Tips for winning the summer

When Mr. Obama gave his state of the union speech last winter he discussed winning the future. I love this. I mean, who doesn’t want to win the future? It reminds me of the time that I was an archery instructor (?!) at a summer camp and a young man named LaTroy declared in a boastful voice: “I won archery.” You know what LaTroy? You did. So let’s win obscure things today, shall we? Here are a few tips for winning the summer.

Tip #1: Enjoy a delicious lunch. One with cheese, sauteed kale and a sliced tomato with sea salt. Yumtown. Population: you.

Tip #2: Avoid swimmer’s itch… I lost at this one.

Tip #3: When the temperature hits the 90s, chop four inches off of your hair.

Tip #3 part 2: Go to Thorps on Atwood for said haircut. They give you a can of pbr upon your arrival.

Tip #4: Sit close to the fridge.

Tip #5: Meet up with some friends and enjoy a tall glass of iced tea from Mermaid Cafe.

Tip#6: Take a road trip. And if you find yourself on Highway 20 in eastern Iowa on a Sunday morning, take the exit near Dyersville and visit the field of dreams before anyone else arrives. Run the bases. Yell, “Go the distance” at a father and son playing catch as you flee the parking lot.

Tip #7: Make beergaritas. My sister and I made them for the first time last summer after our cousin told us about them. Delicious.

_______________________________________________

Beergaritas

Ingredients:

1 can frozen limeade

1 1/2 cans pbr

1 limeade can full of tequila

2 limeade cans full of club soda (or Squirt)

Directions:

Mix ingredients in a pitcher. Serve over ice. Cheers to winning stuff.

__________________________________________________

Bonus points if you see fireflies tonight… Happy July.

 

Bellingham roasted potatoes

Okay, potatoes. When Dan and I were on our trip in Washington last month, my sister took us to Bellingham to visit her dear friends, their two cute kids and their adorable dog, Chester, aka ‘Butter.’ This was a fun adventure that included a ferry ride to Lummi Island, an extended happy hour on the beach, an encounter with a beavare, and, because we reveled too long on the beach, missing dinner on the island and ending up at a taco place/ bar in Bellingham where my sister, in a moment of brilliance, discovered that you could order a bowl of nacho cheese to accompany your burrito.

Whose cheese? Nacho cheese!

The next morning, our lovely hostess made an asparagus and egg frittata for breakfast and enlisted my help in making the roasted potatoes. I had been roasting cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts all winter, but it had never occurred to me to roast potatoes. So while my sister nobley fumbled with the coffee maker, I had to ask for guidance in making the potatoes (I’d like to think that what sometimes comes off as our ditziness is really just a profound desire to ask questions and to make sure that we do things right!) Now, I can’t stop making these potatoes… It’s the easiest thing and they turn out oh so delectable.

Clean and dried organic potatoes

I’ll give you the same directions that were given to me. Pre-heat the oven to 375 or 400 degrees. Rinse off and dry organic potatoes (I’ve been using yellow ones from Willy Street Co-op and picking out the smallest ones I can find.) Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, minced garlic and whatever savory spices or herbs that you have on hand. I have used oregano and Penzey’s country french vinagrette. My neighbor has been keeping me in the fresh basil the last few weeks, thanks to his indoor herb garden, and I have been using this too, but adding it after the potatoes come out of the oven. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and place them in the oven and roast for 25-35 minutes, or until the skins just become golden brown crisp; you may want to give them a good shake a couple of times during the cooking process. Place the potatoes in a bowl and toss with freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve these potatoes as a breakfast side dish, a light meal with a salad and bread, or any way you want, really… I don’t think you could go wrong. Enjoy.

Hello old friend

Well hellooooo there. It feels like it’s been ages. How have you been? Since we last spoke the lilacs have bloomed, I have written a few concert reviews, celebrated my birthday (in a tent outside of Viroqua), found a new place to live (a house! with a yard! and chickens next door!), attended my first music festival of the summer season, obtained my first sunburn, and made a few new dishes that I want to tell you about. There’s more that we need to catch up on, but I’m going to start with the recipes for now.

Birthday morning view from the tent, Sidie Hollow campground, Viroqua, WI

The first two recipes that I want to tell you about come from a cookbook that I have had for longer than I would like to admit, because I am just now finally starting to use it. The book is Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson and it’s a very good thing that the pages are now starting to look splattered with oil and stained with fingerprints. I have had my eye on this one recipe for lime-bathed peanut salad (mainly because of the name) for awhile, but finally busted it out two weeks ago an a Tuesday evening when I was in the mood to celebrate (it has to do with a long and convulated housing situation, I’ll spare you the details, but it resulted in the aforementioned house where we will move into in June). This salad is the epitome of flavorful. As soon as I prepared this dish, Dan and I proceeded to eat 3/4 of it out of the bowl with one spoon, before dinner was even served.

Mmmmm... lime-bathed peanuts

__________________________________________________

This recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

Lime-Bathed Peanut Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups usalted raw peanuts

4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 large jalapeno chile, seeded and diced

3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice along the way. If the peanuts have skins, rub them clean in a dish towel to remove the skins, but don’t obsess over this. I acually like the visual texture you get from having some peanuts with skins and some without.

Combine the tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro in a bowl. In a separate small bowl, wisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Add to the tomato mixture and gently stir to combine. Just before serving, fold in the peanuts. Taste and adjust the seasonings with more salt if need be. Serves 4 t0 6.*

*Yeah, right. More like two, if you are anything like us.

