A few days of hot weather and it feels like summer is in full swing here. It is.
I have a serious love/hate relationship with summer. Love the summer nights, garden produce, festivals, activities, mountain tops, and evening light (yes, a lot to love!). Hate the heat, the non-stop yardwork, traffic, and BUGS. It's a lesson for me in focusing on the positive because as the heat increases, my level of patience and typical up-beat attitude recede in direct correlation.
So, here I am focusing on the good. Summer produce. Summer herbs. Quick and light suppers. New flavors. Sunny skies!
One of these days, I'll make my own batch of Kimchi. Until then, Trader Joes is now carrying an almost tolerable rendition. I am sure homemade is so much better!
I usually have leftover cooked Jasmine rice somewhere in my refrigerator because if I make rice, I make extra. This time I did not have any extra and had to cook up a batch and cool it very quickly. I spread the freshly cooked rice out on a sheet pan and put it in my freezer for about an hour. I took it out 15 minutes before using it and stirred it.
Kimchi fried rice is all over the internet and fried rice in general doesn't really require a recipe. It's more of a technique. It's also a perfect last-minute dinner! If you have cold rice in your frig, veggies, eggs, and a protein, dinner is ready in minutes. In fact, I feel silly providing a recipe because it's so adaptable to what you have on hand---- but nonetheless, this is the technique I use for fried rice.
Kimchi Fried Rice
4- 5 C. cold, cooked Jasmine Rice
1 pckg firm tofu, drained & cubed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C. frozen peas, rinsed
2 C. broccoli florets
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 C. thinly sliced green onions
2 T. tamari
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 T. oil for frying (I use coconut)
Siracha Mayonnaise to serve, optional
Sprinkle the tamari soy sauce and sesame oil over tofu in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
Preheat a seasoned wok or cast iron skillet. Add 1 T. oil (I use coconut) and toss in the broccoli and carrots. Add 2 T. water, cover and allow to steam just a bit--- less than five minutes. Remove lid and allow moisture to cook off. Remove carrots and broccoli to platter.
Allow wok to return to heat and add tofu. Stir-fry until browned--- approximately 5 minutes. Remove to platter.
Add 1 T. oil to wok, swirl or brush the surface, and add rice and peas, breaking apart rice clumps with fingers. Stir-fry rice, but also allowing it to brown a bit. Make a well in the center and crack eggs into it. Scramble eggs in this well while slowly mixing in rice from the exterior of the circle. Eventually, the eggs will cook and then stir the cooked eggs throughout the rice, adding the minced garlic at this point. Add Kimchi and stir.
Return previously cooked ingredients to wok and incorporate into entire mixture. Add green onions and serve.
Variations: I imagine adding chopped cilantro to this, a little lime juice, and serving with this peanut sauce for more of a Thai variation. I usually add mushrooms to my fried rice but didn't have any. Also, for those in my family that eat tomatoes, I usually add fresh, diced tomatoes to our fried rice just before serving.
It's been a very busy week around here.
And he is growing up too quickly. This post was just yesterday, right? And yet, in many ways, he is still that same kid. Now, I'm very much enjoy his developing intellect--- we have interesting discussions (GMO foods, politics, poetry, philosophy). I'm amazed at his thought processes and he's an excellent debater---- kind, and willing to listen to other opinions.
My daughter is growing up fast, too. Chunks of my time are spent wondering how she will cope when my son goes off to college. In the meantime, she is always ready to help me in the kitchen and it's very welcome (including greasing the cake pan--- above. Ha)!
And after 17 years, birthday celebrations are pretty routine around here: the same friends, the same party, the same German Chocolate Cake. It might seem boring, but after all the changes my kids have gone through these past few years, I believe routines are welcome.
One of our snacks was this version of Pimento Cheese Dip. I make it with this homemade Mayo that I always have in the frig. Made with that mayo, this dip is SOOOO good! Tastes much more complex than the ingredient list would make you think! And if you have the mayo already made up, this dip comes together in minutes. It's excellent.
Pimento Cheese Dip
1/2 C. grated extra- sharp cheddar
heaping 1/3 C. green olives stuffed with pimento, coarsely chopped
1/2 C. this Garlicky Mayo
1/8 tsp. paprika
A couple grinds of black pepper
Into the bowl of a food processor, place all the ingredients. Pulse just a couple times until mixed but still coarse in texture. Refrigerate for an hour to allow flavors to develop. Enjoy!
It's barbecue season!
So far, the temps haven't climbed up into the realm of making me miserable and running for the A/C… Well, that’s if I had A/C! Anyhow, one of the perks of the warm season is making food outdoors that sizzles.
This marinade is my current favorite for flavoring up whatever we’re in the mood for. I’ve used it on chicken, shrimp, and beef. It’s a little akin to one of my favorite sauces, Argentine Chimichurri sauce.
