Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cookies (again).

Even though all my cooking has been in Karen Hunter's kitchen lately, I wanted to share with you the latest incarnation of the Frog Commissary's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. Due to a lack of chocolate chips anywhere in walking distance of Temple's campus, I used Cadbury semi-sweet chocolate bars, chopped up. The "debris" created by chopping the chocolate laced the cookie with chocolate, a side effect I very much appreciated.

2009 is now upon us. I am already promising more recipes and stories about cheese (thanks to "A Passion for Cheese") and a trip through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", stopping to pay homage to all five mother sauces.

I've wanted to share this poem for weeks now (based on my one of my favorite Psalms), but I think in the spirit of a new year, it is particularly appropriate:

O Taste and See
Denise Levertov

The world is
not with us enough.
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination's tongue

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh, our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Lasagna.

When people ask me how I learned to cook, I never answer my mother. But in the process of making dinner for a few friends, I found that I wasn't quite sure how to order the layers in a lasagna. So I called her to ask a cooking question, probably for the first time ever.

You see, my mother makes a killer lasagna--without a recipe. She doesn't make it often, but when she does, it seems that I eat it for three meals at least without complaint. A few years ago my family decided that it would be fun to just have lasagna for Christmas. We had three different types: my mother's (obviously; a meat lasagna), a vegetable lasagna, and a seafood lasagna. It was arguably one of my favorite Christmases ever. My father was less than pleased ("Where was the ham?") and it never happened again.

I still can't help but think, as the holidays approach, of the now infamous "Lasagna Christmas". I had been craving both lasagna and comfort food in my last two weeks at school, so I decided for our Tuesday get-together to try a lasagna (spinach prosciutto lasagna, to be exact). My experience was less than satisfactory. No one complained except me, of course. I thought there was an imbalance of flavor--too much spinach, not enough ricotta, not enough sauce, not enough prosciutto (is there ever?). It probably didn't help that I half-assedly doubled the recipe. That's why the photo shows a double-stacked plate of leftover lasagna, with plenty of extra mozzarella and vodka sauce. I was eating leftover lasagna for days, mostly without complaint.

I came home, to sweet Coopersburg, early this evening. I was told Christmas dinner is at our house this year, and the menu is yet to be decided. I'm voting for lasagna, but only if my mother makes it.

Monday, December 15, 2008


My Uncle Dave is an architect. I think he missed his life's calling as a short-order cook. Every summer, for the week my family is at the shore, he cooks breakfast. When we were younger, he'd shape pancakes into daschunds and Mickey Mouse ears (actually, he stills does that). He's also brave in his flavor choices. Chocolate chips, obviously, are a favorite. This year he treated us to apple-cheddar and pecan pancakes. He also makes a killer omelet.

Last fall I decided that pancakes would be a good idea. I grabbed this recipe from who-knows-where, wrote it down in my sketchbook, and it worked like magic. The pancakes contained no water or oil, but rather vanilla, butter and whole milk. If you're already familiar with "mix just until combined", you can make a fantastic pancake. Pancake batter, like muffin batter, is supposed to be a little lumpy.

I make a fantastic homemade pancake mix, but I cannot, for the life of me, shape and flip a pancake. These, again, are one of my creations that tastes better than it looks. Uncle Dave certainly has me beat. I can't offer you any tips besides use a thin, metal spatula and try not to flip the pancake onto the floor, or worse, your shoe (it happens).

(Magic) Pancakes.
Makes a stack.
1.5 c flour
3 Tb sugar
1 Tb baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 t vanilla (eyeball it. I like a lot of vanilla, you should know this by now)
3 Tb butter
Half a bag of chocolate chips (optional)

1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in one bowl.
2. In another bowl, melt the butter (let it cool a little bit as to not curdle the eggs!) and add the eggs, vanilla, and milk. Whisk it good.
3. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour the wet ingredients in and mix just until combined with a wooden spoon.
4. Here's where things get messy. Drop about 1/4 c of batter at a time onto a greased skillet on medium heat (already hot). Add the toppings (like chocolate chips) as the first side cooks. When it feels loose, flip it (it should only take a minute and a half to two minutes). Flip it. It should only take thirty seconds to a minute to cook the second side.

I just want to remind everyone that pancakes are especially good at night. In fact, that's when most people I know request them.

