Cheap Thrills: Asparagus Season

May 31, 2011 § 4 Comments

In Portland, everybody seems to get a little excited about asparagus season.  Myself included.

Today’s cheap thrill challenge: learn to eat seasonally!  A big task.  We’ll start smaller.

Today’s cheap thrill challenge: Buy and eat asparagus.  $3 for a bunch at Whole Foods.  Go get some.

Now that you have asparagus, I’m going to do something I never, ever, ever do.  I’m going to give you a recipe for “Hooray Asparagus!” pasta.  A recipe that I made up all by myself.


Dan, I’ll give you a minute to regain consciousness.

The disclaimer here is that I’m not a chef… I’m not even a cook, really, but every once in a while, I improvise something pretty tasty.  If you know what you’re doing and you’d do the following differently, duh, do it.  This is just the way I did it.  But my way worked.  Just sayin. 🙂

Here we go with things you’ll need. Note the vague quantities. Perfection is unnecessary.:
Pasta (I never, ever get the kind of pasta recommended to me by a recipe.  So get whatever pasta you want.  Or use what you have.)
A smallish hunk of butter
Olive Oil
About 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch hunks
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 onion (any color), sliced
1/2 an eggplant, chopped
a little bit of spinach from your garden (optional)
Fresh mozzarella, in 1/2 inch pieces (cut the little balls in half) (does that sound awkward?)
Red Pepper Flakes if you’re into that sort of thing

To do:
Boil water. Cook pasta.

While that’s happening:
In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook the eggplant until it starts to change color (brownish… takes a little while.  Don’t freak out.)  Set eggplant aside.

In the same skillet, heat the butter and another tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add asparagus and onion to skillet, salt them, and cook everything for about 5 minutes or until it feels right. Add the bell pepper and the eggplant (and the spinach if you’re doing that) and cook about 5 minutes more. If your onions are nice onions and have started to caramelize, do a happy dance and remove from heat. If they’re still kinda oniony, cook it all a little longer. No harm done.

Once you’re off the heat, add the balsamic vinegar (about two quick circles around the pan’s worth) and mix the whole mess up. Combine pasta and veggies with some additional olive oil and, if you’re Favorite, some additional salt. Stir in your mozzarella (unless you’re Dan, or vegan) and your red pepper flakes (to taste, my friends, to taste).

Eat up! Celebrate asparagus! And the fact that I made something that wasn’t gross, and then you made it too!



In Other Words…

May 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Happy Memorial Day!  I’m thinking about all of you who have lost loved ones in the defense of our country today.  I hope this day brings blessings your direction.

I wanted to share with you the book I just finished reading.  It’s a book that was born of a blog, and one that has been getting a decent amount of buzz lately.  In her early 20s, Brianna Karp found herself laid off from a job she loved, and as she was unable to return home to live with her abusive parents, homeless.  I think her story is an important one, primarily because she’s so very different from the stereotypical identity we like to slap onto every homeless face.

 And yes, Bri has some excellent resources in her corner that other homeless folks don’t, and yes, she does make some choices that the more logically-minded will scoff at (flying to Scotland in the name of love, for example), but I can’t help but admire her guts and moxy, not to mention talent- talk about making lemonade out of life’s lemons.  Worth reading for the writing alone, but also for the sparks of thoughts and perspectives that will start bouncing around in your head.  I love, love, love that in a book.  You can purchase it online (the book image will link you to Powell’s) or let me know you want to borrow it and I’ll send it your way.

In other news, we found a bunny yesterday.  She was hopping about in the road, doing a tragically terrible job of trying to pass as a wild rabbit.  I swooped her up:

Sadly, we are ill-equiped for rabbit housing, so off to the shelter she went.  The good news is, as the sweetest bunny I’ve ever met, I’m sure she’ll have no problem getting herself adopted.  She’s at the Multnomah Animal Shelter now if you want to take her home!


Bits and Pieces

May 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday!

Sorry.  That was uncalled for.

A few odds and ends for you for the weekend.  First, here are photo of my latest successful outfit remix.  I call it the “Something Borrowed, Something New” outfit, because both the sweater and the earrings were lent out to others for quite some time and recently returned, which makes them feel like new!  The shirt is actually a dress from Forever 21 (don’t tell Favorite.  I’m not always the best at ethical shopping).  I find it sort of hilarious that it qualifies as a dress in some minds.  Oy.   Anyhow, it used to have weird ties at the waist, but I chopped them off and added a belt and the prodigal sweater and earrings – and hooray!

