Monday, February 28, 2011

remember me?

Wow - I didn't realize I just let three entire days pass with nothing... sorry about that.  Let me fill you in on the dinner situation:
Maoz falafel salad
Maoz falafel salad (so fortunate that they are right around the corner now)
Peanut Butter and Apple Butter sandwich

Exciting, I know.  The rest of the time?  Spent it lying flat on my back or drinking vitamin-enhanced water and slurping soup (Mister made it last even longer by adding leftover pasta to it).  I can't believe how sick I ended up being!

Anyway, last night, Mister and I finally completed our move and today I turned in the keys to the old apartment.  How liberating!  We're both in a decent amount of pain and are unanimous in our decision that next time we move, we're paying someone else to carry all our crap for us.  We're too old for this. 

In all seriousness, though, you have to come to a point where you realize that even if you're only moving from one apartment to another one that is only marginally larger, you can't continue to pull off the college-style move: get a group of friends and DIY.  There comes a point when you can no longer deny that you are a grown-up with a lot more stuff than you want to carry down two flights of stairs and down the street to the only legal place to park, then repeat, except this time you're going up two flights of stairs.  By the way, everything is heavier when you're carrying it up stairs.

Nevertheless, we are finished moving things in and out of places and all that remains is finding time to put it all somewhere.  I don't have much time that I'm not at work, in transit, or sleeping, and the time I do have I try to spend cooking (and then babbling about it), so I'll be brief tonight and hopefully get a few things "put away" before bedtime.

As I'm sure you can imagine, after about 2 weeks of at least 50% take-out dinners, I'm really ready to just have everything set up so I can actually cook food.  It's far less expensive and I enjoy it.  As I set out to make dinner tonight, I realized how discombobulated I am right now.  I couldn't find my cookbook, even though I knew exactly where it was (and exactly how peeved Angst was that I put books all over his favorite Lying-On Shelf).  I couldn't find towels upon which to drain the tofu, even though they were just a short arm-reach away.  Finding a prep bowl was maddening.  And, because this is my cooking M.O., I set off the fire alarm for the first time - but I'll tell you, that was some crispy tofu!

I made Better Than Take-Out Tofu Stirfry from Vegan on the Cheap; it seemed a bit ironic.  Besides, when I went to Superfresh to get munchie-things to make Mister happy, I picked up some fresh, pre-cut broccoli (despite it being a complete waste of money) and I wanted to use it before anything went too wrong with it.

I made this before, to mixed reviews.  Mister loved it because broccoli is awesome.  I was not at all pleased with the tofu; in the recipe, you are instructed to coat the tofu in cornstarch.  All it did last time (in my opinion anyway) was make a huge ugly mess, so this time I just flash-fried the tofu and I liked the results much better.  I would have enjoyed the whole experience more if I had a bit more kitchen feng shui going on and wasn't so busy trying to figure out where my spatula was to actually read the recipe.  The sauce is outstanding, though, and I'm always amused by how the seemingly disparate flavors of Asian-influenced sauces actually come together into a tasty cohesion.

One final note that is part question: I served our stirfry in stoneware bowls with painted wooden chopsticks.  At the conclusion of our meal tonight, Mister requested that we not eat out of those bowls with chopsticks ever again, as the chopsticks scraping against the bowl made a sound he likened to nails on a chalkboard.  I didn't get that, but I refuse to use these bowls for anything that involves silverware for the exact same reason.

Have any of you encountered this auditory trouble when using stoneware dishes?

Our favorite bowls are also stoneware, but they are coated in a thick glaze, which seems to make the difference.  These bowls are just straight-up stoneware with matte coloring; no nice glossy glaze to protect our ears.  Does anyone know what I'm talking about?  Any last suggestions before they're relegated to prep bowls or decor?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I sure tried... go to work today, but I slept most of the day instead.  Right now, I've been upright for the longest time since my failed attempt to go to work.  I don't know what I have, but it's seriously kicking my butt.

I got home from work around 4:30 and promptly went to bed after assuring Mister I still had a job (more later, like I said).  Although I had only intended to take a short nap, I didn't wake up until sometime in the 8pm hour.  Mister heated up my soup and gave me a bottle of vitamin-enhanced water; I ate, drank, blogged, and went back to bed.  I got up at 7ish this morning and after failing my valiant attempts to shower and dress for about 2 hours, I went back to bed...until 2pm.  Made and ate some cinnamon-date oatmeal, then took a nap on the couch (I'm so glad we have a couch again).  Mister made me more soup; ate it, drank more vitamin-enhanced water, and went back to sleep.  About an hour ago, Mister made me a "sausage" sandwich and gave me a bottle of V8.  As soon as I finish the V8, would you like to guess what I'm doing?

Some fun highlights of my otherwise unconscious day?  While I was still trying to go to work this morning, I was treated to an amusing and slightly heart-stopping show of kitty gymnastics.

