How to Feature Summer Veggies: Thai green curry

This is delicious on its own as a stew, or served over rice. I used whatever veggies were on hand... you could certainly use almost any of the late-summer bounty that starts to overwhelm around this time of year. This was a great way to use up some beans, peppers, and Thai basil from my mother-in-law's garden! Also it's vegan.

I love how dust & light-leak filters can make a bad image look merely "bad."

Ingredients
  • 1 t coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 yellow potatoes, cubed
  • 1 carrot, cubed
  • 2 t (more or less) Thai green curry paste
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped up
  • Any number of green or yellow beans, chopped
  • 1 t Shoyu or soy sauce
  • 2-3 small bunches of bok choi, washed & sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Thai (or regular) basil
Directions
  1. Melt coconut oil in Dutch oven, sauté onion. When it starts to turn glassy, add garlic and sauté.
  2. Add one cup of water plus potatoes and carrot, bring to a simmer.
  3. Stir in Thai green curry paste. Simmer for ~8 minutes until the potatoes start to be a little soft.
  4. Add coconut milk, bell pepper, and beans. Continue to simmer about 5 minutes more.
  5. Add shoyu. More water can be added at any time if more liquid is needed.
  6. Once vegetables are mostly cooked (espeically the potatoes), add the bok choi, tomato, and basil. Cook for only a few minutes more.
  7. I refrigerated this overnight and it may have helped flavors marry more. This was an extremely popular potluck dish. Reheat and serve... with rice if you wish!
I also have a CLASSIC summer squash recipe coming soon! What's your favorite way of featuring summer veg?

Coffee Talk

Do you like coffee? I love it. Not like I love chocolate cake or a lovely massage. I love it like I love... oxygen. Always there and very much appreciated. When it's not there, I am sad.

On a recent morning, like every morning, I turned to our Black & Decker coffee maker, which I think of as the Will & Kate coffee maker because I bought it around the time when Prince William married the Duchess of Cambridge. I loaded it up with freshly ground coffee and filtered water, as always, pressed the ON button, as always, and walked away. It started to do its usual huffing and puffing, but after 5 minutes... no coffee. It was making its usual steam, but nothing was dripping out into the carafe. I tried various tricks like: turning it off and on again, replacing the water, jimmying the carafe, rinsing the brewing chamber. Nothing!


 
Pick the lame-o in this mechanical lineup.


My reaction was as follows: I got a stool and dug around in high cupboards until I found our French press. Then I made coffee that way. Once properly caffeinated, I wrote a haiku about the broken coffeemaker and posted it on Twitter.



Then I avoided dealing with it by taking a week's vacation. Upon my return though, it was clearly time to buy a new coffee maker. (The French press only makes one cup at a time, and we need about 4 cups to get started in the morning.)

So. At the local hardware store I contemplated the selection. What was annoying to me about the broken machine is that I still don't know what was actually wrong with it. It just mysteriously stopped working. Why spend money on something that will One Day betray me? The first coffee maker cost about $30, and so would the next one, and the next, and then I'd have spent hundreds of dollars on crappy coffee makers. Why not buy a great coffee maker that I could understand inside and out? Why not spend a little more now but be able to use the thing for years and years?

That's how I came home with a Chemex.


It's pretty classic. Groovy 70s vibe. Glass vessel, thick paper filter, hot water, that's all you need. No buttons, no inner workings, no cheap plastic bits.

It does take more time than pressing a button... because the hot water must be poured over the ground coffee by hand. But I'm thinking of it as Zen attention to the present, so that's a good thing.


Which item was invented in 1941?

What do you think of the Chemex... as a beautiful object or a daily item? Personally I really liked the Black & Decker coffee, but this stuff is Pretty Good.

My new used car

If there's one thing I hate, it's making an important decision and/or acquiring new debt. Boo!  However, when one has vowed to "drive my car into the ground," these things will happen. Recently I realized that my beloved diesel VW Jetta was indeed almost driven into the ground. Being a diesel, it had over 280,000 miles on it. The emergency brake snapped, some kind of belt fell off, the turbo stopped working, and it produced impressive black smoke by burning oil whenever I drove up hills. Things were getting embarrassing, and worse... I was feeling unsafe driving my own beloved car.


 
My wheels since June 2003. YEAH fahrvergnügen!

