Eating on a Napkin

The feelings are mutual

by kalamckala

I have had a realization today. I make most of my realizations while inside my own head, in my own little universe. I think about everything: I think about myself, about the world, about my place in it, about my family, and about my future.

Today was one of the first days away from my boy friend in a good long while. You see, we pretty much live together but don’t: I have a house, he has an apartment. I have some sourdough starters, he has a dog. We divide our time between each place and sleep together every night. No matter what. And that’s the way we prefer it to be.

So today, I thought about myself. I thought about the way I feel when I am happy. I thought about myself as a person and myself as a couple. Never before have I felt tied to someone; I have always been the independent type, the type that doesn’t cry, but the joy and love that I feel in my heart brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. It makes me tingly and warm, endorphins rush through my veins and my heartbeat begins to quicken. Does everyone feel this way? Does this sort of feeling last?

Today I thought about the world and I thought about my place in it. My place is to be the kind individual who will hold the door open for you when you have your hands full, the person who asks you how your day was and is genuine, the person who makes you feel like an actual, appreciated human being. Will my endeavors one day change? The probability is high.

Today I thought about my family. There is no denying my love for my family but after being home for all of 8 hours, I have decided that I am not happy when I am home. On the surface, perhaps I am but I can’t say that I am truly and honestly happy. When half of me is gone, how can I be completely happy?

And lastly, today I thought about my future. I thought that I enjoy thinking about the future and the way my life will unfold itself and before I know it, I’ll be 47 and wonder where all those years went and how silly I was when I was 22 and sharing my every thought with the world on this internet page.

My realization of the day, what this entire thing started with, was that I am a happy person. I enjoy my life and my place in this world, I love my family, and I eagerly await my future. But what I really realized today was that I am really truly happy in the presence of my boy friend (Kyle). Without him, I feel like a sac of empty feelings. With him, my soul is warm and happy, liquid like dark and indulgent hot cocoa seeping into every nodule of my body. I also decided that it is quite a beautiful thing to share feelings and intentions with another person.

Case in point: Kyle and I both look at each other with this hopelessness in our eyes. I love that when I give such a longing look, it is reciprocated. Having such raw feelings thrown back at you is unbelievable. It is probably my favorite thing in the world, even besides sourdough baked goods and brussels sprouts. We both have an idea of the future and we know that the future involves both of us.

On the drive home for the holidays, we talked of heavy topics. We talked of future things, things of a serious matter. We made frequent restroom-breaks. We smiled and laughed and held hands. We have fun, the two of us do.

I have no idea why I am sharing this with the world. Somehow, I wonder if any good will come of it. This personal stuff probably isn’t even interesting.

So have some food. These are Kyle’s (and my) favorite!

Brussels sprout latkes
recipe from molly yeh
recipe yield: 14 latkes

In a large bowl, combine 4 cups very thinly sliced brussels sprouts (by use of a food processor or mandolin for easy work), 1 small chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Stir in the juice from 1/2 a lemon along with 4 beaten egg whites. Lastly, stir in 1/2 cup spelt flour until just combined.

In a large cast iron pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Spoon latkes by the spoonful into the hot pan. Cook until golden brown and flip, pressing gently, until the bottom side is just as golden. Remove and place onto a plate protected with paper towels.

Make the balsamic dijon dipping sauce by mixing together 1 cup plain greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons honey, and 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Serve each latke with a dollop of sauce.

What does it mean?

by kalamckala

I have come to a great time in my life: for the first time, the word “love” doesn’t do my feelings any justice.

The best way I can describe this feeling is love, but what I really mean is that my heart is bleeding warmness. I literally feel a warm, prickly, fluttering in my chest cavity, nearly constantly. It’s almost like the heart-racing excitement that came with sprinting in from my first half marathon.

All I have ever wanted is to feel this happy with another person. Wholeheartedly, in every aspect of the word, in love.

