No Carb Left Behind: The Finale

After a month of complications, it’s official: I’m currently at the airport, heading out of town tonight, bound for the land of humidity and alligator jerky.

What has the past month entailed, beyond the unconscionable shirking of my D.A. Days duties? Well …

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There were yet more heartfelt goodbyes to my favourite place on campus.

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I saw this sign and toyed with the idea of buying this coffee shop and renaming it either Schrödinger’s or Heisenberg’s. I’m still uncertain.

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I saw this delightful sign at the Seattle Pride Parade, which tickled me to no end. (If you can’t read it, it says “Mawage is what bwings us togeva today.”)

Speaking of which, if you’ll grant me a soapbox for a moment … I wrote about one benefit of pride parades last year, but I thought of another this year when I saw several local teen shelters and resource centers in the parade, many of which had a delegation of their teen patrons and volunteers. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an LGBTQQIA teen, facing intense harassment and discrimination on a regular basis. Pride parades are one way we get to say to those kids, “We love you, and we’ve got your backs.” Because as the ever-inspiring Hannah Schaefer pointed out, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what our opinions on sexuality are — these people are still coming out, and they’re still facing higher risks of violence and suicide and homelessness. If we prioritize our opinions over their lives, that paints us in a pretty ugly light.

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Yesterday’s news was that I moved out of my apartment and had to say goodbye to this guy. It was heartfelt. There were tears.

Granted, he was sacked out on a chair at the time, taking his 18th nap of the day. But I just know he’ll miss having someone to tickle his feet and call him The Dude.

The tabby in the picture, a.k.a. Bandersnatch Cutiebutt, couldn’t have cared less. As far as he’s concerned, my exodus means one less biped hogging the couch.

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After relocating to my friends’ house for the night, I spent today with these two entities. Meet Delia and Delbert, our contestants on this week’s episode of The Biggest Loser. They had eight hours to lose 9 pounds each … and what do you know, they did it, folks! Let’s hear it for Delta Airlines’ accurate scales!

And finally …

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… I saved the best for last in our No Carb Left Behind series: Kaffeeklatsch, in Lake City. I cannot recommend this place more highly. I lived within walking distance of it for two years, and I credit it with maintaining my wellbeing throughout grad school. It’s right under my friends, my family, and my counselor, and right above naps. They have amazingly moist cinnamon rolls, and super flavorful bread (try the Rustic White), and a modest yet sufficient tea selection.

And on Wednesdays they have chili. You guys. The chili. OMG. I never thought I was a beef person, but this chili has won me over, heart and soul. I’ll share my wannabe vegetarian recipe sometime. In the meantime, get yourself over to Kaffeeklatsch and try it yourself. Hitchhike if you have to. Hang-glide. Parasail. Steal Borrow your neighbour’s daughter’s horse. Camp out for 36 hours like you’re waiting to get into Hall H. Do what you have to do. Just be there on a Wednesday.

I’m now having trouble remembering why I’m moving away from this place. What’s that? Full-time employment, you say? Very well, I’ll board this plane. But don’t stop being awesome, Seattle — you can bet your buttons I’ll be back.

Southward ho!

~ S.

No Carb Left Behind: episode 1

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First off, I should admit that I did not come up with this tour name myself; it’s what Liz’s friend calls her Italy trip in Eat Pray Love. Unlike her, I do not have ready access to fried squash blossoms and homemade tiramisu and roasted endive and penne ai quattro formaggi and pizza that incurs an existential crisis.

Perhaps it’s just as well.

However, we do have some pretty awesome street food, delis, and bakeries here in Seattle, and it’s my sad duty to revisit my favourites in the process of moving away. It’s not as impressive as Cher’s farewell tour, I know. But at least I’m only planning one.

My first stop was Michou Deli, in the Pike Place Market. It has a wide range of sandwiches and salads, with a respectable collection of pastas, soups, and pastries as well. My favourite sandwich, the one you see above, is the Tuscan chicken, with chicken, tomato, artichokes, greens, mozzarella, and pesto. This time I got a side of kale–wild rice salad to go with it. Such a good lunch — and super affordable, too; my sandwich–salad combo was under $7.