That's the top shelf of a presently-unsecured, and mostly-empty 6-shelf bookcase.  That is the ceiling.  That is Angst.  Shortly after I took this picture, he realized he had no idea how to get down.  Fortunately, he did recognize the harm he would do to himself if he tried to jump to the hardwood floor from that height.

Sometime this afternoon, after soup and before sandwich, Mister went back to the old apt because we still have some stuff to move and throw away and it's trash night.  He returned with our DVD/VHS player (yes, that's what I said) and a stack of movies for me to continue to lie on my side/back and watch.

How I'm getting most of my sustenance ^ through liquids.  That is box number #2 of tissues.  My nose hates me.  On that note, I think I need a nap.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"fortune" teller

I love when I can see just a little glimpse into the future...enough to allow me to make a good decision. 

I was about halfway through yesterday when my throat started getting a little sore, so I wrapped a scarf around to keep it warm (I don't know why warm is supposed to battle sore, but follow me) and puttered through the rest of my day.  By the time I got home, I was frozen and just wanted to make Vegetable Lentil Stew from Vegan on the Cheap for all its warming comfort.  I'd actually skipped over this the first few times I went through the book because I know Mister prefers food he can chew on for dinner, but this time around I said, "It's February, it's snowing, and I want a warm, homey stew."

It's not a terribly attractive picture, but since I snuffled my way through preparing the stew and was pretty sure I was getting sick but still in a state where I could turn it around with enough vitamin C, detox tea, and sleep, I just didn't have the energy or investment to take a picture in the nice, bright light of the stove.

Despite all appearances, this soup is a real winner.  I would have rambled on about it all last night but I went to bed so soon after dinner that I didn't even clean up the dishes (thank you, Mister).  I'm glad I didn't write about it last night, though, because after sitting in the fridge overnight and then being reheated by my loving hubby after I woke up from the four-hour nap I took when I came home early from work today (which is a whole other story for a whole 'nother time), it was nothing short of heavenly.  With a rich, smoky broth made up of crushed tomatoes, bouillon, and some secret herbs and spices and packed with good-for-me veggies, I could eat this stew all day long...and I may need to if I don't shake whatever has claimed me.

On that note, I think it's time to reconsider my 2-hour Awake Spree.

Monday, February 21, 2011

curry fail, dinner win

If you could imagine a bizarre meeting of flavor and texture, what would it be?  Would it be sweet and gritty? Bland and crunchy?  Savory and vinegary?  What would your bizarre combination look like?  Would it be deep jewel-toned or a pale marigold?  A murky green or possibly a effervescent blue?  What about smell?  Would it smell like it tasted or would you be completely led astray?

Although my entire menu comes from Vegan on the Cheap, a book I've spent a lot of time in while feeling particularly stretched or impoverished, I still managed to eek out a few recipes I hadn't made yet that didn't contain ingredients to which Mister is "allergic."  Tonight, I made Coconut Curry Rice, which didn't have a single fresh ingredient, to my dismay.  Nevertheless, it was fabulous.

To look at it, you wouldn't think it different from any other coconut curry I've made (and considering Mister's love of curry, I've made plenty).  If you let yourself believe that, though, you would be horribly mistaken and I can't let you do that to yourself.

I started cooking and got as far as sauteing the garlic, and then the rice, then adding the veggie broth and creamy coconut milk...while it was simmering away at perhaps too lively a pace, I suddenly realized I had forgotten to add a crucial ingredient - the curry powder!  Otherwise, it would just be Coconut....Rice with veggies.  Mmmm... I can hear Mister hiding now.  I crouched down and started poking through my alphabetized spices, measuring spoon in hand, and there was no curry to be found.  Well, okay, the Muchi Curry of Doom was still there and probably will be for the rest of time, but my regular curry powder was gone!

Fortunately, thanks to my mother-in-law and Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, I had been concocting my own curry mixes long before I found that magical orange powder at Whole Foods.  I grabbed a juice glass and started emptying various spices into it.  When it appeared I had combined about 2-3 tsp of cumin, coriander, garam masala, muchi curry, celery seed, turmeric, chili powder, cardamom, and salt, I stirred everything together with a chopstick (I'm so multicultural) and dumped it into the bubbling coconut rice.

I must have had some clue what I was doing, because it turned an attractive shade of golden orange and tasted just like it should have.  There was an occasional "grassy" bite when you'd break open a celery seed, but I'd say it'll do in a pinch.  The scent of the "curry powder" combined with coconut milk was kind of other-worldly and the texture was akin to a savory rice pudding.  Mister doesn't like rice pudding, but I do, so I was pretty excited about the world of possibilities this opens.

After plowing through two bowls, I decided to practice enough restraint to guarantee leftovers sufficient for work-lunch.  I calmed the curry flavors still dancing on my coconut-sweetened tongue by trying out a new bar of dark chocolate.

Divine 70% Dark Chocolate absolutely lives up to its lofty name.  If the wrapper is not gorgeous enough, just look at that chocolate!  I might need just a nibble more.  Anyway, I can't stop myself from getting good, quality chocolate when I know it was also produced in a way that benefits more than just my tastebuds.  Divine Chocolate is 45% farmer-owned and fair trade certified, not to mention evidently free of animal products.  People think you have to make huge sacrifices all the time in order to live ethically.  This chocolate will prove them wrong.

