He ain’t Greecy, he’s my brother

Our new sink pisses me off a little bit. First of all, it’s white, which means that every bit of fat and tomato sauce and grime shows up on the sides and stays there until it’s scrubbed vigorously. Second, it’s not deep enough. I just need a giant farm sink that will never splash me on the titties while I’m doing the dishes. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Finally, it has one of those McWorthless soap dispensers built into the back, only the little pump arm isn’t long enough to reach any dishes. So I have to pump it onto the sponge itself, then scrub the dishes. So stupid. So very, very stupid. But what i love (and I do mean love) is that I have an ENORMOUS window behind my sink, and a big ledge below the window to spread tiny little pots of various fresh herbs. Now I can dedicate my Aerogarden to growing pot full time! Like in Weeds! Kidding. It’ll be growing tons of basil, since basil seems to be one of the plants that really thrives in the Aerogarden, unlike cilantro or thyme, both of which just kick the bucket and die upon being in the same room as the Aerogarden. Also, I still don’t know how to grow pot, nor do I fancy the idea of marijuana pesto on cavatappi.

One of the current windowsill dwellers is a big mint plant. Having a mint plant is one of those things that you don’t feel will be important until you want to make mojitos or Greek food or garnish a fancy dessert. But then, when you go to the store to buy some sprigs of mint, you find out it’s about $5 for a tiny little plastic carton of mint leaves (measured as 1.75 mojitos worth of mint), and you get all kinds of indignant. And mint grows so easily, and takes over so much space, that it really makes a better ground covering spreader than it does a contained herb. It’s doing great in its little pot, though, and has already contributed to some pretty tasty food.

I’ve also got a giant wodge of sage, which is probably going to be made into logs of sage butter and frozen for Thanksgiving festivus this year.

But Greek food. Yes. Chris’s dad is alone this week being a bachelor, so it was determined that the appropriate son and daughter-in-law thing to do would be to take him up some food so he didn’t have to subsist on grilled hot dogs, peanut butter, and beer for the entire week. Chris’s parents aren’t super food-adventurous, so we’ve been slowly breaking them in using such “wildly exotic” ethnic bites as Greek, Mexican, and (horrors) organic. I find that Greek food is a good entry food to trying new things for people. The spices are familiar, but slightly differently combined, and bright and cheerful rather than musky and sexy (looking at you, Indian food). Most food novices will eat a gyro. Then it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to more creative fare.

I think sometimes it puts people off that I try to force them to try new foods, but it really is how I show love. Recently, my friend Bex (who just had a gorgeous baby boy), told me that she could tell I genuinely liked these two other people we’ve been hanging out with. I asked her how she knew, and she said, “because you’ve started talking about trying to feed them things.”

I guess if I try to feed you or exercise you, then you know I care. If I try to do both, well, we’re basically soul mates.

Anyway, I love Chris’s dad, and I want him to have a good time with his palate. But I’m not going to get away with showing up holding a Thai curry or truffled potatoes just yet, so I made a parallel shift over to Greek meatballs and a tabbouleh salad, coupled with pitas and tzatziki for serving.

Tabbouleh is not Greek food. I know that. It ventures into the middle east; Lebanon, specifically. But it’s delicious and it goes REALLY well with Greek flavors.

Greek food and middle eastern food are very similar in a lot of ways, and one is certainly a great introduction to the other. There are crossover flavors like lemon and garlic and olive oil, but while Greece focuses on fresh, bright herbs (mint, parsley, oregano), the middle east tends to wander over into the world of spices (allspice, sumac, cumin). Tabbouleh is just a salad of chewy, nutty bulgur wheat mixed with lemon juice, parsley, mint, tomatoes, spring onions, and (in my case) cucumbers. It takes about 10 minutes to make, is super-healthy, and really, really delicious. You absolutely MUST use fresh, sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes, though. Any of that mealy supermarket crap will destroy the dish. You’ve been warned.

And the Greek meatballs are easy. CAKEWALK. They taste a lot like gyro meat, but have a more realistic texture and wholesomeness. Try these out next time you’ve got a good pound of beef (or lamb, if you want to go traditionalist).

-1 lb 80/20 ground beef
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-.25 C sweet onion, minced
-1 egg
-1 C unseasoned breadcrumbs
-1 T parsley, minced
-.25 t dried oregano
-.25 C milk or cream
-salt and pepper to taste (about 1 t salt and .5 t pepper)

Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly by hand. Heat a small pan over medium-high heat with a touch of oil. Make a tiny patty of your meat mixture and cook it on both sides until just cooked in the center (think medium to medium-well, but not more). Taste it. Add things as necessary. You think it’s too wet? More breadcrumbs. Too dry? More milk. To fat-free? You overcooked it. Not salty enough? Add more salt.

