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I Miss Wine

The other night, Ben made a fantastic spicy beef soup for dinner. Since it was our first real home-cooked dinner after nearly two weeks out of town with a week of electricity disruptions in between, it felt pretty special, so he asked me to pick out a bottle of wine to go with it (which also inspired me to actually clean off the dining room table, change the table cloth, and properly set the table for dinner). I picked out a Côtes-du-Rhône (one of my under $15 favorites, actually: a 2010 Dom Mousset Côtes-du-Rhône, for those who are interested in such details), and we opened it up.

I had myself a half glass (there are tons of studies on alcohol during pregnancy which show small quantities do absolutely NO harm to the developing fetus, and no I’m not getting drunk, so please keep your opinions on that subject to yourself). There are just no words for how transcendent it feels when I successfully pair a wine to a meal. When one sip of the wine and one bite of the food not only complement but enhance each other, each made better by the pairing.

When I’m back to being able to have a daily glass of wine if I want and it no longer feels silly to open a bottle just for a glass and a half, we’re going to explore finding our House Wines. I would love to pick a Norton for the red, but that depends on finding a good one that’s not to expensive to keep on hand. Failing that, we might look for a cotes-du-rhone or similar blend. For the white, probably a torrontes — versatile and inexpensive. I just need to find one that we can stock easily. That doesn’t mean we’ll suddenly only drink two types of wine. It just means we’ll have a go-to that’s always on hand.

Oh wine. I miss you.

IT’S PEACH SEASON

Beautiful peaches. Lovely peaches.

I would also show you a photo of the raspberries and cherries, but we already ate them.

My first peach of the season was on the drive home from Asheville. It was purchased at a farm stand in North Caroline, trucked up from South Carolina. It was quite tasty, although not as hugely remarkable as I remember.

Today, I picked up half a dozen from a stand at the market by the library. I had a lovely chat with the gentleman behind the table, and he selected a peach that would be ready for eating this afternoon.

There are no words.

The juice dripped just everywhere. The flesh of the peach? It just melted in my mouth. I just… no words. I will eat at least one peach every day until there are no more summer peaches. Because as we have discovered, those vaguely orange-red spheroids in the grocery store are not peaches.

In fact, grocery store produce in general seems to leave me dissatisfied. I’ve always thought I disliked cherries. Today, I picked up a small carton at the market from last week’s harvest (there are no more cherries this season, it seems) for Ben because he adores cherries, and I tasted one. And I actually liked it. So yeah, grocery store produce? You are for tropical fruits that do not grow here. And middle of winter vegetables when we just need something green. But not for summer produce. Oh no.

Nimitz Helped Me Write This Post

Well, perhaps “helped” is too strong of a word. She certainly participated, though.

Ben and I went up to New York for the weekend to visit with some of my family for a cousin’s bar mitzvah (and I managed to fail at taking a single picture the entire weekend). We rented an SUV, and I drove up on Friday with my mom and grandparents. Ben still had rehearsal, so he met us up there by train. The bar mitzvah itself was great: Adam did wonderfully, no surprise there, and Pearl and Owen had put together a wonderful party surrounding it. Ben got his first visit to a very Conservative synagogue; his previous experience with me was with our extremely liberal Reconstructionist synagogue.

We had one really fascinating outcome from being away this weekend. All the people we usually ask to feed the cats were out of town as well this weekend (seriously, everyone. It was crazy!). Ben put out lots of water and dry food and we sort of hoped for the best. Well, it seems Nimitz was convinced she’d been abandoned completely, and Lilit got so tired of growling at Nimitz she’s nearly given up. Nimitz now wakes me up 3-4 times a night so she can curl up on my chest and purr at me. During the day, she can go about two hours, and then she needs to find me and sit in my lap and purr for a while. If I’m at the computer, that can quickly evolve into sitting on the mouse with a paw on the keyboard (thus the row of 4s that began as this post’s title). Lilit is, as in most things, much more reasonable about her reaction. She has settled back in, although she now only growls at Nimitz when it’s clear the kitten is intending to jump on her. I really don’t blame her for that one.

