Thursday, July 30, 2009

My husband. Jack of many, many trades.

I apologize that this photo is so dark, but it was nighttime, demonstrating Matt's obsession with his new lady, the MAME cabinet. Here he is putting a coat of paint on the thing. (Read on to find out what I'm talking about.)

First off, yesterday was Matt's birthday, so happy birthday, Matt, and welcome to your late twenties. (He is younger than me by two months and four days, and likes to remind me on occasion by calling me "Wrinks", short for wrinkles. I point out that he has smile lines, not me, but it's worthless since he's the one who always gets carded, and not me. True story: I was actually laughed at when I asked a cashier at a liquor store if she wanted to see my ID. And I was 22!)

Matt is really into picking up new hobbies/obsessions, pouring countless daily hours into them when there is good TV on, and then dropping them abruptly. Let's reminisce about the more peculiar ones, shall we? About four years ago, when we first lived together in a cozy one-bedroom apartment, Matt was on a soup kick. As in Campbell's. Progresso. Whatever. We'd go to the grocery store and Matt would insist on buying no less than six cans of soup weekly (salt be damned). This went on for a couple months, until one day, I looked into our cabinet, and there were 25 cans of soup staring back at me. He tried all sorts of soup, but preferred zesty ones like "Mexican Tortilla" or meaty ones like "Steak and Potatoes" (this particular can also proclaimed it was the perfect remedy for a "man's" appetite). I was relieved when the post office was doing a canned food drive and proceeded to dump all this extraneous soup in a bag for Steve, our mailman (I did not know if his name was Steve, but he certainly looked like a Steve). Matt saw this bag and grabbed for his once-beloved soup. "You have not had any soup in weeks!" I exclaimed. "I know, he said, but that one is Italian wedding soup, and I like those meatballs," he said as he cradled the can in his arms. "Well, then," I said. "The needy will enjoy it that much more."

Which takes us to unicycling (soup to unicycling...perfect non sequitur, uh?). For as long as I've known Matt, he could juggle. When a juggling and unicycling class opened up at our local adult night-school (no joke, here) he of course had to sign up. No question about it. He did not own a unicycle but waxed philosophic about the damn thing, and that Christmas his parents (thanks Nancy and David) bought him one. He was overjoyed. Every day after work, he'd take his unicycle to our apartment parking lot at dusk (so not many folks would see him, as learning to ride a unicycle is a very self-conscious endeavor) and practice. It was a sorry sight at first, and I pretended I didn't know who he was. But after a few weeks, he could wobbly ride on the cement. Two years ago, we moved to our house and Matt has only practiced the unicycle in our garage, for fear of being dubbed the "weird" neighbor. I fear this title has already been attributed to us, due to his next hobby/obsession.

Slack-lining. Or at least that's what I think it's called. It's a new outdoor "sport" that essentially consists of tying a rope from one tree to another, and walking on it like a giant idiot. Naturally, Matt had to try it. He bought a bright pink slack-line (just to be as gaudy as possible, you know?) and tied it to two large trees in our backyard, which is visible to the street as we have a corner property. He then tried to bounce on the thing and walk, but I don't think he ever got the hang of it, really. I can't be sure, as I'd lower the window shade so I didn't have to watch this spectacle. Even our neighbor came out one afternoon and asked what Matt was doing. (He must not think too lowly of him, as he entrusted Matt to cat sit his beloved Shadow the other week.) I told Matt fine, he can indulge in this ridiculous "sport" as long as he took the bright pink line down after he used it. But he never did, and we had a pink rope three feet off the ground for a good month or so, or until Matt tired of it and his attention drew to an equally ludicrous endeavor.