___________________________________________________

To accompany the peanut salad I made a main dish called otsu that has soba noodles, tofu, cucumbers and a citrusy-gingery sauce. This recipe also comes from Heidi’s book and is equally delicious.

Soba noodles

 _____________________________________________

This recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking

Otsu

Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup shoyu sauce (wheat-free soy sauce)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

12 ounces dried soba noodles
12 ounces extra-firm nigari tofu
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.

Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.

While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (½ inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the ¼ cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4-6.

A serving of otsu with sauteed spinach from the farmer’s market

____________________________________________________________

I have to run, but I promise it won’t be so long until we talk again. I owe you a (simple and tasty) recipe for potatoes.

Fun with pets (West Coast version)

The following is a guest appearance on ‘Wisconsin Fun Next Exit’ by Dan Walkner

I own pets.  I love pets.  Pets are where it’s at.  Got a pet?  Sweet! No pets? Poor you!  Whenever I see a pet in the wild, I often talk to or scratch said pet.  I generally make up a new name for the pet.  For instance, in our neighborhood I have made up the following nicknames for a few of the cats: Ahman Green, Cruddy, Cinnabon, Orange Roughy, Sir Spicy Kickers, and many more.  When encountering a pet, if the owner is friendly, or not looking, I often pick up the pet to see how heavy it is and have Erica snap a picture for posterity’s sake.  I call this activity “Fun with Pets.”   I recently played FWP in Seattle, and here are some of the results!

This man trains cats. He was awesome, and had two friendly pets on display.
This is Happy Speckles. After talking to her, I warned a nearby Chihuahua about an eagle that I had recently seen in the vicinity. He heeded the warning.
Seriously? This fence hates pets for no reason!
This is Miguel. We became fast friends. If he ran for mayor, I pity the fool who runs against him. He’s that popular.
This dog was very friendly and alert. His breath, sadly, was appalling. Made up for it with moxie.
Although not pets themselves, these charitable cupcake saleswomen gave me the skinny on the neighborhood’s pets. Oddly enough, we saw these same kids at a Mariners game where I overheard one of them say to her friend,”He bought a cupcake from our bake sale. He really likes cats.” That really happened.
While lulling this pet into a false sense of security, I moved too quickly and it ran under a couch while his cat friend in the house looked longingly on while standing in close proximity to a disco ball.
Boldi the Corgi and Greta the Shepard were outside of a grocery store. Greta speaks fluent German, but if you scratch her, Boldi tries to either bite Greta’s face or your face. Lots of face biting with these two.
Poor Walter. He lives with a giant flailing dog named Josie, so, alas, he spends a lot of his time under stuff, like this couch.
The adorable Josie in a rare non-flailing moment. Lots of energy!
Sena and I participated in a chicken naming contest at a chic mercantile. They had pet chickens there. Note the extreme amount of thought being showcased by us. Naming pets is a serious endeavor not to be trifled with. I wanted the chick to be “Elka” if it was a girl or “Bjorn” for a male. Sena chose the name “Gordon Lightfoot” for the chick regardless of gender.In one of the world’s greatest miscarriages of justice, they opted not to select our names.
This dog runs his own knick knack store! Enterprising lad, this one! I bought a belt buckle from him.
This is Peter Tosh. He gets his name because he has dreads and is a little bit ornery. Very mellow when not being manhandled by strangers, though.
This is Nellie Mae (actual name on her necklace). She is surprisingly skinny for a cat that eats out of the dumpsters behind a Mediterranean restaurant. She ran away when she got spooked by the mail man crashing into a “No Parking” sign.
This is Martin (pronounced (Mar-teen). He gets his name because he walks gingerly like former NFL kicker Martin Grammatica. His hobbies (the cat not the kicker) include walking on sidewalks, being way fluffy, and allowing strangers to maul him. Sena looks on.
Look closely. No, closer. Ah, that’s better. Yes! A snail, but not just any snail. Oh no, this old boy was out for a walk. Why not? It was about 65 degrees and sunny! We were overjoyed to meet this pet.
Meet Mocha. We were having an intense argument about whether it was more fun to drink beer at the beach or chew on sticks at the beach. Lucky for us, we saw an otter and realized that life is too short to bicker about petty issues like sticks vs. beer. Thanks otter. We needed that.
You might think there are no pets in this picture. Wrong! That was a Beavare that we spotted on Lummi Island.   A puported mythical creature assumed to be a West Coast relative of the Hodag, we spotted this particular Beavare on the beach. Myth busted!
If Chester were a professional athlete, his scouting report would be “moves well for a big man.” Case in point, he has survived a bear attack and several beavare maulings. Ok, ok. The bear part is true, though. Well done Chester!
Another of the enterprising Seattle pet-set, this demure puppers owns a soap store. She is a pretty soft sell, though. Erica bought some soap and a soap dish with a whale on it for our “Nantucket Sleighride” themed bathroom.
Picked up this dicey dame at The Waterwheel Lounge. Her owner, although very creepy and reportedly on Mescaline (that’s what his even creepier sidekick told me), was one heckuva ping pong player.

Ah, pets.  Appreciate them.  Love them.  And if you see a friendly-looking man hoisting your pet in the air and a cute feisty brunette snappin’ a picture of it, rest assured that these people are not deranged weirdos bent on pet destruction.  They are uplifters of not only pets, but pet culture.  I.  Love.  Pets.