I am, admittedly, a few posts behind. It is finals week. But that also means there is more comfort food coming out of my kitchen than I know what to do with.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Looks can be deceiving.

I have finally decided to post the lentil soup recipe. A good photograph is impossible to take--this Lentil Soup is ugly. Looks can be deceiving. It arguably one of the best soups I've ever eaten and a favorite recipe.

As with most recipes I make time and time again, I tend to remember that first encounter. It is customary to skip the Monday after "musical season" ends, and the Monday after "Fiddler on the Roof" was no exception. I was not in "Fiddler", I was lucky enough to enjoy it (and I truly mean this, one of the best shows I've ever seen). As a thank you and an excuse to get together, I invited a good portion of the cast over for lunch on their Monday off. I made this soup and a Karen Hunter Catering signature salad with pears, walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese. The meal was hearty and wintry. Like Anatevka.

I made the soup again for a welcome back dinner this fall. I know, I know--it was blazing hot (I was in the kitchen--you don't think I know?). Nothing seems to get the sweat out like a bowl of soup though, besides maybe a curry.

Here, at last, is its latest incarnation. I made a few changes to the recipe, particularly to the broth. Feel free to substitute chicken broth, add different vegetables, and invite a few friends over. It feeds an incredible amount of people.

Lentil Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
4-5 Vegetable Stock Cubes (I like Rapunzel Brand's Sea Salt and Herb)
8 cups water
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
1/2 box pasta
1 cup shredded Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the water, vegetable stock cubes and stir, being sure to break up the cubes.. Add the thyme sprigs if using. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with a crusty bread.

The result is more of a stew than a soup, I realize. When reheating, be sure to add a little water. Also, when you stir in the pasta, you may notice there isn't enough water. In this case, add just enough to cover. Try to keep the recommended ratio of cubes to cups of water--you don't want the soup to be too watery.

And don't skimp on that Parmesan, especially if you have the good stuff. It adds a depth of flavor that is in perfect harmony with the heartiness (but not heaviness) of this soup. That Giada may be on to something.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Parmesan and Pretzels.

On Sunday night, I was in need of comfort food (see entry below). I made a pot of Giada's Lentil Soup and have been eating it for every meal ever since. There's still a bowl in there, waiting to be photographed for you, dear reader, but I just couldn't fathom eating it again. I'm a foodie. I get bored. So that recipe will have to wait.

This evening, I was inspired by Marc's pasta creation (and by pasta creation I mean frozen and vegetables and penne). Don't tell Marc/Sandra Lee I said this, but I gather my dish was a little more interesting. I sauteed some garlic in some olive oil while the pasta boiled and whisked it with the zest and juice from half a lemon and plenty of salt and pepper. I blanched some green beans and dinner for one was on the table. I also added some Parmesan cheese, because (dare I ask), how can you not?

Speaking of Parmesan, I can't even tell you what a difference there is between "shaker" Parmesan and real Parmesan. The flavor in the latter is so much stronger, nuttier, creamier, and more apt to melting than its cousin (if we even go so far to say cousin...distant, distant relative is more like it) in the plastic canister.

Later, God knows why, I was inspired to try soft pretzels.

I just tasted one, and while they're okay, I'm not entirely impressed. I did have an awful good time kneading the dough, so I'm likely to give it another try. For someone with a background in ceramics, I am awful at shaping the dough. Two of eight pretzels look decent (and are the ones that show up in the photos) but have already been promised to two lovely girls in my Spanish class.

I sent the following to my mother today and even posted it on my facebook. This is exactly what the progressive church has been saying for years, summed up in less than a minute by Jack Black:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die
If the video isn't showing up, check it out here.

"Obamanation" and Kathy Najimy's "I love you, Jesus" sent me over the edge. And after all my years in catering, I know for a fact that is exactly how rich white people feel about shrimp cocktails, too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some things never change.

I used to love Giada DeLaurentis. Then, much like Rachel Ray, she overstayed her welcome. She accumulated several ridiculous television shows no one could bare to watch. We met her husband. She stopped cooking Italian and started cooking "Italian inspired". It was disappointing. So I started watching Ina, the Barefoot Contessa.

