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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

Bag Ladies

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A couple of years ago I got the idea to thank my friends for being my friends by giving them something personal — beyond the cheer, kindness, and thoughtfulness (and occasional baked goods) that I make sure to bring to those relationships.

Because I like making things, bags came to mind. For each woman, I look for a fabric that reflects her personality. Forgive the immodesty, but on the whole I have pretty good taste and a rare gift-choosing ability, so trusting my judgement puts me on solid ground.

This is my latest bag. It went to a woman I met through work. She’s artsy. I’d like to be artsy. Although we have a lot in common, our friendship didn’t really solidify until we weren’t working together. The pattern is Glenda from Swoon. (The credit is included only if someone feels inclined to find out more; I have no personal link with the company.)  I do love the interwebs to find new and different things.

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Of course for this level of effort, passing friends and acquaintances won’t be receiving bags any time soon. But I still have a dozen good women on the top-line list. That will keep me busy this year.

Lentil It Be

lentils

Lentils and greens, two more New Year’s foods. This choice was as much to return to better eating as for any illusion of influencing the cosmos in my favor. With typical American gusto, I’ve noshed my way through the holidays. Enjoyable, but time to return to reality.

Lentils with pasta, canned tomatoes, and arugula was a long-time lunch favorite. The arugula held its rewarding crunch for several days. Amazing. But for reasons unknown, this dish fell off the radar. Perhaps I simply ate it one too many times, dispelling the charm. So I reworked the recipe for the new year.

Two shallots cooked with the lentils. Added kale both cooked and fresh; ditto the tomato. Pasta seemed superfluous. Lunch perfection. Having forgotten the expansion factor of soaking lentils, I’ll be enjoying this for several days.

Almost good enough to forget Saturday’s fail: I attempted to make kransekake on December 31. Is that the last fail of last year or the first fail of the new year? The recipe in the fairly recently produced seminal work on Nordic cooking looked amazingly simple and straightforward. A little egg white, some sugar — grating the marzipan appeared to be the hardest part. Ha! Looking back, it’s almost as though the author included the recipe with an air of dismissive disdain, an embarrassing must.

When the goal is a fairly dry dough, add wet to dry ingredients until the desired consistency is achieved. Again, something I realized in retrospect after following the lauded author’s recipe. Recipes later culled from the interwebs indicated either heat or cold to get the right consistency. (The recipe on Nordic Food & Living seems worth a go.) And clearly a boatload of elbow grease is needed to get the marzipan thoroughly incorporated. Previously, the closest I’ve come to marzipan is the character on Homestar Runner.

Since there was no way to firm up the soggy dough, I decided to bake some cookie-ish rounds in hopes of salvaging the experiment and getting something I could taste for reference. Watching the rounds expand, I upped the oven temp for a quicker set — which did nothing for the set and gave the round blobs a Florida-grade tan. I can only bear to share a tiny pic of the result.

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The taste is quite nice — kind of an almond-flavored toasted marshmallow. And I was smart enough to make only a small batch on a silicon mat, reducing waste and clean up.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll watch a few episodes of the Great British Baking Show while eating a bowl of lentils and kale to ready myself for the next challenge.

 

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(her)Ring in the New Year

ikea-herring

Many good things happened in 2016. Positives notwithstanding, however, the year had a few pretty craptastic events that tainted many of the days. Several unpleasant-if-mundane realities occurred — things that happen to everyone but had an extra layer of, well, crap.

After much deliberation, I have determined the cause to be herring. Specifically, the New Year’s pickled herring.

Eating pickled herring on December 31 and the next day (superstitions only work if you cover all possibilities. . .) is the only New Year’s tradition I have observed without fail since childhood. There’s a little quirky history behind it that I love — acknowledging the uncertainty of the future while hoping for good fortune.

Rewind to the last day of 2015 when I found myself without a jar of pickled herring. Dashed to the closest grocery store. While I couldn’t tell you the name of the brand that’s ubiquitously available, I can tell you it wasn’t stocked at this store. Something told me what was available was inferior, but I bought it anyway. Inferior it was. Mushy, not much flavor, and way too sweet.

Well, look how that turned out.

Determined not to let this unpleasant fate befall another year, I planned and purchased with intent and purpose: A month ahead I took advantage of being near IKEA, cooler in the car.

In the words of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, “Hallelujah, noel, be it heaven or hell, the Christmas we get we deserve.” Clearly the sentiment extends to the following week’s holiday. And I, for one, am starting 2017 with forethought and positive action.

May the new year bring you unexpected opportunities for joy and ample rewards for your efforts.

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Christmas Cooking Surprise

My first go at making Parmesan Mousse went well, but the surprise came in the spoils.

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Onions and rosemary are cooked and steeped in heavy cream. Their flavoring work complete, they’re strained out and discarded. Looking at the strainer, I couldn’t help but take a flavor-filled bite. Some of the parm clings to the onion bits.

