I have one of those friends. You know. The friend with whom you make the pact of ‘should we not be married by 30, we will move to Vermont together and make and sell applesauce at the end of the driveway and be awesome spinster aunties.’ Ok, so this may be a mix of too many viewings of Baby Boom and a mutual love/fascination/obsession with Practical Magic (btw I am totally Aunt Franny) but it actually happened. Sadly we lost touch for a few years after my 4000 mile move to Alaska, and we both did end up tying the knot (both just squeaking through that 30 year cut off), but we’re back together – in a totally platonic life partner bff kinda way – and the texts are flying fast and furious. With a 4 hour time difference, a shop busy with customers all day, and 2 kiddos under the age of 3 on our collective plates, texting is the easiest. (And no one can overhear you bitch and whine from the next room).
We often send each other photos of what we are canning, processing, cooking or eating as we fancy ourselves to be super cool urban homestead hipster chicks (without any of the negative connotations of course). And one night after a glass or two of my favorite red vintage from a box, I decided that we were going to photograph our dinners each night to send along to the other. It has been a lot of fun, and I think both of us are not only upping our game (I informed the husband last week that we needed all new dinnerware because what we have just isn’t going to cut it for my plating aspirations and photographing anymore. You know, those black square plates I insisted on getting when we moved in together.) but getting some great ideas. It can be really hard to break out of that same 10 dinner rotation – There is absolutely nothing to cook! No recipes in the world!! – much like looking at your literally bursting closet and screaming you have nothing to wear.
I’m having fun with this little project. Not just because it’s an excuse to send more texts to my comrade Auntie Jet…well, maybe that’s the biggest part of it. And hey, if some publisher wants in on this, I bet we could get on board with that, too.
It’s true. We are total foodie travelers and often plan parts of our trips around meals (because why not?!) and the food in Okinawa definitely did not disappoint. Not a single bad meal (or even convenience store snack) was had during our 9-10 day stay.
The sushi was of course amazeballs and super fresh. I stepped out of my comfort zone to try a quail egg and yam puree roll, which was pretty tasty, though I’m not sure I would go for it again (a texture thing…). We checked out a sushi-go-round where when you ordered off the menu a little race-car ran down the belt holding your order. Conclusion: so cool. We also did a pretty good job destroying a ton of plates.
The ramen was also something straight out of the self help section. And by that I mean it was pretty life affirming and life changing. None of this ‘just add hot water’ stuff…this is the real deal. We sampled more than a few bowls at different restaurants and I’m still hard pressed to choose my favorite. The broth is always thick and full of over the top meaty flavor (& you can add miso! Heavenly!!) and additions like bean sprouts, hard boiled eggs and even more green onions are totally encouraged. I kinda want some more. Right now.
We checked out a few local markets where you could get everything from the oink of the pig, to seaweed, to still moving shellfish. One of these markets on Kokusai Street in Naha was straight out of an Anthony Bourdain episode (…which is from real life, I know. I just want to BE him.) where you could take your freshly purchased, still moving food upstairs to one of the many little family run restaurants and have your fresh catch immediately turned into dinner or a snack.
I also ventured to try this funky ice cream in a balloon (someone needed to do it). Banana was the flavor of the day and despite some obviously dirty references (which totally made us laugh) it was pretty yummy. I felt a bit like a jerk walking through the market with this balloon thing hanging out of my mouth, but you only live once, right? (hashtag yolo!)
Japanese curry was also a winner despite my pretty severe dislike of anything curry related (I don’t like coconut and curry powder is icky). It’s a totally different taste and not what I expected at all. And don’t get me started on the gyoza! Even the worst of the batches we inhaled were better than what we can get around here. So yeah. Now I’m super hungry……pass the ramen please! And some gyoza. Don’t forget the gyoza…!
Every few years I take some time to carve a fun pumpkin. 2 years ago it was the pope, and in years past Bill Cosby as well as Hillary Clinton have been featured. It’s a bit of work, and a lot of fun, and of course my parents are super impressed with all the money they spent on “art school” for me to carve pumpkins. I won a $20 gift card to a Thai restaurant in a contest once (totally helps with those student loans!)
I was torn between RuPaul, the Last Supper and Napoleon…but we obviously know who won.
These kinds of pumpkins always look pretty terrible when not lit in the almost complete dark (as you can see), but the seeds are amazing when roasted no matter what’s happening with daylight savings time.
- Rinse and separate seeds from guts
- Spread on a lightly oiled baking sheet, sprinkle with salt & pepper, drizzle a bit more oil
- Bake @ 350* for 30-45 minutes, pushing them around every 10 minutes or so to toast equally
- Stuff face
We had friends in town from Japan (!!) and despite all of us having already eaten dinner when we finally got a chance to kick back and chat, I felt I needed to make something to nibble on. Lately I’ve been a little homesick for that amazing New England foliage, which of course means an intense craving for all things pumpkin and cider related, so pumpkin donuts and hard cider won. I poked through Pinterest and the interwebs in general, and came across this recipe which I used as a base.