The lovely Shannon Hannon delivered some fabulous pictures to me this week from our knitty photo shoot, and among them was this gem, which might be my new favorite photo:

Man, I love that dog.

In other news, Favorite and I have started the P90X program… ugh.  Well, technically, Favorite is doing P90x and I’m doing something like P90M or P90Xminus… a version where you sometimes only do half the workout cause your arms get tired or you have other stuff to do or you don’t really want to look like Tony anyway.  Anybody been there?  There’s a lot of hurting going on in this house.

Beautiful things to look at here, here, and here.

I hope your weekend involves camping or sailing or BBQing or at least sunshine, for crying out loud.

Fun fun fun fun.


Aestlight Shawl

May 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

What?  Knitting?  What is this, a knitting blog? 🙂

Many, many thanks to the wonderful Shannon Hannon (and Will Campbell, for that matter) for spending an afternoon taking pictures of some of my latest knits.  I’m going to try to be a responsible girl and reveal just one at a time.  Let’s do this thing right.

Pattern: Aestlight Shawl

Yarn: Jamieson’s Shetland Heather Aran, about 3 skeins, Mirry Dancers colorway

Yarn Purchased at Dublin Bay Knitting Company, courtesy of the lovely Trica Askew.

I loved this pattern.  Easy, full of squishy cozy garter stitch goodness, and the perfect, uncomplicated canvas to showcase some fabulous yarn.  Love, love, love.

Apparently I’d kicked into silly face mode by the time we got to the last shot.  Ah well.  As per usual.


May 25, 2011 § 14 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I’ve done terrible things I thought I’d never do.

Something precious breaks when you publicly confess a sin.  Most of us have felt it.  There’s a moment when you realize that everyone, or even just one very important someone, is suddenly looking at you like you’re someone they don’t recognize.  You have done something they thought you’d never do – you are, in their perception, permanently not the you that was before the undoable evil, the unexpected betrayal, the irrevocable tragedy.  A necessary consequence, the breaking, but a painful one.  In their eyes, you are no longer the same.  You’ll never be the same.

But you feel the same.

Every bit of who you were the day before you committed your regrettable sin is still humming inside of you.  Every dream, every hope or desire, every positive trait or flaw or scar or talent you’ve ever had is unaltered underneath your newly unrecognizable facade.  It’s like going into hiding – suddenly, if your oops is big enough, your whole identity is reduced to a single word: Liar.  Thief.  Adulterer.  Cheater.  Murderer.  Divorcee.  Gossip.  Failure.  You look around you and see your new title reflecting off the glassy surfaces of eyes that trusted you yesterday, that knew yesterday that you love bubble tea and you sometimes wake up at 2:30 am for no reason, but now see only how badly you’ve hurt them, how disappointing you are.  You feel unforgivable.

But, also, you feel- well, you feel the same.

You feel guilty, and broken, and embarrassed, and sorry, and defensive, and horrible, but you feel the same.  You feel like you.  And you mourn, because in that moment it feels like this failure will become the defining piece of your resume.  It feels like all the things you were, you are, will never matter again.  It feels like you’ve disappeared.  It feels like you’ve broken everyone who trusted you and that no one will ever see through that brokenness and notice that you still believe what you believed yesterday, that you still think there’s a right and a wrong, that you still desperately want to be better than you are.

Eventually, folks come around.  Eventually, with enough repentance and grace, trust is relearned.  Some bridges are ashes, but some relationships will be restored.  Like a tornado, like a hurricane, like a war, sin ravages the landscape of your life, but by grace you rebuild.  Consequences are brutal, but you take them, because you need them to grow.

And sometimes, someone extraordinary stands with you in the rubble.  They hold your hand and they whisper in your ear, “I know you’re still in there.  I am so mad at you today, but I know who you are.  I see you.  I see you and I know that you are the same.  That you are loved.  That you are loved as much today as you were yesterday when nobody knew the depth of your sin.  You are loved just the same.  You aren’t worthy, but you were never worthy.  You are the same.  You are loved just the same.”

Sometimes that person is human.  Sometimes it’s just you and God and the mess you’ve made.  Either way, you’re never alone.

