Tag Archives: food

Food, Glorious Food

I’ve been cooking a lot lately, which I know sounds weird to those of you who know that I don’t really enjoy cooking. I don’t hate it, and I get some satisfaction out of it, but there are many things I’d prefer doing. (Like having someone cook for me while I read a good book.) I think it comes down to preferring creative endeavors that produce things that last, like books. Food gets eaten. This is also why I don’t like gardening. Didn’t I just weed that patch?! Stop growing! Sheezus criminy.

But cooking is cheaper and healthier than eating out, and (a) we just bought a house so we’re paying off a lot of stuff and (b) I’ve lost 14 lbs since August solely by not eating as much crap, and I’d like to continue that trend. I think, also, that I’ve been in a bit of nesting mode, because the world feels stressful and uncertain. Plus, I’m happy to be in the house with all of our kitchen stuff, and all along we hoped to find a house with a basement so we could put an upright freezer down there and fill it with food. We have a house with a basement and an upright freezer. Time for the food-filling part.

Before the craziness that was October, what with a trip to Atlanta and a workshop and two Marillion concerts in San Francisco and LA and then driving home with a truckful of furniture, I prepped some slow cooker meals and whatnot and froze them so I could feel both our moms without having to figure out what to cook each day. I made an anal-retentive calendar of what I had to take out of the freezer each morning, what we’d be eating that night, etc.

That worked so well that I continued with the slow cooker meal prepping thing. I’m not quite up to doing a 40 Meals in 4 Hours extravaganza, but so far I have the following meals in the freezer (the morning before I want to cook one, I’ll take it out of the freezer): Italian chicken, chicken taco bowls, balsamic chicken, chicken gyros. We also have leftover chicken stew and some kind mystery meals already cooked and frozen; I blame Ken, who never labels anything. We’ll be eating some of those this week.

This past weekend I made sweet potato/jalapeno soup (the second time I’ve made it; the first time was when the moms were visiting), cauliflower stilton soup, and healthier mac-and-cheese. All are in the freezer for the future.

In the past weeks, I’ve also made

  • a chile egg puff
  • unstuffed cabbage rolls (basically cabbage, onion, ground turkey, and Worcestershire cooked together in a big pot)
  • goulash (with ground turkey)
  • a frittata with chicken, crumbled bleu, bacon, and avocado
  • vegetable soup with homemade mini meatballs (normal meatball recipe with ground turkey instead of beef, plus a bit of finely shredded baby spinach for an extra health boost). This is what I’ve been eating for lunch, with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan.
  • breakfast bowls (frozen)
  • split pea soup
  • turkey sausage patties (they’re all gone, though, and we need to make more. This time I’m going to use the George Foreman grill.)

On deck coming up are Thai soup (for my lunches), turkey meatloaf with zucchini and feta (a new recipe to try), and Michigan sauce (I have a hankering). And I should probably research another slow cooker meal or two…. Oh, and we’re hosting a Christmas get-together, and I’m already making lists of food ideas.

I don’t know who I am anymore, but at least I’m well-fed!

A Very Overdue Post About the Holidays

We weren’t able to visit family for the holidays thanks to work schedules, so we decided to hunker down and enjoy some quality time with each other.

This post covers the day before Christmas through the day after, IIRC. I wrote it but never got around to cleaning it up and posting it! It’s now rather poignant given the Alan Rickman videos we watched…

We tagged Christmas Eve Day as our junk food and movie-watching day:

Movies (and other TV ephemera)

  • Trading Places
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (paused halfway through for nap reasons)
  • Moon (not a Christmas movie; just something we’d been saying we wanted to watch for ages)
  • a few episodes of The IT Crowd
  • The Great Santa Claus Switch (a 1970 musical Christmas special featuring The Muppets. With Art Carney, who I suspect was drunk during filming, as both Santa and the bad guy, Cosmo Scam. Also the first appearance of a Muppet who would later be named Gonzo [in the special, he was called Snarl and wasn’t an alien].)
  • a TED talk about happiness
  • various videos on YouTube, including Marillion’s “Carol of the Bells” and Texas’s “In Demand” (possibly the sexiest video ever because Alan Rickman is in it) and Alan Rickman making tea

