Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pink berries, but not Pinkberry

The week after Thanksgiving should logically be a time of contemplative fasting in preparation for the onslaught of holiday festivities that all seem to center around the creating and eating of baked goods. Or maybe that's just my Unitarian upbringing and other people's holidays don't revolve quite so much around gingerbread. At any rate, this year a wrench has been thrown in my post-Thanksgiving salad and proper portions eating (to be fair, I've never actually done this the week after Thanksgiving). Namely, my parents gave me an early Christmas present when I saw them over Thanksgiving: an ice cream maker.

This new toy, plus the fact the weather has been unseasonably warm here in Astoria, means I had no choice but to start the holiday season (for indeed: it has started in force here in New York) with a nice frozen treat. My only concession was to make frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, but it's really not much of a concession because I insist on using only full fat yogurt. So to break in my present I made this:

Raspberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt. It would have been fine without the chips, but I do like a little texture. It was deliciously tart with just the right amount of sweetness.

I don't really have a recipe to post because there isn't much to make frozen yogurt, but I can work through my process, such as it is. I mixed about 2 cups of plain, unsweetened organic yogurt (full fat, naturally) with an entire bag of frozen raspberries (at $4.99 for a 12 0z bag, it was only slightly cheaper than buying two 6 oz cartons of fresh raspberries, but I knew if I bought the fresh ones I would eat all of them before I made the yogurt), about a teaspoon vanilla, and maybe a quarter cup of sugar in the blender until smooth and outrageously fuchsia. Then I dumped it in the ice cream maker and turned it on. After about 20 minutes, I stirred in a handful of chocolate chips. And that, my readers, is how you make heaven in a bowl.

Once I decide it's close enough to the holidays that I can stop feigning seasonal spartanism, I'm going to make this deliciousness. Now there's an ice cream that appreciates the reason for the season.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving thanks for mad quantities of pies

After a lovely few days away holidaying in Texas, I've returned with a new blogging perspective and vigor for writing. Actually, I have pretty much the same blogging perspective, but at least now I have some time. I've been enjoying Thanksgiving with my grandparents and aunt (and immediate family, of course) in Arlington, Texas for most of my life (well except for one unfortunate year where my family stayed home, I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Houston, missed my ride to dinner across town, and ended up eating reheated mac & cheese and watching a rerun of Dr. Phil. Although as regards the Dr. Phil, I suppose I have no one to blame but myself and maybe a little bit Oprah.) Over the years, we have honed the perfect meal and enjoyed good wine (now that I'm of age) and company. It's definitely one of the traditions I'm most thankful for.

This year, my boyfriend was able to accompany me down, which was nice because he could not only meet more of my family, but also add two more Texas cities to his scrapbook. That is, if he scrapbooked, which he does not. I'm including a few pictures from this weekend for my own little virtual scrapbook.

My sister and I. Making pies and taking names. We expanded on our usual plain pumpkin pie repertoire with a bourbon pumpkin pie this year. If you ever wanted to know a simple way to dress up a pie, it's in the liberal addition of bourbon.

My dad and our 20 pound bird. We would reduce that bad boy to a mere carcass by days end. Which would be a more impressive statement if a good portion of it didn't end up in tupperware.

A Dallas possum very near the house of Eagle's co-founder Don Henley.

At the Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas. At first glance, this looks like one of those sculptures of sad people commemorating the Russian Revolution or something you would otherwise feel like a jerk for smiling in front of and/or posing with. However, the actual title of this piece was something about morning train commuters--a plight of which I am a sufferer, which means I'm not a jerk for posing here, and neither is my mother.

After the success of our pumpkin bourbon pie on Thanksgiving, we kicked it up a notch because we had extra pie crust, pumpkin, pecans, and an insatiable need for more pies. Pictured is a bourbon pumpkin pie with pecan streusel topping. You can't make this stuff up. Because we already did.

A collection of some of my favorite people in the world.

Having gone to Dallas the previous day and walked around both the museum district and Dealy Plaza, on Saturday we went to the Stockyards in Fort Worth. Every day, twice a day, they do a cattle drive through the stock yards just as they would have done in the 1800s only with fewer head of cattle (about 10 in total for the recreation) and with fewer people herding cattle and more people herding toddlers off the curb.