Giada still holds a special place in my heart (and stomach) though, simply because of the following recipe (and the lentil soup that Fiddler cast members like so much). I made it for the first time a few summers ago, and two of us barely made a dent. The plan for this batch of Giada's Mac and Cheese was to have a bunch of people eat it. Unfortunately, it took four of us two days to destroy this pan (I think I actually ate it three nights in a row). This Mac and Cheese is rich, heavy, and everything you'd want in a recipe calling for a half pound of Fontina.

Tealye, my sister, just happen to be passing through the weekend I made this. It was perfect
considering Mac and Cheese is her favorite food (surprisingly, she is no longer 10--she just turned 16). I was delighted to present her with this upscale version of her beloved blue box variety, which she really seemed to enjoy.

Some things never change.

Giada's Mac and Cheese
Honestly serves around eight, six if they're hungry.

Butter, for greasing dish
12 ounces wide egg noodles
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (packed) grated Fontina
3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well, but do not rinse.
Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend (season this dish well!). Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Add the noodles and toss to coat (you can also do as I did and pour the mixture over the noodles and stir it around). Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish. Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture (I uh...forgot that part, which is probably why mine isn't that pretty).
Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving (the standing is really important here, and if not for the melted cheese's sake, then for your tongue's).

And because I now have the seminary reading my blog:


So many tears behind these words.
Love hones like that--
perfects and

St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Noodle Nests.

So tonight I ventured into unknown territory.

Let me preface this by saying I love Indian and Thai food--more than I can say, really. One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday is go to Reading Terminal Market, buy myself a plate of Chika Masala and a back issue of Gourmet, and have some "me time" ("me time" also usually includes a stop at Rosie's and H&M, just to be clear). Also, one of my fondest memories of this summer was when we deposited the large Indian food warmer in my apartment living room (empty, of course) and I came back and the entire apartment smelled like Indian food. I was overjoyed. I have never slept better. India keeps creeping into my life, too. Last semester I read "The Namesake" (which I'd recommend--its a quick read) and this semester my Development and Globalization class is focused on Indian development.

I had a block of tofu in my fridge for about a week and after seeing Heidi's Slurp-tastic Noodles, I knew what had to be done. I bought a can of red curry paste just out of curiosity and thought it might be fun to search for the spinach noodles. The above was what I came up with, after improperly mixing the coconut milk and deciding green onions were enough herb for me. I have to say-- I was not disappointed.

The best thing about this dish had to be the color. Here was this creamy orange broth with flecks of herb, almost sweet with a serious kick, and bright green noodles.

The noodles also came in a flat box in little nests--little noodle nests. How adorable.

Top Chef has returned and I felt inspired to experiment later this evening, with some peanut butter apple frozen yogurt. I made a brown sugar simple syrup, which may have been a wrong move, as the syrup is likely to turn icy. I'm also not a huge fan of frozen yogurt to begin with, I think its too tangy unless you pair it with an acidic fruit, so this was a leap of faith.

Speaking of faith, it has been awhile since we heard a witticism from an early Christian mystic:
(This is one of my favorites and, especially as I continue to study eschatology, a great comfort)

bloomed in Spring.

Our bodies
are the leaves of God.

The apparent seasons of life and death
our eyes can suffer;

but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright:
they are God

we will never perish
unless He

St. Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A belated fixation with orange.

A roasted butter squash and caramelized onion galette, Courtney's cat, and homemade pumpkin ice cream.

Ice cream making is difficult. This past summer I made three different kinds in one day (one with fresh strawberries, one with fresh mint, and a cop-out chocolate). I was confident in my custard making abilities, which is the base of all good ice creams, from making lemon custard in The Kitchen (meaning Catering by Karen Hunter's kitchen). A good custard takes constant attention, a really even-cooking pot, and a quick hand.

Or a very fine sieve.

A custard is just an egg and cream sauce, but when you heat eggs, they tend to scramble unless they're really well mixed. There are lots of techniques online that talk about tempering the eggs slowly, but this recipe didn't ask me to do that. I thought I could just get by on my quick hand.

I scrambled the eggs. But luckily, even if you do this, you can grab a fine sieve (its like a very fine wire mesh strainer) and pour the custard through (most recommend this even when you've done a good job). Usually the more steps involved in making a custard, the safer the technique.

