chances are, of course, that I won't be on the schedule anyway, since I am at the bottom of the totem pole. I pick up slack.
And in a way, I'm glad.

07 October 2010

I've tomato juice on my hands.

Tomatoes. Fragrant, juicy, unique. With the bounty that I received from Jemma and Dana, I've made a few pretty tasty meals.
1. Tomato soup and grilled cheese

Using Michael Chiarello's recipe as a starting point, I made a scrumptious tomato soup with a few changes.

Instead of using canned tomatoes, I chopped up about 20 oz. of fresh, ripe tomatoes. I strained the juice into a bowl and saved it for the soup. My tomatoes were plenty juicy, so there was no shortage of liquid for the base. I added about five cloves of garlic instead of the suggested two, substituted half&half for the heavy cream and omitted the use of butter altogether. I don't have an immersion blender, but with help, using a regular upright blender was perfect. Just make sure to hold the lid down while blending!

For the grilled cheese sandwich, I used bakery 9-grain bread, butter and sliced havarti cheese. The buttery havarti complimented the subtle acidity of the soup quite well!

2. Colombian aji (ah-hee) salsa over chicken taco salad

Out of all of my mother's talents, cooking is perhaps her best (and most redemptive) one. Instead of all-American classics growing up, my mother made Hungarian goulash, lentils and hamhocks over rice, plantains, skirt steak and aji.
Often I crave her food and with all the tomatoes on hand, I set out to match some of the flavors of my childhood.

Ingredients (aji)
1 bunch of cilantro                      1 lemon
6-7 scallions                                hot sauce to taste
6-7 medium, ripe tomatoes         salt and pepper
5 cloves of garlic
Ingredients (salad)
2 large handfuls of spring greens
one box of 6 crushed taco shells
3 chicken breasts
taco seasoning
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, place diced tomato, chopped garlic and cilantro. Using the white and about an inch of green only of the scallions, dice those up as well. Juice the lemon. Add hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mix.

For the salad, crush taco shells in the bottom of a large bowl. Add greens and cheese. Dredge chicken through taco seasoning and pan-fry in olive oil until done. Wait about five minutes before slicing chicken breasts into cubes.  Place all ingredients in a bowl and put the desire amount of aji on! Easy and healthy.

3. Chunky garden tomato sauce

What else does one do with a bunch of tomatoes? Make tomato sauce of course! I consulted a few recipes for long-simmering and barely-cooked sauces, but the timing just wasn't right for me. This recipe is sort of a hybrid, cooked just long enough for the flavors to meld together but short enough so that I could wander away from the house without worry of it burning down!

My roommate said that the house smelled just like a freshly watered vegetable garden. Using fresh ingredients definitely benefited the flavor in this recipe.

2 celery sticks, diced
1 carrot, shaved, diced
10-12 tomatoes of varying sizes, peeled, seeded.
2 tbspn oregano
1/4 cup fresh basil. 1 tspn dried
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup zucchini
1 onion
5 cloves of garlic
couple shakes of red pepper flakes
1 green bell pepper, diced
2-3 tbspn olive oil
2 tbspn tomato paste

In a large pot, bring water to boil. Have bowl of ice water ready. Add tomatoes until skins peel off, about 1-2 minutes. Remove tomatoes with slotted spoon to ice bath. Let cool. Over the sink, peel tomatoes and squeeze out seeds. THIS WILL BE MESSY. Place the majority of the tomatoes in blender, saving two of the larger ones to coarsely chop.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Place onions, carrots, celery into pot. Salt and pepper. Place bell pepper and zucchini into pot. Add garlic. The tomatoes will be soft anyway, so pulse the blender 3 or 4 times. Pour tomatoes into pot. Add chopped tomatoes. Add herbs and salt/pepper to taste. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, uncovered. Add tomato paste. Cover and simmer for half an hour. Taste and add additional spices to your taste. Let simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the desired thickness is reached.

Even after using all of these tomatoes, I still have some left (believe it or not). Tonight, I plan on making a delicious recipe from Giada DeLaurentis that brings tomatoes, spinach and asiago cheese together over fusili. Yum! Hopefully the tomato army's numbers will be decimated by this fourth tomato-starring recipe. Hopefully.

What I'm reading: Beat poet Alan Ginsberg's epic Howl. Favorite line so far: "... a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire / escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon..."