On a lighter note, how about some fun pictures?

In October, my cousin got married in a small, private ceremony.  Yesterday, her in-laws hosted a reception to celebrate their marriage.  They had their "first dance" to "My Eyes Adored You," which my mother told me my father always thought was "My Sweet Georgia."  Listen - the next time you hear it, you'll know what I'm talking about.  During the dance, their little son became jealous that Daddy had Mommy all to himself and pretty much hung on my cousin's leg until she picked him up and let him join their dance.  After the dance, they cut their cake and fed each other.  The picture above shows my cousin getting "gotten" by her husband while her father takes a picture of the cake all over her pretty face.

This morning, while I was getting ready to go to work, I heard a rustling in Mister's room.  Mister was fast asleep in our bed, so I knew our little Monster was up to something.  I went in to find he had a new happy place.

He loves to crawl inside of Mister's various duffle and messenger bags.  In this picture he looks really small...don't let your eyes deceive you - that's just a really big bag.  I'm pretty sure I could hide in it if I wanted to.

Right before I walked out the door, I felt a pair of eyes on me and found that he had managed to get onto these shelves in the closet by my little work area.  I have no idea how he got up there and he appeared to have no idea how he was going to get down, but I think he's going to be very sad when we finally unpack everything and put stuff on all his fun places.

He does have his own little "bedroom" again, though...the space just below him has his blanket and pillow, as well as his litter box.  I guess he's just hanging out in the loft space, if you look at it like that!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

speed shopping and pasta fail

I nearly blew away today.  It is so windy in Philadelphia and its suburbs, it puts me just one level above my usual hatred for wind to a maddening frustration.  Wind is absolutely my least favorite weather.  Wind in conjunction with other things is the Worst Thing Ever; for example, wind + cold rain = misery.  Fortunately, today it was just so windy I thought I might take flight and my hair might become a single, huge dreadlock.  (psst!  for a fun story about me truly almost being swept away by the wind, click here)

I managed to make it to and from teaching without becoming airborne, so I decided to press my luck and go food shopping...since I haven't done that yet and we've been here nearly a week.  Mister was very excited that I was actually going to put food in the refrigerator and cupboards.  In fact, he was so excited that without my knowledge, he decided to join me at Superfresh.  I got home, found that the kitty was quite lonely, and asked him where his Mister was.  A couple of minutes later, Mister burst through the door, exclaiming that he went to Superfresh to "visit" me and I wasn't there.  He's so cute.

I thought this was too funny not to share.

After I put the food into the various places it belonged, I told Mister I was going to try to go to Whole Foods without blowing away, and before I could button my coat, Mister had his coat and shoes on and was ready for a field trip!  Let me pause for a moment and fill you in on the geography of our new home: it is 2 blocks east of our old home...Whole Foods is 5 blocks west of our old home...which means Whole Foods just got further away.  Granted, two blocks isn't a huge deal, but when it's so windy that you want to give up and go home after one block, well, you find yourself scheming about how to get all of your groceries in 10 minutes.  We detoured to Essene and I sent Mister after the pantry items while I picked through the produce.  Miraculously, and to the cashier's delight, we were checking out at closing time.

Now might be a good time to share the menu I constructed on my train ride to and from work today:

1. Vegetable Lentil Stew

2. Radiatore with Escarole and White Beans

3. Salsa Rice and Red Beans

4. Coconut Curry Rice

5. Savory Sausage and Peppers

6. Better-Than-Takeout Tofu Stir-fry

All of these dinners come from Vegan on the Cheap, since the moving out/in process has been a somewhat expensive one between the U-Hauls and the take-out, not to mention our Valentine's date (which was still far less expensive than it would have been at Horizons).

I didn't have the same trouble I usually do in deciding what to make first.  The reason is because I chose Radiatore with Escarole and White Beans specifically because the recipe said I could substitute spinach, which would allow me to use up the rest of last night's bag before it got all slimy and gross.

It came together just as quickly as the recipe implied it would and it sure looks pretty, doesn't it?  I'm not sure if I messed something up along the way or if I just need to get better at seasoning "to taste," (I'm not a big fan of tasting dinner while it's cooking unless it's a sauce or soup), but there really wasn't anything a person could call "sauce."  Mister took note of this and attempted to correct the "naked pasta" by dowsing his with olive oil and sprinkling quite liberally with the Mediterranean Sea Salt blend.  He was a good sport, but if I ever make this again, I will have to do something about the sauce situation - an idea that struck me during dinner was to combine recipes: I have this great recipe by Sarah Kramer for a spicy garlic sauce.  I usually use it for stir-fries or other Asian-influenced noodle dishes, but it might be worth a try here, too.