Which brings us to his MAME cabinet, which I believe was right before slack-lining, but when you have a string of absolute zaniness, timelines don't really count. Do you know what a MAME cabinet is? Oh, boy, I certainly do. A MAME cabinet is a single arcade unit, where you put your computer into the viewing area, and play any game you want (that is installed on your computer). You install your buttons, joystick, and all of that. Given that I enjoy vintage whatever, and an arcade unit with old school Pacman and Frogger was going to be on it, I thought, fine, I can handle this. And to be absolutely honest, I was proud that Matt had the technical know-how to construct such a thing and wire it. (I love nerds and their nerdy antics. I have a sweatshirt somewhere that says, "Nerds make better lovers." Ha.) However, I quickly grew leery when the MAME cabinet took precedence over me. I would painstakingly make a lovingly concocted culinary feast of bountiful proportions (or, you know, grilled cheese and soup or something) and call Matt in from the garage (the MAME's birthplace) to eat dinner. He would promise he was coming, but only emerged two hours later, covered with sweat and sawdust. He was married to the MAME. Eventually, the MAME cabinet came to fruition after months of pouring over websites dedicated to selling MAME parts (he agonized for two weeks about what color buttons to purchase). That is when he asked me to bring the thing into our living room. He argued I had taken control of decorating the house, and I conceded, that yes, I did, but of of ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. Case in point: putting a giant arcade unit into our living room. "This is not a bachelor pad!" I yelled. He said fine, we can put it elsewhere, but I'll never see him again because he'll be spending all of his time with the MAME cabinet, so wouldn't I rather have it where I was - in the living room? No, I said. He then angled for the kitchen. "Absolutely not," I protested. We had three vacant bedrooms, I proclaimed. Make one of them your nerd HQ, for goodness sakes! He would not budge, so the cabinet went into our sun room for the summer, and was finally moved to its final resting place, a guest bedroom. It's victory enough for me.

Next up: a few months ago Matt proclaimed his love for coffee. "You hate coffee," I said. "Not now, I love it," he replied. "As of when?" I said. "As of today," he said. Oh god, I felt another episode of "Matt delves into yet another pointless hobby" taking hold. "I have to go get a coffee machine. But I don't want a normal one. I want a FRENCH PRESS." Sigh. So that very day we went to Target and Matt bought a french press. He also bought some French Roast coffee, arguing a French press obviously need a French roast (I have no idea where he gets these things), and were on our way. Two weeks later he announced he needed a coffee bean grinder. And last week? Well, last week he was looking at espresso machines. "I have some half-and-half; do you want that in our coffee?" I once mistakenly asked. He immediately admonished me, saying he drinks his coffee "pure", and it's really the only way in which one should drink coffee. Oh. He also drinks his coffee late at night so he can "have more vivid dreams". (Caffeine does not affect him.) Although I poked him a few weeks ago and asked what he was dreaming about and he said he wasn't. So much for that.

This past month Matt has latched onto square-foot gardening and composting. Now, I admire this - he wants to grow our own produce and everyone should compost. But then I noticed fruit flies everywhere in our kitchen. I shook the covered bowl were Matt had begun storing our scraps and about three dozen flies lifted off from the bowl. "Maaatttttt!" I yelled. "Get your fly-ridden stinky garbage bowl away from where I am COOKING!" He told me to calm down; a fruit fly never hurt anybody. (For his birthday, I bought him a a countertop composting pail that will hopefully reign in those buggers.)

I have so many others. So, so many. Matt says it's because of his quirks that I love him, and it's absolutely true. He makes my life interesting. That's the sort of game we play: I am the sardonic, opinionated one, and he is the lovable goof (it's all very much like a sitcom). And frankly, I'm just fine with that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shiny like a roller rink

I have been bitching to Matt for two years now about our wall-to-wall carpeting in our living room. When a friend accidentally spilled red wine on it, I cheered. When Penny got sick on it, I secretly thought about the lovely stain it would leave as I comforted her (and yes, I comfort my dog, gosh darn it). So when Matt, out of the blue, said, "Do you want to take the carpet up today?", I said YES. (I guess my hummus put a carpet-y spring in his step.) I was fearful of the condition of the wood underneath, and I shouldn't have worried: it's all sorts of lovely and brightens up the room. I don't really know what our style is, but I'm going to call it "library chic". No laughing!