Apparently my method of doing anything, from choosing a car to getting a new job to checking out a library book, is a first-strike shock-and-awe technique. I like to see something good, get in, and get out. In the case of the car, I spent a week complaining, a week rather lazily investigating local prospects along with random insurance quotes and vague bank investigations, and then a week swinging into super-effective action (for me).

Here's how the latter super-effective week worked out:

Monday: Grab car for a test drive and insert entire family, drive to favorite local mechanic and beg for an assessment. Done in under an hour, present list of minor issues to dealer who promises to fix them. By end of day I have bill of sale in hand and completed loan application, drop them off at bank.

Tuesday: Make sure the bank has the paperwork they need, wait for it to process.

Wednesday: Check in again on paperwork, have insurance binder emailed to bank and to myself for good measure, make sure an insurance ID card is also included so I can drive the new car once acquired. The bank guy tells me he's out Thursday but the loan can close on Friday.

Thursday: Send my wonderful husband over to the dealer during my work hours to ensure that the fixes from Monday were done, particularly the AC fix. Everything seems to be set. (Thanks, dear!) He also moves the kid seats out of my Jetta into the new car. I clean out my old car as a sign of respect before it's traded in. Right before I let it go, I photograph and then remove the stickers.

 I also had this T-shirt in high school! (Save the Humans w. cute whale)


Friday: My car loan closes at 10am, I am there and ready and out with a check in about 15 minutes. I take last photos of my Jetta and drive it over to the dealer (who, by the way, is mainly a mechanic). He transfers my plates, does a lot of paperwork, trades keys with me, and I'm in my new car by 11am... About 100 hours after my first test drive.


I'm perfectly happy with my new-to-me Subaru Forester. Yes it has tons of miles on it and a few scratches and dents. But I think it will last the length of my car loan at least, it will be safe in winter with all wheel drive, and it will be comfy and fresh for my family to ride in. I have selected the following stickers to help it stand out from the other bazillion Subarus driving around Vermont. (Thanks KG for the perfect dim sim props!)


Wordless Wednesday: DIY Roasted Red Peppers









Notes: Leave the thoroughly charred pepper in the paper bag for about 5 minutes. When removing skin use fingers or a knife. Resist the temptation to rinse off black flecks—it washes away flavor.

I stop running and pick up a Margarita

Today, July 5, is the first day since Memorial Day that I haven't gone for a run. I successfully completed a 40-day "streak" from May 26th to July 4th, as suggested by Runner's World magazine. The main rule of the streak is that you run at least 1 mile every single day. 

Rather than keeping track of my runs online I wrote them on a paper calendar on my fridge.

128 miles total. Probably more since I always round down.

My last run of the streak was the annual 4-miler race that goes right down the Main Street of our town. It was a rainy Fourth for once, though that didn't help my time much!

In other news, I've decided it's time for me to have a go-to cocktail. Something I can make for myself now and then, or order if I'm out and in a cocktail mood. I have selected the margarita. I do not make mine from scratch, but use a mix that is quite yummy: Dr. Swami & Bone Daddy's. "Fresh Gourmet Taste!"



I know, wrong kind of glass. Tastes good though.


I would also like to submit these photos of professional margaritas as evidence of... something.

 


What is your go-to cocktail? Is that even a thing?

Prof. Kitty visits Chicago


I had a work trip to Chicago this week and it was great! The work itself was very rewarding, and I was also glad to be back in Chicago so soon after my September trip. I didn't get a chance to take many photos, but I'd like to share a few highlights.

Day 1, evening

Lobster mushroom bisque, real Caesar salad (meaning yes to anchovies) at Stetsons (the steak and sushi place inside the Hyatt Regency hotel).

Dramatic steak knife display

Day 2

  • breakfast: eggs benedict at Yolk -- I found Yolk via Google Maps, so it was touristy, but I liked it. High-end-diner style, bright and open interior, with unmissable yolk-colored decor.
  • Lunch: takeout chicken breast kebab wrap from Reza’s -- I only kick myself for not ordering hot sauce to go with!
  • Dinner: Union Sushi & BBQ—warm mushrooms, crispy "buffalo" duck leg, spicy tuna cup, smoked white tuna with tomato confit, a LOT of sushi on black rice. So. Good.

As an aside, I'd never before seen real wasabi up-close. They grated it tableside and left a small dish for sushi-dipping.