In other news, we're going to have to do something about the "dining room" light or else I'll have to take all my pictures by the stove. 

moving makes me stretch

Although it probably would have been wise to stretch my muscles out a bit before and during the moving process, I did not.  That may very well be the reason my back hates me and my arms and legs were introducing me to muscles I didn't know I had by the medium of pain.  Regardless, the way this move has made me stretch is in the kitchen these past two days. 

Although yesterday's dinner was planned out and shopped for, I had no plans at all for tonight, but I did have spinach, carrots, and brown rice!  Yeah, I know, you're drooling already, I'm sure.  I spent most of my homeward commute brainstorming about what we could eat for dinner without stretching our poor bank account any further.  I also didn't want to buy a bunch of stuff since I know I'll finally construct a real menu and need to shop for that.

Turkish Spinach Pilaf
about 4 servings

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown rice
1 Turkish bay leaf
dash of cinnamon
2 large carrots, thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
4-5 cups finely chopped spinach (about 4-5 cups)
15 oz can of chickpeas

Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan (about 2.5 quarts).  Stir in rice and bay leaf, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, slice the carrots as thinly as possible - I was able to get some to be nearly translucent.
Add thinly sliced carrots and cinnamon; stir to combine and simmer 5-10 minutes more.  Remove bay leaf.  Lay chopped spinach over the rice and carrots.

Cover the pot and raise the heat slightly.  Allow the spinach to steam on top of the pilaf for 5-10 minutes, then stir into the rice, adding the chickpeas.

Cover and cook until spinach is wilted and all liquid has been absorbed by the rice.

It took about an hour and 15 minutes to be ready, but I'm already brown rice-challenged and now I'm trying to cook it on a new stove with new quirks, so if you prepare this and get a better time, please let me know!

It was fun and very attractive.  It was a little less flavorful than I wanted it to be, so in the future, I may tweak it by adding tamari or perhaps an herb blend to liven it up a little - I might even do a combination of tamari and the low, sweet heat of harissa.  Only time will tell how far I can stretch!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

in the absence of champagne

Tonight, I finally cooked our inaugural dinner in this home.  There was a little bit of scampering as I adjusted to the way the stove heats and how much less space there is between the flame and the pot, as well as my frantic attempts to find everything I needed to set the table...including a chair and actually setting up the table.  It was fun, moving around my new kitchen, learning the idiosyncrasies of a new stove - well, "new" would be a relative term here.  While I was boiling the pasta water, Mister came to visit and observed with some nostalgia that he had a stove like that somewhere else he had lived; his tone indicated it was somewhere he had lived a long time ago.

I thought it would be fun to make one of my own recipes the first time I cooked in my new kitchen, so I pulled out my little golden book and set about making the pantry-spectacular Rotini with White Bean-Tomato Sauce.

Another thing I'm getting used to is the lighting, so please excuse me if my pictures look like garbage for a while as I'm figuring it all out.  Mister is kind of a pasta sauce minimalist, so there was a little too much red stuff on his rotini/ziti blend for his liking.  In my zeal to have an appropriate vegetable to carb ratio, I sometimes forget that he doesn't care about that; he cares about having his uncorrupted pasta.

Bit by bit, the apartment is starting to look like a home.  We're starting to display signs of actually living here.  It's still very clean, which is good, because there are still boxes everywhere in various states of being unpacked (from Not-At-All to Empty-As-Angst's-Head).  Speaking of Angst, he seems to be a little weirded out by the hardwood floor, so when he is not hanging out in Mister's room (where there's carpeting), he kind of tiptoes around.  He found a familiar spot, though, and allowing his guard to relax for just a moment, staked his claim:

After eating my Pietro's leftovers for dinner last night, I threw myself into emptying as many boxes (in organized fashion) as I could.  I made a lot of progress, including setting up my spices.

They took up an entire shelf of my kitchen trolley and there are still a few that I haven't found!  Because I'm kind of a geek, I put them in alphabetical order.  We'll see how long that lasts, but for tonight, it sure made it easier to locate the Basil and Marjoram.

At some point last night, Mister took a field trip to our new neighborhood drugstore because we'd used up the last of the travel-sized toothpaste I found in my suitcase and a few other things.  He returned with a gleeful and victorious smile, showing me his prize with no small amount of pride:

Yes, Mister was excited because he found gummy vitamins meant for adults.  I really don't think there should be gummy vitamins at all, much less for adults, but whatever makes him happy (and healthy!).

Even though there are boxes everywhere, including the few that are folded and shoved behind the dining table, I still thought our table looked so pretty after it was set and the food was down.  The lighting is horrendous, but like I said, I'm adjusting.

By the way, in case you're wondering about the title... in the absence of champagne, I opened a bottle of Centine SuperTuscan to accompany our premier in-home meal.

neighborhood tourist

I truly regret that I haven't cooked a meal in a week.  My poor utensils are dry and my pots are getting dusty (yes, I did just unearth them tonight).  I still haven't found and unwrapped my plates, dishes, and cups and we're unwrapping a new mug every day for matcha and coffee.  My mission is to locate and unpack the things upon which we eat and from which we drink (other than my wineglasses, which are unpacked and ready for action); I plan to embark upon that mission shortly after filling you in on exactly what we have been stuffing our guts with, if not home-made food.