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And while I was at Pike Place, of course, I had to stop at Three Girls Bakery (no official website, but here’s their Yelp listing) to pick up a pastry. I decided on a poppyseed rugelach in the end, but they also have fantastic palmiers, croissants, brownies, and cookies. They’re reasonably priced, too (I paid $2 for this rugelach, and the guy threw in a broken one for free), so if you decide that the line at Piroshky Piroshky is too long, just walk a block further and get your pastry fix at Three Girls.

Also, a word about visiting Pike Place Market: I highly recommend going there early. Le Panier opens at 6:30 a.m. and Lowell’s at 7 a.m., so by the time you finish breakfast, many of the produce, flower, and seafood vendors will have set up their wares, and you’ll be able to stroll the market without the crowds. It’s a much more relaxed, personal, and efficient way to experience the market. (If you’re there for the crafts vendors, you’ll probably have to wait until 10 a.m. But that’s all the more time to mooch around the nearby coffee shops, right?)

Stay tuned for the next installment … but in the meantime, I want to know: What’s the best sandwich in your hometown?

Counter Action: Tomato–corn pie

tomato corn pie

For some people, summer means bikinis, which means diets and special workouts.

If you are one of those people, this pie is not for you.

Mayonnaise + cheese + butter = embrace the inevitable curves, my friends.

Don't let the media get you down, sandstone. Real geological phenomena have striations.

Don’t let the media get you down, sandstone. Real geological phenomena have striations.

For the rest of us, summer means tomatoes, corn, basil, zucchini, cherries, and a host of other edibles, which we embrace both in their raw, uncomplicated forms and in forms involving as much dairy as we can get our hands on.

This is our pie.

Tomato–corn pie

(From Smitten Kitchen’s indomitable recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1¾ tsp. salt, divided
  • ¾ stick (6 T.) cold diced butter + 2 tsp. melted butter
  • ¾ c. whole milk
  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1¾ lb. tomatoes
  • 1½ c. corn (equivalent to about 3 ears), divided
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1 T. chopped fresh chives, divided
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 1¾ c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Directions:

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Cut in cold butter until well blended. Mix in milk to form a firm dough.
  3. Divide dough in half. Roll out to form two 12-inch circles. Refrigerate until needed.
  4. Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato. Immerse in boiling water bath for 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into ice bath to facilitate peeling.
  5. Remove skins and seeds from tomatoes, and slice into quarter-inch rounds. (This process might seem tedious, but trust me, you want to remove all the moisture from the tomatoes that you can. Removing the skins makes the tomato chunks more tender.)
  6. Remove pie crust from fridge. Place one crust in 9-inch pie pan, trimming edges as necessary.
  7. Arrange half of tomatoes in pie crust. Top with half of corn, basil, chives, pepper, and cheese.
  8. Layer other half of tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, pepper, and cheese in pie crust.
  9. Mix mayonnaise and lemon juice together. Spread evenly over pie filling.
  10. Place other pie crust on top and pinch edges to seal. Cut several steam vents and brush with melted butter.
  11. Bake at 400°F for 30–35 minutes, until golden brown.
  12. Remove, cool, and serve with a green salad.

—————

Photo credits: Sandstone from tpsdave on Pixabay.

Counter Action: Black bean–corn chowder

Goodbye, white balance. I'll call you if I need you.

Goodbye, white balance. I’ll call you if I need you.

Do you ever have days where it feels like 4 a.m. all day?

Maybe it’s because you have actually gotten up at 4 that day. Maybe you ran out of bread and cereal and pancake mix and had to make do with a mushy banana for breakfast. Maybe you checked your library account and discovered that you had three books a week overdue. Maybe you glanced at the New York Times Bestseller list and found that the book at the top — the one everybody is raving about, even that crusty old critic in Chicago — has a setting, characters, and premise very similar to the book you’re currently writing, and now if you try to publish or promote your book in any way, everyone will think you copied.

This has never happened to me. Well, except for that one time.

"What do you mean, the Molokai leper colony isn't fresh material anymore?"

“What do you mean, the Molokai leper colony isn’t fresh material anymore?”