We had food debacles again this weekend. The bar mitzvah itself was kosher non-dairy, which was wonderful since it meant I got a piece of chocolate lava cake for dessert (which, seriously? Damn. I must find a recipe. And Kayla, if you’re reading this, I will totally share when I find it.). The hotel restaurant, on the other hand, was amazingly bad in how it dealt with me. My favorite was the breakfast where I told the chef I would like an omelet with ham and onion, no cheese, no butter, no milk, I have a dairy allergy. He put cheese in it, and when I complained to the manager (because seriously, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen), the manager informed me it was a “miscommunication”, like it was my fault for not being clear enough. And they then charged us the full buffet rate for my stale bagel and cup of coffee that tasted like sawdust. Ben and I went to Dunkin Donuts the next day. (The hotel also had a bunch of other screw-ups in regards to our rooms and the billing, so much so that when it was time to check out, I took my bill and Mom’s, both of which were very wrong, and complained enough we both got the AARP discount that they had denied Mom and Ben and I were never eligible for. Did I mention the part where they tried checking Mom out a day early?)

We’ve done a lot of travel lately. I’m pretty excited to be staying home for a while. I love seeing new places, but the last month has been pretty rough on my stomach. Ben’s got summer camp every day this week and next and we’ve got rehearsals in the evenings, so it’s up to me big time to get our food consumption back on track. I’ve got a big to do list over the next two weeks, and I’m really hoping to knock out as much of it as I can. I have some pretty lofty goals, like getting the back yard into serious shape before the fall, and getting my wardrobe under control. Once the weather cools off and the office is no longer 150° at mid-day, I’ll tackle that, too. Watch out! If I’m not careful, this place will turn into an actual house while nobody’s looking!

Words are hard, okay?

My first completed knitting project. Seriously, don't pick cables as a way to start.

I’ve got a couple ideas percolating, including one that would start off as a crafty blog and potential morph into a how to book (if I can get the follow-through to actually do it). Ben pointed out that I have a rather unusual way of tackling new craft disciplines, in that I pick an entirely too complicated project, stress myself silly finishing it, and then come out of it with a decent understanding of the medium. My first crochet project? A twin-sized afghan made with three strands held together. My first knitting project? I picked a pattern for arm warmers that involved cables, double pointed needles, waste yarn, and adding a thumb back in later. Those of you who knit understand what that all means. I didn’t until I finished the first pair. And then I decided I didn’t like the pattern the way it was and adapted it for attempt #2. Because I’m crazy like that.

I plan to learn how to sew next, and I will probably attack it in much the same way. I’ve picked a bunch of patterns I like. I’ll probably pick the hardest one to start with, because that’s how I roll, you see.

So I think it would be interesting to blog my crafting journeys. It seems the hardest part of that is picking a new name for the new blog. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m not sure if I like any of them enough to commit yet. In the process of brainstorming, Ben found one he liked for himself, but as he never updates here, adding another blog for him to ignore is probably not a good idea.

I was going to write about last night’s dinner – we got andouille in the last pork package from the farmer, and of course we had to make jambalaya. It turned out really well, and we will probably do it again. But I have no photos for you because we ate it all. Blogging is hard, and remembering to take photos of everythingnis even harder. Sorry about that.

Simple Bean Soup Recipe

A while ago, my cousins and I decided to all start blogging and sharing recipes. Meg shared this fantastic recipe for Bean Soup that we come back to all the time. It’s a great, no-hassle recipe that I point to whenever people say “cooking is hard and I have no time”. I ask them, do you have a can opener and a pot? Great, you can totally do this and it tastes amazing. Ben and I usually skip the “soup” aspect and just pour it over rice, but you could also serve with cornbread on the side. We’re in the process of finding our favorite cornbread recipes (more on that at a later date), so no recipe help there from us yet.

Meg’s blog got eaten somehow, so I haven’t had an easy way to point to the recipe when people ask. But Google Reader had it archived for me, so here it is: below is Meg’s post copied in its entirety.

Simple Three Bean Soup

from Sweet NutMeg by Meg

Today is a rarity in the Arizona desert. It has rained nonstop all day.

Tempe enjoys an average of 330 days of sun per year and receives an annual rainfall of only 9.36 inches total. So when this type of weather creeps in, I reach for a blanket and a book. I don’t want to spend a great deal of time focused on the act of cooking as that would impose upon my time sitting around. Tonight, I decided to go with a simple, healthy, yet extremely tasty three bean soup. I always have cans of beans hanging around the pantry. You’d think I was stocking up for the third world war or something… Three cans of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of corn and some simple spices. You can let it simmer all day or have it ready in a half an hour.