I substituted brown sugar for regular and mixed around the cinnamon/nutmeg combinations. I would also recommend using pumpkin pie spice if you have it on hand.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
2 eggs
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup canned pumpkin

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk milk, sugar and eggs, stirring constantly to make a custard (check online for more info). Cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes (it should coat the back of your spoon). Remove from heat. Whisk in cream, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Throw it in your ice cream maker.

Oh, you don't have an ice cream maker?

The best technique I've tried is to pour the mixture into a pyrex casserole dish that's been in the freezer for awhile, and every half hour for six hours or until frozen, take a whisk to it (the sides in particular). It takes some dedication but the result is a super creamy ice cream.

I had only tasted ice cream "batter" (so to speak) when I left, so I texted Courtney and asked how it was:
"The texture was hard due to our freezing issues [the KitchenAid, while beautiful, is not the best ice cream maker] but the taste was slammin."

The butternut squash and caramelized onion galette has got to be one of my new favorites. I love galettes, and though the dough is unconventional (sour cream?), it was so tender and flaky I couldn't believe it. I skipped the sage and skimped on the fontina (saving it for Giada's mac and cheese later this week) and it was still just heavenly.

I also planned for vegetarian chili tonight, and, as previously mentioned, Giada's Mac and Cheese.

Cooking has helped me get back into the swing of things after a terrible week. It appears that while everything in the outside world may seem miserable, there is a 12x9 or so space in my apartment where healings and miracles happen everyday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two, because the weeks grow longer.

Origami Emotion
Elizabeth Barrette

Hope is
folding paper cranes
even when your hands get cramped
and your eyes tired,
working past blisters and
paper cuts,
simply because something in you
insists on
opening its wings.

from The New York Poem
Sam Hamill

...a mute sadness settles in,
like dust, for the long, long haul. But if
I do not get up and sing,
if I do not get up and dance again,
the savages will win...

I'll be back with a pumpkin ice cream recipe for you soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Someone should scold me.

I am kind of busy.
No excuse, but you should see my to-do list.

All I want to do is crawl into bed and read a novel.
Since I last posted, I made a dish that included meat--not just any meat though, a lovely chorizo sausage. This is SmittenKitchen's Sweet Potato Sausage Soup. The only thing I did to liven up the broth was add a little adobo sauce.
I've also made an apple galette, a few loaves of bread, some more Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, chocolate fondue and plenty of tofu stir-fries. Nothing too exciting, really. I've been waiting for a recipe to grab me like so many did in the fall, but the simple fact-of-the-matter is I am tired. Maybe its just this week, with all the excitement and travel Friday and Saturday (Cleveland), but I cannot get back into the swing of the anything--including the kitchen.
My theory is that if I clean my desk, the bathroom, do my laundry, and cross at least half the things off my to-do list, I might be able to start next week with something really spectacular. Like this escarole orzo soup I've had my eye on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

It reminds of Muffin Mondays in high school, "Banana Pancakes" by Jack Johnson, my Uncle Dave's diner food at the shore every morning, the strata scene in The Family Stone and the reason you go to church.

I don't eat much in the mornings, which is why I think I fell in love with muffins. You can have variety, they're filling, and easy to take with you. I have made over 52 varieties of muffins. This pumpkin muffin, which is so fitting now that fall has finally arrived (and I can't find my winter coat and still need to knit myself some gloves), is pretty fail-proof. The secret is the pumpkin pie spice and (lean in close) not overmixing the batter. Mix just to combine. Mix just to combine. Mix just to combine. Let some lumps be, use a wooden spoon, try to limit yourself to 15 or so turns around the bowl. Otherwise, you're screwing with the gluten. Mixing just until combined will yield fluffy donuts have nice muffintops.

This pumpkin muffin recipe is near and dear to my heart, and first appeared in Gourmet magazine in November of 2006.

Pumpkin Muffins

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin-pie spice (a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice)
1.25 cups plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Put liners in muffin cups.
Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl.
Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1.25 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then stir, preferably with a wooden spoon, in flour mixture until just combined.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.
Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about 3/4 full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture (the caramelized sugar will give you a nice crunch). Bake until puffed and golden brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

I knew I wouldn't have time to bake this week, so my mom bought me 5 donuts, and a cruller for Matt, at Yum-Yum, where they make their own donuts.
I played with the self-timer on my camera this morning. The fact I had chocolate icing all over my face was not to be missed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Steve Zissou's, er, I mean Courtney's, hat.