Here are my self-congratulatory photos. I also want to note I didn't just sit there and watch Matt do all the heavy-lifting. If he tells you otherwise, he's lying. That's one aspect I miss about being sick: you get out of everything.



And after!

Hummus is among us

The hummus took Matt to heavenly new heights.

I remember my mom making hummus back in the 90's. That was considering culinary cutting-edge (I mean, a lot of folks didn't know what hummus was), and now look at it! Hummus surely had a good PR person. Lazing around on Saturday afternoon (after my gym visit, ha ha, and Matt's regular Saturday morning badminton group, double ha ha), I thought we needed some pep. Some protein! And some lip-smackin' goodness.

I whipped out my food processor, some pita, and went to work. I decided to make roasted red pepper hummus and give my boring old pita a jolt. Usually I make my hummus with cumin and accent it with cilantro, but this is a very tasty basil-infused alternative, and can be made in 10 minutes flat using a food processor for both recipes (with no washing in between!).

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Rustic Pita Chips
For the pita:
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 package pita bread
  • salt and pepper, dash
Cut pita bread into small triangles or, if mini pitas, half moons. (I keep the pita double-sided for extra thickness, and most definitely due to some laziness.) In a food processor, pulse garlic and basil for a few seconds and then add the olive oil and salt and pepper. Brush onto pita and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes (watch it) or until crispy at 400 degrees.

This is them right before they go in the oven. I just started dipping them in the olive oil mixture and eating them, right then and there. Oops.

For the hummus:

  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
  • 1/3 cup tahini paste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup roasted red pepper (I just used the ones in the jar.)
While the pita is baking, add all the hummus ingredients to the food processor except for the roasted red pepper, and pulse until smooth. Then add the pepper and pulse again until smooth. If necessary, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with extra basil and serve with pita chips.

Eat up!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Speedy Thai Chicken Wraps

Who needs Bangkok when you can have Betty Crocker?

When I moved out on my own, my mom gave me Betty Crocker's Quick & Easy Cookbook. I immediately turned to the desserts section (because that's what anyone who is sane does, right?), but after my initial sugar fixation I decided to fix these snappy Thai wraps (which I am sure would be an abomination to anyone who is really from Thailand). Oh well; they are yummy in my provincial Pennsylvanian eyes.

Note: You cannot mess these up. Add as much cabbage (coleslaw mix) as you feel comfortable with, and feel free to reserve some of the dressing mixture for dipping.

Thai Chicken Wraps
  • 1 cup Asian dressing (I use Newman's Own Asian Sesame Ginger dressing)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 5-6 cups (one bag) coleslaw mix (sliced cabbage)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)
  • flour tortillas
Mix dressing, peanut butter and cayenne pepper until smooth. Saute ginger and chicken in skillet until almost thoroughly cooked. Pour 1/2 of dressing mixture onto chicken and cut on high heat for a few minutes. Remove chicken from skillet.

Chicken satay, anyone?

Add the following to the skillet: 1/2 of dressing mixture, coleslaw mix, bell pepper, peanuts and cilantro.

I could eat it just like this.

Coat mixture well and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until mixture softens slightly. Add chicken to mixture and serve in flour tortillas.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

C is for Cookie, that's Good Enough for Me

Editor's Note (haha, "Editor"): I can attest that these cookies are yummy, particularly because I had no less than 15 of them. Also, thanks to Matt for indulging me and (grudgingly) posting this entry. ~Kathryn

It's that time again, the time for me to be coerced into writing a blog entry. I'll start with a definition, as most uninspired writings and speeches seem to. defines a cookie as:

a small cake made from stiff, sweet dough rolled and sliced or dropped by spoonfuls on a large, flat pan (cookie sheet) and baked.

So, these cookie things sound pretty delicious don't they? But how could one possibly learn how to make such a delightful treat? Where could one possibly find such a yummy snack? Ok, believe it or not, you can find a multitude of them in the grocery store next to the crackers, but that would be too easy. Lucky for you, I happen to be premiering a recipe for home grown Oatmeal Cookies I tested out last night. Actually I'm still "testing out" the remainder of the batch right now. Ok, it seems has the same recipe up on their site, but hopefully I can add some extra insight to make the write-up worthwhile.

