Books on the table

I’m feeling rather tired and boring tonight, but nagged by NaBloPoMo commitment. So, like any good improvisor I’ll look for a little inspiration where I can find it. Tonight my coffee table will have to do.

I’ve got a stack of New Yorkers and these three books sitting on my coffee table:

Oregon Curiosities: Quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff by Harriet Baskas

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann

coffee table books

Longing, a list inspired by my coffee table books

I long to have space for travel and to travel in space.I long to learn more about the place I live.
I long to show my daughter the joy in exploration, discovery, getting lost.
I long to be creative create.
I long to stop feeling like an imposter.
I long to be daring.
I long to know more about my family history, my cultural history, my country’s (real) history, my local history.
I long to read more.
I long to write more.
I long for an ‘instant tidy’ button.
I long see my parents.
I long to have time to luxuriate in making a meal.
I long to listen.
I long for stories, words to tell the story.
I long for the complexity of simplicity.
I long to long for less.

My cooking strategy: small tasks + improvise

In my house, we’ve ended up dividing our chores in a way that I am the primary brains behind meals and cooking. My husband does a LOT of other household tasks so please don’t think I’ve got the raw end of the deal. And he often is happy to prep mise en place (thank you Top Chef for teaching us that awesome phrase we abuse daily) and sometimes even execute my ‘executive chef-ed’ meal ideas (HT again to Top Chef). Plus I care about what we eat and I do enjoy the creativity that comes with cooking.

But, it is also a big source of stress. This past summer the ante was upped because our toddler’s summer Montessori program — which serves snacks and lunch each day during the regular school year — did not serve lunch. So, not only did I have to make sure we were all fed each evening for dinner, I needed to have meals for lunch. And the toddler lunches had to pretty much be served cold.

The well-placed meal planning white board in our kitchen cruelly taunts.

The well-placed meal planning white board in our kitchen cruelly taunts.

I was on a pretty good meal planning kick for a while, but recently my kitchen spirit has become utterly non-committal. Our genius meal planning white board in the kitchen taunts.

All is not lost, though. I’m actually a trained (and ingrained) improvisor. I’ve dabbled in comedy, theater and movement improv forms. And now I embrace kitchen improvisation. That combined with breaking meal-prep into small tasks (chopping, roasted, pre-cooking) whenever we can fit them in during the week, it’s how we roll, for better or worse. I’ve also embraced Costco, and keep things like chicken stock, canned tomatoes, garbanzo beans on hand for inclusion at a moment’s notice.

Some recently improvised meals:

Chicken sausage, kale, garbanzo soup – In a Dutch oven, brown some chopped onions, then add chopped garlic stir in pan for a minute, add chicken sausage (I like to use uncooked, no casing sausage) and brown until fully cooked. (I added some spices I had on hand here, too.) Add chopped carrot cook until soft.  chopped kale and cook until soft. Add garbanzo and cook for a couple of minutes. Add a can of diced tomatoes. Mix it all up. Then add a box of chicken stock. Simmer and then season to taste with salt and pepper. So simple, super yum and kid friendly. Easy improvisations I might try in the future: use kidney beans (thanks to Costco, a little heavy on cans of kidneys in my basement), swiss chard, meatless, winter squash, noodles.

Slow-cooked beef short ribs over rice – In a dutch oven or skillet brown all sides of short ribs. Line bottom of slow cooker with chopped onions and garlic. Top with browned short ribs. Add fresh parsley, bay leaf of two, tomato paste and can of diced tomatoes. Add 2 cups of dry red wine. Slow cook for 7 hours. I’ve done similar with pork shoulder. Easy improvisations to try: create more of a rub and cook in dutch oven; create a sauce deglazing with wine; serve with potatoes instead of rice.

Beef quesadillas – Weeknight meal made from short ribs leftovers. Cheese, corn tortillas, beef, fried (no oil needed) on a skillet. Need I say more? Serve with side of guacamole and salsa. Easy improvisations: taco salad, burrito, taco bar with fixings.

Roasted butternut squash soup – Chop squash into bite sized pieces. Toss with a little oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 or so for 40-45 minutes. Meanwhile chop and then brown onion and garlic in a dutch oven or stock pot until soft. Add any spices you might like (curry, cumin, cilantro, cinnamon work well – improvise!). Add roasted squash and mix well. Add stock or broth. Mix well and simmer. Puree using and immersion blender (my favorite kitchen machine) or in batches uses a traditional blender. Easy improvisations I’ve tried: add cream or coconut milk at the end; add roasted carrots or any other roasted root veg.

If you have easy improvise-able meals you like to do, please share!

