One super-fun thing about babies is that they like to play hide-and-go-seek with your stuff. Another fun thing about babies is that they assign high values to certain items for seemingly no reason, and those are the items they like to hide the most. My own personal baby is an extremely big fan of small electronic and/or mechanical components. This means that if he finds, say, a small Xbox memory card, it’ll likely be relocated to a place that only he knows about. And he’s only 1 year old, so if you ask him, “Hey, small baby. Where do you suppose you may have put Daddy’s memory card?” He’ll respond by flashing you all six of his small baby teeth in a grin, then wiping something sticky on your pants and the couch. It’s all he knows.
He’s also a little bit of a tiny ringer for TLC’s Hoarders: Buried Alive. He keeps things in little collections, like a raccoon. Woe betide the person who should try to remove one of his precious trinkets. Currently, in a washbasket in our living room, there is a DVD, the original Simpsons game for the Xbox, an Xbox controller battery, a small shred of what was once a cable bill, and the “T” bar part of the deadbolt for our back door. It fell off while I was locking it, so now we can only lock and unlock it using the little nubbin that used to hold the “T” bar, because our baby has taken control of the critical piece.
Also currently missing from this plane of existence is the 3x.5″ plastic USB converter for our SD card. This means that I can’t upload photos of food from our camera. I asked Chris where I might locate the device (which usually is plugged into our upstairs computer). He texted, and I quote, “Emmett had it upstairs. I took it away, and I think under papers.”
Chris is very nearly reaching the age where I can start submitting his misfirings to whenparentstext.com.
I have searched this office far and wide for the tiny bit of plastic (held together at the seams with hot pink duct tape). Still nothing. I have lain on the floor to approximate being very short and baby-like. I don’t see it in my immediate field of vision, and I am now covered in golden retriever fur. The ass of my pants looks like Goldie Hawn.
So until Chris returns home, and he and Emmett can go on a scavenger hunt to locate which one of Emmett’s treasure troves contains the magic USB piece, I cannot post the blog I have for today.
|The eyes of a madman, plotting behind his Hippogriff|
I can only hope that we find it more successfully than we found the Xbox memory card. My guess is that it went to swim with the fishes, given Emmett’s other hobby: Putting Things In The Toilet.
I am an unapologetic dork. My first trip away from my son was a few weeks ago, and where did I go? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Orlando. That’s right. I took my first adult vacation without my child to a theme park for children. Winning.
I started reading the Harry Potter books when I was on a “vacation” to Spokane, WA with my high school boyfriend in the summer between high school and college. His dad’s house was a refurbished abandoned warehouse in the ghetto, and I wasn’t allowed to go outside by myself, even during the day, for fear I’d be stolen. Since the boyfriend was spending all of his free time fixing engines and being blue collar, my options for entertainment were as follows:
-Steal Mexican sleeping pills from his grandmother and pass out in the dank basement for 24 hours at a time. I did that once, and ended up falling asleep listening to the Braveheart soundtrack. I dreamt I was being bombed over and over and over. It wasn’t pleasant.
-Run errands with his stepmother. She only wanted to go tanning, and go to the discount bread outlet. Yes, that’s an actual store. You go and buy loaves of bread that are too old to be sold at stores. Seriously.
-Hang out alone with his 12 year old brother. His brother had all of the Harry Potter books, and was willing to lend them to me one at a time. I spent the rest of the vacation reading, and ended up being completely hooked for life.
My love affair with Harry Potter far outlasted that relationship, and carries on strong to this day. The books are fantastic, and I can’t wait to read them to my son when he’s old enough to fully comprehend the sexual tension between Ron and Hermione, and the slave symbolism of the house elves.
The park was AMAZING, but the food was incredibly disappointing. The only real food option in HP World was the Three Broomsticks, and it smelled like fried fish and prostitutes (basically the same smell). They offered some of the feast foods that were mentioned in the books, but they were done to typical theme park standards. Blargh.
The butterbeer was amazeballs, though. Tasted like cream soda with a salted butterscotch whipped cream on top. I’m working on recreating it, so stay tuned.
As for the rest of the food, well, I figured I could probably do a better job at home. So far, I’d say that my attempts are an unmitigated success. The other night, we had our Harry Potter traveling companions over for a meal, and I whipped up two of the traditional HP foods– Treacle Tart and Cornish Pasties.