I can’t overstate the importance of tasting fillings before you commit to them. If you’re making stuffed mushrooms, fry up some of your filling before stuffing and baking the mushrooms. If you’re making a meat pie, fry up a tiny patty of the meat mixture. Otherwise you’ll end up with bland food 50% of the time. That’s how you adjust salt and pepper to taste, and it’s arguably the most important part of the dish. Salt, that is. If you’ve found you oversalted, you can add some more breadcrumbs and another egg, but it’s best to add it in modest increments and test it out as you go. Easier to add than to subtract.

Now use an ice cream scoop to make little uniform meatballs that fit into your muffin tin cups. You can make mini-meatballs in a mini-muffin tin using a mini-scoop, but I like them a bit bigger for moisture retention and to allow caramelization of the outside without dessicating the middle. Bake your meatballs at 375 F until they’re browned and tasty on the outside, but don’t go over an internal temperature of 160 F. They only need to cook for about 20 minutes, tops. If you’ve got a convection oven, this is a good way to use it. If you don’t, you’ll still have fantastic Greek balls for dinner.

Serve them with a simple yogurt sauce and some warm pitas.

We ate the bottom corner one for further testing purposes.

These were eaten with vigor and delight, and I was “rewarded” with a bag of giant mutant zucchini, which are still in my garage threatening me. I loathe zucchini, and I dread the part of each year where people are like “I grew zucchini!” and then try to share with you. Let’s be totally honest: You can’t NOT grow zucchini. It’s a pestilence. And everyone has way, way too much of it, and nobody wants it. So from now on, I think I’m going to pretend I have a zucchini allergy. It’s less ridiculous than the stuff that most people pretend to be allergic to, and will possibly protect our household from the plight of the generous gourd that we face each year.

Why can’t people grow me extra cucumbers and tomatoes? Huh?? Because I really, really like those. Or pot. Why can’t people grow me pot that I can replant in my Aerogarden for my marijuana pesto that I’m totally going to try when I’m moldy and old and can get away with pretending I have cataract and need more than the occasional glass of wine to relax? People have no sense.

Moving right along

I love rain. It makes me feel all cozy and smuggly, even if it’s warm outside. And Colorado’s endless sunshine makes every rainstorm an opportunity for a rainbow, which I also love. The only time I don’t like rain, I guess, is when I’m stuck outside in very cold rain, or when I’m in my laundry room, and it begins to rain from the ceiling because our master shower (which is elaborately tiled and thereby inaccessible without major demolition) is leaking from SOMEWHERE above the laundry room. Our “plumber,” (I use the term loosely, because while he has been successfully plumbing things in the house, and is a licensed plumber, he also works for himself and tends to show up at the house wearing shirts with half-naked nurse graphics on the front and telling stories about car shows), has given us a list of tests we can do. A process of elimination of sorts, wherein we can catch all the water from the shower in a bucket, to rule out the pipes. Then let it run down the drain to rule out the drainage. Then possibly cut an exploratory hole in the ceiling of our laundry room. Then possibly raze the entire bitch house to the ground to see what our tolerance for pain might be. And the elimination would be easier if it happened every time, but it’s really only about every 3rd or 4th shower that makes it rain. Fun fun fun.

Can I bitch about some more things house-related? Please?? Thank you for understanding.

I still have two holes in my kitchen ceiling that need to be patched/textured/painted by Steve the painter. He was supposed to be here two hours ago. I’m not a very good disciplinarian with contractors. I don’t want to offend them, lest they fail to complete the work at all. Usually I’m just grateful to see them when they deign to show up.

And our AC is still patchy, but both Chris and I are afraid to call the HVAC guys to yell at them because they made it work SORT OF, and we don’t want them to take against us and not come to fix anything ever again. I mean, the house is markedly cooler than it was when we moved in. I’d be cheerful about saying “good enough!” But Chris feels differently.

The GE Profile dishwasher runs silently and cleans all but the top rack of dishes. An epic MEH. Who fixes dishwashers? I know if I call someone that they’ll charge me $200 just to show me a latch that I failed to activate or something, and I’ll feel like a giant asshole. GE won’t tell me how to clean the filter on the thing, so for all I know there are human body parts lodged in there somewhere and I can’t reach them to get it functioning again.