I have mentioned before how fortunate we are to live where we live and we are both ecstatic that we were able to move into a home only two blocks from our previous apartment, thereby staying in our happy little neighborhood.  Other folks actually make an effort to drive, bike, or otherwise make their way to my neighborhood for their social activities; all I have to do is walk out my front door.  As such, it has been rare over the past few years for me to really take advantage of everything my neighborhood has to offer - I plead guilty to taking it for granted.  That changed with this move.

With no food in either home and no plates or other dishes to serve dinner, Mister and I have been creative in our meals and have taken advantage of being even closer to some of our favorite convenient restaurants.  We visited the South Street Diner for the first time in a while, possibly over a year, and found the new management has made some great improvements, including the delightful Mediterranean Focaccia I ate two nights in a row, along with perfectly cooked fries and water I slurped down like I would never drink again.  We also made our way over to South Street Philly Bagels - I am ashamed to admit that although I've lived in Queen Village for 6 years, I have never gone to this bagel store.  Never, that is, until yesterday, when I went with Mister and got a whole wheat everything bagel, toasted, with a thick hummus slathered between the top and bottom.  It was heavenly and my little gray angel was happy to lick the hummus off the paper they wrapped it in.

In the absence of our coffeemaker, we remembered how perfect Wawa coffee is and Mister didn't mind getting a nice big hoagie or his Swedish fish.  In the relative dearth of fresh veggies, I was happy to pay a visit to the prepared foods bar at Essene.  We were both quite content by our post-Valentine's Day date at Pietro's - the food, chianti, and ambiance more than made up for not going to Horizons as originally planned, and we hadn't been to Pietro's in at least a year, generally favoring La Fourno since it was ever-so-slightly closer to the old apartment.  Pietro's is notably closer to our new home, so I'm sure it will become our new Italian home-away-from-home.

I was actually looking forward to making dinner tonight, going so far as to stop at Superfresh on my way home to pick up provisions for just one dinner.  As I walked home, I realized we had no dishes or water glasses unpacked, but I figured I could just locate and unpack them while the dinner cooked.  I also ignored that the recipe I selected requires two pots and I had only unearthed one.  All these things could have been overcome, but when I got home, I discovered that my poor Mister had worn himself down to the point of being sick all day.  He's okay now (we think), but he had no interest in eating, so at least now I can say we're ready for dinner tomorrow. 

I've already found the pots.  Now, let me go search for our dishes...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

everyone loves pictures!

I'm finally back online - I swear, you never realize how reliant we've become on technology, namely being connected to the World Wide Web, until you take a few days off.  It was a mixed bag - on the one hand, I barely knew how to function and really wished I had gone ahead and added internet to my cellphone and on the other hand, it was kind of nice to not feel obligated to my online "responsibilities."  No facebook, no twitter, no email...but also no weather, no bus schedules, no way to reserve a car... Anyway, that's over now (unfortunately, thank God)!

I would love to share with you some witty stories of the fabulous home-cooked meals we've...not been eating, and although I'm sure there are some people in my life who are curious about what exactly we eat when we're not eating some bizarre combination of vegetables, spices, and grains, I don't want to bore the rest of the world with how awesome the french fries I had with my eggplant & lettuce sandwich were.  I am happy to report, however, that under the new management, the South Street Diner has returned to 24/7 status!  Mister and I are rarely up and out late enough for that to matter, but we found it comforting nonetheless that we could wander over there at 3am if we wanted to.

Enough babbling - let's have some pictures!  If any fun stories come up, I'll interrupt the picture parade, but for now, let's see what I've been up to since Saturday.

moving day, pile one

pile two (ok, there were more piles,
I just didn't take pictures of them.

Some people have trouble believing I really wear skirts and dresses all the time.  Some people can't believe I don't have a single pair of jeans to wear or a single pair of sneakers hiding in the darkest recesses of my closet.  Some people are under the impression that when I "have no one to impress" I look like everyone else.  Well, sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping to see me in my Gap jeans and Abercrombie-branded pastel t-shirt and Adidas kicks, but I figured there were at least some people who would be interested to see what I looked like while moving.  Here ya go!

admittedly, a rare shot of me with my hair up
So, you may remember that my new home has a [working] fireplace... fireplaces are probably pretty hard to clean, seeing how the purpose is to incinerate a piece of matter until nothing remains but fine gray dust particles.  A certain someone decided to christen our new home by spreading what was left of the dust particles beneath the grate around the living room (did I mention how happy I am we have hardwood and not carpeting?).

