Dose of Humor & Candied Cashews

It’s infrequent that I attempt to delve into humor- or anything too poignantly personal- as the Terrified Tastebud. I don’t have a particularly profound reason. And I don’t have cable television at the moment, but I’m still pretty positive there’s a reality show (or fifty) out there that have much higher entertainment potential than my daily musings.

So breathe a sigh of relief… I’ll only dip my toes gingerly into humor today. And, of course, it has EVERYTHING to do with FOOD! You can even have some darn good cashews for snacking as you laugh if you have the very short list of ingredients and a few spare minutes. Feel free to jump now to SweetSourMoments‘ perfect Honey Sesame Roasted Cashew recipe and skip the rest of the dialogue. I promise I won’t mind a bit. Shoot… I won’t even know ;).

It’s been a little over a year that I’ve been a single adult, and the realization has struck me that sharing food from my kitchen has somehow become incredibly complicated. I’m not really sure how this happened.

I love to bake and cook (usually in that order) and generally end up in the kitchen when I’m sad or happy or stressed or excited or it’s raining and I can’t play outside. So, yes. Often. And unfortunately I lack a healthy serving of self control when it comes to sweets particularly. So I give food away. To neighbors. Coworkers. Sometimes random places where I do business. I love it.

Usually people are pretty glad to see me coming with a warm treat. And that’s still primarily the case. Most of my neighbors are happily paired couples and sharing with them is risk-free. Perfect!

But the entertaining twist has become apparent with single men. Of all ages much to my surprise. One of my neighbors is a young guy in his mid-twenties I’m guessing, and he seems to be hanging in a post-fraternity stage of life. That’s ok by me. As long as he eats; which he does. He’s had fresh bread stuffed in his mailbox, cookies, pies (not in the mailbox), candies… but I think it’s taken a full six months for him to realize I’m not the crazy condo lady, a decade his senior, trying to score a date. Really?

The other end of the spectrum was a gentleman at least twenty years my senior who misinterpreted my cookies. After a couple dinners that I thought were friendly gestures, I realized I’d given quite the wrong idea. Frick.

Just in the last week I’m fairly certain I’ve scared away a new friend- my age this time- by sharing one of my kitchen creation staples. Oops. He mentioned he ate this particular item almost everyday, so I figured he’s pretty close to an expert, right? I was curious how my own version compared to what he buys locally.

It felt innocent to me, but I’m just getting used to this new food-sharing phenomenon. My Maman always said “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” but now I’m wondering how to localize only to the stomach. Just stomach for now would be brilliant. Maybe she’ll have some words of wisdom here. Or perhaps you will? Have you ever scared someone with food?

Maybe I should write disclaimers to accompany the treats…

But enough of the food fear… if these little pics of cashews I made this afternoon have you tempted, check out the recipe here by SweetSourMoments. Her instructions are absolutely spot on. I used a silicone baking mat instead of foil to minimize stickiness, and if you’re an I-like-it-hot person, feel free to add a little cayenne.

And I just can’t help myself, but… tied up in a cute little bag they’d be a perfect little food share with a neighbor. Disclaimer attached~

Advertisements

Reconnection and Colorado Sunshine

For a few weeks, our class has officially traded the heat of gas burners and convection ovens for the warmth of a Colorado sunshine. I’ve also inadvertently traded a working internet for a non-working one, but that little challenge has finally been resolved. Grateful to be reconnected.

As much as I love the kitchen, I’ve found my own little heaven weeding row upon row of three-inch fledgling cucumber plants. There’s something innately satisfying with removing obstacles and encouraging life. It sounds melodramatic. But I’m finding it incredibly fun.

We’ve spent time at two local farms which have completely different approaches to agricultural production both within ethical and sustainable parameters. It’s fascinating. Mornings can be early and days could seem endless, but how often can I say “we planted 100 thousand lettuce seedlings today?” We did. And in about three weeks they’ll look like this.

I’ll continue to get my hands dirty for the next few weeks on a larger scale, and they’ll surely stay somewhat soiled playing in my patio garden for the rest of the season.

And amid the recipes and farmers’ market photos I may just drag you back onto the farm and into the sunshine another time or two…

Food and My Mother

It’s difficult to even type ‘mother’ into the title as my mother became ‘Maman’ to me at some point during high school French, when I suppose I simply liked the sound of it. Even still, my two sisters and I each call our mother something different. And she rolls with all of her names without missing a beat.

My Maman. She loves food. And flowers and plants. And family… though not necessarily in that order. She cooked every meal every day as I grew up, as well as glorious chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls and egg breads. I didn’t realize the uniqueness of that phenomenon until I was at least in high school.

And she always had a vegetable garden. Wherever we lived, she managed to turn something- from small plots of Florida’s sandy soil to an absolutely enormous pasture in Alabama- into literally an entire year’s worth of squash, tomatoes, greens, countless varieties of peas and beans… and okra. I still don’t understand how even three boiled okra pods can ‘slime’ an entire family’s worth of peas. But it’s true. She froze or canned extras of everything and we lived on it for the rest of the year.

