Food Stumbled Over

potroast

Photo of delicious pot roast from the pot roast recipe.

While there hasn’t been a lot of food blogging lately, that doesn’t mean we’ve been starving to death.  Between the baked potatoes, sweet potato fries, and popcorn we have been known to call dinner, there were a few gems worth sharing, even if they were inhaled before the camera was found or even thought of.  In absolutely no particular order, I invite you on a tour de food found on the internet:

  • The best pot roast we’ve ever made.  Meat falls apart after being heavily browned.  I’m sure the homemade wine doesn’t hurt either.
  • You’re going to hate me for telling you about this, but it’s surprisingly easy to make your own peanut butter cups with way better chocolate than any brand bought in a store (even a health food store, and I should know, because I’ve tried THEM ALL!).  I forgot to sprinkle salt on the top of mine.  Wups, I guess that means I need to make these again.
  • It turns out dumpling wrappers are ridiculously easy to make yourself.  What’s less easy is having the patience to roll and fill them all.  This reminds me that I need to find that recipe from Dan for puffy/spongy dough for wrapping dumpling filling.  Apparently I have a serious dumpling addiction!
  • Pretty good lentil soup or dahl recipe using red lentils.  As proof let me tell you that Peter likes it so much he is willing to make it himself and Peter does not make soup.
  • I sometimes forget how delicious eggplant parmesan is, but cooking eggplant on the stove frustrates me — something about the way it soaks up oil until it’s obviously drenched, by which point it’s clear you’ve gone too far.  Thank you Mario for reminding me to just bake the mofos and move on with my day.
  • This is from the archives, but I recently made the most heavenly dark chocolate pudding pie using this crust recipe (my favorite) and something like this pudding recipe (except we didn’t have enough sugar, so I just added lots of dark chocolate chips… the final consistency was veering towards ganache territory).

And finally, a friend graciously gave us a bag of lemons and a box of persimmons this week, which left me wondering whether it might be possible to make persimmon-lemon bars.  That and we are out of sugar, and Peter is using it as a way to keep me from baking decadent desserts (perhaps someone should remind him that it’s not in his best interest, seeing as he loves sweets as dearly as I do).  It turns out that a recipe for persimmon-lemon bars already exists, although a shortbread crust sounds more tasty. I’ll have to report back once our persimmons are finally ripe.

Mabel Overload

Version 3

It has taken me three versions of Mabel to get it right, but oh how right it is!  Version 1 entailed stretchy denim and is officially the most bootilicious piece of clothing I will ever own.  I thought about modeling it for you, but since I won’t even wear it outside, such a feat would take one too many margaritas.  For version 2 I overcompensated and used a stretchier black ponte knit and increased the size by one; the skirt almost doesn’t stay up, and I’m at a loss for how to fix it without adding absurd amounts of bulk to the waist (not, I imagine, a flattering look).  To be honest, I didn’t even finish hemming the bottom, not that it matters with knits.  Finally, for version 3 I used the original size of the stretchy denim version, flared the skirt pattern pieces, and added extra length; it is dreamy!  Soft, fluttery, and stays up while remaining work-appropriate.  I used a soft cotton-poly mix in a cream color.  Now I just need one in every color, or at least a color that isn’t partially see-through… Maybe with version 4 I’ll finally get it right!

Version 3 full skirt view

Pros: the Mabel pattern is extremely forgiving.  I’m too lazy to separately alter the front and back, so the pattern has exactly two pieces.  Yes, it makes alterations (such as adding a full skirt) almost too easy.  Next up might be a maxi length version for “winter” time.

Version 3 waist band

Cons: for the love of all things sacred, why didn’t I add pockets?  I realize that a mini skirt with hidden/invisible pockets doesn’t really work, but I was just being dense when I made the full skirted version without them.  I am now reminded of my short sightedness every time I wear version 3 because I have nowhere to put my office keys during the day (this may not sound like such a hardship, but my office mates haven’t been in much lately, so the chance of locking myself out is distressingly high).

Next up, I will have to share my galaxy sorbetto, and yes, it is as awesome as it sounds!