On days like these, I find soup extraordinarily comforting. It demands to be eaten slowly and contemplatively, with an attention that isn’t often due to food. And when the soup is as good as this one, it’s well worth paying attention.  The cayenne and canned chilis give it an up-front kick, with the curry and cumin lingering underneath for a deeper flavor, and the dairy products rounding it out into a rich, filling soup. It’s a great one for these lazy summer evenings as well as chilly winter evenings, if you happen to be of the Southern Hemisphere persuasion.

And if you’ve just faced a grave disappointment of the early rising/library fine/literary anger persuasion, this soup will nurse you through the grief. It’s multifunctional like that.

Black bean–corn chowder

A combination of the black bean chowder from Time-Life Books’ Vegetables and the Pioneer Woman’s black bean chowder with yogurt–cilantro relish

Ingredients:

Soup:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 4-oz. chopped green chilis
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 1–1-1/2 c. dry black beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 c. corn kernels
  • 2 T. butter
  • 3 c. whole milk (embrace it, friends)
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. flour
  • salt to taste

Relish:

  • 1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • small handful of cilantro, minced
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until tender.
  2. Add chilis and spices. Cook until fragrant.
  3. Add broth and raise heat to medium-high. When boiling, add beans, cover, and simmer until beans are tender.
  4. Add corn, butter, and milk.
  5. Mix cheese and flour together, add to soup, and stir until thickened. Salt to taste.
  6. Mix relish ingredients together. Serve on top of soup.

 

Photo credit: Unhappy child from Bonoz on Pixabay.

Counter Action: Spicy cauliflower stew with spinach and feta

This week, I’ve been watching a lot of Jaguar commercials.

Okay, one Jaguar commercial. This one. The one with Tom Hiddleston.

I know. I’d feel ashamed, but let’s be honest … he’s so purty.

“Oh hey, you’re a fan of Richard II narrated over Elgar’s Nimrod? What a coincidence, so am I [starting today].”

At first, I thought that was my only reason for enjoying the commercial so much. But then I was putting together a lecture on blogging safety, and that took me deep into the psychology of trolling, and I realized that my appreciation went much deeper than a tailored suit.

"The suits ... the SUITSSSSS ..."

Let me clarify: I appreciate a tailored suit when there’s someone inside it.

See, here’s a breakdown of Mr. Hiddleston’s villain in this scene, balanced against a breakdown of trolls:

  • He’s witty. (Trolls generally aren’t.)
  • He’s polite. (Trolls, by definition, aren’t.)
  • He’s well-read. (If trolls are, they don’t show it.)
  • He’s well-dressed. (In fairness, trolls might be. They just don’t bring it up very often.)
  • His monologue starts with the premise that being an effective baddie means having certain characteristics. If this villain is the model, then it follows that a “proper” villain is never drunk, or high, or prone to episodes of psychotic rage. He’s always calm, logical, and discreet — a consummate gentleman. (Trolls definitely aren’t.)
  • Perhaps most significantly, I’m comfortable with this villain because I’m familiar with the actor as a public figure. I know he’s brought hot soup to a reporter, and lent his coat to another reporter, and traveled to Guinea with UNICEF, and never has anything negative to say, and is generally one of the sweetest public figures around. As I watch him play a villain, there’s a small voice that tells me, “This is just his day job. When he’s done delivering that nefarious leather satchel, he’ll go right back to living on a pound a day in sympathy with the world’s poor.”

(By the way, who’s up for forming a band called Nefarious Leather Satchel? Anyone?)

In short, the commercial plays right into my desire to believe that evil is always obvious, that I can always avoid it if I have a checklist of outward characteristics to go down. And as my research on trolling showed, I really can’t. Villains almost never fit into clearly labeled acid-free boxes.* They’re always going to surprise you, one way or another.

But on the upside, the inverse is also true: Good people can be found anywhere, with any manners and any education, dressed in any clothes, driving any car.

This has been your Sunshine Sonya update of the week, delivered to your news feed free of charge.

[cheesy greeting card caption here]

Our motto: “Reach for the sun — it’s only got five billion years left.”