We also went to a local rodeo at the Stockyards. The bull riding was a win for the bulls, but the man pictured above was truly impressive. Michelangelo with a lasso.

Thanks for reading! I hope your Thanksgivings were as enjoyable as mine (which I trust to be true as many of my readers were with me).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Perchance to post

I haven't had time to update lately, but for some reason, despite pretty much everyone reading this knowing why I haven't been posting, I still feel like I need to post something. Perhaps this is out of guilt fueled by the delusion that someone I don't know reads this, or, more likely, the onset of some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder.

At any rate, here I am, posting about the fact that I won't be posting. In the meantime, enjoy these photos of Astoria in autumn until I return post Thanksgiving.

The last one, for those of you who scrolled down this far, is actually Astoria, Oregon which should your first clue that I took none of these.

Monday, November 14, 2011

When life hands you an abundance of root vegetables...

Maybe it was because I had the first of two Thanksgivings this year at my boyfriend's parent's house this weekend, or because I just spent some time researching and otherwise contemplating the perfect pie recipes for Thanksgiving with my family in Texas, or maybe just because I have a natural tendency toward gluttony, but today's post will be about fall recipes. These are not necessarily Thanksgiving recipes, mind you, just things that I've created in the last few weeks through the bounty of my farm share. I'll be sad to it come to an end this week, but I chose to not sign up for the winter share, but rather rejoin next spring. I know I'll be traveling a bit more in the winter, so it's for the best. That and I'm thinking I need a break
from squash and carrots for a couple of months. But before I besmirch the good name of root vegetables and the harvest season, here's some of what I've been making lately (all photos are not of actual food I have made, but are thanks to the good people of the Internet and serve as suggestions of what my food looked like or would have looked like if I gave more emphasis on proper plating.)

Butternut Squash Ravioli:

Did you know that you can make ravioli without a pasta maker using wonton wrappers? Okay, likely you did, but I've been meaning to try this trick for years, and only recently discovered wonton wrappers are actually very easy to find in my grocery store (right next to the tofu--of course!). I don't remember exactly what I stuffed these bad boys with, but here's an approximation of my process:

1 small butternut squash (roasted with a little olive oil and salt in the oven for 30 minutes until soft enough to scoop and blend with a fork)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or rather, I just grated until I got tired)
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pepper
minced garlic (in whatever number of cloves you want)
wonton wrappers
1 egg white

Mix all ingredients together (well except for the last two). Scoop a small spoonful of filling onto the center of each wrapper. Beat the egg white and a little water in small bowl with a fork. Rub some of the egg white mixture on the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold wrapper over filling so that it forms a right triangle. Press edges to seal and crimp with a fork. Once you've finished all the ravioli, put them in boiling water for about 5 minutes or until the ravioli float and the skins look slightly translucent. I served these with some browned butter with more sage, some toasted chopped walnuts, and a little more parmesan cheese. Excellent way to make squash as unhealthy as possible.

Sunchoke puree:
Cook peeled and chopped sunchokes with a peeled and chopped potato or two and whatever root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, what have you) you desperately want to rid of with enough vegetable broth to just cover. Simmer until vegetables are soft (takes about 30 minutes). Drain off some of the liquid, but retain enough to blend smoothly in a blender or food processor (or using an immersion blender if you didn't buy yours from Bargain Stop and find that it lacks the wherewithall to so much as froth milk). Once blended add a couple of tablespoons of butter, a tsp salt, and a little milk if it needs to be thinned. Serves nicely with a spice crusted salmon. Also, judging by the image I found, it would pair fairly nicely with a panko crusted scallop. Something to think about.

Green Tomato Bread:

At the end of summer, there is apparently always a plethora of green tomatoes left on the vine that never ripened. This is something I only learned when my farm share started heaving green tomatoes on us by the pound-ful. My first instinct was to fry them as that's the only use for green tomatoes I know of. However, in the interest of being healthier and not immediately giving into every impulse I have to deep fry something, I researched further. Turns out there are tons of green tomato recipes to choose from. I wasn't that interested in the relish or the chutney, so I opted for the green tomato bread (which, yes, I realize is arguably just as unhealthy as deep frying them). I didn't tweak the recipe at all, so I'm not going to write it out here. It was a pretty tasty bread though--similar to most spiced quick breads, but with an underlying tartness from the tomatoes.