I look at this kid when he wakes up in the morning with crusty sleep in his eyes and I love him. We cuddle (and look forward to it) every night and I love him. The cuddle factor is huge, for never have I ever been a true cuddler. I feel like I glow with blissful happiness in his presence. I can feel a tenderness when I look into his eyes and know that it is real when I see the same look reflected in his eyes.  We laugh together more than ever and I know that I love him. He kisses my nose and swirls me around the kitchen in an attempt to silently dance and I know that he loves me too.

All this love-talk reminds me of this scene in Dan in Real Life:

Dan’s daughter claims to love a boy in her class that she is doing a project with. Her name is Mara and she is about 15 years old. Dan is driving the car, Mara is in the backseat, hovering over his shoulder. She is insistent that she loves this boy. Dan strongly disagrees, saying that she can’t possibly know what love is after only knowing this boy for 3 days. She persists to argue, covering her ears with her hands, and repeating “I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him”, each time more aggressively.

I do love him.

That boy of mine.

It’s crazy to think that we were once strangers. I guess everyone has to start somewhere.

The moment I think he fell in love with me was when I made him a cheesecake. His very own cheesecake.

Cannoli cheesecake
recipe from Always with Butter
yield: 1 9″ cheesecake, serves 8-12

Let me be the first to say that I do not like cheesecake. They are overly sweet, dense, and decadent for my tastebuds. However, with the addition of ricotta cheese, heaps of orange zest, and chocolate chips inside of a homemade graham cracker crust, I found this cheesecake to be quite delicious. I imagine that it would be quite wonderful with a cappuccino. 

This is a plan-ahead recipe. Nothing is too complicated or involving difficult ingredients, but do follow the recipe. It is sure to make someone very very happy.

Pull out from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature: 24-oz plain cream cheese and 4 large eggs.

Crush about 8-oz of homemade graham crackers in any way you can (food processor, giant plastic bag, by hand). There should be 2 cups of cookie crumbs. Preheat the oven to 375F and place a rack in the center position.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the cookie crumbs and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Mix in 7 tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil until the crumbs are moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 9″ springform pan and press it evenly into the bottom and 2″ up the sides of the pan. This is important, as it will prevent the liquid filling from overflowing and leaking through the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crust is fragrant and golden brown, 9-12 minutes. Let the pan cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 300F.

In a large bowl, aggressively whisk the cream cheese with 1 cup homemade ricotta cheese, 2 tbsp whole wheat or spelt flour, and a pinch of sea salt. Scrape down the bowl as needed and whisk until smooth and fluffy with no clumps (~5 minutes). Beat in 1 cup raw sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla, and 2 tbsp orange zest until smooth and well blended. Gently fold in 3/4 cup of roughly chopped 72% dark chocolate. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each until blended. Take care not to over mix! Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top over with a rubber spatula.

Bake at 300F for 50-65 minutes. You will know it is ready when the center looks moist and jiggles like Jello-O, while the edges are slightly puffy. Set on a wire rack to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. After sitting in the fridge for 8 hours, the cake may be unmolded and frozen for up to a month.

To freeze, place unmolded cake, uncovered, in the freezer until the top of cold and firm. Wrap it in 2 layers of plastic wrap and 1 layer of tin foil. To unfreeze, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. 

To serve, unclasp the springform pan and run a knife under the bottom crust. Carefully slide the finished cake onto a flat serving plate or cutting board. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Everything is going to be super duper

by kalamckala

Sometimes things don’t always go your way.

Sometimes you let a big exam get the better of you.

Sometimes your bike gets stolen and there’s not much you can do about it.

Sometimes dinner is a complete and disastrous, inedible flop and you must turn to Plan B (peanut butter and honey sandwiches).

Although these times adequately SUCK, these times are the most important: these are the times that define you.

During these times, I like to remind myself that everything is going to be super duper!

I can get down pretty darned easily. I can also pull myself back up almost just as easily. How do I do it? I fill my day with the things that make me happy: I talk about food with my best friend while we run to the gym for an intense workout. I take deep breaths and reflect on the positive things, which are sometimes as minuscule as being all warm and snuggly in bed. I stand over the stove top and whip together milk and oats until they cook down into breakfast. I sip tea with my man and we laugh like crazy!