Anyways, here it goes.

Incredible Edible Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. For an extra exciting stirring experience, I recommend switching between clockwise and counterclockwise, or figure eight pattern for bakers who are more advanced, or anti-clockwise for the bakers more British.
  3. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  4. Bake 9 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake. Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

16 and Pregnant

I watch a lot of trash on t.v., which is something of a feat in and of itself considering we don't have cable. I just had to share my most recent addiction, 16 and Pregnant on MTV. Kudos if you guessed the premise.

This particular episode's couple, however, was startlingly mature. The couple, Catelynn and Tyler (or is it Taylor? I can never get that name right), give their daughter up for adoption, knowing they cannot provide a good life for her. I was mesmerized by how self-possessed both of them were, given their unfortunate family situations (Tyler's father was just released from jail, and Catelynn's mom calls her a bitch, and both parents don't agree with their decision to put their child up for adoption - it's dysfunction at its worst).

I thought I'd share because 1) these kids are remarkable given their situation and 2) a few posts back I was discussing things that make you cry. Grab a tissue.

Episode Here

Monday, July 20, 2009

If a girl places a chocolate cake in her cart, don't judge, okay?

Oh yeah, there's the good stuff.
Pictured: Wegman's "Ultimate Chocolate Cake"

It's a good thing I don't live with a worrier. Case in point: last night. laying in bed, I heard buzzing sounds. "Do you hear that?" I asked Matt. "Oh yeah, I saw a hornet in here earlier." Lovely.

And I won't get into the specifics, but I've been feeling the effects of the recession personally at my job for the past year. A lot of additional cutbacks were just initiated, leaving us bewildered, worried, and a bit poorer, and wondering how safe our jobs are (not very). Last week when I learned of all of this I announced our American dream was all over, we'd lose the house, and won't be able to care for our daughter (who, yes, is our each their own, eh?). I was hyperbolic, and I was taking no prisoners.

"And Matt, I know you think you're getting a computer for your birthday, but, well, in light of recent economic developments, you're getting an egg toaster, okay?" (Don't get me started on his silly egg toaster contraption.) Matt didn't miss a beat and said he wanted some Xbox games if I was going to rob him of his right to a speedy computer. Only if they're used, I said. Fine, he said. Deal; now go clear the dishes, will you?

While Matt was loading the plates and forks in the dishwasher and doing some financial calculations in his head, all the while saying we'd be fine and not to worry about it, I was already thinking about dinners comprised of tuna and mac and cheese, and oh, the horror, cutting back on my favorite designer boutique. And by "favorite designer boutique", I mean Target. Obviously. I looked at Penny and wondered if she could be a show dog, or a dog model for extra cash, and by golly, I think the old girl has it in her, if it wasn't for her coffee-brown teeth. "Roll over!" I demanded. She looked at me, tilting her head. "Come on, roll over!" This time she looked at my plate, with it's stray lettuce and dressing and a noodle or two. "Eat it now, Penny, before it's all gone," I said as I placed the leftovers on the tile.

"Oh no, here we go," said Matt. "Look we're fine, Kathryn. Okay?" I responded that we shouldn't have bought our two new rocking chairs, which were sitting on the porch, as if two chairs would save us from financial ruin. Then as I was rummaging in the refrigerator, I saw that Matt's lunch meat cost eight dollars. "Matthew, this is insane, your turkey breast is eight dollars!" And you know what the boy said? He said it's ALWAYS eight dollars. Aghast, I closed the frig door and sat down. "What else haven't you been telling me?"