The Cornish Pasties have multiple different iterations according to the internet, some having cubed chuck, some using ground lamb, so I just went with my gut and produced a savory pie that tasted for all the world like magic. Honestly, though, when has meat inside a pie crust ever been a bad idea? That’s right. It never has.
Cornish Pasties (Spiteful Style) Serves 4 gluttons
1 lb ground beef (I used a grass fed, flax finished from Snow Creek Ranch)
2 medium potatoes (russet or yukon gold), diced
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
2 t granulated garlic (or 1.5 t garlic powder)
1 T salt
1 t ground black pepper
.5 t dried thyme
3 prepared pie crusts (yeah, you can prepare your own, but I didn’t)
-Preheat the oven to 325 F
-Mix together your meat, vegetables, and seasonings in a large bowl
|Try for a dicing ratio that looks sort of like this. Bite sized potatoes, smaller other vegetables|
-Make a small “test patty” and cook it in a skillet to taste for seasoning. I can’t overemphasize how important this is any time you’re making a ground meat item, from meatballs to meat loaf to meat pie to burgers. Adjust salt and pepper accordingly.
-Take an 8″ cake pan and cut out an 8″ round of crust from each of the pie crusts. Then push the scraps together and roll them out to get an additional 8″ round. You’ll have 4 total.
-On each round of crust, put a good couple scoops of filling, leaving enough room to seal the crust
-Seal the edges together shoddily, like a drunk house elf.
|She ain’t pretty, but she sure does taste nice|
-Repeat with the other three crust rounds, and slit the top of each several times to allow steam to escape. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan, leaving an inch or two between each pastie, and bake until golden brown and cooked through (about 1 hour, maybe a little less).
-Serve with a pan sauce or ketchup or whatever you like. I melted down a few frozen cubes of homemade beef glace, whisked in some butter, and called it gravy.
DELICIOUS. Seriously. Each person got a single Cornish Pastie, because these were large, but I’ve seen them made into small mini-pies, which would be a great appetizer. You could also add frozen peas or cubed turnips or whatever you have that needs to be used up. If you want a shinier, fancier crust, you can always brush it with an egg wash toward the end of baking.
The Brits get a bad rap for having terrible food, but this is British food at its finest. The simple combination of meat, potatoes, and pie crust is a winner for just about everyone, and warms the cockles of your heart, to the point where you’re almost okay that you live in a world without actual magic, and that your friends are all lousy muggles.
The baby refused to eat any of this, but I’m pretty sure that was just him trying to make a point that his parents are raging assholes for leaving him alone while they went gallivanting around Florida like heathens in the mist. I’m sure he’ll get over it. I’ll take him on a special trip to make it up to him. Possibly to the used bread store.
Some people really like meat on their pizza. They think it’s the only way to enjoy a pizza, and they won’t be convinced otherwise. It seems the viscous pools of orange fat that top a cheese pizza aren’t quite enough to make their arteries quiver in anticipation, and the only way to rectify the situation is to add another source of orange saturated fat in the form of pepperoni or sausage. Or bacon. That’s a thing you know. Bacon pizza.
I am a purist. If it’s good pizza, and I pretty much try to stay away from the big chains anymore, then a sprinkle of mozzarella, a bit of chopped garlic, and some torn basil leaves is more than enough to make me sing. Chris, however, really loves pepperoni. And his wife is mean and hateful and won’t let him order factory farmed meat products in any form, not even on a pie. The solution to this has become that I keep pepperoni in the house so he can add it to his own pizza. There are a surprising number of sustainably sourced pepperoni products in your local WhoFo. The problem is that many of them come in whole sausage form, rather than a miniature baggie of 8 slices for a sole pizza decorating endeavor. That means that after pizza night, there is a leftover tube length of approximately 8″. Heh.
Part of it gets cut off and frozen for future pizza nights. But part of it gets left in the fridge, lest I have some sort of Subway-related panic attack and need a spicy Italian sandwich RIGHT NOW. That’s part of the problem of having given up fast food entirely. Sometimes I want exactly what I used to order, and I have to be prepared to make it for my own damn self, out of acceptable ingredients, in a relatively short amount of time. Spicy Italian is one of those bites of nostalgia that I occasionally require. I’m pretty good at making them, too. When I was growing up, one of my best friends worked at Subway. I used to walk down there after school and get behind the counter and make sandwiches for people. I wasn’t an employee, I didn’t have the uniform, but I was a fine sandwich artist. Freelance.
I haven’t wanted subs lately, though, and we’ve had this giant log of pepperoni languishing in the fridge for some time, eyeballing me, guilting me for ignoring it. Last night, I decided to put it out of its misery and make something from it. But what do you make with pepperoni?