The marinade calls for a variety of herbs--- ones that I usually have growing each summer. It’s a great way to use them!
Herbed Marinade for Barbecue
1 C. packed basil leaves
a few mint leaves
1/4 C. oregano
1 C. cilantro leaves
1 sweet onion
3 T. red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves
1 T. chili powder
1 T. maple syrup or sweetener of your choice
zest of one lemon
2 T. olive oil
1 lb peeled & deveined shrimp, 3 lbs. chicken thighs, salmon filets, steak, etc...
Method: Place all the marinate ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Place whatever you are barbecuing in a bag and pour the marinade over it. Refrigerate for an hour. When ready to barbecue, heat up your grill over high heat. Brush the barbecue grate with a little oil. Place meat on the grate and immediately reduce heat. Baste while cooking. Cooking times will vary depending on what you are barbecuing.
My kids are so patient with me. They put up with my chores, frenzied demands, deadlines, healthy foods, and yes, my worrying. Sure, they make messes, put off mowing, sleep until 12:30 when no one's home, bicker, and maintain a level of mess in their rooms that would make the cast of Hoarders cringe.
But, they bring so much humor and levity to my life. They talk me into forgoing the vacuuming to go out for a swim at the river below their Grandma's house. Something I didn't do at all last summer!
They talk me into bringing home DVDs of funny tv shows from the library and we sit down and LAUGH!
They introduce me to new music that I wouldn't have been aware of otherwise. (And thankfully, we all like! No rap, mercifully).
And even more so, they remind me that life moves forward and they have their own dreams and goals for the future and it fills my heart to see them becoming their own unique individuals--- people that I am proud to have in my life.
I am experiencing a lot of illumination in my life.
Interesting how one conversation and another person's similar experiences and perspective can change everything. It's as if I was looking north all this time--- looking for the path through a disorienting fog--- and really all I needed was someone to grab me by the shoulders and point me south. For, all of a sudden with that shift, the clouds cleared and a shining beam of light not only illuminated my path forward but also the path behind me and all that confusion and creepiness was moved into the light-- in full view for me to examine.
And what I came to accept is that sometimes you cannot understand or make sense of things. Of people and their actions. You never will. Sometimes, you cannot fully comprehend them. Sometimes, they can't, either. And you know what, it's not your job to do so. And that's my lesson--- to let go. For if we don't learn the lessons that our lives present us with, we will make the same mistakes over and over, looking for the truth.
I added the zen proverb to my sidebar: "Let go or be dragged." I finally let go.
Each week, I have sewing plans. I can’t list all of the patterns I want to eventually make (well, there’s the Darling Ranges Dress, the Banksia Top, the Esme Top, Cake Pattern's Tiramisu, Colette Chantilly, and Sewaholic's Cambrie). And then there's also the Washi Dress.Someday, I'll finish them all!
With working full-time and all the other stuff I have going on in my life, I find that sewing projects must be tackled in increments. Small increments. However, I enjoy the rhythm. Plus, it's very fun to go to work in a handmade skirt or dress--- it's like taking a bit of my creative life to work with me.
When I start a new project, I have a routine that I follow. I trace my patterns first and then move onto a muslin or a "practive" piece with cheap fabric. I'm getting better about sticking to this routine. As much as my limited sewing time tempts me to just want to dive into a project, my small fabric budget forces me to be wise. Plus, I hate making curse-worthy projects that just don't fit!
So, with my time constraints, I've become quite adept at satiating any instant gratification urges with patterns I know work for me and are quick to complete.
The Ginger Skirt by Colette Patterns is one such project. Start to finish in less than a couple hours--- probably less. I have a few of these that I wear often.
Another is my own pattern for a gored skirt--- I call it the Bustle Skirt because of the simple technique of grouping the gathering towards the back of the skirt. I might post a pattern here someday... I wear these to work often.
I'm now in my beginning phase of making the Washi Dress: reading through helpful alterations & tips, tracing off the pattern, finding fabric. And I have high hopes of finishing a version of this dress this coming weekend.... Wish me luck!!
Oh, and isn't this a cute charm necklace?! I found it at a local thriftstore...
As much as I enjoy my kids and their sarcastic senses of humor and the energy they bring to my life, I also enjoy my quiet time, too. Weekends to myself are important here and there. Lately, I've been using my down time for knitting and settling my thoughts to process important aspects of my life.
It's time to focus on new things: new horizons for my son, who will be a senior next year and preparing for college; new projects for my daughter, who is quickly finding her own wings; new chapters in my life, too.
