Thursday, July 31, 2008

Everything Must Go!

This past week I've been literally cleaning out the closets. When my company downsized many years ago, we offloaded an office stocked for 300 people. The dregs of that massive effort, as I discovered last week, were STILL in the cabinets.


As I stood in the "kitchen", looking through our storage cabinet in there, I remembered obsessively keeping the cabinet the same over the course of the last several years. "Mustn't throw anything out..." I imagined myself muttering. "Must keep my precious the same."

Tricksy packrats.

Enough was enough. I realized that I've been afraid to throw anything away for the last 5 years. Time to let it all go. ALL of it go. A dumping spree ensued with hopefully benefiting those who can't buy their own school supplies.

Change propagates change. This weekend, Chris and I are doing the same with our house. It's time to move forward, not hang on to the past. My new heart pushed me into my future - and I'm claiming it.

Go forth and change.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Lost Art

I can see why home canning is out of favor in today's world. The process is fairly complicated, you need to be hyper-clean and the best time to can is the worst time of the year. Who wants to spend a July afternoon in a hot kitchen filled with several large pots of heavily boiling water? And most importantly, why bother? You can buy perfectly adequate pickles, jams and canned fruits at your local grocery store for cheaper and easier.

But even against those odds, the siren call of little baskets of bright green cucumbers called out to me at the farmer's market this weekend. I remembered snorting from getting a face full of tangy boiling vinegar and fingertips tingling from boiling hot lids and water. I remembered a kitchen so hot with billowing steam that I canned in a bikini top and shorts. I remembered being able to serve my own pickles as relish with every meal and knowing exactly what was in them. I bought the cucumbers.

And yesterday I turned out six lovely pints of deep yellow-green bread and butter pickles. Air conditioning and a strong husband helped with the heat and the lifting. It's enough to get me barely exited for winter with hearty bowls of soup and sourdough, soft cheese and pickles. (Yes, Chris and I understand and accept fully that we are hobbits).

There is no doubt that canning is as laborious and useless a kitchen task as there currently is. But seriously, there are fewer culinary tasks more satisfying than seeing rows of your own (tastier) pickles lined up in the pantry. And of course, the knowledge that the carbon footprint on these pickles is much smaller than the ones at the store is a pretty nice side benefit too.

Hooray for canning!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Being Creative

Chris and I are currently in the middle of a week of creativity. Every day for a week, we are encouraging each other to do something creative - something outside our normal realm which means creatively reorganizing the storage closet at work doesn't count.

Today's creative endeavor was in the kitchen with a no-recipe dinner of an Asian chicken salad. My favorite guilty kitchen secret is prepared salad dressing. I love it as salad dressing, marinade, quick sauce and even for a flavorful cooking oil. Such an easy way to pump up flavor on a busy weeknight without feeling like I'm simply assembling processed foods.

So, it's a super easy salad. First, take a few boneless chicken breasts and marinade them in an Asian salad dressing. I used Kraft's Light Toasted Sesame or somesuch. After they sat for an hour or so in the fridge, I had Chris fired up our grill. While it was heating, I took some diced yellow peppers and quickly sauteed them with some minced ginger and shallots. I don't care for raw peppers but didn't want them cooked so I only heated them enough to be slightly toothsome and to bloom out the ginger.

I spread that on a cooking board and got the chicken grilling. To distract me from continually poking the chicken, I tore, rinsed and dried enough red leaf lettuce for two salads. I threw that into a bowl and added the cooled pepper mixture, some diced dried apricots, sliced almonds and some ginger-garlic wonton strips I found in the salad section of the store.

I tossed the salad with some of the dressing then plated it into our favorite salad bowls. The chicken was done then sliced and put on top. We added more dressing to taste and dug in.

Mmm. My creative cooking in the kitchen was delicious. Every bite was gingery and juicy with the peppers. The chicken was moist and thanks to the beauty of the prepared dressing, all the flavors melded quickly and superbly.

An admirable creative effort if I do say so myself!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Shamefully Overdue Post

For my peeps in the Northland Chorale

song chart memes