The Market

This post is sort of a mini-ode to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. The last day of the market for the season was this past rainy Saturday. It prompted my first poem in about 20 years and some images taken last week.

Kabocha, pear, bell pepper, onion, chard.
The market air filled thickly, hunting for
our meals. It’s crisp now, autumn giving dare
to cold of winter. Where to go? Inside.


Friday’s A to Z: the "Stinky" Edition

a – agism.
b – black friday.
c – comic sans.
d – “don’t ask, don’t tell.” repeal this already!!!
e – education in this country.
f – feet. stinky feet, literally. blech.
g – glenn beck. there’s even a comprehensive glenn-beck-sucks blog.
h – halitosis.
i – ice cream. actually, i love ice cream, but it stinks that i can’t have it after every meal.
j – jealousy.
k – ken buck. he recently received the douchebag decree over at bitchmedia‘s blog.
l – legalese.
m – model minority myth.
n – neo-nazi’s. my friends at circle a radio did a program about the rise of fascism in portland.
o – outsourced, the tv show. hear our commentary on the next apa compass fri dec 6th.
p – pickles. eew.
q – queer-bashing. aka homophobia.
r – racism.
s – sarah palin. here’s a recent blog from huffington post with leaks from her forthcoming book.
t – trafficking, of humans.
u – unemployment.
v – vermin.
w – war.
x – xenophobia.
y – yanni.
z – zealots. of any kind.

Friday’s A to Z

Building on yesterday’s post, here are some things I ♥ right now:


A – APA Compass. We did a show this morning. We’ll have archives up in the next couple of days.
B – Boots.
C – Community. One of my favorite TV shows right now with one of my favorite characters on TV right now Abed. One of the best episodes of TV ever is Modern Warfare from Season 1, Episode 23, directed by Justin Lin.
D – Danny’s Auto on Halsey and 60th.
E – Energy.
F – Farmers Market. Only 2 more weeks!
G – Gabriel’s Bakery’s herb cheese bagels.
H – Harry Potter. I know, I’m a late bloomer.
I – Improv Theater. Shameless promo: We’re doing a show next week Small Space, Big Stories.
J – Jackets.
K – Kissing hubby.
L – The Library.
M – Milani Nail Lacquer “Cappucino” – described “Light Coffee with Gold Shimmer”
N – The Great Northwest.
O – Owls.
P – Piano. I feel very blessed to have one of my very own. I recently learned how to play “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Here Comes the Sun” on YouTube. Amazing.
Q – Maggie Q, star of Nikita. I watched the show as homework for our APA Compass radio discussion about APAs on TV, and now am fully sucked in.
R – Rest.
S – Slings and Arrows. More on this next week.
T – Time Traveler’s Wife.
U – Upper Horsetail and Triple Falls at the Columbia River Gorge.
V – Vodka Martini. A little dirty.
W – White Tea. Specifically Vanilla Apricot White Tea by Tazo.
X – Extracurriculars. (Close enough to X!) My life is all extracurricular it seems right now.
Y – Soft Yolks. I had my eggs over easy this morning and it was yum.
Z – Portland Zombie Walk.

“A” image is by me.
“Z” image found on Wikimedia Commons: Route sign for Missouri Supplemental Route Z. Based on Image:MO-supp-K.svg by User:PHenry.

Butternut Squash Egg Casserole

I’m going for it. One blog post each day for the month of November. They say I can be blog free on the weekends so we’ll see how that pans out. Speaking of pans, I’ll start this month with a nice Autumn recipe. Remember, I’m an improvisor at heart, so this is more of an idea starter…

We recently bought a lovely butternut squash at the farmer’s market. I had nothing particular in mind, just know that I love winter squash. Here’s what I decided to make with it based on what I already had in the kitchen. It’s rather quiche-like.

Butternut Squash Egg Casserole

Ingredients
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 in cubes
1/2 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 red pepper (roasted or raw), diced
6 eggs
1 cup of milk
a splash of water
dash-1/2 tablespoon of 2-5 spices (I used thyme, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon)
1/2 cup of cheese (I used monterey jack because it was in m fridge, but swiss, cheddar or even smoked cheese like gouda or provolone would probably work well)
1/2 package of tofu (if desired)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Saute onions in olive oil for 5-7 minutes. Make sure they don’t burn, but are soft and aromatic. Add butternut squash and and bit more oil. Add spices. Saute until squash is soft enough to pierce easily, but not so much that it’s complete mush. Probably about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, water and milk together until completely blended. Also, oil small-medium size casserole dish and preheat oven to 400º. Crumble tofu in with squash and saute for 3 minutes. Add bell pepper, salt and pepper to the squash and saute for 3 more minutes. Transfer squash mixture to casserole. Top with cheese and then egg mixture. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove cover and brown top for 5 minutes.