(In progress shot.)

Nina mentioned to me about a week before Courtney Brown's birthday that there was nothing in this world Courtney Brown desired more than a red hat. I obliged, naturally. I went to Rosie's first, in search of bulky-weight, fire-engine red yarn. There didn't seem to be anything to my liking, so I headed over to Loop.

Loop is on 19th and South or so. I can't seem to say enough nice things about it lately, as I always get great deals and exactly what I'm looking for.

So I'm in Loop for about five minutes and have been presented with a good deal of options. I chose an almost variegated red from Lamb's Pride.

I made up the pattern as I went, and we ended up with this:

(Courtney Brown's current Facebook Profile Picture...I think that's the hat)
I made up the pattern as I went-- 2x2 rib for about an inch and a half, decreases starting with every 15 or so, then 14, and so on. It turned out a tad big and I really should have blocked it because the decreases didn't match up exactly, but The Lady seemed to like it. It took about five hours in tv-watching time to knit.

As for my other knitting endeavors, all seems on hold for this week--its midterm week.
But watch for a recipe with meat in it. I found a recipe for chorizo and sweet potato soup and had to try it out. Whip out your separate cutting boards, this should be interesting!
On the sabbath try and make no noise
that goes beyond your
Cries of passion between lovers
are exempt.
St. Thomas Aquinas

Friday, October 10, 2008

Week in Review

My gaining-a-reputation Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, made especially for my Spanish class. A portion were sent off in the mail--I am anxious to see how they survive.
Mujadra, one of my favorite staple dishes from North Africa. Lentils, rice, and onions--so simple, so incredibly delicious.
What, in the recipe, is called Spicy Orecchiette with Broccoli, became very spicy tennis rackets with broccoli when I made it. Also delicious and worth trying. I substituted cayenne pepper for the red pepper flakes, but there's probably a reason to use red pepper flakes.
Caramelized brussels sprouts with lemon, which I couldn't stop snacking on. I picked up the sprouts from my favorite produce guy, who sells off the back of a truck on 13th and Oxford for $1.50. There should be plenty more brussels sprouts recipes before fall is over.
Chipotle smashed sweet potatoes, which were smokey and sweet and an even more vivid color. That picture, apart from being blurry, also doesn't capture that incredible orange.
I made the smashed sweet potatoes and the brussels sprouts together last night, almost as a Thanksgiving side dish test run. Laying in bed, I thought of pairing them with an open face turkey sandwich, with a thinned-out filling on the bottom and a cranberry relish on top of a whole wheat baguette.

I had to buy packing tape to send those cookies out earlier this week. In an effort to justify spending $4 on packing tape, I'm thinking of starting a cookie-of-the-month club. I love hearing "I miss your baking," but I would prefer to hear, "Those cookies got me through midterm week." I also the idea of combining my two favorite things--getting mail and feeding people. I'll be doing some investigating around the cost of postage this week.

I've never asked people to pay for food though--something feels morally and foundationally wrong about that. Food is so basic and essential, but we have so many feelings and traditions attached to the things we eat. I think food is a currency beyond money--a physical currency that carries emotional and even spiritual weight with it. One day I'll find away to express this more effectively, but for now, know that sometimes a muffin is the best way to say I love you.

"Ask anything,"

My Lord said to me.
And my mind and heart thought deeply
for a second,
then replied with just one word,
God's arms then opened up and I entered Myself.
I entered myself when I entered
And having learned compassion I
allowed my soul
to stay.
St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mixtape Miercoles

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Everytime I listen to Sufjan it seems I have a new epiphany. I don't think anyone who listens to Sufjan often would be surprised--he's distinctly Christian in a good deal of his songs. He quotes scripture and has done covers of some really great Christmas songs (my favorite being "O Come O Come Emmanuel", which is my favorite Christmas song of all time).

This is not a new epiphany, and this song might be a strange choice, especially if I'm trying to argue Sufjan as another Gospel writer. But the song "Casmir Pulaski Day" says so much about God that people aren't willing to say, or even admit to themselves.

The song's narrator falls in love with a woman who has bone cancer. She loves him, relunctantly (knowing her condition is fatal), and dies.