"You need to calm down," he said. My uber-frugality was short-lived as this weekend at the market I indulged in a $4.50 fresh loaf of rosemary bread, $7 of blue cheese, and an "ultimate" chocolate cake from the bakery - a girl has needs, okay?! Matt, eyeing the cake, said, "Are you sure you want to..." and that's when I gave me a cold, hard stare and, "What, Matt, are you judging me?" In all fairness, just the night before I insisted 1) I need to get in shape and return to the gym after my gazillion month hiatus, and 2) we are poor. However, in my defense, I DID return to the gym that morning (and, oh, 40 minutes on an elliptical machine watching SOAPNet burns off an entire chocolate cake, right?), and Matt DID insist we were "okay" financially. I then added, for good measure, that this was a "hard time for me" and that "it's the little things like cake that brighten my day." He said okay, and I placed the cake in the cart. Sucker.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Savory Zucchini Soup

Yes, gazpacho isn't the only summertime soup!

I'm sick, so I decided to make an old summertime (well, anytime) standby: zucchini soup. It wasn't such a smart move because I was already sweating before cooking, and afterwards had to get yet another cold shower. But it was totally worth it. This soup is rich (but not too much so), and has a buttery savoriness with tender pieces of chicken and piles of shredded zucchini. We just can't get enough of it and I'm already looking forward to leftovers at lunch tomorrow. This makes enough for a couple days (for two) - and I swear, it's even better the next day.

Zucchini Soup

  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into cubes or strips
  • 2 pounds zucchini (about 6 of those suckers), shredded
  • 2 small - medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock (1 carton)
  • 1/2 pint light cream
  • salt and pepper / olive oil
Saute chicken in olive oil until almost cooked through.

Like so. (Just do everything in the stock pot - easy breezy.)

Dang, look at all that zucchini!

Add onions to soften. Then add zucchini, and garlic.

In the beginning of cooking.

Cook mixture for about 10 minutes, or until zucchini breaks down and softens and releases juice.

After 7-10 minutes the zucchini gets juicy and soft, like this.

Next add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and let the soup come to a boil, and then let simmer for a couple minutes. Add cream and simmer for 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread or crackers. Makes up to six servings.

Save some for me.

Perfect Sundays

Sunday is a double-edged sword; Monday looms but Sunday mornings just whisper, "Stay in a bed a little longer" and, "Who cares that you just got syrup on the comforter?" Every Sunday Matt or I makes the other breakfast. Matt is the pancake and waffle aficionado, and can make a mean omelet, flipping it in the skillet like those men at the omelet stations at fancy brunches. I tend toward scrambled eggs and muffins (it's hard to mess up either). Sometimes we make a bagel or donut run. Sunday mornings are not meant for cutting calories.

With food on our laps, and magazines and books strewn (and invariably the laptop out), we watch CBS'
Sunday Morning. I love this show in all its old-timey delighfulness, especially because the host, Charles Osgood, wears bow ties and sometimes plays the piano: need I say more? (For those who haven't seen it, no, it's not in the vain of those wretched primetime "news" shows like Dateline. It's a hundred times more intelligent, thoughtful, and focuses more on the arts and culture.)

So Penny gets her breakfast kibble and licks the syrup off our plates after we're done eating (this morning we had summery blueberry pancakes and then polished an additional pint of them while clicking through the political round tables of
Face the Nation, This Week, and Meet the Press). Recently, Matt has been doing countless house projects, so he usually gets up and leaves me to the NYT's "Celebrations" page (this is where the Times profiles engaged and recently married couples - it's a hoot comprised of Rockefellers and doctors' daughters - I wholeheartedly endorse viewing the video feature).

Right now Matt is sealing our driveway. I'm not sure what this entails, as we just had it paved last year. Now, after spending a small fortune on paving it, we have to seal it. The good thing is that I don't have to help (and yes, I offered, and yes, it was rather meekly, but regardless he said no. I did ask why he declined and he said the following, "You'll do it wrong and it will start a fight.") Nevermind I am reasonably intelligent and able-bodied - he thinks I do everything "wrong" (which is semi-true because I like to cut corners on everything, which means if you ask me to clean the bedroom, all the junk will go under the bed, and if you ask me to paint a room, I'll consider one coat good and done), so I just hold my tongue (for once) because it gets me out of the manual labor. Sometimes he asks what I've been doing all day (reading and watching Netflix, which he is keenly aware of), but I say something I always hear on made-for-tv movies, like, "I've been working to keep this house and family together, Matt!" Nevermind our family consists of just us and the dog, and my version of cleaning is hiding questionable items.