And the (also GE Profile) fridge door has some lever that means it won’t close without a purposeful full-closing motion. I’m used to just nudging the door as I walk away and having it shut tightly. So most of the time the fridge door is left open until I notice that my nudge was ineffective. I’m afraid to break the lever off. Chris is, too. GE Profile is starting to really piss me off.

And there’s still a fancy-pants Electrolux Icon induction range sitting in its box in the garage waiting for installation, only neither of us know how to do that, since it may involve filing down a 1/2′ of granite tile to make the opening big enough. And, if we’re being totally honest, both of us are afraid to eff something else up and have to call another repairman of some variety.

The TV just turned off by itself. I don’t want to know what that means.

Wait… it’s back. I guess that was just Comcast’s little joke. You so funny, Comcast!

And I bought a yellowjacket trap to put outside, but then when I assembled it inside I spilled a teensy drop of the pheremone on my shorts. So I’m pretty sure if I go outside, I’m going to be carried away to some underground lair of the yellowjacket queen and eaten, piece by piece, like a Twizzler Pull N Peel. But then I got panicked that they’d smell it inside and start coming through the vents into the house like a bad episode of the X-Files. So I opened the back door and threw it into the backyard. I’m sure Chris will be delighted to come home and fight his way through a swarm of horny hornets, all amped up on pheremones, to place it somewhere further from the house, and also maybe in a hanging up position.

I bought a squirrel feeder, but now I can’t hang it because I’m worried about the yellowjackets that might weasel into our yard at any moment. Whores. Nothing cheers me up like squirrel watching.

And finally, La-Z-Boy took a two week “break” in July, so our furniture (ordered in late May) won’t be here until mid-August. Which means I’m not really putting together our main living area until then. So we’ve got three bedrooms and a dining room completed. All the other rooms are kind of rumbling around between 70% and 90% completed. Each just needs a few finishing touches, (like not raining from the ceiling), which is craze-making.

I did make about 100 tamales this week, though, so I’ll post pictures of that either later today or tomorrow. They’re DELICIOUS. God bless tamales.

Am I the only one who gets totally pissed off about the “Amurrica, f*ck yeah!” commercials that Kraft Singles has rolled out lately? Where they talk smack about Roquefort and other cheeses and say that American cheese (specifically Kraft Singles) are the only surefire way to patriotism? And how “only in America” could we come up with a cheese like Kraft Singles (this I actually believe. Americans love them some processed crap.) It’s two steps away from being a total North Korean-style propaganda campaign.

Violet Beauregard

If I lived in…well…anywhere but Colorado, with its dry, crumbly, alkaline soil, I’d be a blueberry farmer. I love me some blueberries, and they’re so chock-full of antioxidants that it’s basically like eating little nuggets of targeted radiation against cancer. Free radicals? Take a hike. Plus, blueberries are absolutely gorgeous and they attract bears. Like a female of child-birthing age, kind of, only blueberries don’t spend much of their time being difficult and emotional.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. My love affair with blueberries. There’s an important distinction to be had here, though. Commercially grown blueberries and wild, natural blueberries are very different animals indeed.

“Wild” blueberries:
-strongly flavored
-bright blue with a pretty bloom (whitish coating)
-more crimefighting antioxidant capabilities
-beloved by bears

Commercial blueberries:
-taste like balls
-only less distinctive
-slightly chemical taste (from all the delicious pesticides)
-weak flavor
-big, plump appearance
-bears scoff at these imposters

Now, if you can’t get your hands on wild, local blueberries (probably because you live in the four corners region of the US), you do have other options. First, you can buy frozen, organic, enormous bags of wild blueberries at Costco for like, $10. Those are great for smoothies, pancakes, breads, oatmeal, whathaveyou. Second, you can wait until your grocery store has them on sale for a 5 lb box of organic for $8, and then buy them anyway, regardless of “wildness.” And when that happens, and you realize they aren’t so good for eating out of hand, you should bake bread with them.

What bread? This bread:

Blueberry Meyer Lemon Breakfast Bread

-5 C unbleached AP flour
-2 T baking powder
-1 t salt
-1.5 C granulated sugar
-3/4 cup butter, cut into cubes
-4 free-range eggs
-2 cups milk
-2 teaspoons vanilla
-2 t grated meyer lemon zest (fresh or reconstituted dried)
-3 cups blueberries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Or, if you’re lazy like me, just put them in a bowl and whisk together until you feel they’re adequately combined and lump-free.

Cut in the butter like you would if making biscuits or a pie crust. I like to use a real pastry blender (like this one ) to do the job. It’s faster, and if you make a lot of pies and biscuits, it comes in handy. You can use two knives if you don’t have a pastry blender.