16 August 2010

A Reason for Absence

My laziness and "back-burnering" of writing a blog is inexcusable, though I could blame it on a few things. Work, people visiting, adventures from state-to-state... Regardless, I'm here now, writing.

Where did I leave off? The last time you saw me, I was poking holes in watermelons (filling them with vodka), taking blurry pictures of fireworks and standing -- in awe -- of the overall majesty and beauty of Oregon. I was trying on my work clothes for the first time and hoping that I didn't look like a complete idiot.

Speaking of... I've sort of begun to get the swing of things at work. My managers all agree that I'm a fast learner and that they will be sad to see me go in December (though I know some of you are excited for that moment). While I come home smelling like various fried foods, splattered with little bits of deli meats and cheeses, and smeared with thick, gelatinous Chinese sauces, work is going okay. The obstacle that I'm in the process of tackling is the one of overall difference.

Let's assess: 1. I'm not pregnant, nor do I have children. 2. I'm with a woman, and not a man. 3. I'm interested in Literature and make comments on opera. 4. Soon, I'll have a degree from a  public liberal arts university. 5. The Safeway deli is not my life.

Don't get me wrong -- the ladies and one guy that I work with are incredible hard workers, have good senses of humor, and are generally good co-workers. It's just that this taste of "real" life--life away from the intellectual chattering in Ramsey Library, away from scholastic achievements, away from Book Buy Back and paper-writing-procrastination--has given me something that I never thought that I would gain, and that's respect. Not an aloof, generalized statement of respect for the service industry, but a respect that one can only receive from standing long hours and helping customers who often don't understand how offensive it is when they're snippy. I complain about my job, yes, but (bring out the choir) in this economy, I'm glad to have it. Fortunate to have it. Blessed, even.

Now, I know that I haven't posted any pictures and that after this hiatus, I should be showing you the other reasons I've not posted (i.e. people visiting), but... well, they'll have to wait.

Until next time.

03 August 2010

My job at Safeway has proven to take up a considerable amount of my time, often leaving me listless and incoherent. I plan on posting something exciting soon... Get ready for pictures!

14 July 2010

Some Things to Consider (+ tasty treat recipe!)

My life--in pictures--of the last two weeks. And what I've learned.

Kayaking in a skirt isn't the best idea. 
(this was at a pond on the 4th)

Poking excessive holes in a watermelon isn't
conducive to holding the alcohol poured into it.

Art can be made out of blurry pictures of fireworks. 

Oregon is beautiful.

Creepy pictures may be taken with an unattended camera. 

Technology isn't always right. This is the dead-end dirt road
the GPS told us to go down as a detour. 

 Shenanigans in a creek with found objects are a must. 

Take time to enjoy the flowers. 

True friendship is priceless. :)

Dancing and singing in the car is fun. 

I've been doing pretty well. Starting to settle into my life here in Oregon. I started my job on Sunday at Safeway as a deli clerk, and even though I have sore feet and legs, I like it well enough. 

My outfit. 

Work is also the reason why I haven't been as diligent in posting. Apologies. I will try to balance everything more efficiently next week!

What I'm Cooking: 
This afternoon, I decided to make Megan and I a cool, tart treat to combat some of the OR heat. This is what I whipped up.

"Cook" time: About 10 minutes with prep

3 cherry or grape fruit popcicles
6 or 7 large, fresh strawberries
2 tbsp Country Time lemonade mix
3 or 4 ice cubes
1/2 cup water

1. Remove popcicles from their sticks and cut up into smaller pieces. 
2. Remove strawberry tops and halve.
3. Add lemonade mix and ice cubes. 
4. Add water and blend to desired consistency. 

This smoothie-type beverage is very tart, so if you like things on the sweeter side, add some sugar!

What I'm Listening to: 
Nickel Creek. I've been listening to their album Why Should the Fire Die? pretty frequently lately. The skillful violin/guitar/cello playing coupled with soulful vocals and honest lyrics give me the goosebumps! One of my favorites on the album is "Can't Complain." 

What I'm Reading: 
Mrs. Dalloway. The writing style of this entirely modern novel is unlike anything I've read before. While I really enjoy and appreciate the creative and incisive syntax of Woolf's narrative, the story gets a little bit muddled for me. There are times when I'm lost and I just keep reading and pick it up again. Kind of like life. I guess that is the point. Overall, I like it a great deal!

Until next time.

03 July 2010

mending my bag. i can cook, i can sew, i can clean!

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