So happy Sunday to you - whether you're slathering sealant on the driveway or sweeping dust balls under the bed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Only bad part: runny mascara "racoon" eyes

I had this Lichtenstein print in my dorm room all four years during college. Sexy while in fear of drowning, rebuffing a man's help, and all the while crying? Yes, absolutely.

You know when you watch a movie, read a book, or read anything, and you just have to cry afterward? My sprinkler system is often and constant: I cry a lot. I cry when making an argument. I cry watching those Purina commercials showing dogs in shelters. I cry thinking about dogs in shelters. I cry listening to good music on Sunday afternoons. I cry reading the last paragraphs of a deliciously good book. I cry reading Modern Love in the NYT. I cry watching PBS documentaries. I cry out of frustration watching Glenn Beck spout ill-informed, nonsensical garbage (oh god, just listen to it, you will's everything that is wrong with the modern conservative movement and Fox, er, Faux, News).

And right now I'm crying while writing this post. I just watched
Gran Torino - it was a moving film - so of course I had to cry. This past weekend I finished reading Corelli's Mandolin, and yes, I cried. Earlier today I was trying to make an argument about something - I can't even remember what - to Matt. Out of frustration, I cried. (He is use to this and hugs me and says, "Oh, is my poor K crying again?" This is when I swat at him.)

But enough about what makes me cry (booooring). I'd much rather hear what incredibly moving, sad, hopeful, agonizing form of media you listened to, read, or watched that reduced you to tears. Or, fine, just simply moved you.

I'll start. Sobbed like a crazy woman during Pixar's Up. Yeah. You know...that animated movie. As in...cartoon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Owen is a first-rate name!

Don't try to deny a baby hedgehog isn't cuter than a human baby!

"So, are we going to talk about kids?"

That was the second thing my GI said during my check-up, right after she asked how I was feeling. When Matt and I moved in together, I felt like we were two big kids playing house. When we got married and actually bought a house, I felt giddy and thinking about our future, ostentatiously said things like, "Our kids certainly aren't going to have a t.v. in the bedroom!" and, "I hate how parents today smother their children!" (Like I know anything about anything when it comes to kids.)

But then I got sick, and had to make a major health decision. I agonized over surgery - I consulted multiple GIs and surgeons, I collated all my medical records and made countless copies of small bowel series work-ups and CT scan results. You wanna cut me open? Then gosh darnit, I was gonna do this right. It's funny how much you try to control something when the situation is utterly uncontrollable, whether its being sick or even watching a game show. (I turned off "The Bachelorette" the other night when my favorite bachelor, Reid, was about to be kicked to the curb; if I didn't watch it, then it wasn't going to happen. Poor Reid from Philadelphia.)

Which gets us back to my GI appointment. In that moment, I have never felt more like an adult. And I am an adult - in our culture of perpetual adolescence its startling to realize I'm three years from thirty. "You will never feel better than how you feel now," she said.

And she's right. Matt and I don't know a thing about babies, other than potential names (who doesn't play the, "If we ever had kids, what would you want to name them" game? And not that you care, but I will absolutely not share said names, since my parents already ruined one idea by screeching how "awful" it is. When did Owen become awful anyway?!)

So there you go. My co-worker, who is six months pregnant and glowing (and a pregnancy evangelist by the way), said, "You're never going to be ready, Kathryn. You just jump into it." And yesterday morning hot doc (aka my surgeon) said, "Go for it! Have fun!" a bit too emphatically. Who am I to argue with a hot surgeon?


PS: Yes, I watch "The Bachelorette". Email me and we can talk about the virtues of Ed versus Kypton, although I have to warn you this household is Team ED all the way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summertime salads

I know how to use the "close-up" function on my cheapo Kodak camera. No, no, applause isn't necessary.

