Tag Archives: postaweek2011

It Was Time for Lunch.

I came home this afternoon from having spent most of the morning at banks, so I was already cranky and kind of depressed, on top of being ravenously hungry. It was time for lunch. It was time for comfort lunch. So I started prepping my favorite comfort ingredients – pasta, garlic, cheese, and pancetta. And then I looked in the fridge and found another zucchini and some more green beans, leftover from the CSA haul this week.

Liiiiight bulllllb.
(from “Despicable Me?” Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?)

Before I knew it, I not only felt a thousand times better about my day, but I also had a delicious, kinda-healthy lunch. I guess you could make it without the pancetta, but I don’t want to think about it. 😉

 

It was just perfect with the Italian lemonade, too. Magnifico!

I also just posted the recipe on the Recipes page. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer with some good food!

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Today’s post is brought to you by the letters C, S, and A.

This week’s haul from the CSA:

  • Roma tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Callaloo
  • Bell peppers & jalapeños

 

First up? A stir fry. I cook stir-fry’s all the time, but it always – always – tastes so much better with actual fresh veggies. I can’t help but notice, every time I bring in the goodies from the CSA pick-up, that the veggies are so oddly shaped. I wonder, are they so visually unappealing that the local grocery stores wouldn’t carry them?

CSA veggies pre-stir fry

CSA stir fry finished

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The tomatoes from the farm had been picked at such a perfect time that when I picked them out, they were already perfectly soft, so I needed to go ahead and use them quickly. Having just finished off several quart-sized freezer bags full of chopped tomatoes I’d frozen a while back, I was very eager to make some homemade pasta sauce from scratch. So I did.

tomato sauce

We made tomato sauce in a similar way with the kids at cooking camp last week, but when I went to write it down for the cookbook we gave them at the end of the week, I couldn’t even bring myself to reveal my favorite, sorta-secret ingredients! So this sauce – one of my very favorite things in the world – has been on my mind a lot lately. Imagine my delight at seeing those ripe, delicious-looking Romas sitting in those crates!

Making my favorite sauce tonight must have also caused the whimsical feeling that made me decide not to just scoop the sauce onto some pasta on a plate. I found a covered ramekin somewhere in the dark recesses of my cabinets and made myself a mini baked pasta casserole, with rosemary-olive oil breadcrumbs (I made those, too) and Parmiggiano Reggiano.

baked pasta

The cuteness of this dish has made me all sentimental, so I’ll be spending the rest of the evening curled up with a bit more wine and a very sappy, (and also a favorite) movie, trying not to think about how soon I’ll be back at work …


In Which the Cooking Camp is a Grand Success

The week of cooking camp was a HUGE success! No cuts, no burns (on the kids, anyway), no lost limbs, no major spills or broken cooking implements. Plus, the kids seemed to have a lot of fun, and their families seemed to enjoy the lunch we cooked for them on Friday. Plus, I had a blast.

Here are a few photos of all the fun we had in the kitchen!

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Day 1 - chicken stir fry lunch

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Day 2 - a visit to the Old Mill of Guilford

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Day 2 - a visit to the farmers market

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Day 3 - Iron Chef Cupcake!!

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Day 4 - Homemade pasta & tomato sauce

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Day 4 - Homemade pasta & tomato sauce

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Day 4 - a visit to Homeland Creamery

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Day 4 - a visit to Homeland Creamery

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Day 5 - a cookout lunch for families - quite a spread!


Dinner & A Movie

Of course I eat my green veggies …

photo 1 (12)…just cooked in pork fat …

photo 2 (14)…covered in cream sauce…

photo 3 (9)…and served over pasta.

(give me just a little credit … the reason it looks kinda thin is because I used skim milk. But then there was alllllll that cheese I dumped in there …)

 

Since it is finally streaming on Netflix now, I figured I’d take advantage of a night with no plans and cook a lovely pasta dish and watch my favorite Italian movie (and definitely one of my all-time favorites):

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The pasta was really good, all joking aside. I started with a base (other than the pasta) that is one of my mother’s Thanksgiving go-to’s: green beans and onions sauteed in bacon. Only for mine, I used pancetta, green beans, and asparagus, then skipped the onions and went for loads of garlic instead. She also tosses hers in balsamic vinegar – I tossed mine in “light” cream sauce.

In the spirit of my most recent culinary adventure in homebrewing (we’re currently brewing our first batch – an IPA), I had a glass of Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA with this little creamy pasta concoction. It cuts through the cream and cheese and pasta heaviness beautifully.

My main preoccupation lately has been getting ready to start the first batch of homebrewed beer with my friend Lisa, so that’s where most of the latest updates are. If any of you readers out there have any experience in homebrewing, I’d so appreciate your feedback! And for those of you who have no idea about homebrewing, you can read it and laugh at our mistakes while learning some new vocabulary. Fun for everyone!


Booze + Fried Things = Good Times

I went to my first wine festival this weekend. I had a great time, tried some great wines (and some not-so-great), and brought several of them home with me. But I think I’m just not a big enough fan of wine to think of it as super-exciting. This particular festival is great if you like to experiment though – lots of fruit, lots of varieties of sweet wines, which are just not my thing. Where’s a decent pinot grigio or cabernet when you need one? But most importantly, I had a great time on a gorgeous day with two fabulous friends (including the one and only Healthy Mika)!