Version 1

Version 2

 

 

Six More

2666, Roberto Bolaño

I put this one on my list* because I read online somewhere (probably NYT, NYRB, or the New Yorker… for someone who’s never lived in New York I sure need to diversify my media consumption) that Bolaño is the best thing since sliced bread. Or maybe it was James Joyce. In any event, 2666 went on my list and it turns out my local library had it. Well, 2666 falls under the category “I read it so you don’t have to”; that is: skip it. It consists of five tangentially related books, each of which is about five times too long. I only enjoyed the last one, and that was probably because I was no longer reading a horribly depressing and repetitive recounting of feminicide in northern Mexico. I’m sure there’s lots of great symbolism and such about the decay of modern society in there, but unless you are an English major (or Spanish major, I guess) or have a companion book and a lot of time, just move on. I still have no idea what the number 2666 has to do with anything.

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

While also rather long, this one falls at the other end of the complexity spectrum of 2666. (Well, it’s not a children’s book, that is, but it is a fantasy novel.) Marion Zimmer Bradley first came to my attention years ago as one of Michael D.C. Drout’s “worthy successors to Tolkein”, and weeks ago it happened to be on display at my library. She provides a feminist (or at least female-centric) interpretation of the Arthurian cycle, and–despite my quip to Anna one night that it mostly consists of “women herb-ing each other left, right, and center”–it is definitely worth your time, if you are at all interested in King Arthur specifically or fantasy literature in general.

Look to Windward, Iain M. Banks

Another Iain M. Banks science fiction novel, this one tells the story of two war veterans, one of a “good war” (I think) that calls to mind the contemporary view of World War Two, and the other of a civil war caused by external influence, which seemed to me to be a sort of commentary on the (most recent) Iraq War. While I don’t think it’s the most insightful commentary on the experiences of the modern veteran (for more on that, see the next book report post), it does manage to comment well on the human condition. As an aside, this is the second time I’ve read this book, because I accidentally got it from the library, not realizing I’d read it before. I suppose that’s either a negative comment on the book’s memorability or a positive comment on its quality–probably both. In any event, I do recommend Iain M. Banks’ science fiction to all, starting with The Algebraist and moving on to the Culture series (of which this is a part).

Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

The unquestionable winner of this round-up, Half of a Yellow Sun follows three characters through the Nigerian Civil War. You should go and read this book right now. It is, of course, something of a downer–there’s always a certain tragedy accompanying defeat in a civil war / war of independence (except for the American Civil War, don’t get me started), and this novel provides both that, and the tragedy common to civilians in all wars, in spades. Still, you should read this book, now. It was recommended to me by the same friend who recommended The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, last time’s winner, so maybe he’s onto something.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, Christopher Clark

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Rick Atkinson

These shouldn’t really be subject to a joint review, seeing as they cover different subjects, but they’re both military/political history and I read them sequentially** so this is as close of an opportunity as I’m ever going to get so here goes. The Sleepwalkers covers the political, military, economic, and diplomatic situation in Europe in the beginning of the 20th century leading up to the start of the First World War. I saw it recommended (again, somewhere online–no doubt as part of a 100-year retrospective) as a thorough exploration of the roots of the war; its thesis is that there is no single person, nation, or alliance accountable for the war but that the nations of Europe stumbled–or rather, sleepwalked–into it. I only got through about half of it before someone put a hold on it and I had to return it to the library, but it certainly seemed to do a pretty good job setting up that claim; incidentally, I now know more about the economy and politics of Serbia in 1910 than I really wanted to (it’s a rather academic book). I do intend to finish it, someday.

The Guns at Last Light, by contrast, is definitely a popular history. There’s a lot more of “…he must have thought, as he gazed out over the ____ [assembled troops, windswept plain, etc]” and general America-(and-Britain)-is-great-this-is-the-good-war kind of stuff. Nevertheless it does provide a view from the level of both the commanders (mostly Eisenhower, decent amount of Montgomery, and so on) and the common soldier. (It is also a much quicker read than The Sleepwalkers.) If you’re interested in military history–or think you might be–then definitely check out Rick Atkinson, starting with “An Army at Dawn”. (As an aside: Atkinson is much, much better than Stephen E. Ambrose–Ambrose might as well have titled his books “Hoo-rah”, so just watch HBO’s Band of Brothers (which I do recommend) instead.)

* “My list” is a bit of web software I put together for fun. The source is available here, though there’s probably a bit of work to do before others can easily set it up for themselves. (And something like Goodreads is probably better, though I prefer to keep my data to myself.)

** I did read them sequentially, but in parallel with the fiction on this list. Generally I have an “upstairs book” (fiction, bedside) and a “downstairs book” (nonfiction, morning/weekend) going simultaneously. More information than you wanted, but that’s what blogs are for, right? (My downstairs book will soon again be Bertrand Russell, for the amusement of those who follow me on twitter.)