P and I split up during the holidays of 2011. We spent the last year and a half not accepting the fact that we split up during the holidays of 2011. Weekends were spent together, family dinners were shared, and we settled into a roller-coaster ride that lasted not only months but over a year.
Lately, my focus has been redirected to my own growth through this process and noticing the things in my life that bring me joy, fulfillment, and grounding. I now have a house of my own (have I shared that here?), a full-time job at a library, and two teenage children. I’m making a go of it, but I'm busy.
But even as busy as I am, I take the time to make from-scratch food, sit down to dinner with my kids, grow a garden, sew a lot of my own clothes, and knit. It must say something about me that those things continue to be a priority in my life (hmmm, maybe that I'm crazy??!).
I always love a new knitting project--- searching for and choosing a new pattern is the best part! Always a pick-me-up. This yarn from Quince & Co. is so scrumptious and I look forward to using it to make this.
Hello old friend, I say this old blanket (or wrap--- I haven’t decided which yet). It’s been in my knitting bag for over two years now. No, I haven’t worked on this project exclusively; instead, it’s more of a constant companion. It’s something I work on in between projects. It’s comforting.
I have its stitches memorized:
Row 1: K4, K1, K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK, K1*, repeat * across, K4
Row 2: K4, P across, K4
Row 3: K4, K2tog, YO, K3, YO, SSK* repeat * across, K4
Row 4: K4, P across, K4
It’s so simple yet it produces such a classic and exquisite design (made famous in Elizabeth Zimmerman's February Lady Sweater and updated by Flint Knits). I think I could make this blanket over and over again... and I might!
Yes, I’ve made some mistakes along the way. I dropped some stitches when I moved into my own house over a year ago and they are reflected in a row of mismatched stitches some five inches below my current spot. I would have corrected them if I had noticed at the time. But I didn’t, as distracted, distressed, and focused on new challenges as I was then.
And frankly, I haven’t been knitting much lately. My knitting bag sat in the corner as I ran back and forth to work and errands and kids’ activities. It seems that it has taken me almost ten months to settle into this new routine of mine--- ten months to notice my forgotten knitting bag and feel the need to pick up my needles again. Meanwhile, I’ve been sewing a lot when I can find snippets of time.
But it seems that for me, it takes a certain level of permission to sit down, forget everything else, pick up my needles, and settle into the relaxation of knitting. I haven’t had the time for that these past ten months, I tell myself. But in reality, I haven’t chosen to take the time. Recently, I did, though. And it was just what my distracted mind needed---- the repetitive motion, the feel of wool, the clicking of the needles, wool's earthy smell, the tangible reward of my progress. My old friend.
Taking the time is welcome, indeed.
** Though this is not the pattern I used, here is a free blanket pattern similar to mine.
Once I find something I like, I revisit it often. Okay... yes, obsess over it might be a more accurate description. Take this Grilled Romaine Salad. I know, you foodies out there are rolling your eyes and calling me out-of-date. For you, the newness of grilled lettuce has lost its 'a-ha' edge. But for late comers like me, I'm still in the obsession phase.
I'm fairly certain I recall having a spectacular grilled romaine salad many years ago at one of the restaurants my chef brother worked. Why I didn't race right home and make my own that very minute, I'm not sure. Instead, I "rediscovered" it last weekend at a lakeside restaurant. I was amazed, AMAZED, at the intensity of flavor! Given that romaine tends to be my favorite of the lettuces (it must be that crispness) made it that much more spectacular. It's also easy, too. Another plus for dinner after work!
So, grilled romaine was on our home dinner menu a couple nights later. And it was just as good. In fact, even better because of the creamy italian dressing (I use my homemade garlicky mayo and mix in an italian seasoning blend). And then, grilled romaine was on the menu the next night. And the next.... In fact, I might or might not admit to eating a whole plate full for dinner another night. All to myself.
So, for those of you who have not experienced the yumminess of grilling yourself up some lettuce, run right out to your grill and try it! I like mine a little on the browned side (more flavor), but feel free to pull yours off the grill a little earlier if you don't like it as browned.
Grilled Romaine Salad
3 heads of Romaine
A little olive oil
1 T. Italian Seasoning mixture, mixed in
Heat your gas grill over medium. This is the time to use one of those grill grates. Preheat that, as well. Slice off the ends of the romaine very thinly so it doesn't not come apart. Slice it in half length-wise. Brush the cut side with a little olive oil. Place the romaine on the grill grate, cut side down. Allow it to brown on that side, checking regularly. You want some browning, but you also want it to remain crisp.
To serve, you can spread a little of the dressing on the plate and lay the romaine on top. For ease, I cut the romaine into chunks, but if you want more of a presentation, you can serve it whole.
Lay the romaine on the dressing or next to it. Additionally, you can sprinkle the romaine with parmesan shavings. Yum!