Here’s what’s fabulous about leftovers: every culture has a means by which you can dispose of them pretty much without caring what the actual leftover you’re using is. In Mexico, you throw things into a quesadilla or a tortilla soup. In France, leftovers become a filling for crepes. In India, leftover pieces of vegetables become curry (at least, they do according to Nigella Lawson, who is basically the expert of everything, if you measure intelligence by bosom and toothiness. In Italy, leftovers get tossed into minestrone or, as is the case here, become a cheap, cheerful, very satisfying pasta dish.
So what I’m going to show you here is a method you can use to turn just about any leftover ingredients into a great pasta. I’m not claiming it’s authentic Italian. I’m not Italian, I have no Italian nonna to show me the ways of the cucina. But it works, it’s delicious, and it’s a damn sight better than tossing out spare pieces of food just because you don’t know what to do with them.
Step 1: Gather your ingredients
In this case, I had a zucchini (when do I not have a f*cking zucchini these days??), some pepperoni, a handful of tomatoes from the garden that were starting to look a little wrinkly on the outside and needed to be eaten, a quarter of an onion, and a couple of garlic cloves that were looking drier than ideal. I took all of the ingredients, and I cut them up. 1/2″ cubes for everything but the onions (1/4″ dice) and the garlic (haphazardly minced).
Step 2: Pick a pasta
I had a bag of gemelli pasta in my pantry, because the giant packs at Costco contain gemelli, and it’s definitely not my favorite pasta shape, so it tends to stick around the house like a bad smell.
Step 3: Gather your supporting ingredients
As a general rule, I like to have a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, a couple pats of butter, and some parmagianno (I sliced off a fair pile with a potato peeler and set it aside). Fresh basil and/or parsley is pretty crucial, too.
Step 4: Get your water boiling. Salt it until it tastes like sea water, only without that BP petrochemical twang. Add your pasta and set your timer for the time specified on the package.
Step 5: Saute your ingredients in a logical order, using a very large skillet.
I started by briefly sauteing the pepperoni some olive oil until it started to release some of its fat. Then I removed it with a slotted spoon, tossed in the vegetables (but not the tomatoes), the red pepper flakes, and a healthy pinch of salt and sauteed them until they started to become tender. I increased the heat, tossed in the tomatoes, and let it cook for another few minutes. When it started to look dry, I spooned in about 1/4 C of the pasta water and tossed it a few times to make sure everything was evenly moist. The pasta water creates a very slight sauce in the pan, but it should still look pretty dry and chunky, almost the consistency of stewed tomatoes. I added the pepperoni back in.
Step 6: Put it all together in the big pan.
I use a slotted spoon and take the pasta directly from the pasta water and drop it into the pan of vegetables. The pasta holds onto a fair amount of pasta water, and that’s a good thing. Pasta water has starch and will help your sauce be both clingier to the pasta, as well as slightly saucier (remember, it was still sort of dry looking before you added the pasta). Toss it all to lightly coat the pasta in the sauce and distribute the vegetables evenly. Add a couple of pats of butter and your shards of parm, and toss to combine everything. Taste for salt and pepper. Adjust to taste, and serve with a healthy sprinkle of fresh herbs. (I took the following picture before sprinkling with basil, but trust me– I did it).
It was delicious. It was easy. It cleared a few things out of the veggie and deli bins in the fridge. And it was interesting, because it will never be the same twice.
So, the basic rules, in case you tired of reading the steps I put together.
1-you can use whatever leftovers you have
2-Saute by order of how long things take to cook
3-Salt your pasta water enough, because it makes each piece of pasta more flavorful
4-USE YOUR PASTA WATER
5-Toss everything together in the pan. DO NOT just pour sauce over pasta. Ever.
6-Finish with butter or a little good olive oil to make it creamy and delicious
Those are the only rules. This can be vegetarian, vegan, meaty, expensive, cheap, extravagant, simple, whatever you want, as long as you follow the basic rules.
That said, I think you should try it this way, because the tang and spice of the pepperoni perfectly balanced the mild sweetness of the zucchini and the acidic freshness of the tomato. Better than a pepperoni pizza, that’s for sure, and the orange fat kind of coated the pasta, rather than just loitering on top like a group of sullen teenagers in baggy pants and shaggy hairstyles. You should just trust me on this. Because, not unlike Nigella, I have a bosom and some teeth.