My Maman, I believe, always wanted to live on a farm. We had a Jersey cow- Molly- that she milked for a few years. Molly had two calves that somehow found their way into our freezer in many small white packages. That trauma will be saved for another day. But my Maman wanted chickens too- and I distinctly remember my middle school self-conscious mind being horrified by the thought of living in a yard full of clucking feathered ‘friends.’

It’s truly amazing how some pieces of life come full circle. I learned from my Maman in the kitchen to some extent, but mostly by accident. I remember trying to cook a meal for a college crush and having absolutely no idea where to begin. Actually having a kitchen would have been a fine start, but even then, I truly had an embarrassingly meager knowledge base.

And I cannot even pretend that I learned a thing from the hours upon hours she spent outside in our yard. She frequently offered to share her little dirt-ridden wonderland with me (and all her tricks of the trade), but she never forced… and I never obliged. Her flower and vegetable gardens are not at all unlike ones featured on a Southern Living magazine cover, but I was focused on an entirely different world and different dream.

Years pass, and my Maman still has a lovely- albeit slightly smaller- vegetable garden. Her yard is pleasant hybrid of fruit trees and roses and flowering window boxes. And chickens. She is the proud Maman to six hens that lay eggs enough to share. And she cooks for my father… three meals a day. The cookie tin is never empty, and everyone looks forward to her rolls during the holidays.

Years have passed for me as well, and I’ve found myself desiring exactly what I always resisted, pursuing a different dream. It’s beautiful thing when we allow life to create change. Now I cannot learn enough about food. And I want nothing more than to get my hands dirty in any local farm that will teach me everything they know. Breads and treats frequently make their way into my neighbors’ mailboxes or doorsteps; and I have a patio full of flowers, herbs and vegetables.

My Maman has graciously supported all of my career choices, but I have to think her smile is a bit larger these days. And I don’t have my own chickens yet, but I think I am going to mix up a quick batch of cookies…

Happy day to the Mamans of the world, present and future. And a special ‘thank you’ to my own~

How to make a perfect cookie

Maman’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Popcorn kind of Sunday

It might seem strange to think that I’ve prepared osso bucco but I’ve never actually cooked popcorn on the stove. There it is. In writing. And without Shira’s blog inspiration, I very well might have made it another mere seven weeks and graduated from culinary school only having executed the (somewhat taboo in the profession kitchen) microwave version.

That said, I did make ‘popcorn’ on the stove out of amaranth in class once. I suppose it would be pop-amaranth, but that just sounds funny. Amaranth is a tiny grain, about the size of a poppy seed. With a little salt and, of course, butter, it was quite fantastic eaten with a spoon. But back to the popcorn.

It’s a rainy Sunday evening at the end of what’s been a ‘me’ weekend, and popcorn is in order. And sure enough, it seems a brighter shade of white and has a deeper taste of grain than it’s push-button counterpart. My only regret in the process is that I should have made more. Four cups popped sounded reasonable for one…

Sometimes we need a little break from the rest of the world- or at least I do… occasionally. And this weekend has been completely perfect. Farmers’ Market on Saturday was every bit the treat I anticipated. I left with a few more heirloom tomato seedlings, several three-inch-tall nasturtiums, a camera satisfied to have found root vegetables in a myriad of colors, and a little sun on my shoulders.

Several sweaty workouts- much needed- squeezed their way into the agenda; and I was fortunate to spent Saturday evening with a wonderful friend visiting town.

And I have literally scheduled an hour to read for fun tonight. I just may have to pop another batch…

Life Lessons From a Meringue Cookie

Several weeks ago in class we whipped up a batch of Swiss meringue for twenty meringue cookies we needed for a special dinner. After a classmate piped the twenty-plus-a-few-spares and slid them into the oven, I noticed the still over-filled pastry bag on the work table. Our Chef Instructor reminded us these little cookies keep well stored in an airtight container… so I piped out the remaining meringue. All of it. And baked it into many tiny star-tipped cookies.

These little meringues have been sitting on the top shelf of our kitchen for weeks now, and I don’t think they’ve been touched. In their defense, they have fierce competition. But each time I notice them they make me think for some reason.

So, just for fun… Life Lessons From a Meringue Cookie

  • Learn to take a little heat- sometimes for longer than you’d like. While heavy heat can turn you dark and bitter, sometimes enduring a bit of low heat can actually make you stronger and more resilient in the long run.
  • Stay firm under pressure. So many demands in life can begin to shape who you are and who you are becoming. Be moldable… but only into shapes which remain true to your intent.
  • Lend sweetness. Some of our personalities are naturally saturated with sugar and may be most fully appreciated in smaller servings. Others of us may more subtly hint at sugar, but it’s present all the same. There is a place for each… and everything in between. Know yourself and dose your corner of the world accordingly.
  • Age gracefully. Maintain your integrity, avoid becoming discolored by your environment, hold on to your sweetness… and always keep a little feisty bit of crunch.

Cookie, anyone…?