The Reluctant Blogger


Dark Days Week 5: Pasta with Braised Lamb
December 30, 2010, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Dark Days, Gourmet, Unbound, Pasta

The last couple of Dark Days meals have been relatively quick and easy meals – exactly what I needed during a few particularly busy weeks.  However, when I have more time, I love to spend good chunks of the day in the kitchen tinkering.  I took some extra time off of work between Christmas and New Years, and after a short trip to Portland for some quality time with my husband (and Powell’s…) I was very ready to get back into the kitchen and cook.  This didn’t take a lot of active time, but it was so nice to do some chopping and stirring after not cooking Christmas dinner and then being gone for a few days.

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Mulled Wine, Gourmet, December 2002
December 1, 2010, 6:25 pm
Filed under: Drinks, Gourmet, Unbound

My best friend visited for four days over Thanksgiving. We watched bad movies (um, Sex and the City 2? Awful. Actually, worse than awful, if that’s possible), read stacks of books and magazines, talked, talked, and talked some more, and tried not to drive my husband too crazy (fortunately he has his wood shop to retreat to when it gets to be too much).

We tried not to be lushes the entire weekend, particularly after spending Thanksgiving Day with my friend in the wine business, but a cold and rainy afternoon of bad movie watching practically demanded a batch of mulled wine.  This was the first time I’d made this particular recipe, and even after cutting the sugar in half (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar), the mulled wine was still a bit sweet for my taste.  However, the rest of the recipe was very good.  With a bottle of McKinley Springs Bombing Range Red from my frighteningly well-stocked “cellar”, we were drinking in no time at all – just in time to make an awful movie a little more entertaining.

Mulled Wine
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2002

2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp cardamom  seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1/2 cup sugar (or less)
1 cup water
1 bottle dry red wine
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2 mandarin oranges, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Heat spices, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is fully dissolved.  Add wine, vanilla bean, orange and lemon slices and heat for five to ten minutes or until heated through, then strain into glasses and enjoy.



Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup, Gourmet, November 2009
October 31, 2010, 7:55 pm
Filed under: Dairy-free, Gourmet, Unbound, Soup, Wheat-free

It’s nearly November and due to unexpected changes at work, I’ve spent far more time working than I could have imagined when the year started. While I’m still making dinner when I’m actually home, dinner is driven by speed at which it can be prepared and what is in my CSA box for the week.  We’ve been eating a lot of salads, squash, and pasta with roasted vegetables, weekly racing against the clock to get through another box of vegetables.  My cookbook project is way off track (the last time I “saved” a cookbook was July 4th.  JULY 4th!) and I know there is no way I’m going to finish before the end of the year.  I’ve managed to get a post up once a month for the Gourmet, Unbound project, but I think the group aspect of the project has ended.  Without some kind of deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, I know I’d probably just stop blogging since I’m barely hanging in there anyway, so I’m going to keep doing a Gourmet recipe a month if for no other reason than it forces me to take my camera into the kitchen once in a while.

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Chicken Piccata With Capers, Gourmet, October 1991
September 29, 2010, 7:00 pm
Filed under: Gourmet, Unbound

Most of the recipes I’ve made for the Gourmet, Unbound project have been weekend projects that take some time.  Spending the weekend in the kitchen is one of my favorite things to do, and this project has been a perfect fit for that.  Unfortunately, September and October are among my busiest months at work and I’m lucky if I’m even home on the weekends (case in point: between Labor Day and Halloween this year, I’ll have been home a grand total of two weekends and only one of those weekends away was for something other than work).

When looking for an October recipe, I knew it would have to be something I could make quickly.   Continue reading



Beef Chow Mein, Gourmet, September 2005
August 31, 2010, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Dairy-free, Gourmet, Unbound

When I started working in downtown Seattle about two years ago, I promised myself that since my commute was going to be long, I was going to make the most of being in the city and get out of the office every day for at least a few minutes.  While that was a nice thought, reality intervened and there are days I don’t leave the building.  However, when I have the chance, I make a point to get out and walk.  If I’m not meeting a friend for lunch, my walks tend to take me either north to Pike Place Market or south to the International District.  More times than not, my walks south end up at Uwajimaya, the Asian supermarket aka so-much-better-than-a-candy-store.