When I think of summer foods, I picture fresh produce. I imagine the farmer's market downtown on Saturdays with vendors selling organic greens and berries, fresh seeded bread and eggs from free-range hens. I think of the small produce stands on the highway in Maryland and Delaware on my way home from the beach. "Sweet corn in 1/2 a mile!" signs sing. "Local peaches straight ahead!"

With all this garden-friendly roughage, my appetite inevitably veers to salads. Aren't they incredibly versatile? A plate of greens cries out for ground beef and Colby Jack when it's a taco salad, or slivered almonds and Mandarin oranges for more Asian fare. A summer salad needs berries or tomatoes from the garden.

This evening I altered a recipe found in Real Simple. It's a classic summertime salad: mixed greens dressed with rich olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with grilled caramelized red onion and grilled sweet peaches with creamy Gorgonzola and toasted pecans, with a grilled chicken breast on the side. It was savory with the slightest sweetness from the peaches, and buttery-rich from the olive oil. It was also damn easy, and made for a glossy magazine pretty picture.

A Summertime Salad with Peaches, Pecans, and Panache
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • mixed greens (for 4)
  • olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 ripe peaches, cut into wedges
  • toasted pecans (optional)
  • 1 extra large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • Gorgonzola cheese, for sprinkling
Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, toss the onions with additional olive oil and salt and pepper.

There is nothing sexier than a man smacking raw chicken with a rolling pin. In this candid pic, our viewer sees Matt flattening chicken breasts for even grilling. Whatta hunk.

The onion and peaches drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. (And awaiting the grill.)

Grill the chicken and onions until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are tender, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Grill the peaches until charred, 2 minutes per side.

Don't let this happen to you!!! We ran out of propane in the middle of cooking. I am conveniently blaming Matt for this. Here he is doing the walk of the gas station for another canister.

Since I had an extra twenty minutes due to the above-mentioned episode, I decided to add some toasted pecans to the salad (the original recipe did not use nuts). To toast, simple drizzle some buttah on pecans and roast them on a cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes or until they're aromatic and nutty. DO NOT eat straight out of the oven. You will burn your tongue. Penny and I know that now.

Here's Matt's hairy arm checking the chicken temperature with a meat thermometer. Cook chicken to 165 degrees.

Peaches before.

And after.

Toss the mixed greens with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with grilled onions and peaches, Gorgonzola, and pecans (if desired). Serve with the chicken.

Serves 4.

I'm loving the foodie colors: purple, peach, green, rich up!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Basil This!

Nothing excites Matt more than grilled salmon with basil aioli and a basil caesar salad. Nothing.

I returned from vacation expecting my basil to be limp and wilted, a testament to the weakness of Matt's "irrigation" system (which is a hose with holes he pierced in it). Instead, it was bushier than ever. Oh. In fact, all our newly planted trees and plants were thriving, except for our two tomato plants which were oh-so-casually missing their top third due to a deer bandit.

In a state of basil bliss, yesterday evening I made grilled salmon with a basil aioli and a basil caesar salad (both original recipes courtesy of Epicurious). I made them together because the caesar dressing and the aioli called for very similar ingredients, and lo and behold, they were quite identical. The dressing had a bit more kick (due to some parsley and additional sardines), and the aioli was a tad mellower. In fact, today I combined both to make a chicken caesar salad and it turned out splendidly. Both dishes are light and delicious, and a perfect accompaniment to summertime. Just add a glass of Riesling and you're set.

P.S. If you get all willy nilly about raw egg, then these aren't for you.

Grilled Salmon with Basil Aioli


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets, minced (1 1/3 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • salmon fillets

For basil aioli:
Whisk egg yolks, basil, garlic, anchovies, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce in medium bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons oil a few drops at a time, then gradually whisk in remaining oil in thin stream. Whisk in 1 tablespoon warm water, lemon juice, and hot pepper sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

Note: To ease prep, aioli can also be made in a food processor.