The My answer is always happiness.

So whatever makes you happy, do that.

Besides looking rather happy themselves, these pancakes sure do make me happy. And they for damn certain made my body happy after half marathoning last weekend.

OH YEAH, I ran my first half marathon! Ran that bad boy in 2:10:45. I’m pretty proud of myself for just running the whole thing. Never did I ever think that my body could do that. And there’s another thing I’m thankful for: my health and body capabilities (and my knees!).

{face}

Sourdough pancakes
recipe from Wild Yeast Blog
recipe yield about 14 cakes

Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl:

511 g rye sourdough starter
2 tbsp raw sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to spoon batter onto a greased hot griddle. Cook until bubbles appear, then flip and cook another minute or two. Serve with fried eggs seasoned with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Leftovers are also delicious slathered with almond butter and eaten with a ripe Fuyu persimmon, hunk of 85% dark chocolate, and large glass of milk!

A successful day

by kalamckala

It’s 6:15am.

I am forfeiting a run in leu of homework completion. In reality, I ended up standing over a cast iron pan, frying up the bright orange yolk of a locally crafted egg. The whites hissed slightly and the tea kettle sang ferociously. The sun was poking through the blinds and cars could be heard from the nearby bustling street. I smiled, sipped my tea in the company of spritely red-streaked sunflowers, and admired my job of wiping the plate clean of any lost, oozing egg yolk.

I decided to lighten my load today. I’ve been going too hard – waking at 6:15am every morning to start the day with homework or a run, scrambling to each back-to-back class that I planned for myself this semester (way to go, Kala), completing homework and reading as assigned, filling my free time with rock climbing and chatting with friends, and cramming in time to cook wherever and whenever possible. Oh and sleep!

One thing I am trying to be more mindful of is that it’s okay to take things easy.

It’s okay to sleep in. It’s okay to even take a day off from homework (egads!). It’s also okay to eat vegetables for breakfast and chocolate for dinner. It’s really okay.

What you have at this point in time is okay and it is enough.

I feel like the time I spend in my own head, I’ve spent in admiration of my life. More of us should admire ourselves and what we have in our lives rather than tear ourselves down and wish we had more. Everyday I try to be grateful for one new thing in my life. Today I’d say that I am thankful for the depth of my mind; I’m thankful for the fact that I feel grateful for so much and that I’ve learned to appreciate the littlest of things. I’m thankful for my passions and I’m thankful to have found them (at last!). I’m thankful for my time and I’m pleased with the way I choose to spend it.

I enjoy my early mornings and fertile day, filled with good stuff going on but sometimes my brain requires a recess. If my brain had a literal recess from my daily activities, you know what it would do? It would want to C O O K !

And so, just the other day I allowed myself some quality rest and relaxation, more mindful meditation, and fun. I made myself a few staples for the rest of the week, to-go lunches fit for my school lunch box, and made dinner plans and grocery lists.

I planned for a sheet of herbs de provence focaccia.

fococcia

the perfect crumb

Specifically to make portabella mushroom burgers, served with goat cheese, basil pesto, and arugula.

portabella mushrooms

And I invited over my favorite company. We ate together, circled on the floor, mumbling meaty mushroom compliments between mouthfuls, sipping wine, and smiling. That is my favorite way to celebrate a successful day!

As for myself, a successful day is synonymous with a day filled with fun, laugher, thoughts of gratefulness for what I do have, not what I don’t have; a day of learning and a day of realizations. But what seals the deal of a great day is almost always the food. Great food can save a crumby day.

It really can.

Seared portabella mushroom burgers
recipe adapted from The PPK
recipe yield – 4 servings

In a bowl, combine the marinade ingredients:

2/3 cup dry white wine (I enjoy the Beringer label from good ol’ Safeway)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 heaping tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced

Wipe with a damp paper towel and remove dirt from:

4 portabella mushroom caps, stems removed

Place the mushrooms gill-side up in a 9×13″ baking dish and pour marinade over the top. Allow the mushrooms to soak in the marinade for at least 1 hour. Turn mushroom caps over about halfway through soaking time and use a spoon to ensure even coverage of the marinade.