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Peach, Proscuitto and Goat Cheese Pizza, Gourmet, August 2000
July 31, 2010, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Gourmet, Unbound

This is not the recipe I originally hoped to make for August.  What I wanted to tell you about is this recipe, one of my favorite the-garden-is-overflowing meals, but peak harvest season in Seattle doesn’t exactly mesh with summer according to Gourmet.  In a month – a few weeks, if I’m lucky – that recipe will be making a frequent appearance on our dinner table, but right now the green beans have just started their long climbs up their poles, my tomato plants are covered in tiny green orbs and the potatoes just started blooming.  Fortunately, the Gourmet archives had plenty of other tempting ideas.  After considering a month of burgers (every single recipe in the August 2007 burger feature sounds incredible) or something from August 1982 (I found a bound volume of all of the issues from 1982 on eBay a few years ago), my slightly-more-rational side prevailed and I settled on Peach, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza.

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Korean-Style Grilled Flank Steak, Gourmet, July 2007
June 30, 2010, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Dairy-free, Gourmet, Unbound, Grilling, Wheat-free

For about ten years of my childhood, my next door neighbors were Korean.  Summertime brought frequent neighborhood cookouts, and for the years the Wons lived next door, cookouts often meant Korean barbeque.  I’m only now beginning to realize how lucky I was to be exposed to good Korean food so young, especially as I grew up in rural Montana.  Today, good Korean food never fails to make me happy.  Convincing my husband that Korean food should be happiness-inducing has been more of a challenge, but he’s coming around. Continue reading



Khao Man Gai (actually, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Gourmet, June 2000)
May 31, 2010, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Dairy-free, Gourmet, Unbound, Wheat-free

When I was in college I spent a summer in Thailand. I was there on a research fellowship, but when I wasn’t observing microfinance projects, I was eating. Although I showed up with no language skills, I was really lucky – I shared an apartment with a Thai girl about my age, and a family friend had recently married a Thai woman and they were living in Bangkok. This was a huge advantage, as it meant I always had someone who was willing to have me tag along, so I got to do a lot of things that weren’t in the Lonely Planet guidebook.  It also meant I was able to try foods I never would have found on my own. Continue reading



Fettuccine with Morels, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese, Gourmet, May 1992
April 30, 2010, 7:25 pm
Filed under: Gourmet, Unbound, Pasta, Vegetarian

Spring has been a bit of tease in the Seattle area this year.  February brought a spate of warm days, but before long it had cooled off and the rain came back.  Sure, we’ve had some incredible days since then, but on the whole I’d characterize this as a cooler, wetter spring.  And last night, it hailed like no one’s business – and it was cold enough that the hail WAS STILL ON THE GROUND THIS MORNING.  It looked like it had snowed.  I decided not to take any pictures, so that I could pretend it hadn’t happened, but the damage is done.  My basil – which was just starting to sprout – is completely flattened, and it doesn’t look like recovery is likely.  Fortunately most of my other seedlings were larger and look like they’ll make a recovery, but it was still disheartening.

Thankfully, spring brings a lot of good along with the not-so-good.  Morels and asparagus are right near the top of the list of good things that grow in Washington in the early spring (rhubarb is another one).  Although I’m pulling this out right at the last minute  (yet again) I’d decided on this recipe early in the month.  I just had to wait for morels to come to the market.  Yesterday, on a lunchtime walk through Pike Place Market, I spotted morels – picked yesterday near Chehalis – and asparagus from Yakima.  Good thing, since the month is nearly over! Continue reading



Pierogi, Gourmet, April 2004
March 31, 2010, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Dumplings, Gourmet, Unbound, Vegetarian

Just to get this out of the way, I’m pretty sure pierogi is already plural, so saying pierogies is like saying…um, okay, well, I can’t come up with anything off the top of my head, but anyway.  Gourmet calls this Pierogies, but I think it should have been Pierogi (update: Wikipedia backs me up on this one).  Aaaanywaay.  Now that I’ve outed myself as a bit of a word nerd, let’s move along.

When I looked through my spreadsheet (okay, so maybe I’m not *just* a grammar nerd…) of Gourmet recipes in search of an April project, this particular recipe jumped out at me.  I already had everything on hand; the forecast for Sunday was rain and more rain (the perfect kind of weather for a day in the kitchen); and varenyky (the Ukrainian version of pierogi) and borscht were the two lasting food cravings I developed after spending time in Western Ukraine while in jr. high.  Perfect!  A project with elements of sentimental connection, frugality, and enough complexity to occupy a rainy Sunday.  What more could I ask for?

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