Mabel, It’s That Crazy Woman Again…

I am in severe photography withdrawal.  Alas, my second attempt at Project360 has gone bust; I simply do not have the time to think about taking a photograph every single day – I’m lucky I can find time to blog.  Stoopid life, always getting in the way of my fun.

Part of it is that this time of the year is just so dreary.  It’s warming up, yes, and all the snow is melted but nothing is green yet.   No leaves on the trees, no flowers blooming, lots of gray skies and rain.  All things I welcome, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not exactly inspiring me to grab the camera and start snapping away.

Yesterday, though, I couldn’t stand it any longer – no more pictures of food!  No more having these men I live with say, “Get that thing away from me!  No pictures!  NO PICTURES!”  No more of the dog running upstairs to hide under the guest bed when he sees me approaching with the camera.  When we walked in the door after work and Beloved said, “One of the crocus out front has a bloom on it!” it was all over but the crying.

Only slightly mindful of the light rain that was falling, I screwed on the macro lens, tucked the trusty Nikon under my blouse and headed out the front door and across the lawn to the flower bed where we’d planted the crocus blooms last autumn.  Sure enough, one lone plant had an exposed, yet unfurled, purple bloom on it.

It was a thing of beauty.

I bent over toward the almost crocus, as well as any fat Rubenesque woman of 47 can bend over, and snapped a shot.

Not close enough.

Oh, what the hell.  I lumbered dropped to my knees, planted my elbows precariously firmly on the edge of the flower bed, focused my shot and took another picture.  And another.  And another.

Pulling myself to my feet (it took longer than I’m willing to admit to), I began brushing the dead grass and mud from the knees of my jeans and the elbows of my blouse when I glanced at the street.  There, a small red car that was rolling by at about a ½-mile-per-hour suddenly sped up and the grumpy retired neighbor across the street who has already begun mowing his lawn suddenly became extremely interested in the water flowing into the gutter.

Perhaps I should rent out advertising space.

Oh, well.  Undeterred, I went about the house, took a few more pictures, and got my fix for the day.

Fortunately, I’ll have ample opportunity to take many more pictures over the next few days; this evening Beloved and I take The Young One to Cleveland International Airport so he can spend Spring Break with the paterfamilias.  Once he is on his way, Beloved and I will drive to Cincinnati, where we will spend all day Saturday with Jolly and The G Man (yes, you will be inundated with baby pictures this time next week).  Early Sunday afternoon, we check into a small, intimate cabin in Hocking Hills State Park for four days of well-earned R&R, returning Wednesday evening.

I will do my best to post while we’re gone; I won’t have internet access, but Beloved will and we never go anywhere without our laptops.  If I can’t, due to time or inclination, I will be back and it will be business as usual at the Sushi Bar next Thursday.

Have a lovely weekend, y’all.

Purée de Chou-fleur

Oh, look – I’ve gone all French on you.  Not to worry; this translates into “Cauliflower Purée.”  (I seem to be all about the cruciferous veggies this week, which is fine because I love broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage and brussels sprouts.)  Nor is it a true purée de chou-fleur; the authentic French recipe contains potatoes, and mine doesn’t.

After some very nice, sunny and reasonably warm weather, we’ve gone into a brief cold, wet spell and will have freezing temperatures overnight this weekend. (I just hope it doesn’t harm my crocus’ or the pussy willow tree, all of which are about to bloom like nobody’s business.)  At any rate, the cooler temperatures called for warmer, heartier fare, and the head of cauliflower sitting in my fridge demanded I use it before it became fuzzy and green.

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable and as anyone who has ever been on a diet will tell you, it does a dandy job of standing in for potatoes.  Recipes for pureed and mashed cauliflower are fairly ubiquitous – you can make it low fat, low carb, both, or neither.  Diet or no diet, I like to make this dish occasionally simply because it is something different from the usual potatoes, rice or noodles.

And you’re eating a vegetable instead of something starchy or refined, so you’ll be able to feel smug about your dinner, too.