Junk Food

  • hot dogs for lunch (organic grass-fed beef hot dogs on whole-wheat buns, broiled and topped with melted Havarti, sauerkraut [for me] and organic ketchup, because we are not heathens) (okay, yes we are. But still.)
  • crab dip (cream cheese and crab meat mixed and topped with a sauce of ketchup, horseradish, garlic powder, and lemon juice) on Triscuits*
  • party rye bread (party/appetizer rye bread squares topped with a mix of mayo, parmesan, and onions, broiled)*
  • homemade baked mozzarella sticks (I used this recipe, http://www.thegunnysack.com/baked-mozzarella-cheese-sticks-recipe/, except we were out of panko crumbs so we just used regular breadcrumbs, and I added some dried parsley. It was waaay too much flour and breadcrumbs, so we’ll probably halve those amounts next time.). Dudes, these were sooooo good—so much better than store-bought/frozen, and not all that hard to make. A keeper recipe. Noms.
  • jalapeño poppers (store bought, and a letdown compared to the other food).
  • subs for supper (except on cheesy rolls rather than hoagie rolls, at Ken’s request. However, I was too full and did not make one for myself. By that point, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to poop for days.)
  • ice cream (we are hooked on Talenti brand ice cream and I can’t conceive of even looking at another brand, it’s so good)
    *party food my mother made during my childhood.

Funny story aside #1. In high school, one New Year’s Eve my friends and I spent the night at Laura’s house; her parents went out to a party. (Attendees were Teri, Laura, and I; I’m not sure if this was the year Bridget was there, the year Patty was there, or if they were both there the same year. I’m not even sure how many years we did this. Honestly, I remember several New Year’s Eves in high school/college that I spent alone at home. I’d watch a cheesy 80s fantasy flick on video, watch the ball drop, then write my novel on our Apple IIe while listening to Styx on my boom box. Because babees, I knew how to party.)

Anyway. Laura’s house. Teenage girls. Parents gone. Liquor cabinet not locked. Crème de menthe is really good in hot chocolate is all I’m sayin’.

The next morning, the cat walked on the piano and everyone but me was hung over and groaned in agony. Me, I was hungry. So we crawled out of our sleeping bags and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Everyone else ate cereal and complained that their Rice Cripsies were too loud. Me, not being fond of sweet things for breakfast (plus who was the evil bastard who created a ticking time bomb of food as a breakfast option?), well, I pulled out the leftover crab dip I’d brought for the previous night’s shenanigans. Because I was a lazy teenager, I’d just mixed all the ingredients together, which had created a pinkish-red blob of cream cheese with lumps in it.

Nobody else at the table thought this was a good idea. Shades of green appeared. I muahaha’d and hunched over my delicacy like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture. Mine, all mine!

Funny story aside #1a. Every single time I try to type “crab dip,” I type “crap dip.” This is not a commentary on the appetizer itself.

Funny story aside #1b. When I was little, I knew the word appetizer, and I knew the word my mother sometimes used for “appetizer,” which was pronounced “whore derves.” I also knew, from books I read, that there was a weirdly spelled word that meant appetizers, which in my mind was pronounced “horse d’overs.” I remember the day I figured out they were the same word, and it was magical. Choirs of angels, &tc.

Right. Where was I? Oh yes, holiday fun. Let’s move on to Christmas morning.

I ate crab dip for breakfast (see Funny story aside #1) and it was gooood, man. No regrets.

The theme for Christmas, at least for me, was booooooks! Bookity bookity books. My preciouses, let me hug them to my ample bosom and sing to thee. Ken looked at my wish list (the WishCentral.com version, not knowing that I’d recently moved much of it to Amazon, but thankfully the books were in both places) and then went to Powells. And somewhat to his chagrin, Powells had more of the books than expected. Although he says because most of them were used books and thus cheaper, he spent less than expected. So that’s good, right?

Funny story aside #2. Christmas tradition in our family was that on Christmas Day, we turned the TV to the Yule Log Channel and everyone was required to stay in the family room all day with the tree and the presents (except for my mom, who got to escape in order to cook supper). There was no retreating to one’s cozy bedroom to read one’s books in solitude, oh no.

This would have been acceptable if I got books for Christmas, but I almost never did. My mom likes to read a bit, but other than that, I was the weird outlier of a voracious reader. Once I started to transition out of childhood “gets toys for Christmas,” I was fucked. I was bored, and not interested in adult conversation (my sisters are seven and nine years older than me, so by this time, they were adults), and not able to get to my (small) stash of books in my room.

One year, I received, among other things, a couple of horse statues (I was horse mad as a child), a nonfiction book called Famous Horses and Their People (see, e.g., being horse mad), and a bell for my bike.

Once present-opening was done and the long dark teatime (without tea, even worse) of the soul of an afternoon commenced, I read my book.

As in, the whole book.