The narrator sings:

Oh the glory that the lord has made
And the complications when I see his face
In the morning in the window

Oh the glory when he took our place
But he took my shoulders and he shook my face
And he takes and he takes and he takes

I think the last two verses, and I don't want to preach too much, say three things:
1. God stares us in the face particularly when we wish He didn't exist and think we can do without.
2. God became man through Jesus and this reminds us that when we suffer, God knows our suffering personally and intricately.
3. God takes, and takes, and takes and this feels unfair. And that's okay because God is big enough for us to be angry at Him.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking. "Ring Them Bells" is a cover I listened to a lot this summer.

This week has been really, really good to me so far. Yesterday alone is worth outlining. Cookie making, a brilliant movie in Spanish, a letter in the mail, getting Forklore (a cookbook from Fork, a Philadelphia institution), having a great night at work, not to mention Mac & Cheese from a box (and someone to share it with).

I've got a few recipes lined up for you, but I figured I'd take some time today and up the JC on this blog.

Oh, and I saw the UCC commercial I posted last week on Bravo tonight!

I sat one day with a priest who expounded on the
doctrine of hell.

I listened to him for hours, then he asked me
what I thought of all
he said.

And I replied,

The doctrine seems an inhumane cage;
no wonder the smart dogs
ran off.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

A bouquet of pencils

"Don't you just love [Philadelphia] in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils."


Someone had quoted my all-time-favorite romantic comedy in a food blog post this week. I sent it to Nina, who replied with perhaps the best line of the movie ("Yeah, yeah. I would've asked for your number. And I wouldn't have been able to wait 24 hours before calling you up and saying, Hey, how about... oh, how about some coffee, or drinks, or dinner, or a movie... for as long as we both shall live?"), which is why she is the greatest. But in all honesty, fall has arrived in Philadelphia. Today I wore a sweatshirt and found that other people had discovered outerwear too. I've been wearing cardigans all week, but I think the temperature has dropped enough that everyone has caught on. I even treated myself to a hot chocolate from the Starbucks that opened a full three and a half minute walk from my apartment today.

I have had a ridiculous week (running trend?). I haven't done laundry, I sliced my finger pretty good with the mandoline slicer, and the UCC's board restructure is causing me more agony than I'd like to admit. My job with Bright Hope Baptist Church is good, but on days I don't help teach computer classes, I am bored to tears rewriting their curriculum (which, more often than not, I feel unqualified to do). But people are splendidly nice and I am learning a good deal. Not to mention all the reading, though I will admit it is interesting. "Death and Dying" is proving to be one of the best classes I've taken thus far at Temple.

I had time Tuesday night to make a meal for Matt and myself. We all know I've been celebrating fall prematurely. But this Cuban black bean stew was so weather appropriate and so darned easy. I was concerned that with the addition of oregano, my least favorite herb in the world, the whole dish would taste musty and old, but it was actually a good touch. The red peppers, which I'm also not a huge fan of, worked great with the black beans. Even radishes, which aren't a typical ingredient for me, were well placed. It was an unexpected favorite, a "maverick", if you will. The only substitutions I made were replacing the can of vegetable stock with a can of water and half a vegetable stock cube, and the cider vinegar with white because, well, that was what I had on hand. I probably added more onions than in the recipe too.

I had planned to write about Orangette's Soba noodles with peanut citrus sauce, but they went horribly, horribly wrong. Not enough lime juice, I think.

I've had some knitting to share with you for awhile. The first cowl of the season, based on the one I wrote about so long ago, has been done for about two weeks. I wore it out when it was still too warm, and afterwards decided it either needs a more finished border. So maybe I'll work up that pattern and test it out, because the texture is really cool.
So I understand that (a) I am not the best model in the world and (b) nor the best photographer. So this photo (a) makes me look ridiculous and (b) is poorly lit.

I tried. Take pity on me.

Here's a poem I should read more often.


He was too shy to sing,
but I taught

The Sky's voice is such that
one's mind must be very
quiet to hear


Mira (14980-1550)
A renowned woman poet-saint of India

Oh, and speaking of God speaking, the UCC's commercial ("Steeples") should be on television this week and next. It'll be on CNN, Bravo, NBC, and a bunch of other stations. I'm on this committee on the national board, so I'm very excited we've pulled this together. And that we're showing it on Bravo.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I had a baking emergency this weekend.