Hmmm. Grab a small leftover potato. Slice up a tomato. Combine and heat in the microwave, then broil for a few minutes in the toaster oven. In between those cooking steps, soft-cook an egg (I did a 6-minute steam). Top potato-tomato mix with cooked onion spoils and the egg.

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Sometimes I surprise myself — in this case, delightfully so!

Here’s another quirk: The onions are mild since they’ve been well cooked; a good choice for me because I don’t like strong onions in breakfast dishes. But then I generously topped the dish with Frank’s Hot Sauce. . .

Merry Christmas to all; may the day bring you happy surprises.

 

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Woodland Worry Walks

winter-trail

On a recent flight I read the airline magazine. A pleasant read, well-suited to the audience and timeframe. The article on forest bathing stuck with me. Forest bathing is a health activity of Japanese origin that is, in brief, a slow, mindful walk in the deep woods. Look around, take in the details, and breathe deeply because apparently there’s some very good stuff in forest air. While I’d heard the term, I hadn’t paid it much attention, but on this short flight there wasn’t much else clamoring for my attention.

Our daily dog walks are not slow, and since we walk the same trails frequently there isn’t much gawking at the minutia. The story brought to the fore how I actually walk in these familiar woods — in cold weather head down to be sure I’m not stepping on ice, (as noted) always quickly, usually discussing daily woes with the hubs. At least twice a week either or both of us gets worked into a froth about something.

Occasionally I snap out of it and snap a pic of something interesting — at least I’m somewhat aware of my surroundings. So while I may be getting the aerobic benefit, I am clearly missing any additional benefits. Plus, these walks don’t take us into anything that could be labeled a forest, just some well-wooded acreage.

On the New Year’s Resolution list: Enjoy the great outdoors. With the crazy pup’s high energy, a key reason for the activity, that won’t happen on the dog walk. But I’m pretty sure nature is available to experience at almost any other time. . .

 

 

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Stock Up!

Have you noticed? Lately I’m compelled to add exclamation points to my headlines. Maybe I’m just that excited about the holidays. In this case, the reason was to make it ‘sound’ like a short-order cook calling out from the kitchen.

broth

Big batch of stock from turkey and chicken bones – Chickey? Turken? Whatever the name, it is yummy and we’ve got a lot of it. I’m thinking butternut squash risotto, because wait until you see the size of the butternut squash I bought at — surprise, not! — Costco!

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Kale and Farewell! (No, I’m not going anywhere)

OK, I’m only posting this because I’m mad about the title I came up with! It’s the serendipity of two unrelated things happening on the same day.

Silly me, a little fun for you.

 

kale

The last of the season’s kale. Note the frost. Into a batch of green soup.

yogurt

And, it appears, the end of the yogurt maker. Farewell, faithful companion. While the machine itself is more than two decades old, I’ve only used it regularly for 5 or 6 years. And by regularly I mean once a week. Really. We eat homemade yogurt most days.

But from the consistency of this yogurt, well, looks like the heating element has finally gone kaput. The hubs used his infrared temp thingie and it registered only 78 degrees. That won’t do.

Now you know what’s on my Christmas list.

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The Eagle Has Landed! or More Bad Nature Photography

“Look – out on the ice. Is those hawks or eagles?”

Another matching bird flies low overhead and lands near the others.

“Eagles, they’re eagles.”

“Let me borrow your phone to take a pic.”

“We’re too far away, you won’t get much.”

“But I’ll get something.”

 

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“Let’s walk a little farther down the bridge. We’ll be a bit closer so you can get a better shot.”

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“Now you can see them better. Slightly.”

One bird flies away, another takes to the air swooping over the open water closer to the bridge.

“Take a video.”

“By the time I get the phone out again, the eagle will be gone.”

After almost a minute of watching the bird, reach for phone.

Bird immediately flies back to the resting spot on the ice.

Some things are meant to be enjoyed in the moment.

Time for a Cool Change

Frighteningly unseasonable weather well into November meant the green pepper plants kept producing until just a few days ago. Experience warns the appearance of great bounty precedes a painful-down-to-the-soul crash; it’s a false joy.

green-peppers

But waste is pointless, so stuffed green peppers for several days it is. With a side of impending doom.

And then on to new and other things.

Recently I came across the website of a fabulously named restaurant in Land, Oregon: Viking Soul Food. As a midlander, the Northwestern United States does not come to mind when thinking Nordic. But it is, and there you are.

My thoughts were already pointed due north. A year of Nordic cooking, perhaps. Yes, a year of Scandinavian cooking has a better ring to it. However my half-Swedish cousin rarely fails to remind that Finland, from whence my side of the family comes, is not technically part of Scandinavia, ergo it’s erroneous to claim the heritage. That’s why I hang with the German cousins.

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