- Place 2TB butter and 1/3 cup milk into a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds until warmed through and butter starts to melt. Whisk for about 45 seconds.
- Sprinkle 1 TB yeast over the warm milk. Sprinkle 2 TB sugar over the yeast. Make sure they both sink – proof until foamy.
- Add 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 TB pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp salt, & 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the yeasty liquid, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, and 1 egg into the dry ingredients and mix with the bread hook attachment.
- Rise until doubled on a heating pad, about 1 hour.
- Once risen, punch down the dough and roll out to about 1 inch on a well floured surface.
- Use 2 random pieces of glassware (or a donut cutter if you’re cool) to cut out donuts. *Cover loosely with a cloth and let rise while heating the oil for frying. (* I was so excited I cut this step short – it’s rather important)
- Fry 1-2 minutes per side in hot oil and set on a paper towel to collect excess grease.
- We dusted them with powdered sugar and happily shoved them in our faces. So. Good.
We only had a few leftover from a batch of about a dozen donuts (as well as the holes) and found they were just as good zapped in the microwave with some cinnamon sugar and vanilla ice cream. Sometimes life is hard indeed.
You can of course bake these guys instead of frying them (for the health conscious out there) but I am not in possession of a donut pan, and honestly feel if you’re going to make a donut, do it the right way. But it’s totally up to you.
It started as a comment on my facebook page about craving a specific food from worldly travels, and ended in a google search and discovery of a foodie penpal swap. I chose to participate despite being out of the country the day boxes were to be mailed (whoops). But I think I made up for it with a box full of yummy things from Iceland and in turn got a box of my own from Cookie in Maryland. It had a ganache cookie mix as well as a lemon poppyseed scone mix and an edamame/goji berry package. Yum! I’m a coffee addict so the coffee flavored candy hits the spot, and peanut butter granola bars? Yes, please. The sour cherry drops are also spot on as I love the sweet & sour combination (I have been known to remove all taste buds from eating too many Sour Patch Kids in one sitting).
I signed up to give it a go again next month! You should do an exchange too! It’s cheap and easy, and you get cool stuff. So, go. Do it.
As the season has gone on and already seems to be coming to an end, we have learned even more lessons. Namely:
Lesson 9: An article I read told me to trim some of my tomato branches, starting with the little guy that sprouts in the ‘crotch’ of 2 branches. This is totally incorrect as the little crotch sprout (it’s funny to say, right?) is where the future blossoms and thus, tomatoes, will come from. One does need to trim excess greenage from the plants though as they take away growing power and water from the little growing fruits, so look for the giant leafy branches without a connection to fruit or flowers.
Lesson 10: If you see that a particular branch is heavily laden with fruit (in our case one of the Topsy Turveys with the most direct sun), keep an eye on how that fruit is dangling. One of our branches snapped with 8 or 9 large tomatoes hanging from it, as it was just too heavy to be supported. Had I been paying closer attention (or known?) I could have secured the branch and allowed the tomatoes to naturally ripen on the vine. Between that accident and a drunken intruder’s murder of a full plant off the side rail, we had quite a few little green guys evicted from their bushes too soon, but they are starting to ripen as they sit next to other ripe fruits.
Lesson 11: It’s funny – the tomato cans we used as planters have weathered elements very well, while the coffee cans used have gotten rusty on the outside and pretty ugly. I’ll be ditching most of the coffee cans after this season and continuing to save the whole tomato cans that we use for tomato soup.
Lesson 12: While the summer squash have gone totally crazy in the larger containers, they did not do nearly as well in the cans as hoped. The lack of root space inhibited fruit growth to the point where we only got 2 or 3 squash total from the cans as opposed 2-3 per week in the larger bins. Next year, no squash in cans.
Regardless it’s been a lot of fun and we’re really excited to work out more of the kinks next year to have a totally kick ass garden. Hooray!
A friend took me to the most amazing full-yard garden this past weekend, where I not only drooled over their fabulous vegetables and chickens, but picked more raspberries than I know what to do with. I came home with 2 full gallon containers, and I lost count how many went directly into my mouth.
Today I pulled out my ‘proper English tea’ cookbook and decided to give some scones a go, all proper like.
- Sift and mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt in a mixing bowl
- Cut in 3-4 TB butter and slowly add 2/3 cup buttermilk and mix
- You should have a nice heavy dough at this point. Add a handful or 2 of raspberries to the mix and gently mix into dough – no, it won’t be pretty
- Roll out on a floured counter top. 1/2 thick is best, cut into triangles, and arrange on a baking sheet, close together, but not touching
- Bake at 425F for 12-15 minutes
If you have some clotted creme sitting around, you are more than welcome to throw that pinky up and dive in. I had ice cream, and more berries, and man oh man are these little guys good.