Julia had a dinner party at her house on Saturday. I was asked to bring something, and mid-way through the day, Julia decided dessert would indeed be best. I didn't have any ideas, but had already been to Reading Terminal Market that afternoon and was between yarn stores, planning to head to the grocery store later. I figured inspiration would strike.

It didn't. But I remembered I had 6 apples I got earlier in the week from Reading Terminal and Everyday Food in the front pocket of my backpack. So I made John's Three-Layer Apple Cake. I won't reprint the recipe for you here because the only substitutions I made were a sprinkle of nutmeg for the ginger, and about two tablespoons dark brown and white sugar for the light brown sugar in the icing.

The icing is what nearly killed me. Never mind there's three sticks of butter in there--I don't have a handmixer. So I had to make buttercream icing by hand. That's a total of about 20 solid minutes with a whisk on "medium speed". My forearm is going to be huge. I also didn't have the light brown sugar to actually make it (neither did Food-Way, 7-11, or Rite Aid). I contemplated a caramel sauce or a peanut butter icing, but since we didn't have milk either, I would just go for it.

The cake was delicious, though. That's all I really cared about.

Today Nina and I went to the best Italian grocer in Center City. DiBruno Brothers was a culinary experience unlike anything else. We pretty much ate our way though the store. I walked out with some roasted turkey and Vermont cheddar for sandwiches (which I already got into--a-mah-zing). We got samples of parmesiano reggiano wrapped in prosciutto (made JUST for us by a very attractive butcher), I ate a lot of cheese thanks to a woman standing next to me who kept asking to try things, and Nina shared her house Latte with me, which had marscapone cheese and figs in it. (Alex, when you come visit, we'll be spending time here.) I spent half as much as I spent on groceries for the week, pretty much.

This week has a bunch of exciting things in store, food-wise anyway. We'll be eating sweet potatoes with adobo sauce, some peanut-citus soba noodles, and black bean stew. Keep a look out.


The words Guru, Swami, Super Swami, Master, Teacher, Murshid, Yogi, Priest,

most of those sporting such a title are
just peacocks.

The litmus test is:
hold tem upside down over a cliff for a few hours.
if they don't wet their

maybe you found a real

Kabir (1440-1518)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jumping the gun.

End of Summer Vegetable Soup. Not the best photo ever, but just about as the leftovers were about to go in the fridge.

Sometimes I do things backwards. I couldn't wait for fall to get here, jumping on the apple pie as soon as the Fair Trade Farmstand had apples. Keep in mind, there was still 80 degree heat, and I slaved away in the kitchen wishing for the leaves to change and cider to be widely available. So about a week later, this past Wednesday, I made a soup with some leftover cabbage, potatoes and white beans. 101Cookbooks led me to the recipe, and while a bit bland (Parmesan cheese helped immensely), it seemed the perfect soup to curl up with during an early February snowfall. Rustic Cabbage Soup was all about the staples, though. Onions, white beans, potatoes, and cabbage and vegetable stock cubes (which I was so impressed with--I had never used one before) are all things you can find all year round. I'll have to bookmark this one for later.

For this season, however, I have found a perfect solution. I treated myself to "Everyday Food" (a Martha publication, naturally) yesterday and included was this recipe for End of Summer Vegetable Soup. It elicited two helpings from my RA who stopped by to drop off a bowl from the cookies I made our floor last week, so I suppose it was pretty good.
End of Summer Vegetable Soup
Serves about six, or 4 hungry boys with one helping of leftovers. Would serve more with a crusty bread on the side.
2 Tbs. EVOO
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks
1 clove garlic
2 cans vegetable or chicken broth (I used chicken, but added a vegetable stock cube in with the water)
2 cups water
8 ounces green beans
1 can diced tomatoes
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (I used my mandoline slicer...of course)
1 cup and a handful rotelle, or whatever pasta you have on hand

1. Sautee the onion in the bottom of the pan over medium heat, using the EVOO. Season well.
2. Add the garlic, minced, and the celery, chopped well. Let 'em sweat it out for about five minutes.
3. Remove the stem ends from the green beans and cut them into thirds. Slice the zukes.
4. Add the broth, two cups of water, and (though this is not what I did, probably a good idea) the canned tomatoes (I think the extra heat will help break them down). Bring to a boil.
5. Add zukes, green beans, and pasta. Simmer until the pasta is cooked and the vegetables have softened up a little bit.