As a result of his misadventures, I had the privilege of christening Angst.  He really did not enjoy that.  He should have thought of his dislike of large amounts of water pouring over his head while Mommy scrubbed him up with something that smelled like lavender and rosemary before he decided that the fireplace was a good hiding spot.  The fireplace is currently being blocked off by one of my antique bookshelves, laid on its side until we can buy a real gate.

poor little bugger kind of looks like a gremlin

After all the drama of pulling a dusty cat out of the fireplace and then trying to drown him while getting gray slime all over our new tub as he did his best to climb/jump out and escape his watery fate, nearly soaking Mister and I with lavender-rosemary-scented, gray-tinted water, I decided to "christen" our new home in a slightly more orthodox (and far more pleasant) way.

I had no idea where my wineglasses were (probably not in the big box labeled, "Wineglasses & Noritake tea set") so I just opened one of the boxes marked "Fragile" and unwrapped a juice glass.  Wine is really just glorified grape juice anyway, right?

As a quick side note, I realized something while packing.  Everything I own (besides clothing), can be placed into one of these two categories: Books or Fragile.

Anyway, since Angst took a little ash-bath with his formerly nice, black collar on, it was beyond disgusting and in need of replacement.  I took it off of him before his bath, saved his pretty pink tag and tossed the collar.  Every time I opened the front door I was terrified he would escape without his tag, so I got him a new collar the very next day.  I figured he would enjoy a hot pink collar to match his pale pink tag.

"yes, actually, I was neutered.
I don't like to talk about it."

One of Angst's new favorite places to spy on me is from on top of my piano.  He couldn't really hang out on it before because it was in our bedroom, but now it's in the living room and I have very mixed feelings about him sitting on it.

This is my awesome new fridge.  Not new, mind you, but new to me.  I've always thought the fridges with clear shelves were so neat.  I am particularly pleased with myself right now, though, because look at how pristine that fridge is!  The previous tenant's idea of cleaning the fridge upon vacating the apartment looked something like this: removing whatever food she had in there.  There were crumbs and remnants of spills, even some dried up "fresh" herbs and pieces of the papery skin of an onion.  I cleaned the heck out of that fridge.

Well, that's all for now.  I will have more fun updates soon, as well as a before-and-after post once everything is set up and we're completely moved in.  No menu, because despite my weariness of eating out, I still haven't had a chance to unpack or peruse my cookbooks or shop.  Time to get moving before I fall asleep - these boxes aren't going to unpack themselves!

Friday, February 11, 2011

short and sweet while my hands are clean

It's been a messy, dirty day.  One of the few things I do look forward to with the imminence of springtime is that the warmer, more humid days restore the moisture winter sucked from my hands.  I look forward to the day I can wash my hands without having to immediately slather them with hand lotion, before they become taut and shiny and feel all papery.  Blech.

Anyway, I'm waist to eyeball high with boxes right now and a little overwhelmed by the knowledge that tomorrow is our last full day in this apartment.  When I look around, it looks like there's still so much to pack, but when I pull out the boxes (the guys at the liquor store love me - they won't have to pay their recycling bill until March) and start putting stuff in them, I find myself running out rather quickly.  We had an early dinner (more in a moment) and then I got to packing up my kitchen, but I figured it was time for a Blog & Wine break, so I opened up my Malbec before I packed up the corkscrew.

Dinner tonight came to us via the talented (and busy!) hands of the cooks at Blackbird Pizzeria.  My intention had been for us to eat at Blackbird - less trash and clean up for me - but there was not a single table open in the whole joint!  Good for them - it's always great to see a business like that do so well while other pizza parlors only blocks from there are switching hands so quickly they're not even bothering to put up the new signs.  We ordered our food to go and flipped through Grid while we waited for dinner.  While we waited, it occurred to us that one reason there were no tables open was because they are not exactly fast food.  Anyway, we got our bag of goodies and took it home:

After far more deliberation than I felt the menu warranted, Mister decided on the Chickpea Salad Hoagie, which appears to be the vegan equivalent of chicken salad.  It was a lot of sandwich - probably about 14" (Mister's guess).  He started out enthusiastically enough, but he seemed to lose steam about halfway through, beginning to devote more of his attention to the fries.  Once he'd finishd the first half, he rewrapped the second half with great gusto, at which point I realized exactly how big a sandwich it really was and he made some comment about only being able to stand the texture one half at a time.

Mister takes his sandwiches very seriously.  If they aren't perfect, it's as though it is a personal offense.

Speaking of serious - these are some serious fries!  Mister and I agreed (as we conquered that pile with the zeal of people who haven't eaten fries since...well, okay, since Monday) that these are very, very good fries.  The outsides are perfectly crispy while the insides maintain a soft, light texture, and the folks at Blackbird have the salt thing down pat - not too much, not too little.  It's like the Goldilocks of French Fries.

As I mentioned, I got the Roasted Eggplant Grinder and it was astonishingly good.  I ate the whole thing happily, along with my share of the fries.  It's ever-so-slightly too oily, but that's really just my terrified-of-fat-calories side talking - the garlic-infused oil really makes the sandwich.  The marinated eggplant, broccoli rabe, and roasted red peppers certainly help create an amazing sandwich.  I definitely preferred this sandwich over their cheesesteaks, mainly because this sandwich had just a sprinkling of Daiya, rather than it being a main ingredient.  I think it worked very well on this sandwich because there were several other bold flavors to balance it out - it really kind of dominates the seitan in the cheesesteak.  Perhaps if the seitan was seasoned a bit more creatively, it would hold its own against the for thought.

