Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Whole New Kind of Birthday

As far as I know, I am the inventor of the Quinticentennial Celebration. What the sam hamwich is a Quinticentennial, you ask?

The Quinticentennial is the celebration of a person's 500-month-old birthday. It happens when you are 41 years and 8 months old. (Don't try to do the math in your head if you're at a party and you've been drinking, like we attempted to do last Sunday night. Tragic.) How did the tradition of the Quinticentennial Celebration begin, you ask?

It started when my friends began to have children. They had this annoying habit of always expressing their children's ages in terms of months instead of years.

Janine: "Oh, she's so precious and talkative! How old is she?"

Annoying Friend: "She just turned 26 months!"

26 months? Why don't you just say she's 2?

So I used to make fun of this all the time. Okay, I still make fun of it. And I had this idea that I would go around expressing my age in months instead of years.

Me: "My skin looks pretty damned good, considering I've just turned 492 months old."

My sweet and reasonable friend Lisa reminded me that parents do this because that's how the kids' clothing sizes are set up in the stores. And you know, that's true. You shop for baby clothes by months, then when they get a little bigger, I think it still goes by years. Thank goodness that ends when we grow up.

Andy Cleveland thought it would be hilarious if we still had to buy our clothes according to our ages, long into adulthood. Imagine going into Macy's and asking for the women's size 49 panties! Or the men's 600-month pants!

I maintain that 500 months is a significant milestone in one's life, and one should be taken out to lunch and lavished with presents on one's Quinticentennial!

I treated my dear Robyn O'Neill to lunch for her QC, and I'm sure she'll be taking me out for mine, when that day finally comes. Shut up.

Hallmark should have a whole rack of cards devoted to it. And they need to pay me for the idea!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Beetroot, Squash and Halloumi with Chili-Herb Dressing

I found this amazing salad recipe on a British website called Food Stories. I wanted to try something different for dinner last Friday. This salad had such an unusual combination of flavors, and they sang loudly and in perfect harmony in my mouth! The roasted savoriness of the beetroot and squash plus the salty and bouncy textured halloumi plus the tartness of lemon and the mint contrasting with the fresh hot chili--whew! I almost had to have a cigarette when I was finished.

The only remotely exotic ingredient was halloumi cheese, which can be found at Nick's Produce on Broad Street. Halloumi is weird! You can cut it into slabs and fry it in a dry pan, and it gets browned and crispy all over the outside and soft on the inside, and it retains its shape. It's kind of like paneer, the Indian cheese, but it's salty tasting. What a brilliant addition to a salad! Yum.

And don't tell anybody, but I tiptoed across the street and pilfered some fresh mint from the front yard of Debra, my unsuspecting dear friend.

Also, I could not find the kind of sunflower seeds I wanted, so I went with roasted pumpkin seeds instead. They were just as delicious. I will definitely make this again, and I can imagine serving it with couscous. Doesn't that sound good?

So thank you, Helen Graves, for bringing this new orgasmic salad to my world.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clearly, there is a family of raccoons living someplace very close to my house. I've seen as many as 3 at a time scurrying away from my porch as I pull my car into my driveway.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a little one sleeping in the bottom of my big empty city-issued trash can one morning. Don't know how long he'd been stuck in there, but thank goodness he hadn't starved to death. I just tipped the big can over and off he went! Not long after that, I found 2 young ones in my neighbors trash can. When my nabe shone his flash light into the can at them, they just reached up with their nimble little fingers and try to play with the light.

Then last night, I heard something fidgeting at the cat door, which is installed in a window and therefore not at ground level. Was it Maggie, attempting to deliver to me her 3rd dead mouse of the evening? No, it was a big ol' raccoon, with his nose pressed right up to the swinging glass door. I must say, he was very cute! And not shy at all. I pressed my face right up to his and loudly told him to get lost! He didn't even flinch. He just looked at me like he was saying, "Hey, sorry to be a bother, but can I come in and have a snack?" You know, he looked kind of friendly. Not like he had rabies.

So tonight, after I get home from yoga class (I just like to say that. I really suck at yoga.) I'm going make sure my camera is standing by so I can get some pictures. Am I supposed to be trying to catch these things and take them to the woods? I have no idea. If they figure out how to get in my house, then it's ON.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Broccoli, Snow Peas and Rice Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce

As I stated a few posts back, I am on a doctor-supervised low sodium regime. It is helping. My BP was down to normal last Thursday when I had it checked. But salt tastes good, y'all! And boy, do I miss it. I feel like I have to re-learn a bunch of my favorite recipes with new, low sodium ingredients.

Tonight I made some stir fried broccoli and snow peas with rice noodles and spicy peanut sauce. I was much too impatient to take a picture of it before I ate it, but trust me, it was real purty!

Here's how I made the sauce. This makes enough for two greedy hungry people or 4 boring sensible people:

Bring 1 1/2 cups of low sodium vegetable broth to a simmer.
Add 2 cloves of pureed garlic and 1 teaspoon of pureed ginger root.*
Add 1 tablespoon black strap molasses.
Add 2 tablespoons of cider or rice vinegar.
Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted smooth or chunky peanut butter.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
Add a touch of sweetness, like maybe 1/4 teaspoon of brown sugar or maple syrup.
Swish this around until it's heated through and all the lumps are dissolved.
Gradually whisk some cornstarch into the sauce until it begins to thicken and look creamy. This will probably be a teaspoon or two. And voila--low sodium Peanut Sauce!

*The easiest way to puree garlic and ginger is to use a microplane grater on the fine end. If you do not own a microplane grater, then for cryin' out loud go buy one! Try not to grate your knuckle with it like I did tonight. Micorplanes are really sharp. You can also buy garlic-ginger paste at the Indian grocers, but fresh tastes better.

I stir fried some fresh broccoli and snow peas in a little peanut oil, placed them on a bed of rice noodles, poured the fragrant peanut sauce over the whole mess, and garnished with a little chiffonade of Thai basil. I love to say chiffonade. It makes me sound so snooty.

It turned out really good! I might make it again tomorrow night, since I still have leftover ingredients. I'll try to restrain myself long enough to take a picture before I gobble it up.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Best Way to Roast Potatoes

A potato is a cheap and simple thing, but when prepared just right it can produce intense euphoria. It is the ultimate comfort food.

This is the Andy Cleveland method of roasting taties. All the Cleveland boys LOVE roasted potatoes. You would not believe the mountains of them that have been consumed in just one meal. Andy once claimed that mine are as good as his, but only once and very quietly. I told him I learned from the master.

Use the russett potatoes--the oval floury ones. Peel them and chunk them up. The chunks can be any size you like, but they should all be in the same size range so they cook at the same rate.

Place your tatie chunks in a pan and put enough cold water to cover. Bring them to a boil until they are half-tender. You want the outside of the chunks to be tender to do the next thing! While the potatoes are boiling, pour a shallow puddle of oil (I like to use peanut oil because you can get it really hot) in a baking dish. Put the dish in the 450 degree oven and let the dish and oil heat up together.

Now drain the semi soft potatoes of all the water. Keeping them in the pan, shake the pan around until you see the taties have knocked together and gotten roughed up on the surface.

Carefully tip them into the hot baking dish and oil. Toss gently to coat with the oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary, or whatever herb tickles your taste buds.

Roast until they are crispy and golden, turning and shuffling them a time or two. This will take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of your chunks. They should be crackly and crispy on the outside, but creamy and soft when you bite into them!

You'll need to force yourself to let them cool a few minutes before you snarf them down!