This recipe calls for onions, garlic, butter and two different kinds of cheese, but you can leave any (or all) of these ingredients out and still have a perfectly lovely dish if you use an educated hand with some seasonings.  I also used unsalted clarified butter to sweat the onions and garlic, but you can use regular butter, either salted or unsalted, if you prefer.

Note: You can steam the cauliflower and preserve all of the nutrients, but boiling it will remove some of the strong “cauliflower” taste, which some people find objectionable.

Creamy Cauliflower Puree

serves 6

1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets

½ yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons clarified butter

3 ounces cream cheese, cubed

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350º F and butter an 8″ x 8″ baking dish (a deep-dish pie plate will work as well).

Place the cauliflower florets in a large sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 12 minutes.

While the cauliflower is cooking,  melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat; add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and translucent but not brown, about 7 – 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute or two.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Drain the cauliflower well and place it in a food processor or blender with the cream cheese; process to a smooth purée.  Add the onion/garlic mixture and pulse a few times to blend it in with the cauliflower – don’t over-mix.  Taste; season with salt and pepper.

Pour the cauliflower mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle with the shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown slightly.

Serve immediately.  This is very good as a side dish or as a base for braised meats, such as Boneless City Chicken or Guinness Braised Beef.

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Me?

The subject of this week’s Spin Cycle is all about “me.”

I’m rather nonplussed.  This is my blog – it’s already all about me.

Personal blogs are, well, personal.  Everything I write is about me in some way or another – what’s going on in my life, what I’m cooking, what I think or what I feel.  How much more could I make it about me?

If the truth be told, I don’t feel very comfortable getting extremely personal here.  Recently one of my favorite bloggers, Jane of Gaston Studios, was reviewed by Ask and Ye Shall Receive.  I’ve been aware of the site for some time, and I’m not exactly crazy with how they “review” blogs.  Then again, what do you expect from a site that may be named Ask and Ye Shall Receive, but whose URL is actually iwillfuckingtearyouapart.blogspot.com.  Every review is completely subjective – whether the blog in question gets a good review or bad is dependent totally on the taste of the reviewer – and they are often unnecessarily cruel.  Which, I suppose, is neither here nor there, but it seems that one of the pet peeves of every reviewer on the site is that bloggers don’t get personal enough.  As one reviewer put it, “I want juicy details.”

Well, part of the problem with that is while you’re giving the “juicy details” about yourself, you’re usually giving the “juicy details” about someone else who might not be so thrilled with having said details splashed all over the internet.  I always keep in mind that what I write about may be affecting someone else; if that makes for a bland, plebeian reading experience I’m so sorry – the feelings and opinions of my loved ones are far more important to me than your desire for the juicy details.  My blog is apparently interesting enough to have a fairly devoted, if small, readership – what more could I ask for?

I could write some very personal, heart-wrenching stuff – that’s not hubris, it’s simply fact.  I shy away from doing so, though, because I spent a lot of time over the years coming to terms with that very personal stuff.  I don’t necessarily want to relive it.  The things that happened to me as a child and as a young woman are in the past, as are the many mistakes I’ve made.  I once wrote “Dragging around a shitload of guilt about those past things I can’t change isn’t going to do anything but take time and energy away from the person I am now.”  The same can be said for dragging out those personal experiences with all their “juicy details.”  The past is past – I’ve wasted enough time dwelling on it, so in the past it stays.

Well.  This post went about a million miles away from where I intended it to go.  But that’s okay, because it’s still all about me:  Jan.  Wife.  Mother.  Grandmother.  Avid Cook. Amateur Photographer.  Blogger.

And, as Darling Daughter pointed out when she suggested I make this post about the subject, Short Person.

Men are from Meh; Women are from WTF!?!?!?!

The text of two instant message conversations, about the same subject – the first with Oldest Son, the second with Darling Daughter.  Both express surprise, excitement and some measure of disgust.

Both are a great example of the differences between men and women.