Anyway, I'm about to run out of wine (and steam), so it's back to the boxes...let me leave you with a few glamour shots of our mess:

I don't know why I was surprised, but it actually took two boxes to pack all of my cookbooks.  I guess this makes sense, since I had three shelves devoted to them... 

I refer to this as my Fail Box.  This is probably the crappiest packing I've done yet.  I just kind of tossed all of my cookware into a really big box.  It's crammed in there pretty good and Mister already practiced picking it up, so I think it will make its way two blocks without any major damage.  It is neither orderly nor attractive, though.

from the floor to the middle
middle to the top...that's quite a pile

I have absolutely no idea what's for dinner tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the last supper

I hope that wasn't sacrilegious.  The finality of tonight's dinner was just weighing on me a bit and that seemed an appropriate title.  I do apologize if I offended anyone.

Now that I got that out of the way, let's talk about tofu.  I finally made the Punjabi Peppers and Tofu from La Dolce Vegan.  I didn't have much choice, since it was the only dinner I had ingredients left for, but please don't get the impression this was a last resort!  If you look back over the last two posts, you'll see I actually thought of my poor tofu, getting lonelier in the fridge with each passing night, but I had to be careful in my planning, lest I have to take dirty tupperware to my new home.

By the way, my evil scheming came out perfectly - last night's dinner made exactly enough leftovers for me to have lunch at work today and tomorrow, and tonight's dinner is part of our Perfect Portions Series.

It has a lot of other nice qualities, but the lack of leftovers thing is what got it in to the Final Five.

I really love the way the spices work their way into the little nooks and crannies of the tofu, infusing those little cubes with a flavor that is out of this world.  I could very happily eat just the tofu, but then I would be missing out on the phenomenal combination of green and red bell peppers with tomatoes and spices.  The whole dish is terrific - the only weak link is the brown rice, but I didn't feel like replenishing my rice collection when we're only two days from moving.

The plan for dinner tomorrow is Blackbird - we'll share the hand-cut fries and I don't know what Mister's getting, but I am looking forward to trying the Roasted Eggplant Grinder.  I hope to provide some kind of follow-up review (click here for the first one), but I also intend to spend some time tomorrow night packing up my kitchen .   It felt so weird putting away the pots and pans and dishes after I washed them, knowing that I was really preparing them for packing, kind of like a funeral home beautician (except not quite as morbid since I'll be "resurrecting" them in a few days at the new  I think I just bought a first-class ticket to Hell on the Blasphemy Train).

Well, before I seal my eternal damnation, how about a cute picture of a sleeping kitty?

Mister decided to move the cat into his new home completely, so now we have his blanket shoved in the TV stand with his pillows just outside so he knows where they are.  Although my first reaction was that this was totally ridiculous since we're moving in a couple of days and will have to uproot him all over again anyway, but then I saw how very much more peaceful my poor little bug was.  He looks so happy and cozy...against my better judgment, I may let him keep that spot when we least it will be something he recognizes, which might prevent him from destroying the door jambs on the very first night we live there, like he did 6 years ago when we moved here.  He'll be joining me on the Train...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

strategic meal planning

If tofu was self-aware, it would probably feel pretty jilted right now.  I started last night's post by revealing I was going to make Punjabi Peppers and Tofu, but I made Chickpea Cutlets with french fries instead.  Tonight, I was absolutely planning to make the peppers and tofu, but it occurred to me on the way home that there would be no leftovers.  That is, of course, a goal for this week, but I ate the last of the Pasta e Fagioli leftovers for lunch today, meaning tomorrow would be PB&AppleB...unless I made Farfalle with White Beans and Cabbage from Vegan on the Cheap.

As I'm sure you can see, I used rotini instead of farfalle, since I have yet to encounter a 12 oz box of farfalle.  It was tasty but a bit bland.  I don't think I seasoned it nearly enough, but at the same time, I pressed 6 cloves of garlic into the oil in which the cabbage sauteed and I think that should have made a little more effort to show up in the flavor profile.  Although the recipe said to season with salt and pepper, that sounded kind of boring when I have a perfectly good shaker of Mediterranean Sea Salt at my disposal.  Unfortunately, I just didn't put enough on to make a big difference in the taste.

As I expected it to, the head of cabbage and box of pasta made a voluminous amount of dinner, so I should be set for work-lunch tomorrow and Friday.  It blows my mind that we're moving this weekend.  At least half of our [remaining] possessions are in boxes, hopefully more by the time I go to sleep tonight, but it just hasn't hit me that on Monday, this won't be where I live anymore.  Although I am completely psyched to get out of this closet, getting rid of a lot of excess crap in the doing, and although I am really looking forward to setting up our new home just the way I want it, this is a little bittersweet.  I've lived here for 6 years.  Even though the apartment is tiny, cramped, and falling apart, I know it and it's little quirks.  I love the view I have from my front and kitchen windows - I can see the Penns Landing fireworks from my kitchen and there's nothing like a corner property to watch people or snow (or people in snow).  Plus, isn't it just weird to leave a place you've called home for so long?