Stir your blueberries into your dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix together your wet ingredients, including your meyer lemon zest.

Finally (and this should come as no shock to you), add your wet ingredients to your dried ingredients, stirring gently with a wooden spoon or spatula until there aren’t any remaining pockets of dry ingredients left. Don’t overmix, either.

Pour into some greased loaf pans. You can use a mixture of sizes. I used 4 miniature loaf pans and one full-sized bread loaf pan. You could also do two large and a mini, or one large and some muffins or two minis and an old bucket. Whatever you’ve got on hand, really.

Sprinkle the tops with a liberal amount of coarse sugar, or coarse vanilla sugar if you’ve got it. Mmmmmm. Vanilla sugar.

Bake at 350 until the tops are lightly golden, slightly split, and a cake tester (toothpick) comes out clean with a few sticky crumbs stuck to it.

Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slide out of the pans and cool on a rack until room temperature. You can slice them warm, but only slice as much as you need. The rest are easily wrapped and frozen for those mornings when you’re either too hungover or too lazy to make anything more elaborate than “something defrosted,” but you have guests staring at you with clear Martha Stewart expectations in their eyes.

The benefits of this bread are countless. First, it’s really, really moist. Second, it’s still easily cuttable without crumbling. Third, it’s freakin’ delicious. Fourth, it’s even more delicious with some sweet cream butter (salted, in this case) spread across the top. Fourth, it can be toasted (carefully) and slathered with more butter. Fifth, it makes a good gift bread. Sixth, everyone likes it, even your mom. Or my mom, I guess. She saw it on Facebook and promptly called to request that I deliver some to her place of employ, which I did like a nice daughter.

You can use regular lemon if you can’t find meyer lemon. I like meyer lemons, though. They’re less acidic and more sweet than your traditional yeller lemon, and I like the aroma quite a bit more. I got the dehydrated zest from a place in Chicago called “The Spice House.” They also have dried Seville orange zest (bitter orange), which works wonders when sevilles aren’t in season.

Seventh, I’m pretty sure bears like it. Though they’ll definitely know that you didn’t use wild blueberries, because otherwise why haven’t they seen you around their cave? Hmmm?? Riddle them that.

C_ntelope– Would you like to buy a vowel?

When I buy a big, ripe melon, I’m absolutely prepared to make a series of boob jokes. “Do you like my melons?” “Do you think my melons are too big?” “Here, Chris. Feel my melons.”

What I am NOT prepared for, however, is cutting it open and receiving an intimate anatomy lesson. Last night, I opened a melon that loudly begged the question–WHICH ONE OF MY MELON HALVES LOOKS MORE LIKE A GIANT, ORANGE POONTANG?

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:

Exhibit A is the quintessential pleasant wonder-down-under. It’s clearly been groomed, has all of its more delicate anatomy pieces hooded and tucked away neatly. It’s inviting, but probably wants you to buy it a dinner of Miracle Grow and sunlight before it’s going to allow you anywhere near its fruity core.

Exhibit B…well, that’s a different story. It’s not that there’s anything WRONG with it, per se. But it’s definitely been around the melon patch a time or two. And it needs to schedule a waxing appointment with a stern-looking Eastern European woman, like, ASAP. If exhibit A is Hefner melon, then exhibit B is definitely leaning more towards Hustler.

Do you know what it’s like to open a piece of fruit, expecting to slice it up and serve it with dinner, only to find that you have to waste a full 45 minutes explaining to your dog how babies are made? Do you??

I finally got to scoop out the centers and send them to MTV’s hit show “16 and Pregnant,” leaving us with some really tasty organic, local melon. I love fresh fruit season. I try to cut up the pieces and wash everything right when I get home. Then I stick it in tupperwares and we can just eat a few pieces here and there for a snack whenever the mood hits, without having to go to the trouble to wash/peel/prepare.

Oh, and melons are like $2 right now. That’s an awful lot of fruit for such a bargain, so get out there and eat it. Eat nothing BUT fruit and veg. Tis the season, after all, and all that water weight and fiber fills you up so you can lose some pounds before winter hits, with all of its decadent baking and slow-roasted meats and brown sugary roasted gourds. I love winter food and winter cooking with all of my heart, but there’s certainly a time and place for eating fresh, watery, sweet produce. And this is it, yo.