When ready to cook, heat a 8-10″ cast iron pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and add mushrooms – save the marinade for dipping bread. Let mushrooms cook until they have a nice golden brown color and then flip – in the second half of cooking they will disperse a lot of liquid. Allow to cook until soft and tender, ~5 additional minutes or so. You’ll know when they are done and if you don’t, there’s really no way to over-cook them unless you burn ‘em.

Serve on toasted focaccia bread (recipe follows) and spread with herb goat cheese, pesto, and arugula – or whatever tickles your fancy!

Focaccia bread
recipe slightly adapted from Jodi Kerfoot
recipe yield 9×13″ slab o’ bread

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 1/2 cups cold tap water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
This bread requires planning! Make the dough a day ahead. Add dry to wet then let dough rest for 5 minutes and mix again until blended. The dough should be very liquidy, almost more like a batter. Refer overnight.
Use your fingers to grease a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil – don’t forget the sides!

Turn out, adding just enough flour for handling, (I usually add upwards of 1 1/2 cups of a combination of white and whole wheat flours). Here you may also want to introduce your add-ins such as fresh rosemary or herbs de provence. I usually add a heaping tbsp or so. Lightly knead dough on a well floured surface until cohesive yet slightly sticky. Oil your fingers and spread dough out onto the greased cookie sheet and make generous indentations to evenly distribute the dough – don’t be shy! Here you can lightly brush the surface of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, or omit the olive oil and sprinkle salt directly into the dough.
Cover and set 40-60 minutes. Bake @400 on the middle rack for approximately 18 minutes. That’s it!

Jumping in Puddles

by Jonathan Almerido

PEAR!!!

Hey all! This is Jonathan, a sometimes contributor to Eating on a Napkin. If you’ve read my posts and are used to/maybe enjoy their rambling style that takes a theme, runs with it, forgets it, then returns to it hoping that you haven’t noticed that I’ve forgotten it, then you have something to anticipate. If not, prepare yourself for something either personally meaningful or entirely meaningless. Either way, you’re in for a space of emotional intimacy that may or may not be awkward for you.

Sometimes you make plans to be awesome, but then you forget to be awesome and are sad instead. Maybe you don’t become sad, but you end up being something other than awesome, like engendering a dormant mode of awesomeness that broadcasts your ability to be awesome but never quite fulfills your awesome potential. Take, for instance, me. No more than ten months ago, I was preparing myself to graduate from college with a B.A. in English (“What do you do with one of those?!” you or your mother probably are asking) from one of the most prestigious universities in all the land. I knew what I wanted to be and had mapped out a four year plan (or so. I’m not great with planning, but I had a more or less concrete plan to do something) to become a teacher and maybe get my M.A. along the way. This process included being a substitute teacher for a bit of time, saving enough money to pay for my return to school, earning a single subject credential so that I could teach high school English (advanced, honors, or A.P., please), then actually teaching.

The disjunction between reality and expectation is startling, though.

(Before I move on, please don’t think this is going to be one of those things where I whine for pages and pages on end. “Where is my life going? What am I doing now? Will I EVER FIND LOVE?!?!?!” I definitely wouldn’t say/haven’t said to myself, shoving cookies into my sad mouth. Puh-lease. This is neither the second act of a rom-com nor a painful bit of nihilist angst.)

I’m one step into that plan and am already beginning to question it. In case you have never thought about it (as I evidently had), being a substitute teacher is hard. You constantly have to reconcile your desire to be an awesome person that personally connects with each and every student with the fact that there are strict disciplinary and formal structures in place with which you may not agree. These modes of behavior are not exclusive, but they are frequently at odds with each other. Teachers may or may not run classes the way that you would want to, but you have to respect these methods. Not only do you have to compromise personal pedagogical and disciplinary approaches, but sometimes you have to be an outright jerk whose public persona is significantly at odds with your personal/private/intimate self. The disjunctions inherent to being a substitute teacher, or at least inherent to my vision of being a substitute teacher, wear away at me. It makes me my less awesome self. It makes me question my desire to be an actual teacher, one who has to deal with 150-odd students every weekday for 180 days of the year.