Time is ticking on, so if I want to do anything productive, I should probably start now.  Tomorrow, only take-out will keep me from making Punjabi Peppers and Tofu [shhh! don't say that!].

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

pull out the steak knives!

Originally, I had planned to make Punjabi Peppers and Tofu for dinner tonight, but on my bitterly cold sprint home, I stopped into Superfresh as though it was an oasis, drinking in the warmth like it was water in a frozen desert.  I had 3 nice-sized red potatoes in my hands when I remembered Mister's and my mega-craving for fries the other night.  Back into their little basket the potatoes went and over to the other side of the store I went in search of frozen fries (I am absolutely not willing to try my hand at home-made shoestring fries just yet).

Once I got the fries home (with no chance of them defrosting) and into the freezer (where I discovered Mister had also visited Superfresh to take advantage of the frozen pizza aisle), I realized that I actually wanted to eat them tonight.  No matter how fun fusion can be, it will take a lot more than some curry powder to convince me french fries go with indian-spiced tofu and peppers.  Instead, I made Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon.

From that angle, it kind of looks like meatloaf...which doesn't say much for meatloaf.  I've known about these little chickpea-seitan hybrid patties for years, but I've steered relatively clear of them because they seemed difficult.  Isa insists that they are super-easy to make and that she frequently whips them up, but I just couldn't imagine how that could be possible when they involved Vital Wheat Gluten and kneading.

Honestly, what gave me the "courage" to try these guys was the success I met not once, but twice, when I made my own seitan.  In the intro to the recipe, Isa suggests that these cutlets are easier to make than seitan, so I figured if I could make seitan without something going horribly wrong, I could probably pull off their half-sibling without losing a finger.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly, so I think they will come out a little chewier/meatier the next time around, but they were awfully good even if I messed them up a little.  The reason I think they aren't perfect are:

1. the recipe said to use 1 cup of chickpeas, but I didn't feel like having a bunch of unused chickpeas hanging out in my fridge, so I just used the whole can, but I didn't adjust the other quantities accordingly - I think I should have used more VWG.

2.  In the intro to the recipe, Isa quips about making vegan food you can eat with a steak knife.  Full of expectation, I set the table with forks and our very under-utilized steak knives.  They remain under-utilized...and clean.

3. They were very good and the gluten did a great job holding everything together and providing a toothsome texture, but they still kind of tasted like I should have served them on hamburger buns.

Nevertheless, Mister thoroughly enjoyed his cutlet and we both very much enjoyed our fries for dinner.  Next time, especially if I make these for a dinner that involves raising the other leaf of our gate-leg table, I will follow the recipe more closely, serve with mashed potatoes and peas, and make a smoky gravy to ladle over them for added flavor.

In other news, we're moving in 5 days.  Please pardon me if I get super-boring or skip a night.  You may or may not care about my take-out adventures, but there are only two more meals left on our menu before I have to start packing the kitchen.  Boxes, boxes everywhere, but nowhere for the kitty to hide!  In a moment of compassion, Mister made a little house for Angst, since he stole the box that used to be Angst's house:

We never put all the shelves into our TV stand, so Mister put one of his shirts into the stand so Angst would feel comfortable there (he loves Mister's shirts and sits on them whether Mister wants him to or not).

Monday, February 7, 2011

fresh as a midwinter day

I had no idea Roma tomatoes could taste so good in the dead middle of winter.  Do they have a different growing season from all the tomatoes that are so fresh and abundant in summer?  Are Roma tomatoes the Anti-Tomato, thriving in winter, or did I just get really lucky with the 2 lbs of Roma tomatoes so ripe they were nearly rotting in the bin?

Either way, they made Isa's Pasta e Fagioli from Veganomicon a recipe to be reckoned with.  I would even say this recipe has the chance to push Dynise's recipe from its wobbly throne.

It doesn't look like much.  I was very excited about the six cloves of garlic but after the cooking, I felt like the tomatoes looked a little anemic.  I never get tired of being wrong.  It was so good and the goodness, as far as I could tell, was completely owed to the use of fresh tomatoes.  It may be hard to believe, but this is the first Pasta e Fagioli I've made that did not involve canned diced tomatoes and I think that made all the difference.  I can't help wondering how much better it will be when I can snip some fresh oregano from my window garden...

With that, I'm off to scheme (and hopefully dream!).  Mister packed a considerable amount of his stuff today, so while I can see we're getting closer to moving, it is only serving to make me more anxious about all the stuff everywhere.  One moment of cute before I go: today marked the obliteration of almost every hiding place Angst Mister made him a new little "house" since he used the old one (a large box) for packing.