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Panera Bread—some kinda sausage, egg & cheese sandwich
  • Lunch: takeout chicken caprese salad from Maggiano's Little Italy—huge, lots of chicken, TWO kinds of dressing, tender fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, and a lovely surprise... the occasional fresh green bean.
  • Dinner: EPIC turkey bar, Vanilla Bean Frappuccino. This was my dinner when I was inadvertently stuck at O'Hare for 2 hours. Did you know a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino from Starbucks has NO COFFEE in it? It was delicious, but... jeez. I needed the caffeine!

Here are a few more snaps and notes of things I saw in Chicago, June 2014:

The photo doesn't do it justice, but that glowing area in the middle = shelves of liquor lit from behind. It was gorgeous, like a stained glass beacon of alcohol beaming into the night. It is called BIG Bar.



This TRUMP sign just went up and has set the media afire. Yes, it seems to be 2 stories tall.


 
Trend report: The latest in specials or wine lists is an ipad left at-table for perusing. This happened to me twice in two days, so it's science.


Trigger Warning! "Try one of our new specialty craft drinks. Today's events: Alcoholics Anonymous."


Not shown: 

Sooo many smartphones. In the airport, on the subway, on the street—everyone was staring into the tiny screen of their phone. Sometimes I felt like I was in a Bodysnatchers movie. I got out my own phone so as to blend in.

Sunset at O'Hare. This is something I didn't want to see, because I was supposed to be in the air already but my plane was delayed. It was pretty though. A caffeinated Frappuccino would have helped even more.

Chicago Riverway. It took me about 30 seconds after jogging out of the Hyatt Regency to identify a great place to run—down a set of stairs to the bike/jog path that runs along the Chicago River. I headed lakeward and got to run along the shoreline & boats for a little bit. Tranquil!

Heifers! Preschool! Running!

This weekend in Brattleboro it's time for our now-large festival called Strolling of the Heifers. The party is starting downtown this very minute, with Main Street closed to traffic for the biggest and funnest of our monthly First Friday Gallery Walks. Also our local community radio station, WVEW, is having a Dance with a DJ party tonight from 7-10! The parade tomorrow (June 7, 2014) starts at 10am, and then there's an expo and performances and events around town for the rest of the day.

In other news, our littlest one completed his first year of preschool this week, which is just very adorable. Good job, little guy! I think your teachers love you.

And on the running note--it was National Running Day this week. I made myself a virtual badge.


It happened to be the bi-weekly Fun Run that day and my whole family came with me... for the first time! Our 2nd-grader had come with me twice before, but Papa & preschooler had not. We chose the 1-mile. Some of us walked much of the way, but we all finished before the 3-mile winner came in and that's what really counts.

I'm also working on a new running goal... the Runner's World Streak. Rules are you run at least 1 mile every day between Memorial Day and July 4. I worry that I'll forget a day, but so far so good. I'm not actually logging my miles through the magazine website, but I mark each day down on a paper calendar. 12 miles so far this week, 11 more likely.

I hope you have a great weekend! Now I'm off to make quinoa tabbouleh.

Mother's Day Update, with dim sum

A lot has happened in the past few weeks!

Spring came.


These are our mysterious new tulips last Sunday, May 4. (We planted them last fall so had not seem them yet--couldn't wait to find out what they look like!)



Same tulips 3 days later... They are incredible! Like a tulip channeling a sunflower. The neighborhood is agog.


In other news, I ran my second half marathon. Here's a small selection of what I took along. (I packed 3 bags! I love local racing!) Chocolate agave gel, Bearded Brothers energy bar, Action Wipes for cleaning up post-race. I also took a complete change of clothes, a protein drink, a towel, and an ice pack.


The race is called the Western Mass Mother's Day Half. I did better than my first half marathon last September, though I must say that 13.1 miles feels insanely long. Here's the data...



Compared to my first half marathon, I made it another 2 miles before I hit the wall around mile 8 and started to slow down. For all of my great intentions to maintain a certain pace for 13 miles, or maybe even speed up at the end, I did start to get tired and slow down whether I wanted to or not. But it wasn't awful, just a bit uncomfortable, and it was wonderful to crest a hill at the end and have the finish line right there. The best part was that my mother came along with me to support and cheer me on! It was great to see her at the finish line and I even pulled off a little bit of a final kick--check out that 7:26 above!