Me: Did you know that [Name Redacted] has a little girl now?

Oldest Son: No, I didn’t.

Me:  Know what they named her?

Me: Bella.

Oldest Son: …

Oldest Son: I don’t know how to respond to that. Please tell me it was more thought out than “lololol my wife lurvs teh Twilight.”

~~~~~~

Me: Hey – did you know [Name Redacted] has a baby girl now?

Darling Daughter: He does?!!?

Darling Daughter: Oh, thats exciting!

Me: yup, born sometime last year.  And you will never guess what they named her.

Darling Daughter: What?

Me: You’re gonna hurl…

Darling Daughter: Bella!?!

Me: YES

Darling Daughter: *EXORCIST VOMIT EVERYWHERE*

Darling Daughter: WTFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

Darling Daughter: In the next couple of years there are going to be 2 billion baby Bellas

Darling Daughter: That’s so disturbing!

Me: ROFL – yes it is

Darling Daughter: I’m gonna name my baby “Illiterate”

Darling Daughter: We’ll call her “Illi!”

At which point I became incapable of speech, I was laughing so hard.

~~~~~~

I raised both of these people.  Sort of makes you think about the whole “nature” versus “nurture” thing, doesn’t it?

Broccoli Salad

You know, I don’t remember looking forward to Spring and warm weather this much when I lived in Texas.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but the winters just aren’t severe enough there to make a person really appreciate the end of the cold.  Spring is also fleeting in Texas – the Bradford pears have likely already bloomed, as well as the daffodils, and the tulip’s brief bloom will be coming to an end soon as well.

Here in northeast Ohio, though, if winter isn’t the longest season it surely seems like it.  So Spring?  I love it.  Spring here is long, with gradually warming days, cool nights and gentle showers.  The crocus will bloom first, followed by the daffodils, then the tulips and they will hang around considerably longer than they do in hot, dry Texas.

There was a time when I would have laughed in your face if you’d told me I’d think 62 degrees is warm.  But over the weekend, we had blue skies filled with fluffy, white clouds, plenty of sunshine and each day the high reached around 62 degrees.  And we ate it up.  I, sadly, spent much of Saturday in the office (we are taking a few days off work next week), but when I got home, Beloved and The Young One were working in the yard and I joined them quite enthusiastically.

Beloved also brought the grill/smoker out of the garage where we stored it late last fall and we bought an entire brisket at the grocery store.  Brisket is a rare find up here – usually you can only find it once it’s been turned into corned beef – so even though it wasn’t exactly cheap, we bought the entire 4.5 pounds and smoked it Sunday.

Another sign of Spring at the Sushi Bar is that I get salad fever.  I didn’t feel like it was quite summery enough for my sweet potato salad or pasta salad, but I wanted a nice, hearty salad to go with our lovely brisket and the gallon of iced tea we’d made.  This salad went wonderfully with it and Beloved, who is normally lukewarm about broccoli, gobbled it up.

It’s one of my favorites, too.

Note:  I don’t measure the ingredients for this recipe – I just sort of throw it all together – so the measurements are approximate.  You may want to tweak it to suit your own taste.

Broccoli Salad

6 – 8 servings

1 pound broccoli, cut into bite-size florets

2 teaspoons salt

8 oz. bacon, chopped (I used a thick-sliced, peppered bacon)

½ small red onion, chopped

1 to 1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mayonnaise

1 scant tablespoon white vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar or Splenda

salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, fry the chopped bacon until brown and crisp; remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.  Set aside.

In a large stockpot, bring a couple of quarts of water to a boil.  Add the 2 teaspoons of salt, then the broccoli, and blanch for 2 minutes.  Drain in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process.  Suspend the colander over a large mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  This will chill the broccoli for the salad and drain all the water, preventing the salad from becoming “soggy.”

After the broccoli has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and pour out any water that has accumulated in the bowl, then wipe it dry.  Add the broccoli, cheese, onion and bacon to the bowl and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar, blending well.  Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If not serving immediately, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator.

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