Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year-End Wrap-Up

Ok, here's a list of my top five things of 2009. Sort of like Oprah's favorite things, except without the freebies or screaming suburban moms. I've decided to combine genres and years because I am a little sloooow in the book-buying department. Hey! They're expensive! But, this represents the best from my year at least :) Onto the next decade!

best show: Mad Men
Thank you, Matt Weiner for giving the world Don Draper.

best book: The Road/ The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
As mentioned above, neither of these books were published in 2009 but they were the best books I read this year, which is ultimately more important.

best line: "Drunk rollerblading is danger, 90s style."
I write down things people say. I like this one the best.

best song: Blood Bank by Bon Iver
If you've never heard this song, you need to download it right now.

best place to blow my stipend:
If I'm wearing something that you think is cute, it's probably from here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On Writing

Today I realized something: I am not writing as much as I want to be. This is strange, in a sense, because rare is the day I don't write something. Perhaps an addendum is in order: I am not writing what I want to be writing as much as I want to be. Grad school provides one with the rare opportunity to devote a sizable chunk of time to reading, writing, and thinking. I welcome this, of course. And, I do believe that the more I read and write, the better I get--even if I don't always like what I'm reading or writing. However, I find that the more I read and write for school, the less energy (and time) I have to spend on my "own" writing. This issue becomes even more pressing when I'm writing an actual article on top of the reading and writing for school, plus the writing for myself. I feel guilty when I don't "write" every day--I feel guilty that I am in the middle of a novel and a screenplay that I've barely touched since September. "Don't be so hard on yourself," I think. "You're in the middle of getting your Master's degree!" And yet, there is no excuse. "You have time," I counter. "All those minutes you waste looking a dresses on Modcloth or checking absolutely nothing on Facebook? That's pages you're missing."

But is it? I've always been a little neurotic, a little prone to stress--I think I need those 30-40-60 however many minutes some days to unwind. To think about something simple, like how pretty a certain skirt is, instead of composition theory and its place in today's classroom. James makes fun of me for reading celebrity gossip, but there is just something so theraputic in reading about Lindsay Lohan's latest meltdown or the unending insipidness of the Kardasian sisters. It's complete and utter fluff--and I need that. I am not being graded on it, there is no reason for me to commit any of it to memory, and it won't have any impact on my future. Grad school involves all of those things--and more. Those little mental vacations I go on once or twice a day are necessary for my sanity. The idea that I would instead through myself into the writing pit then just doesn't make any sense. True, I work best when I stick to a schedule, but I also know the dribble that comes out when I make my brain work when it is exhausted. Perhaps, the best thing me to do, is to relax and trust in myself--trust that the writing will come.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time to eat the doughnuts!

There's a lot I love about fall: watching the changing foliage, wearing jackets, pumpkin flavored beer--and apple cider doughnuts. James and I made the trip out to Belltown Hill Orchard in South Glastonbury for these seasonal treats, which are flavored with apple cider--not deep fried in cider, as James suggested. Other visitors were apple-picking, but we decided to sit in the car and take in the view while stuffing our faces. We also purchased an overstuffed apple pie, which was one of the best bought pies I've had. All in all it was a delicious day--totally worth the calories.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Saucy Toffee

You know that giddy feeling you get when you make something new AND it turns out fantastic? That's what happened when I made Nigella Lawson's Sticky Toffee Sauce--or maybe it was just the sugar. Either way, this stuff is to die for. Even James was raving about it, and it usually takes a lot to get him excited about food. I guess it's because he's swimming in pizzas all day :) Anyway, not only is this sticky toffee sauce incredible, it's easy. My favorite. I can't wait to make it again, even if it means not being able to zip up my skinny jeans. So worth it.

Sticky Toffee Sauce

* 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soft dark brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
* 3/4 stick unsalted butter
* 2/3 cup heavy cream

Put the sugar, syrup and butter in a pan and slowly bring to the boil, allowing the butter to melt and the sugar to dissolve. Let the mixture bubble for a couple of minutes before carefully adding the cream. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the sauce is thick, sticky and glossy.

I freaked out when my sauce didn't seem to be turning thick and glossy, but not to worry! Once I turned off the heat, it came together like gangbusters. I also added a pinch of salt to the mix during the cooking process. Next time I'll add a little more though to really get that salty n' sweet flavor--alternatively, I wonder what would happen if I used salted instead of unsalted butter?

I served the sauce warm over chilled bowls of vanilla haagen daz. The sauce starts melting the ice cream right away, so I suggest pre-scooping your dishes and sticking them in the freezer for a bit before adding the sauce.

Pizza Margherita

I saw Julie & Julia a couple days ago and of course it inspired me to get cooking again. I've slacked off lately because James works at a restaurant and usually brings home delicious stuff at the end of the day. But, after watching the film I decided to get back into my groove. First up? My own spin on margherita pizza. Yes, my boyfriend works at a pizza place, but it's Greek-style pizza. This one was different, I swear!

At my place in Boston, the pizza stone has become a popular kitchen accessory. I made a delicious margherita pizza two months ago and decided to give it a whirl back here in CT. Though I was pizza stone-less, the results were still quite tasty. The secret is letting the tomatoes marinate for at least four hours. That way they really take on the flavor of the basil, olive oil, garlic and seasonings.

10 or so grape tomatoes halved
1/3 C EVOO
1 clove garlic, minced
5 fresh basil leaves, sliced.
S&P to taste
dash red pepper flakes.

I'd suggest using your own discretion with the seasonings. I like my food a little spicy, so I add a liberal amount of red pepper. The only think I wouldn't slack on is the fresh basil. It makes all the difference.

Hot, Hot, Hot Dog

People often mistake my passion for food as a sign of culinary snobbery—and while I certainly love a good meal at a four star restaurant, nothing beats a simple dish really well done. Case in point: Blackie’s. Family-owned and operated since the early 1920’s, Blackie’s is a modest roadside food stand caught in a 50’s timewarp that offers a limited, but decidedly delicious menu of standard fare: hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream. What is it, then, that has made Blackie’s in Chesire such an attraction? What could possibly inspire such cult-like devotion from it’s customers? Why, pepper relish, of course. Basic is definitely the name of the game here. No chili, cheese, or unruly combonation. Ketchup, spicy brown mustard, and pepper relish. It might sound rather boring, but this pepper relish is nowhere close to that jarred green stuff you find in the supermarket. It’s brown, hot, spicy, and a little sweet. It takes the perfectly juicy Hummel-brand dogs to the next level. I loaded my dogs with a layer of mustard first, then a generous helping of relish. I like my spice, but this stuff definitely has a kick. Some of it got on my face and it was a little burny afterwards—but so worth it. Does it get any better, you may ask? At $2.50 a dog, you bet it does.