So tell me, readers, what have you been making this harvest season?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don't Forget to Write

Last night, I skipped my weekly tin whistle class--something I never do without a very good reason (previous good reasons have mostly entailed being out of the country). Last night's reason was for a book launch party for Don't Forget toWrite, a new publication from 826 National (see previous posts for more info on my involvement with 826) compiling lesson plans from some of the workshops from 826's around the country. The purpose of the book is to help teacher's inspire kids to find writing fun again--something I never felt was emphasized enough when I was in school. As David Handler, speaking for Lemony Snicket, said in the promotional video, "Kids all have the potential to be great writers. They're all born with stories they want to tell, and sooner or later they can all hold pencils."

On request, I had contributed a lesson plan for a workshop I designed and ran with a friend on making stories through mashing together literary genres. We had gathered the materials together and sent them to the editor a while ago, and up until I received the invitation to the launch party a week or so ago, I had completely forgotten about it. So why was this worth my getting behind on learning to play slip jigs? Mostly, it was just exciting to go to a launch party for a book I had contributed to. As fun as it is writing freelance and having my name on the front of a book, it doesn't have nearly the same fanfare when my author's copy arrives at my inner office mailbox as it does when I get it while enjoying free wine and assorted meats and cheeses.

Also, as I hadn't known that much about the project when I agreed to contribute, it was exciting to see who else was in it. Dave Eggers wrote the foreword, and while I haven't read any of his recent books, I will always be a fan or his starting for 826 and then marketing it so well at a speech he gave at the University of Central Arkansas that I remembered to look up the organization a year later when I moved to New York. Jon Scieszka contributed a chapter which was exciting to me because I remember when he came to my elementary school when I was in the 5th grade. He autographed my copy of The Stinky Cheese Man. I was also a fan of his Time Warp Trio series, which I see, through a quick google search, has expanded greatly long after I aged out of reading them. Also, submitting a lesson plan was Jory John, who I only recently became a fan of when a friend sent me a link to his book. He has another one called I Feel Relatively Neutral About New York that I can perhaps relate to more, as I live here and so many of my friends are alive. Anyway, this fandom led me to stalking his twitter and also learning that he works with 826 (the original in San Fransisco) as well. An admirable person to be compiled in a book with, to be sure.

If you are in need of a book with over 50 creative writing lesson plans for elementary grades (which I'm afraid, many of my readers may not be...), don't miss out on the book that film producer/director Judd Apatow calls "unconventionally brilliant." At any rate, that's enough tooting of my own horn for now, but I will say, this is so going on my resume.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Procrastinating through culture

I have an extra hour today, so I might as well update. Actually, that's more a reason I should be outside enjoying the beautiful day and perhaps ringing cowbells at marathoners because today the sun sets at 4:47. That's not an acceptable time for nightfall in November, and I go on record as against daylight savings time again this year. To celebrate the last day of pre-5 pm sunlight for a while, I did very little outside yesterday, and in fact, spent much of it inside at the museum. I recently renewed by membership to the Moma (after their many emails and thinly veiled threats about raising prices on membership fees if I didn't renew in the next few days), and yesterday seemed like a fine one to check out the much ballyhooed de Kooning retrospective.

What I learned from this exhibit is that I really didn't know much about de Kooning (which actually is fairly true of any modern artist). I like him better than the Cy Twombly's of the world though, and it was a well put together exhibit. While at the museum, my friends and I also checked out the labyrinth made of sheets in the atrium called Sum of Days. I'd read about it, and the idea sounded really cool in theory: you walk through a maze of hanging sheets that extend the six stories to the Moma's ceiling and while walking through microphones record the sounds of people walking through and project the sounds of previous days into the labyrinth. However, I think this is an exhibit that is much better in theory than in practice. One of my friends, who knows a fair bit about sound, said the way the microphones were hung basically ensured that after a few days all that you would hear would be a static white noise. Which incidentally is what we heard. I was more concerned with the fact that the "labyrinth" was more of a single concentric circle leading to the exit. I realize they were limited by space, but can you even call that a labyrinth if it takes you less than a minute to get to the center and back out? The curtains were cool though, and in smell and opacity kind of reminded me of huge dryer sheets.