I hit the mark yesterday too, with a grilled ham and swiss on homemade wheat with mustard and caramelized onions. I'm not going to include a recipe with this because I think y'all are smart enough to figure this out--make bread, slice, caramelize onions with EVOO, pile with ham, swiss, and onions, slather one side of bread with dijon mustard, slather outsides of the bread with margarine, grill over medium heat until golden brown.

I did, in fact, break out the bread machine for this. But I know for a fact WholeFoods has a lot of good options.
I just finished baking up my first batch of banana muffins this year. I am oddly disappointed--they seem a little flat and I think I may have short-changed the flour by half a cup. I've only messed up muffins one other time in my life, but I can't complain.
Fresh out of the oven, these are awful good with vanilla ice cream.
Matt reminded me of this one today, which is ironic and funny (as is the poem):
I was invited
to an important conference
where many learned men from different countries
were all going to address the topic:
Where is God?
I was wearing my best clothes and had even fasted for a week,
hoping to help sharpen my mind. Just before I was to leave though,
I felt powerfully drawn to a little shrine in my bedroom,
and I went there and knelt to pray.
I could not believe what happened:
Kali threw her arms around me and started tearing at my clothes,
and she started throwing delicious food into my mouth,
purposely missing several times it seems,
thus soiling my pundit attire;
and then she made me perform many times as if I were her
husband; then she said, "Now Kabir, don't be late for that big talk,
and don't change your clothes--I love that love-stained look;
maybe it will become chic?"
I arrived just as it was my turn to stand before this august crowd,
and apologized for my appearance.
"Where is God?" the head of the conference says to me.
"Well (well, I stammered) if you really want to know the truth--if
you hurry--you might catch Her legs still spread
back at my
Kabir (1440-1518)

Monday, September 15, 2008

New York

I said I was going to start quilting at the beginning of this year, but thus far my schedule has not permitted it. To add to my despair, it appears I'll be home three weekends in a row in October (thanks church!), which means I might have to further prolong it. But I don't think I can resist this fabric. Mermaids? Octopi? Seahorses? I'm enthralled by under the sea things already, but the colors look like they'd match these atrociously tacky and wonderful pillowcases I found at my grandma's, never opened.

I saw this fabric at Purl Patchwork over the weekend whilst in New York. The store is the size of a good walk-in closet and absolutely enchanting. I feel like most modern quilting stores are.

So there's that little bit of love. Then there's this:

Here's a collection of embroidered text messages tracking a romantic relationship from start to finish. It isn't stereotypical, its real--messy, lingering, etc. I think the concept is great too--romanticizing something (using embroidery) that isn't typically considered romantic. But come on, I know you're a sucker for messages left on your cellular telephone typed by that person's thumbs.
Believe it or not, I still have work to do. There hasn't been much by way of food going on lately, mostly because Marc and I were away in New York (seeing "Perez Hilton Saves the Universe" and "Legally Blonde: The Musical", visiting friends, eating expensive food, etc). I did, however, have the best creampuff of my life and spent the next half hour euphoric and covered in powdered sugar. We're also not grocery shopping until Wednesday, and even then, I'm not sure what I want to make exactly. I haven't run out of steam or ideas, time seems to be the issue now.
I think I like the idea of sharing a poem from a religious mystic at the end of these posts. Keepin' the Jesus a part of the blog. These poems are from a book called Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West. I find them charming, relevant, and deeply significant.
and I have become
like two giant fat people living
in a tiny
keep bumping into
each other
Hafiz (c. 1320-1389)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Week in Food.

Charlotte Charles' Apple Pie with Gruyere Crust 101 Cookbooks' Lemony Chickpea Salad (subbing zukes and cabbage for the tofu and kale)
Chickpeas roasted in a little olive oil until they're golden...heaven. Could have gone without the zukes, though.
Asian Dumplings loosely based on Alex's recipe and solid instruction

The filling and assembly yielded these, most of which I froze:
Sydney helped make the dumplings. She wore my Martha apron.This week has been off-the-charts ridiculous, so I leave you with this. Another poem:

If you cried in heaven, everyone
would laugh

for they would know you were just
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)