Saturday, November 24, 2012

Right now.

The sun sets.
Folding chairs and tables propped up in the living room, from an evening of drinks and pizza and family and friends.
A husband stirring downstairs in the family room, freshly woken from a nap.
Turkey stock simmers on the stove.
In the fridge: leftover turkey and ham. Plus: Popeye's chicken, deep dish pizza, a slice each of pumpkin and blueberry pie, wine, beer, polish sausages and sauerkraut. In my belly: the last of the stuffing, mashed potatoes, cheesy broccoli casserole.
Clean dishes in the dishwasher.
Loads of laundry.
A lit up  Santa's rosy face, hanging from the house next door.
A glass of milk. A snickerdoodle.

Martha Stewart’s Snickerdoodles (from Martha Stewart's Cookies)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 20 (1 3/4-inch) balls; roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake cookies until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

On food, and photos, and why.

Her question got me thinking. 

I started taking photos of my food when I got my first camera, and I was unemployed and living at my parents' house, and I started cooking them dinner every night because I had the time and they paid for the groceries and washed all the dishes so why not. And it was more of a "Look what I made!" kind of moment when I took out my camera and started snapping pics of eggplant parmesan, enchiladas, chilli. 

I guess somewhere along the way, once I started getting more into photography and amazed at how a photo can turn a simple moment into so much more, that I wanted my food photos to represent that, as well. "That" being the moment. And more. Here is where I struggle today.

There are times when I take pictures of my food because I just love the way runny egg yolk explodes over a dish. It's the same feeling I get when I cut into a perfectly ripe avocado, and see that gorgeous green color. Looking at photos of foods that make me happy makes me, well, happy.

And then there is this photo hanging up in my kitchen of an omelet. I couldn't even tell you what was in that omelet but I can tell you that I took the picture in Mexico, during my sister's wedding week, and there is a glass of juice on the table because there was a fresh juice bar every day at breakfast, and Murdo is in the shot, blurry but there, and when I look at this photo I am taken back to this moment. It's one of my favorite photos (and moments).

I take pictures of food because I love food. I love what food says about who we are and the people we share our meals with. How the smell and taste and look evokes feelings, memories. Transports us back to long summer days in Mom and Dad's backyard, or an apple orchard in Michigan on a wedding day, or a house in California with a lemon tree outside the window. Right now, looking at the pictures of food hanging on the wall next to me, there are all of these things. Captured, framed, forever.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Real blogging.

Things I think about lately when it comes to my blog:
  • I don't feel like writing. Or cooking. Or taking photos.
  • I can't believe I took a day trip to Madison and didn't take my camera out once.
  • This cilantro-onion mix is crucial to taco night. Do I blog about it? What's to blog about? It's cilantro and onions, chopped finely and mixed together with fresh lime juice. 
  • Why do I need to post a recipe, anyway?
  • I would take photos around the house, but god this house is a mess. And it doesn't look like how I want it to. 
  • It's too dark to take pictures of food. 
  • I need pretty pictures to blog. 
  • I need a recipe to post. 
  • Is this still technically a food blog? Does it have to be? Do I want it to be?
  • There was that chicken paprikash I made. Three months ago. 
  • I want to blog real life. Real meals. Where I live. What I eat. Not a gussied up piece of what I think my life should be like and what I think I should be eating and blogging because that's what other bloggers are eating and blogging. Not just a corner of the table where I've cleared the bills and papers and mess out of the way, laid out a pretty towel and a plateful of food so I can take a picture of only what I want you to see rather than what's really there. 
  • Truth: We use Taco Bell seasoning on our taco meat. 
  • There I go, talking about tacos again. We've been eating a lot of tacos. No one wants to hear about tacos.
  • I'm been playing a lot of Scramble on my iPhone instead of writing.
  • Maybe my iPhone can help me start writing again. And taking photos again. And making things again. 
  • I downloaded the following apps in the last three days in hopes that my iPhone can help me to be more creative instead of sucking the creativity out of me: Evernote, Evernote Food, Houzz, Pepperplate, Buy Me a Pie
  • I know they are not the answer. 
  • I will find one, and I'll be back here. 

And now, a picture of tacos. Taken with my iPhone. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Written Together. And fried sweet potatoes.

It was summer, and it was hot. We were outside, in my backyard, sitting under a tree, and the air was thick but not enough to make us move indoors. I was eating a popscicle. My friend Shanna was back in town from Nashville, and we were talking about the things we always talk about: blogs, writing, taking photos, everyday life, food. I think I said something about how she should write a book, which I feel like I tell her every time I talk to her, because her writing has this honesty to it that you don’t find in many places -- the type of honesty that reveals vulnerability and yet, only makes the writer stronger by recognizing it and makes the reader nod along, thinking “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel sometimes, except I never really knew how to say it.”

And Shanna mentioned casually that she was thinking about writing an ebook, and she talked about it so nonchalantly, like it was just something in the back of her head, an idea swimming around but not quite gaining speed just yet. I knew, right when she said it, that it would happen. Just like over lunch a few years before, when we were talking about jobs and happiness and how, as writers, it’s great to have the option to freelance in order to make time for other passions. And then, she quit her job and started freelancing, and hasn’t looked back since. Or, when we complained about the weather in Chicago, and how we longed for warmth and sunshine, and then Shanna up and moved to Nashville to be with the man she loved. While I’m the girl who just talks about these things, Shanna is the one who does them. 

She wrote an ebook. “Written Together: A Story of Beginnings, in the Kitchen and Beyond.” And it’s about all of those things she did -- starting a blog, quitting her job, falling in love, moving to Nashville. Cooking. Eating. Finding truth in big things and small things. I think my favorite part of the book is the way she describes Tim, her now-husband who she met through the blog and whom I’ve only met a few times but, just from the way she writes about him, I feel like I really know him. And I love that. I love that Shanna and I became friends through our blogs, which we started on the exact same day in 2008, and found a connection that made the huge, growing universe of bloggers feel much less lonely than if we hadn’t met each other. And that I got to know Tim through her book, getting a more detailed backstory of a tale of which I only knew on the surface -- bits and pieces here and there through blog posts and lunch dates. I look forward to hanging out with them again soon, and for more stories, and more beginnings, and more blogging and writing, together.

You can buy Shanna's book here, and read more about it here and here.

Fried Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Oil
Shanna's ebook also includes recipes! This one is inspired by her recipe for fried zucchini in coconut oil. I used a sweet potato instead because I had one on the kitchen counter just begging to be eaten. I sliced it into thin rounds, fried them in coconut oil and butter, and ended up with a cross between sweet potato fries and sweet potato chips -- slightly crisp on the outer edges, soft and sweet inside, and gone after just a few minutes out of the pan.

1 sweet potato
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper

Peel and slice sweet potato into thin rounds. Heat coconut oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add sweet potato slices in a single layer in the pan (you may have to do this in two batches), and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook until browned on one side, then flip over and cook a couple minutes more, until crisp. Remove to plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with remaining batches.