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I’m a good Southern girl, and that means I like vegetables fried (I also like my pulled pork with a tomato-based sauce, but that’s a whole other post). I took it one step further last night at our most recent cookout by frying up some asparagus and eggplant “fries” with seasoned flour and yellow-grits breading. They were both a success but the eggplant was my particular favorite. I also made this Old Bay aioli as a dipping sauce for them, and it was delicious. My friends and I agreed, though, that for some reason it tasted like solid butter. Delicious, but incredibly rich. Worked great with the crunchy texture of the grits-coated veggies.

Asparagus in the egg whites

Seasoned Breading with Yellow Corn Grits

Eggplant "Fries"

Fried Asparagus and Old Bay Aioli

Fried Asparagus with Grits

Eggplant "Fries" with Grits


Hey There, Social Media!

Just a quick post today to say a couple of things.

First of all, MPC is now on Facebook. Please take a moment and say you “like” me!

Second, and possibly even awesome-er, you’ll soon be able to read MPC on your Kindle! (It’s still pending review by the amazon.com deities, so I’ll post a preview link when they’ve given their approval.)

And finally, I just posted the firstrecipe in a new section called Summer Specials on the Recipes page: Greek Festival Chicken. I just taste-tested this marinade recipe with some friends and it they found it very tasty and great for summer cookouts.

Greek Festival Chicken, right off the grill

I’m ready to kick summer cooking & eating into high gear (it hit 90’s here in NC today), so I’ll have plenty to post about very soon. Always love to hear your feedback!


Death of a Bookstore

This post isn’t going to have anything to do with food. I feel like I should say so up front. I know this is my first post in quite a while, so I’ll throw in a little personal (i.e. mostly food-related) update at the end. The truth is, I’ve struggled with inspiration lately. I’ve been cooking as much as ever, but just haven’t been doing much worth writing & posting about. So leave it to something like a beloved bookstore closing to get me back at it.


I know that Borders is not a local, indie, or even small bookstore. Even the ones they’ve decided to close as they begin bankruptcy proceedings aren’t exactly home-y. The one in my hometown is, of course, no exception. But it was here before Barnes & Noble came to town, and while it did drive out one or two smaller home-grown shops, the truth (however sad) is that this was never a welcoming place for independent, chic bookstores, and so I never felt that Borders was doing the city’s cultural landscape much harm in drawing business to its big-box doors.

My love for this particular Borders store, as one might expect, comes from having spent so much time in it – in this case, as an employee. For a nerdy, bookish, music-snob type like me, it was the perfect gig.

I walked in for an interview for a job in the store’s café sometime in 2000. I met the assistant manager and followed her around as she shelved books, then she finally turned down one aisle (I wish I remember which section) where she found two stepstools and invited me to have a seat. A few minutes later, I had the job.

Working in the café, I quickly learned, was the lowest rung of the Borders ladder. I had enough food prep experience to get by, and quickly gained a few essential barista skills. I got to know the regulars, and made friends with my fellow lowly café employees. A guy named Tim was hired around the same time as I was, and we became good friends. In a few months we were both being asked to spend a couple of shifts a week in the rest of the store. Tim, I think, had started out with the same aspiration as I had – to work in the ultracool music section. And before long, we got to.

Naturally, people come and go in retail jobs. But there were a few faithful Borders folks who will always stand out in my mind. There’s Tim, of course. And Will was the music section manager who gave me my job back after I came back from England, later in 2001. There was Larry, the unofficial guardian of the music section. Dare looked after everyone like a mom (she and I now teach together, some 10 years later, and she’s just as wonderfully silly and smart as ever). Several people later went on to the hipper, local used bookstore. We had great managers, terrible managers, and one who was, tragically, gone too soon.

We did many Harry Potter midnight release parties, open mic nights in the café, and local author readings. We caught shoplifters, cleaned up their messes in corners and in bathrooms, and even chased a few on foot out of the store. We survived Christmas after Christmas, but then Christmases got less and less busy.. And, eventually, most of us moved on to other jobs, but kept drifting in from time to time to say hello. I think I probably wasn’t the only one who noticed the place looking thinner, emptier, and sadder on each visit.

My Borders started its final, everything-must-go sale this weekend. As I pulled into the parking lot I was immediately a little angry at how full the parking lot was. Where the hell were all these people six months ago? A year ago? I walked in and saw the clearance signs everywhere and people picking through all the shelves. The place looked like it could’ve made it, with all those people and with almost all the shelves still looking pretty full. But I knew it wasn’t true. I knew it was as good as gone. I walked around, bought a few heavily-discounted magazines, and left with my memories.

FOOTNOTE: My old Borders coworker and friend, Tim LaFollette, now suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a devastating disease with no cure and no comfort. Tim’s friends have formed an organization that strives to provide for his care and, most importantly to Tim, to raise awareness about ALS. Please check out the Often Awesome Army and consider doing what you can to help fight ALS, and get to know Tim.

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As for what’s been going on in the Tiny Kitchen lately, I’ve been cooking a lot, really just re-working and perfecting a lot of old favorites, which I thought would just be tedious to read, so I did kind of drop off the blogosphere for a bit. I’m also super busy at work right now (adding track coach to my already-long hours as a teacher), but if anything I should be spending more time on the blog just to maintain sanity.