This is the center: your reward for following the crowd through one turn in this not terribly grueling labyrinth. This makes me regret not springing the $10 for the corn maze at the Queen's Farm Museum this fall.

The other major exhibit on at the Moma right now is one called "Talk to Me" and explores how people communicate with objects. I think I didn't give this one the mental energy I needed to in order to fully understand it, but man, did I just not get this. The trouble started when I noticed I was glazing over while reading the description at the beginning of the exhibit. Then there were a series of videos played that seemed to have no connection (but likely did). One of them was 3D and had several pairs of 3D glasses hanging from the ceiling on wires. My problem with this was that they hung the glasses so that you couldn't really use them at eye level unless you were 5'7'' (something I am not) or above. Why not hang the glasses at multiple lengths? Or hang them on a stretchable bungee that short (or, in my opinion: average height) users might also partake?

From this point on, I was more prioritizing chatting with friends than following the cohesion of the exhibit, so I can really only comment on individual things that caught my eye. There was a working Metrocard selling machine (or I assume it working, although I never actually went so far as to put money in it). There was a series of headsets where you could listen to the innerworkings of a tree. There was a box of what (I hope) was fake, brightly-colored feces that was made my engineering certain e coli (is this really communication?). There was also a creepy bunny with a red light on it. Anyway, to sum up these vignettes, I think I need to go back and see this exhibit with a more open mind, which thanks to Moma membership--I can do for free, because right now it's making me feel dumb.

I will say, I think E. chromi is the perfect name for this.

Confession time: I'm actually writing this I realize, not so much to avoid enjoying these scant hours of daylight outside but because I'm avoiding working on what I'm supposed to be writing. There is a reason I should be inside at my computer on a lovely fall day, and sadly, blogging is not it. Therefore, I had best wrap this up and try to find other ways to eliminate writer's block.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Zombies take Manhattan: Full Sequence

Last night was the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade where I and 99 other zombies danced our way along 6th Ave from Spring St to 16th. Today, naturally my back is sore from repeated stomping and leaning back to exaggerate my Thriller walk arms. It was a lot of fun though, and, as always, over all too quickly. Because the parade was shortened from 23rd street due to budget cuts for the second year in a row, at some point it was decided that we would skip the Vincent Price rap in our music and just do the dance nearly back-to-back several times in a row. Zombie bouncers provided water, but I was still concerned I might sweat off my carefully placed flesh wound.

Several zombie and MJ enthusiasts have posted the dance online, but it's not always easy to see me in any of them (by virtue of it being dark and because I assumed my rightful place in the back). This is the best one I've found so far. At :45, you can see me Thriller walking toward the camera. I'm in the black dress and red tights, toward the right half of the screen. Next year, I'll have to wear something a bit brighter to be more recognizable.

However, that video doesn't give much of a sense of my make-up which, thanks to the gory artistry of my friend Kim, was top notch, so I'm posting a few additional pictures.

Attractive, no? Who knew you could achieve such realistic flesh wounds using nothing but liquid latex and a few layers of single ply toilet paper?

Me with a few of my zombie cohorts. People kept taking pictures of us, and it's weird because as soon as someone puts a camera in your face, your instinct is to smile for the photo, quickly forgetting you are a member of the soul-less undead. At this point, we had finally mastered the art of staring vacantly at things.

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us last night! And a merry November 1st to all my readers!

UPDATE: Here are a couple more videos: here around :38 and in this one you can see our MJ.

UPDATE #2: Apparently we're huge in Japan. They even came to our practice to watch us rehearse. You can see me messing it up (this was our last practice and everyone came in a little bedraggled and hungover from Halloween parties), in a black and white striped shirt and gray yoga pants toward the beginning.