For a double treat, we went out for dim sum brunch after the race. This is definitely my half marathon tradition now, since every time I run one (and that would be two times!) I eat dim sum afterward.  If you've been reading this blog for awhile you may have noticed that I have a huge soft spot for this special Chinese luncheon. (Read all my posts about dim sum!) I used yelp.com to triangulate dim sum options and came up with Oriental Flavor in Amherst, MA.


Oriental Flavor is totally charming. And they open at 8:30am on weekends to start serving dim sum.



Shrimp Har Gow



Char Siu Bao 



Beancurd Sheet Roll



 Pork Siu Mai



Sticky Rice in lotus leaf. YUMMM.

For the rest of mother's day I hung out with my lovely children, which included a trip to the ice cream stand and a chicken-n-biscuit dinner with steamed fresh nettles from the farmer's market. Fabulous!

10 Hill Run

I got new shoes! Same as the old shoes. (Saucony Kinvara 4. IN PURPLE.)



It's two weeks out from my next half marathon, so I really wanted to do some hills before I start to taper off a little bit. I combined some favorite bits from other runs and came up with a 10 Hill Run. If you know Brattleboro, this involved Western ave- Greenleaf- Hinesburg- Goodenough- Akley- Bonnyvale- Western Ave- Orchard/ Gibson/ E. Orchard/ Orchard- Western Ave.

Every time I top this hill I take a picture

I figured out the course included 10 hills by counting them as I ran. There are two tiny ones on Greenleaf, two large ones on Goodenough, one huge and two medium on Bonnyvale, one long and one short-n-steep on Orchard, and one slow burn on East Orchard.

There were 3 noticeable downhills on this route. I read recently that downhills are recommended training because they cause "eccentric tearing" in the quadriceps, which then heals into even stronger thigh muscles. I liked the idea of eccentric tears right away. Did they smoke using a long cigarette holder? Collect squirrel skulls? Have pet leopards? Eat only orange foods? Then the same week I learned that a Finn invented an eccentric axe, and from the depths of my SAT vocab memories I recalled that "eccentric" is a geometry thing... i.e. not having the same center, as opposed to concentric. Well!

Besides considering squirrel skulls, in the course of doing the 10 Hill Run I think I accidentally ran farther than I ever have before. After I completed a half marathon distance--13.1 miles--I was still almost a mile from home. So I kept running, making it 13.70 miles for today. I would remember running that far before, wouldn't I?






One last note... I did regret breaking the rule of NOT trying a major run in new shoes. I should have done 3-5 miles in my new Sauconys a few times before taking them for a double-digit spin. My left sacro-iliac joint was not happy with me (that is my weak spot), but it's feeling better already and I've learned my lesson.

My race is on Mothers Day and I'm excited. My mother is coming along! My goal is simply to beat my last half marathon time of 1:59:04. Stay tuned!

Asparagus & Chèvre Folk Tart

I call this a folk tart because it’s rustic and bumpy and imperfect, yet beautiful in its way. Like folk art, where cats have two eyes on one side of their head.



I’ve been investigating vegetarian and even vegan recipes lately. We do Meatless Mondays pretty often, but the rest of the week we’re very meat-based. As I perused a veggie cookbook, I thought an asparagus tart with chèvre sounded yummy for dinner this week. But if I wait for tart dough to refrigerate, if I have to find a tart pan, if I have to roll out the dough, if I need to use pie weights… it’s never going to happen. So I invented the folk tart. It’s a combo of a lazy-normal crust recipe and the Williams-Sonoma asparagus-goat cheese tart.

Here are my folk tart steps...

Preheat oven to 350F.

Blend 1 1/3 cups flour and 6 ounces butter in food processor. Then add about 3 T ice water and continue to blend until it’s just starting to clump up and stick. Dump into tart pan and quickly squish together into a ball to gather stray bits. (I used a spring-form pan, not a tart pan, because of the folk thing.)

Then, smoosh the dough towards the edges of the pan, and up the edge a little bit to form a tart shape.

 

Poke the dough with a knife or fork in a few places and bake for 20 minutes. It will puff up in a non-tart way--no problem! This is a folk tart.

Meanwhile, snap the woody ends off the asparagus (I know you can peel it to preserve more stem, but… folk tart). Toss with some oil and salt and roast in the oven at the same time as the crust. You can move the spears around midway.