Similar to an unlikely hero, this stew doesn’t look like much, but I promise you, it’s well worth the effort. It’s got potatoes for bulk, cauliflower for silkiness, and spinach to make your mother proud. There’s whole-grain mustard for a zesty crunch, and carrots for visual warmth, and feta to amp up the flavor. In short, it’s the perfect stew for a brisk autumn day or a rare rainy summer day. If you chopped the carrots very finely, pre-wilted the spinach, and used less liquid, would it work as a cold potato salad? It might. Try it and let me know.

hash iv

Spicy cauliflower stew with spinach and feta

Serves 4

Adapted slightly from a recipe in Time-Life Books’ Vegetables: Great Taste, Low Fat

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 3 T. minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb. (about 4) small red potatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium cauliflower, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta
  • 5 tsp. stone-ground mustard (the grainy kind)
  • 6 c. spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt
  • 2 T. flour

Directions:

  1. In large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook until fragrant.
  2. Add potatoes, cauliflower, and carrots. Cook until lightly browned.
  3. Add mustard and broth. Raise stove temperature and simmer until veggies are tender.
  4. Stir in spinach and cheese. Cover pot to allow spinach to wilt.
  5. In separate bowl, combine yogurt and flour. Stir into vegetables. Serve with more feta.

——————

*This has been your archivist joke of the day. No need to thank me.

Photo credits: Suit and daisy from Pixabay.

Counter Action: Potato–spinach–blue cheese burgers

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It’s a tricky business, naming things.

I had a whole list of ideas for this feature’s title, most of which were problematic. “Noshes”? Too hipster. “The Bowl” or “The Plate”? Meh. “The Chew”? Already taken. “Round the Cauldron”, with a nod to Shakespeare? Maybe not, considering the ingredients in that particular cauldron. “Much Depends on Dinner”, stealing from Herrick? Too obscure. “Oven Lovin'”? Too emotional. “Counter Action”? A little violent, but different. We’ll go with it.

Not this violent and different. Sorry.

Not this violent and different. Sorry.

These burgers are from a bygone era. It was a prairie summer. I was twenty-two, heading into my last year of university, and living in an uncooled attic. In the mornings, I worked at the college library, shelving books, moving books, and throwing books away. My coworkers and I bonded over the ninety-degree weather and the long, deep, stinging cuts left on our hands and fingers from breaking down cardboard boxes. My roommate introduced me to Doctor Who, and inspired by the amount of running the characters did, we began running together in the mornings, before the thermometer inched too high and the cicadas grew too loud.

One weekend, my boyfriend’s parents invited me on a trip to visit their son, who was taking classes six hours away. The parents and I didn’t know each other very well. It was the tiniest bit awkward.

Every road trip needs a soundtrack. This was ours.

But by the end of the trip, I felt more connected to the family. The mom apparently felt the same way, because before I left their house to drive home, she loaded me up with a box of food: sushi, spinach–chive pasta, fresh berries from a roadside stand, and the creamiest blue cheese I’d ever tasted — part of which I turned into these burgers.

I’m done with university now, living in a much cooler climate with a different roommate, and the boyfriend has long since taken a different path. But some recipes are just too good to be linked with memories forever — they deserve lives of their own. These burgers are that kind of recipe. Would they work for a Memorial Day cookout, served on toasted buns with a roasted garlic aïoli and sliced red onions? Or perhaps caramelized onions? I’m betting so.

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 Potato–spinach–blue cheese burgers

(adapted from the turnover recipe in Time-Life Books’ Vegetables: Great Taste, Low Fat)

Ingredients:

  • 4 red potatoes
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
  • 4 oz. blue cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. breadcrumbs, plus more for breading
  • olive oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Boil, drain, and mash potatoes.
  2. Combine potatoes with green onions, garlic, spinach, blue cheese, eggs, and seasonings. Mix well.
  3. Form mixture into patties.
  4. Coat patties thoroughly in breadcrumbs.
  5. Fry patties in olive oil until golden brown. Remove from heat and let rest on paper towels before serving.

 

Photo credits: Game of Thrones art from the amazing nikaanuk on deviantART, where it’s protected under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license; cricket from Pixabay.