That’s it. Pretty darn easy and yummy. Suggest serving with an arugula salad or other greens.

Back to Blog A-Z

A. apricot and cherry crumble with alden’s vanilla bean ice cream
B. basement = “summer palace” when it’s 94º outside at 8:30pm
C. our new favorite card game is called “hand and foot”
D. waiting for DVR to capture a good chunk of sytycd
E. sick of walking on eggshells around certain stressful individuals
F. font: CarbonType
G. goal!!
H. our neighborhood hollywood farmers market rocks my world
I. inspired somehow to get back to blog
J. joke – q: Why does a chicken coop have two doors? a: Because if had four doors it would be a chicken sedan!
K. thinking of getting a flip camera or a kodak Zi8, please share thoughts if you’ve got ’em.
L. love my hubby lots
M. our 2 yr old nephew maceo loves trucks and hummus
N. nuts i love: almond, macadamia, cashew, filbert
O. our nephew oscar brought over his pet hamster furball
P. harry potter. obsessed. anxiously awaiting for bk 6 from the library.
Q. we made two different, delightful quinoa salads last week
R. reading like mad
S. word scramble 2 interface on my ipod touch is very cool
T. finally got our tax return
U. conveyor belt sushi delivered unagi tonight
V. on the librarian recommendations new release shelf, picked up ether: seven stories and a novella by evgenia citkowitz. evgenia. neato.
W. time to talk about something besides the weather
X. x-ray? x-men? xylophone?
Y. finally getting some yardening on
Z. zit on my nose = contact lenses

A2Z September 2009 Edition

a) My ankle is bunk. I had a Spice Girls incident years ago (tripped over my own platform shoes)(OK I know, why the hell was I wearing platform shoes? What can I say, it was the 90s.) and ever since my right ankle has been sensitive on an on and off basis. This week, on. 😦
b) Fall means Back to Blog! I shall blog regularly again after my unexpected summer hiatus.
c) Our poor Corolla has a whole slew of problems right now. Nothing serious, but annoying enough. On the list: driver side seat belt is failing; dome light doesn’t work; window rattles; some weird noise when we turn (okay that might be more serious). If anyone has a good mechanic in Portland let me know.
d) Dog or no dog? That is the question.
e) Egg Salad. I want to make egg salad today.
f) Excited to dabble in the film world again. I recently joined a small collective (if you’re knowledgeable about the local film scene and interested in getting involved let me know!) producing a new program at KBOO called Behind the Screen. Listen in the last Thursday of the month.
g) I’m gazing out my window and the skies are gray. Or is it grey? Actually grey is the British spelling. So, now you know. Madonna would definitely use “grey.”
h) House! Enough said.
i) Now that it’s fall, I’m committed to doing more improv! A group of us gals just started meeting to play together. Hopefully that will get going on a regular basis. I founded a rad all-woman improv troupe in Chicago years ago called RED. One of the other members of this group was in Southern Oregon’s Hamazons: Warrior Princesses of Comedy. Other improv opps I plan to partake in: Jumping Off Place and Curious Comedy‘s Open Court.
j) Didn’t get to finish Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake before I had to return it to the library. I’m putting it on hold again.
k) Just watched Project Runway Allstars on DVR. Korto Momolu was robbed! Just goes to show that white man making an “edgy” collection that can be worn by twig-sized teens gets more respect than a woman of color making bold, well-crafted beautiful designs for women of all sizes.
l) I’m into my Burt’s Bees’ Lip Shimmer. Shade: Peony.
m) I’m excited to dive into the slo-cooker pork mole that Matt made. Yummy!
n) Check out the newly designed Bitch Magazine. The stalwart feminist pop culture rag took a break to regroup and are looking better than ever in “The Consumed Issue.” They’ve also got a new Executive Director Julie Falk who we hope will continue to help steer the Bitch boat in the right direction. Call them Bitch Media now and enjoy not only the magazine, but their offerings of audio, blog and more. Support Bitch by joining their B-Hive!
o) Open auditions for Portland Theatre Brigade are happening starting next week! All young actors ages 7-15 invited to audition for this fabulous, empowering, young people’s theatre company.
p) Pens I’m into right now: Uni-Ball Gel Grip Pens, 0.7 mm, Medium Point; Uni-Ball Vision Elite Liquid Rollerball Pens, 0.5 mm, Micro Point; and always the magical, wonderful standard Fine Point Sharpie.
q) Quip: 1. A clever, witty remark often prompted by the occasion.2. A clever, often sarcastic remark; a gibe. Courtesy of Free Dictionary.
r) RIP Richard Francis, host of KBOO’s A Different Nature. I didn’t know him well, but I know he was a sweet soul and well-loved at KBOO. Here are nice articles about Richard on the Kill Ugly Radio and Baron Landscape’s Broken Hour blogs.
s) Super Project Lab, my hubby’s improv troupe, has a whole bunch of shows coming up. This weekend they’re doing “Old Flames” at Curious Comedy and they are sharing the bill with Canoofle. And Matt (my sweetie) directed the show!
t) TBA! TBA! TBA! Here’s an interview I did with curator Kristan Kennedy for Behind the Screen.
u) Okay, nearing the end of the alphabet and feeling a bit stuck… I always wanted Wonder Woman Underoos. It seems they still make them.
v) The Verdana font was designed by Matthew Carter specifically to be read on a computer screen. Here’s more from fonts.com.
w) Speaking of Wonder Woman, did you know that Joss Whedon started writing a live action film adaptation of Wonder Woman? Too bad it never came to fruition.
x) Xi is the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet. It is preceded by Nu and followed by Omicron
y) I’m a full-time working stiff now. Luckily it’s at this marvelous place, Young Audiences.
z) Zee End.