I possibly read it a second time. I sort of played with the horse statuettes, but they were two different kinds (one was sort of bronzeish and the other was plastic), and I knew they were really for display, and I had no other dolls or similar implements available to turn this into a full script.

So I proceeded to morosely ring my bike bell until my father roused from his nap in his recliner and took me out to the garage where he deftly affixed the bell to my bike.

We lived in upstate New York. It was below freezing in the garage. Even if I had the desire to shiver, teeth clattering, in the garage to continue ringing the bell and dreaming of summer, nobody else would have to put up with that incessant noise.

Smart man, my father.

I think the fact that I relayed this story more than once this December has something to do with the piles of books I received.

I should also note that I did not receive a bell for my bike. (For the bike I have yet to buy. Goals.)

Funny story aside #2a. Ken did, however, buy me this Minion on a stick that, when you press the button, sings in Minion language. It’s Stuart, by the way, holding his ukulele. Unlike my father would, Ken finds it utterly adorable when I press the button and giggle hysterically at the song.

Right. Back to the present.

Ken also found a used CD store nearby. Halloo, British version of the Chess soundtrack (among others…).

Plus tickets for indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel I’m so excited I can’t even! Eeeee! https://www.iflyworld.com/portland/

I got Ken, among other things, a contraption that stirs natural peanut butter, because the only reason he won’t eat natural peanut butter is because dealing with the oil separation is too much of a hassle for him.

Because I know how party, people.

Meanwhile, there were phone calls with various members of family, including my eldest niece who got to give everyone in the family the gift of the announcement that she’s pregnant with her second child.

Strangely, I am now a fan of the Yule Log Channel, or in this case, a free app on the Apple TV (there are paid versions, but I’m not sure how they can be better, except maybe they have music, which the 1970s/1980s Yule Log Channel played). It makes crackling fire noises, and that’s enough for me. And my idea of Christmas afternoon at home is curling up in front of whatever fire is available, even if it’s on a TV screen, and reading. Which we did.

Until it was time to shower and dress and go out to dinner with friends (Gayle, Trent, and Jeanne) at the Zeus Café, which is in the Crystal Hotel, a McMenamins property dating to 1911.

We had the best waiter ever. I finally figured out he reminded me of Peter Capaldi as Danny in Local Hero, one of my favorite movies and which solidified my love of Peter Capaldi back in 1986. Except he didn’t have the Scottish accent. Our waiter, I mean. He was efficient and smart and attentive and patient and funny. We tipped him well.

They were out of the goose (sadness!) so Ken had the salmon, which I’d considered, but instead I ordered off the bar menu and had a falafel burger, which was topped with feta tzatziki and a dash of Aardvark Hot Sauce, and it was stupendous, even if it wasn’t proper Christmas supper food.

The best part was hanging out with friends, and I’d insert a funny story here about Gayle wanting one of the enormous chandeliers and the long conversation we all had about how to obtain it (culminating in asking our wonderful waiter for it, but he explained that he’d already called dibs on it), but you kinda had to be there.

Also, the first cocktail on the bar menu really sneaks up on you. And apparently wipes your memory of what was in it (it was really good, though).

Eventually we came home (after dropping off one friend and hanging out for awhile) and determined that it was too late to watch White Christmas, so we watched the Doctor Who Christmas episode and then Ken fell over and I watched a Florence + the Machine concert that just happened to be on TV right then, and then I came into my office and wrote this before I forgot any of it.

I’ve still probably forgotten some of it.

But it was awesome.

Except for the part about not seeing family, or friends other than the friends we did see.

Ken’s off work for the week, but I have work I need to do tomorrow, and we have a few errands to run. But it’ll still be a quiet day, hopefully also with a minimum of Internet and a maximum of time together.

And reading. Because boy howdy, do I have a pile. (And Ken has a few, too.)

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Spicy garlic HELP!

Help me, my foodie friends, you’re my only hope!

When we were in Seattle a couple of weekends ago, I had the most amazing dish at a noodle shop, and I desperately want to re-create it. They billed it as spicy garlic rice, and you can see it on this menu page in the bottom left.

As near as I can tell, the “sauce” was thinly sliced/chopped garlic, oil, and red pepper flakes (I think). It was thick, and I had to work it into the rice (it sat on top otherwise; you can see that in the picture). It was spicy, but not painfully so. It was sooooooo goooooood.

I asked the waiter what was in it, and he said they make their own sauce. Something about marinating (that wasn’t the word he used, though, argh) the garlic in the pepper sauce? He probably used cooking terms I don’t know, and it was also almost two weeks ago, and I knew I should’ve written it down right away, but no.