For salmon:
Prepare barbecue (high heat). Brush grill rack with oil. Brush salmon with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill salmon uncovered 5 minutes. Using 2 large spatulas, carefully turn fish over. Grill until fish just begins to flake in center, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer salmon to platter.

Note: This recipe makes a full cup of aioli. Extras can be kept in the frig for a few days - use it on salads, fish, poultry, or a dipping sauce for potatoes or other yummy treats.

Basil Caesar Salad


  • 1 (10-inch) piece baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste (I subbed with 4 anchovy fillets, which equals slightly less than a tablespoon of paste, being an anchovy novice.)
  • 1 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 package romaine hearts (1 pound), leaves separated and washed well, then halved crosswise
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Toss bread with several tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet. Toast in oven, stirring halfway through, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make extra croutons; trust me. (I don't trust anyone who can deny themselves fresh bread dipped in olive oil.)

Meanwhile, with motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and finely chop. Add egg, lemon juice, anchovy paste (or anchovies), and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pulse until combined.

I was scared, too.

With motor running, add remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified. Add herbs and blend until dressing turns green and herbs are finely chopped.

It will look like this.

Can you guess which is the basil caesar dressing and which is the aioli? Fine! The dressing is on the right. (These look disturbingly like healthy veggie drinks or something. Salud!)

Toss romaine with dressing, croutons, and half of cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Makes enough salad for 4-6 (dependent on if a side dish, hunger, and all that sort of stuff).

And there you go.

Every salad deserves its close-up.

This is Penny lurking at the side of the table, waiting for food.
She's devilish.

This is me being a bad dog owner and giving her table food.

Again, the aioli and dressing are similar; make one and place grilled fish or chicken on a bed and lettuce and top with some basil yumminess.

Next up? Chicken with grilled peaches and arugula, accented by grilled red onion and gorgonzola. Tell me you aren't salivating.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Enough already.

I want to thank CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX for repeatedly reminding me - and the world - for the past week and a half that yes, Michael Jackson is indeed dead, that he was a musical genius if not a cultural mess, and that he will be honored today in a ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I woke up this morning hoping to get some real news from one of the morning shows. (That in and of itself is laughable.) The Early Show, Good Morning America, and The Today Show all failed to deliver. A commentator actually just said, "Oh, how we watched him lose his soul for the last ten years."

What has happened to American culture, the American broadcast media...the American people?! At least The New York Times has the story below the online fold. I don't mean to be rude, but Michael Jackson was a troubled pop star who has been culturally irrelevant for the last 15 years. Wasn't North Korea just "testing" more missiles? Aren't there new protests unfolding in China? And, for a good giggle, didn't Sarah "Barracuda" Palin just resign? Thank you.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Until next week!

I'm going on vacation today (cue confetti and maracas). First with Matt's family to the Jersey shore, then down to my family's place in Chincoteague/Assateague Islands, Virginia. I should have WiFi in Chincoteague so I'm sure I'll find someway to regale you with loathsome, annoying tales of capsized kayaks and drooling dogs (there will be three - in a very small space) - no worries there. This was my Crohn's packing list:

  • Industrial-sized bottle of Pentassa (8 pills/day)

  • Folic Acid (to counteract the leaching effects of the Pentassa, thank you very much)

  • Tylenol (a joke of a pain reliever, as far as I'm concerned)

  • Percocet (only if something terrible happens, I have visions of stinging jellyfish and sand sharks; I'm an alarmist)
I'm feeling good. I would almost say terrific, but yesterday I did the sin of all sins - I helped myself to some Diet Coke. (Don't tell Matt; he whips himself in a furry when I do idiotic stuff like this...rage does not do that boy good.) Diet Coke is so evil (don't sue me for libel!), but first of all, it's loaded with aspartame, which just wrecks my digestive track. I probably went to the bathroom 10+ times yesterday because of this. And heck, I didn't even mention the carbonation and caffeine in that crazy Coke. Oh well - lesson learned - for the 30th time. (Shut up.)

Thank you for reading, and look for some vacation ditties coming soon! Now I have to pack (oops).