Summer vacation is almost over

Didn’t realize I was taking a summer vacation from the blog! As the summer winds down I’m back. I’ve been busy, busy, busy, with lots of exciting, crazy antics, which I’ll probably write about later when things are a bit more settled. Because I’m been so INSANE (just know, the last three weeks, and the last few days in particular, have been one of the biggest roller coaster rides I’ve experienced), and because my poor hubster is so darn sensitive to the heat, we decided to go to the air-conditioned movie theater last night. A welcome and excellent distraction!

There were a few good options at the Lloyd Center theatre (the one outside the mall on Multnomah) – Funny People, (500) Days of Summer, Julie & Julia. We chose Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci. The (based on true) story follows a nearly-30 young woman named Julie who dreams to be a writer, but depressingly plugs away at government desk job. Her husband encourages her to start a cooking blog. She decides that her blog/life project will be to cook every single recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in exactly 365 days. Parallel to Julie’s story is Julia Child’s story – how she began seriously cooking in her 40s while living in Paris, studying at the Cordon Bleu and her deeply romantic and loving relationship with her husband Paul. To top it all off it was written and directed by queen of the chick flick Nora Ephron of When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle fame. Sounds like too-perfect a package, right?

Loved it! OK, I admit, it’s exactly what I wanted and needed for a distraction – a sappy, sweet love story. But it was even better than I expected from a formulaic Hollywood “chick flick.”

First of all, Meryl Streep is frakkin’ brilliant. She is such an amazing actress! She always manages to create fresh, complex, engaging characters, unlike so many other iconic (particularly male) actors of her caliber and age, who seem to fall into trite characterizations of themselves. (Think DeNiro, Pacino.) Streep’s Julia Child is hilarious, loving, lovable, tragic, flamboyant and charming. Stanley Tucci makes a perfect Paul to Streep’s Julia and their chemistry is heart-warming and wonderful to watch. Jane Lynch has a fun appearance as Julia’s equally tall and charming sister.

In the other story line, Amy Adams does a very nice job as the sweet, quirky blogger. Her journey through Julia’s cookbook is somewhat predictable, but well-played and satisfying. Eric Messina brings a nice grounding to their story line as husband Eric.

Another interesting aspect to the film is the political and social backdrop of the time periods of the two stories. Julia and Paul’s story takes place amidst the scary McCarthy years, with Paul himself getting investigated for his communist ties. Julie and Eric live in Queens, Julie working at the Lower Manhattan Development Project post-9/11 answering calls about claims for survivors of folks who perished.

All in all, I enjoyed the film. It made me yearn for (and almost feel sick over) the gorgeous, rich French dishes. And it’s always lovely and rare to see a good movie with strong, interesting, complex women characters, made by a strong female director.

Today’s A 2 Z

A: Angry Asian Man
B: Blogorrhea
C: Chocolate, dark and bitter is good
D: Dr. Horrible
E: Elliot Smith
F: Fonts
G: Grace Lee Boggs
H: Hamblog
I: Improvisation
J: Juice, carrot-orange
K: KBOO
L: Lost, yes I’m enjoying it again
M: Colectivo La Malagua
N: Naomi Iizuka
O: Octavia Butler
P: Parks
Q: Quince paste and manchego cheese on a nice cracker
R: Racialicious
S: Spectacles
T: T, the letter
U: Ursula K. LeGuin
V: Vernal equinox
W: Word games, puzzles
X: Malcolm X
Y: Yam, roasted, but not candied
Z: Ruth Zaporah