So, anybody want to take a stab at how to make this? Is it possible to buy garlic soaked in pepper oil, and if so, where? Or is it easy enough to make it? And then how would I cook it?

Please use small words and give very basic instructions, because although I’m perfectly capable of following a recipe (and even modifying it once I understand it), I’m not a hardcore or experienced cook, nor have I branched out into anything complex.

I have searched online but nothing has come up that sounds remotely similar. I could be using the wrong search terms, though. (Spicy + garlic + rice doesn’t work, anyway, probably because the rice was topped by the sauce, not cooked with it.)

Thank you! xo

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Guests and party and food, oh my!

(I wrote most of this on Sunday, but finished it up today…)

I’m the first person awake in the house, which is unheard of. We have two sets of houseguests (they followed us home from Morgana’s party…can I keep them, huh, can I?), and they’re still asleep, and so is Ken, but me? Let’s just say there is a nap in my future today….

But it’s a gloriously overcast morning, my favorite kind, and I have a cup of tea, and…

Well, I never finished my thought, because people started emerging. (Several had, in fact, been awake for awhile, reading or whatnot in their rooms. Quiet little mouses. One couple was in our room and the other on a double-height queen-sized air mattress in the sewing room; Ken and I were downstairs on the foldout sofa in the media room.) Kelly cooked us scrambled eggs and some really nummy refried beans (note to self: get recipe!) and Ken made bacon and toast. I think it was noon before we actually sat down and indulged.

Collette and Rod had to dash off for another engagement, but we were delighted to have Kelly and Richard for a few more hours. We hadn’t seen them in ages, so having quality time was just lovely. They recently moved to the San Diego area and their new house is a Moroccan fantasy. It has two aviaries, one for peacocks. “Will you be getting peacocks?” I asked. “Probably,” Kelly said. Of course.

I spent the rest of the day alternating between catch-up work, exhaustion, etc. At one point, I took the top sheet we’d used in the media room, brought it upstairs to our bedroom, wrapped myself in it (as the bed had been stripped) and took a nap. Four minutes before my alarm was to go off, a phantom cat walked across the foot of the bed. It wasn’t Grimoire (the live cat), nor was it the ghost of Eostre (with three legs, she had a bunny-hop kind of gait). Possibly Charlie, although she left us awhile ago, and this phantom cat didn’t try to burrow under the covers with me, as Charlie was wont to do in the morning. I checked, and it wasn’t a little earthquake, either. So your guess is as good as mine.

Otherwise, I managed to get some copyediting done (although I’m still about two days behind on my schedule), and some crucial email. And I did some futile searching for artwork for my Uncollected Anthology Winter Witches story (October 1 release!).

But you’re really here to hear about Morgana’s 50th birthday Lord of the Rings party, I’m sure.

It was glorious. Both she and Brian looked amazing in their costumes, and I’m chuffed that I had a small part in that (assembly, ironing, etc., plus I embroidered Brian’s sleeves). Their house looked amazing—our artist friend Eric showed up with many hand-drawn maps of Middle Earth, plus Dwarfen runes. The main part of the living room was Hobbiton, the other area was Dwarves, the dining room was Elves, and the family room was Men.

There was ivy everywhere, and hobbit pipes (one for actual smoking, which some folks did on the porch), and bunting and lanterns and handmade fireworks on the porch, and fairy lights, and various books, and drinking horns, and a Dwarfish ax and a Elvish bow.*

All the food (and there was a lot of food) was food actually mentioned in the books. (Ken made Welsh cakes [which served as lembas, even though there was other lembas], and hard-boiled eggs, and seven pounds of bacon that was inhaled). Cheese and roast beef and cram and Orc vitality drink and petty Dwarf root, oh my!

And of course there were many friends and gifts and love for the birthday girl, which is the best part.

I helped clean up afterwards, and got home just before 2 am (I’d already sent Ken and our guests ahead).

I took a lot of pictures of the decorations and a few of the guests, but I was also busy replenishing food and tableware, so I didn’t get as many guest photos as I would’ve liked. I’m giving all of them to Morgana so she can post what she wants—it was her party, after all. But here are a few I’m particularly fond of.





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*A few weeks ago, Ken came in from the garage and said, “Here’s something for your costume,” and handed me a longbow.
“Where did that come from?” I asked.
“The garage,” he said.
“Yes, but how did it come to be in the garage?
“I don’t know,” he said…