Duggar melon

Berry White

Long time no see, eh? I know I’ve been like an absentee parent, leaving you all to fend for yourselves, order pizzas, and jump on the bed without supervision. But I’ve been busy. Moving, as it turns out, is not a one week whirlwind of activity, followed by a return to normal life. No no no. What ACTUALLY makes up the moving process involves the following:

–a thousand mile, two day journey
–hotel rooms with cockroaches and cigarette smoke
–finding the street to your new home blockaded due to road work
–finding the painters have not completed anything except covering your entire house in a protective wrap of impenetrable plastic sheeting and thick, caustic dust
–finding holes in your ceiling
–finding the AC has broken down due to the dust from the contractors, and that it is nearly impossible to fix…
–during a week of record high temperatures for the state (Colorado likes its little joke every now and then)
–an incompetent electrician who can’t figure out how to install an air vent, despite bidding that he would be able to do so
–finding a new guy to do the venting, then having him show up in half hour increments to do the actual labor
–fiberglass insulation throughout the house and all over the cats, who were like “YAY ATTIC!” the second we weren’t looking
–two weeks of air mattresses and trips to and from the new house to see what the crap was going on over there
–fixing dishwashers
–fixing refrigerators
–fixing light fixtures
–unpacking boxes that are labeled so cryptically that even Dan Brown has been calling for plot ideas
–attack of the giant, over-friendly cellar spiders, and a Terminix guy who looks like the child killer in The Lovely Bones
–being unable to locate the box with my underpants, meaning a 5 day rotation wherein every 5th day I had to go commando for two hours while the laundry completed its cycle
–everything costing a million dollars, to the point where it would have been more efficient for me to just leave a big box of money on the front lawn with a sign for contractors and home improvement stores to help themselves to whatever they’d like.
–my 10 year high school reunion
–a classic DMV scavenger hunt of locating whatever bits of crazy artifact they decide, on whim, to require for car registration (in this case, a police VIN verification, letters from the bank, a signature from Chris’s commanding officer, and a million dollars. I may need to refill the giant box)
–waiting indefinitely for an induction range that Sears has forgotten about, then finding a new one elsewhere
–buying additional furniture (I’ll have to let Oak Express know about the box)
–and lots of hauling heavy things up and down flights of stairs to different floors of our house.

Now, to be fair, it hasn’t been all negative. We’ve also enjoyed:
–farmer’s markets
–chilly afternoon thunderstorms
–Broncos-colored sunsets
–two minute walks to the park where we can stand and throw the frisbee for our dog, while barefoot, because there are no fire ants
–a trip to the pool with a great friend and her cute kids
–sitting in the coffee shop, drinking on our tab with our dog by our side
–getting to hang out with great people on multiple occasions without having to drive more than a couple of minutes
–having my mom and sister over for Sunday supper
–having our air conditioner finally work!!
–a beautiful house that’s all our own, with a mountain view from the bedroom window
–chilly evening temperatures that cool down the air in the home with nothing more than a box fan
–pets who are thrilled at all the extra space
–neighbors who walk to each others houses with bottles of Patron to sip on the patio while the kids play
–neighborhood teenagers who bring us competing cookie plates to taste, and the one neighborhood pre-teen who doesn’t like the others and told me which ones are “a-holes.” I do love me a disenchanted female adolescent, since I used to be one.
–Becky’s baby shower at the tea shop
–fantastic organic restaurant options within a five minute drive
–a basic King Soopers that’s as nice as any Whole Foods I’ve entered
–buying all new groceries (which I adore)
–organizing all new groceries (which I also adore)
–a beautiful new gym with a climbing wall, cafe, and salon built right in
–and seeing so many people keeping fit as families

Honestly, I’m pretty content. Sure, the move was chock full of giant, aged oak barrels of bullshit, but it’s also been full of all the things I missed so much while I was in Texas. And I see the mountains EVERY DAY. They call to me. They say “Hey Kristie! What’s in that giant box on your lawn? Can we have some??” And I say yes, because I don’t know any different.

Also, I made you pancakes. Well, not you, so to speak. But definitely Chris and myself. And there’s more cooking to come, since everything is basically functional right now, and I have food in my pantry to cook. Can I get a “woooooooot!”?

Blueberry pancakes, to be precise, with fresh blueberries simmered gently in real maple syrup to make a breakfast compote. Oh, and a slather of orange and passionfruit Australian-style yogurt, because it tastes so good with the berries, and because it’s an easy, calorie-cheap protein. Still haven’t set up my photography stuff yet, so the pictures are dubious, but at least you can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Stop jumping on the bed, please. I don’t have time for this. I have to go have a talk with the cellar spiders. They’re clearly skittering ever closer to the last few pennies in the box in the front yard, and I might need those pennies for ingredients or something.