Meanwhile meanwhile, whisk together wet ingredients (egg, milk, cream, parmesan, etc.)

After 20 minutes in the oven remove the crust and let it cool slightly. Turn the oven up to 375F. Remove the asparagus soon, too.

Sprinkle about 2/3 goat cheese around the bottom of the coolish crust. Top with the asparagus.



Pour egg mixture over everything. Top with rest of goat cheese.



Bake! Leave in oven about 25 min, or longer if necessary until it doesn't slosh in the middle when jiggled. Remove and cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Serve if you're ready! This also keeps pretty well for breakfast/lunch/brunch fare later on.

 

Notes: This was just what I wanted. Tasty, significant chewy crust, savory. I might go for a bit of Swiss flavor next time, maybe a sprinkling of Gruyère. Also, asparagus spears are really hard to cut across the grain. It occurred to me that you could cut the spears into 1-2 inch pieces before sprinkling them over the crust. The result would be less “stringy” and easier to cut up.


 

Is asparagus a sign of spring to you? I think it is for me, but modern groceries confuse me because everything is always available. Previously on this blog I've dug Asparagus as part of a Penne Bake and also a delicious Risotto.

Happy Easter 2014





I really like Easter, and today was a perfect one.

It's been a great weekend all around really. On Saturday, I was hoping to drag the family to see baby lambs at either Merck Forest & Farm Center or Billings Farm, but I didn't realize one of us had a conflict at 4pm. We couldn't possibly make an hour-plus drive each way and also prep for Easter brunch, clean the house, and buy groceries for the week, all by 4 o'clock. So we decided to go to a petting farm in our town... but when we got there we learned they didn't open until Memorial Day. So we went to a real farm nearby. It turned out to be WAY better than any of the above would have been.

We went to Wild Carrot Farm on Upper Dummerston Road, one of just a handful of working farms in the town of Brattleboro, Vermont. They are known for their working Suffolk Punch horses (who are gorgeous!) and they also have a local CSA and, we found, are super-friendly to random drop-in visitors. Some charming children dirt-biking around the yard paused to give us a tour, and then we met one of the farmers who took over and told us all about the livestock that live there.

We got to see the baby lambs we were hoping for.


There were also 7 extremely cute goat kids. This mama was nursing two-at-a-time, as were two other goat mothers. We were charmed.

We have a farm video at home that includes a manure spreader scene, so we spent some time checking this one out.



A corner of homespun yarn in the farm store. So adorably rustic! We bought a half gallon of raw cow milk to chip in--it is delicious! Please check out Wild Carrot Farm (hay rides too).

I rearranged my Easter brunch menu to make time for a long run on Sunday morning instead of prep work. Basically I replaced my usual baked mini crabcakes with some delicious cold smoked trout and crackers. This switch helped me pull off a fairly satisying 12-miler.

All before 8am! That 8:12 pace is just my attempt at a final kick, NOT my usual long run pace...

I got home around 8, popped the rising sourdough in the oven, and assembled the Easter table. (I figured out that my usual sourdough recipe can be refrigerated after the last knead. My lovely mother-in-law affirmed this, calling it a "cold rise." I set the alarm for 4am to take it out of the fridge so it could finish rising, then at 5:45 I formed it into two baguettes before my run. It really worked.)

Here's what I planned for Easter brunch. The relative simplicity of this menu worked well.
  • fresh-baked sourdough bread
  • salted butter, left out for at least a day to soften for spreading
  • ham, glazed the night before with Fire in the Mountains "Sweet Pepper Jelly" made by Catamount Specialties of Vermont (thanks Mom for ham glazing tips!)
  • Mustard, an extremely tangy French dijon that was a Christmas gift and is almost gone
  • Smoked Trout, Ducktrap brand from Maine
  • Crackers
  • Coffee
  • Sour Cream Coffee Cake (mentioned in this Easter 2009 post)
  • Orange juice, lots
  • Prosecco
  • A billion hard-boiled eggs

I assembled a little plan-o-gram on Friday evening to help me remember everything.




Here's the actual table... Pretty similar!?



I tacked a bunny mobile above the table...

 


Happy Easter to you, or whatever spring-welcoming rite you choose to practice!

It just seems like a happy, hopeful time of year.