The choice in spices can turn this from a hearty cold night’s dinner to a lite summer’s lunch.

  • 1 can Black Beans, drained
  • 1 can Kidney Beans, drained
  • 1 can Pinto Beans, drained
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 can Corn, drained
  • 1 Tbsp Dehydrated Onion
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Use 1 cup salty tortilla chips slightly crushed, shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream for topping

Add the three cans of drained beans, the can of tomatoes with juices and spices to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add water or chicken stock until your preferred consistency is reached. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for at least thirty minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese or a dollop of sour cream. Serve hot with crusty bread.

In the summer, serve with tortilla chips and lime wedges!

Happy Birthday, Lilit!

Note the paws gripping the knee for dear life. If she holds on tight enough, the hat might go away...

Ben indulged my whims today in a major way, which is one of many reasons why he is so wonderful. See, Lilit turned 14 today (I think — I know it’s some time in April, and a few years back, I picked an arbitrary day because, well, she won’t know the difference).

I asked Ben if we could make her a birthday cake, which we did. He got out some of the ground pork to defrost while I was at work, and when I got home, we mixed it with some matzo meal (good breadcrumb replacement), put it in a mini cake pan, and baked it. It came out looking sort of like a hamburger, only with a lovely caramelized top. And Ben asked for party hats, so I made party hats for the three of us. Lilit was less than pleased with her party hat, but the cake pretty much made up for it. She liked that part.

Food Challenge #1

Pad See Ew in pan

Earlier this month, I posed a question to my cousins:

So I’ve been perusing food blogs of late, and one of the themes I keep
seeing is these “food challenge” type games. In them, someone picks a
challenge recipe or challenge theme, and everyone tries out the new
recipe or comes up with something to go with the theme. This seems
pretty exciting, but the problem I always have with them is the
impersonal nature of it. I was wondering if you’d be interested in
setting up one of these sorts of food networks among people we know
(including friends of yours as well; the more, the merrier!).

Tenatively, it struck me that it might be fun to do a rotating thing
where once a month, we were each responsible for picking the theme, and
then at the end of the month, had to share with each other what we chose
to make. I think a month gives us plenty of time to find a single
evening to make something, and we all have blogs available to use for
posting pictures & thoughts on the recipes.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in doing? January’s
almost done, but I bet we could squeeze out a simple theme if we wanted!

They agreed, and I picked the theme this month: “that thing in the back of the pantry you’ve been meaning to make for way too long.”

With the move, our kitchen wasn’t really usable until about a week and a half ago, so I missed my own deadline and we made our challenge meal on Feb 1st. Oops. But we did make it, and here’s how it went.

As we unpacked the pantry, I found a big pack of rice noodle flakes that I’d been meaning to experiment with. Pad See Ew is one of my favorite things to order at a Thai restaurant. It might even be one of my favorite things to eat, period. I found a recipe online for Pad See Ew for Beginners, and Ben and I scrounged the cabinets for the ingredients.

We were missing the sweet soy sauce, so we did as the recipe suggested and thickened soy sauce on the stove with sugar. And we were missing fish sauce, so we skipped that. We also had no broccoli. So really, we just made sweet-soy noodles, which was educational enough in itself to be worthwhile.

I started off with my great non-stick pan (the really big greenpan, which is nonstick that’s safe for high heat). Mom just got us a new set since the old ones were starting to get a bit gunky, so it’s super non-stick right now. Heated it up as high as I could with a little bit of oil, and dropped the pre-soaked noodles in. They made the stickiest awful mess I have ever seen. We ended up with extra-chewy noodles that were partially cooked inside and burnt on the outside. I was depressed, but not discouraged.
Tonight, we tried again, this time a little bit wiser from experience. I put the noodles in a few at a time and then added the soy sauce. Only I added way more than I meant to, and suddenly they weren’t sticking. It seems the problem before was a lack of moisture, so by adding a lot of sauce, it fixed the problem. I tossed the rest of the noodles in with tons of sauce, and by the time we were done, I had a big pile of tasty rice noodles. I tossed some chicken in as well, and we had ourselves a decent dinner.

Will I make this again? You betcha. What I will do differently: more liquid. Instead of just sauce, I’ll make a sauce/water mixture to get even more liquid into the act. I’ll get fish sauce for the added depth of flavor. And I’m going to look for the sweet soy sauce it’s supposed to have.