Tuesday, March 22, 2011

memories come in different flavors

Do you remember buttermints?  I do.  I remember going to the Candlelight Diner with my mother, sister, and grandmother.  I couldn't possibly tell you what I ate there, but I remember two things distinctly.  Each table had its very own individual juke box that played a variety of songs.  The only one my sister and I played, over and over, was the theme for The Greatest American Hero.  By the way, William Katt is actually a fantastic actor and did a terrific job in one of my favorite musicals, Pippin.

Anyway, the other thing I remember is the little glass bowl of pastel-colored buttermints at the cash register.  This was way before people knew about things like germs and how gross it was to touch things other people touched, so it's really a miracle I lived to adulthood considering how much I loved grabbing a handful of those mints.

I'm a fan of dessert before dinner, and even though I ate dinner first, then had a little dessert, I want to tell you about that first, while it's fresh in my mind and relevant to my trip down Memory Lane (but don't worry, folks, we're far from finished that joyride).  When I was stocking our brand new, clean freezer, I wanted to get some Mint Chip Tempt "ice cream."  Unfortunately, Essene didn't feel like stocking it the day I was there, but not to leave empty-handed, I picked up Rice Dream Mint Carob Chip, despite my ambivalence towards carob as a chocolate substitute.

I haven't spent a lot of time with rice milk because I'm perfectly happy with soy, almond, and/or coconut.  However, since I put so much effort into making the Rice Vegan "cheese" slices melt, I figured it couldn't hurt to try the "ice cream" and see how it compared to some of my favorites.

The first taste was a shock - extraordinarily minty, far more than I was expecting.  At first I thought it was disgusting but I wanted to give it a chance.  I realized, mid-mouthful, that it tasted like a frozen version of my beloved buttermints...but without all the artery-clogging butter and germs.  So, that was a happy little surprise (so were the spoon "tracks" that showed Mister tried a little bit, too, while I was at work).

Speaking of segues...I mean, Speaking of Mister....
I woke up at 5:30 AM this morning because a kitty jumped over my head.  In my groggy state of Why-the-H-am-I-Awake, it took me a moment to remember he wasn't supposed to be in the bedroom and that we close the door every night to keep him out.  I turned to see if Mister was going to kill the cat, but Mister was not there...which explained how the kitty got in... Apparently, Mister's good night of sleep two nights ago was kind of like the one time in 2010 that I didn't have trouble cooking brown rice - a fluke.  Last night, his insomnia returned in full force, so sometime in the early morning hours, he got up and decided that it's never too early for metal.

When I finally dragged myself from the bedroom at the late, late hour of 7am, Mister was wide awake and strumming furiously on his little guitar (with headphones on, thank God).

Why don't we head back down Flashback Alley for a quick safety reminder.  Remember when you were a kid, but finally old enough to "help" in the kitchen?  Maybe mom let you use the fancy can opener to open the baked beans or something?  What did she always say? Be careful; the edges are sharp.

Looks like someone didn't listen very well.
Or maybe, someone was just a little overzealous about getting the last three artichoke hearts out of the bottom of the can where they had all crammed themselves against each other and wouldn't come out until I bled.  Until "someone" bled, that is.

Regardless of my injury (and you were worried about germs on the buttermints?), our Tuscan Vegetable Ragout was a delightful and filling dinner.  It really makes a huge yield, causing me to ponder whether to replace my saute pan with a 4-qt or if I should just go for the gusto and get a 5-qt...only time and space will tell, I suppose.

I think it gets bigger (and better) every time I make it.  I need to start reining myself in - just because I can add smoked tofu and macaroni to the 14 oz of Killer Artichoke Hearts, 2 zucchini, 14 oz tomatoes, and 28 oz of cannellini beans doesn't mean I should.  Perhaps in the interest of my 3-qt saute pan, I'll learn some restraint before the next time I make this.


Or maybe I'll just buy a bigger sauteuse.

After all, it's not like this is the only recipe I run into that trouble with.  I could have made the bulgur pilaf in a saute pan if I thought it would have held the kale.  I had a little trouble combining all the ingredients for our dinner tonight, too: Warm Chickpea Ragout with Swiss Chard, Carrots, and Harissa from Vegetarian Times: Fast & Easy.  In case you were wondering what's in it....

You don't really need me to spell it out for you, do you?  After all, the book pretty much did that in the recipe title.

Despite Harissa repeatedly kicking me in the back of my throat, this really is a wonderfully tasty dinner.  My only grievance was with the tomatoes.  I used a different brand of fire-roasted tomatoes than I usually do and I could really taste the difference - these were acidic, not nearly as sweet as other brands.  The sweetness of the other brands are what allow me to actually eat this dinner, rather than choke and sputter through it as though I had accidentally made Martha's Apple-Chickpea Curry.

Due to time constraints, I substituted bulgur for the rice upon which I usually serve this.  As a result, I may need to pull a creative little switcheroo a little further down the week.  We'll see how that turns out.  Stay tuned - this could get exciting!

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