Which brings me to pears.

I had a particularly heavy lunch this last Saturday and decided that it was more appropriate for me to have a lighter supper. Thus, I figured a salad was in order. I was totally ready to buy some ingredients for dinner: pears, kale, and some balsamic vinegar for a wonderful-sounding, grilled salad (grilled pears?! Grilled kale?! Ricotta?! Come to me, please!!!). When I got to the store, I realized that the available kale was wimpy, and so were a bunch of the other bitter greens I could have used. I picked red chard instead. That was cool, I guess. I could grill the chard instead, or maybe just dress it lightly. I didn’t need kale.

But then as I was driving home, it started to rain. There went the possibility of grilling (for your information, no, I do not have an indoor grill). I was in a poop mood, from the rain, from my existential crisis, from eating too much at lunch and then regretting it. Then, wonder. The smell of petrichor filled my nose, reminding me of days long past spent sipping tea in my room and doing chemistry or calculus, listening to Feist or Death Cab or some other band I was way into back in those days (high school! Four years have passed swiftly). I became happy as I remembered the feeling of security that defined/defines high school in spite of any sentiments I had to the contrary. Sigur Rós’s “Hoppípolla” came on the stereo, and there was no way I was going to continue to feel bad.

It was one of those moments where I forgot how bad I was feeling, or how weird of a week/month/year I was having. Even as I was fully aware that the joys of both olfactory and aural reactions were going to leave me, I was reminded of how awesome life is and could be. It didn’t really matter that being a substitute was possibly less than ideal, or that I wasn’t sure about what I actually wanted to be when I grew up (if ever I did), or that the rain was prohibiting me from grilling. I was literally feeling ecstatic, beside myself.

Things are sorting themselves out, and the disjunction between potential and manifested awesomeness is diminishing. I’m learning how to adapt myself to imperfections and to the reality of things. I also learned how to roast pears. They’re pretty swell. This hot mess of a person is slowly becoming less hot, less messy, more inclined to draw in MS Paint-y.

Swiss chard salad with ricotta and roasted pears, adapted from The Gouda Life

Note: This recipe, as written, makes about 4 servings.

Bunch of red chard (or however much is appropriate for the number of people you’re serving)
Pears (choose pears that are slightly under-ripe and firm. Again, buy based on quantity of people. I found that one pear per person worked well)
Ricotta cheese (I recently made Smitten Kitchen’s successfully, so I’ll suggest that. I recommend about 2-3 tablespoons per person)

For the dressing:
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 t honey
1 t vanilla (or, if you’re adventurous, more)
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a sheet pan with foil, parchment paper, or a silicon mat.

2. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, seasoning to taste. Feel free to adjust proportions and quantity based on the number of people you’re serving.

3. If you want, peel your pears. If you can’t tell by my illustration, I did not peel the pears, and they turned out just swell. Core and slice into quarter inch slices. Coat with dressing. Reserve excess dressing. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

4. Wash your swiss chard. Tear or cut off the leaves from the stem. Tear or cut leaves into bite sized pieces and place into bowl with extra dressing. Slice stems into quarter inch pieces. Put in bowl with leaves and dressing. Toss lightly. The leaves hold up well, so feel free to do this step as the pears are roasting.

5. To serve: place a healthy amount of chard into the center of a plate. Fan out six or seven slices of roasted pear alongside the chard. On the side, dollop a healthy serving of ricotta. The adventure of eating this salad is making different flavor combinations. As an alternative, you can definitely just roast the pears and eat them alongside the ricotta as a dessert. I’m not going to regulate your red chard consumption.

And now for more MS Paint (I admit: it’s actually Paintbrush, but MS Paint is way better) magic:

RED CHARD