It’s a tricky thing to ask of the hurting, to forgive.  An impossible thing, really, and one that requires a supernatural amount of strength.  It’s an impossible calling to recognize a child of God in our most formidable enemies.  Sometimes the layers of evil are so dense, so impenetrable, so ugly that it’s difficult to justify any allowance of grace.  I know not everyone is repentant.  I know sin is stubborn and tricky and terrible and raw.  But my heart is pulled now as it wasn’t before.  My heart is suspicious that perhaps we are called to practice radical grace.  Radical redemption.  Radical love.  Love so radical it heals some and offends others.  I wish I knew how.

It has been years since I’ve stood knee deep in ruin.  There are the usual daily smatterings of small failures, but it has been years since I’ve ripped the roofs off of everything I’ve built.  I remember always the gift of a hand in mine, in fields of silence and destruction and disappointment, and the brave, holy, unconditional, awesome still small voices:

You are still you.  I see you.  You are the loved just the same.

To those of you in the rubble today, those who have ruined everything, those who feel unredeemable:

Somewhere in there, you are still you.  He sees you.  You are loved just the same.


Cheap Thrills: Give Pizza a Chance

May 24, 2011 § 6 Comments

We’re talking about cheap eatin’ in Cheap Thrills for the next few weeks.

First off, I’d like to apologize for the questionable process photos to follow: our kitchen is, like, the darkest kitchen in the whole of the universe, and my highest quality camera is Favorite’s iPhone 4, so there you have it.  You do the math.  That said, today’s Cheap Thrill is about pizza!  Yay for pizza!

Favorite and I are trying to focus on having less food waste in our lives, which can be difficult, especially with perishables like vegetables.  Having half an onion, two tomatoes, a third of a bell pepper, and half an avocado spoil at the end of every week is not a good use of our food, or our money, for that matter.  So I’m declaring war on food waste by claiming Friday or Saturday of every week as Catch-all Pizza Night: The night on which Karyn makes pizza out of whatever the heck is left in the fridge.  No more wasted food = money saved = happy campers, all.  Plus, pizza!  Winning!

I’m using Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough for this project.  It costs less than $2, and the whole wheat dough is both healthy and super duper tasty.

My friend Dan is an amazing baker.  He makes pizza dough, and turns it into beautiful pizzas that look like this:

If you’re like Dan, or if you are Dan, you can skip Step One of the instructions and make your own pizza dough.  If you’re like me, or like the rest of the notasuperbakerandpizzadoughisfiesty folks I know, proceed as follows.

Step One: Go to Trader Joe’s and buy this pizza dough.  It’s usually in the refridgerated section near the produce, and it looks like this.

 Buy nothing else!!! (Okay, if you’re clever, get the dough when you are getting other things so as not to make many pointless trips to the store like an idiot.  But don’t buy anything else for pizza.)

Step Two: Collect the random bits of leftover madness you have in the kitchen.  For us this week, that meant half an onion, half an orange bell pepper, half a yellow bell pepper, and some crumbled blue cheese.  No pizza sauce in the house, but we have ketchup and brown sugar, so that’s BBQ sauce… neato.  The key is to let the leftovers dictate the pizza.  Don’t be shy.  You can make some seriously wacky pizzas that still taste super awesome.

Step Three: Make pizza!  Follow instructions on the dough bag, but just in case you rip them (I’ve never done that, obviously. 🙂 ) take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit for 20 minutes.  Do not attempt to play with, commune with, or, God forbid, make pizza with the dough without letting it sit first.  You’ll be cursing the heavens.  Honest.  Using a liberal amount of flour, roll out your dough until it looks pizza-y, or toss it around while listening to Funiculi, Funicula or whatever floats your boat.  Concoct a sauce out of the aforementioned ingredients or whatever else is around (olive oil, tomato paste, mustard, alfredo sauce, go for it!) and paint yourself a pretty pretty pizza.

I also like to drizzle olive oil and sprinkle sea salt on the crust.  Let’s all take a moment and pretend I’m a super chef and ooo and ahh over the cleverness of me.  Thanks.  That felt good.  Now get the rest of your ingredients onto your pizza.  For me, that meant throwing a pile of veggies in a skillet until they softened up a bit and then dumping them on the pizza.  Complicated stuff.

A note about cheese: If you wait to add cheese as the very last thing, you’ll use a lot less.  Which is good, because cheese is expensive and not necessarily great for you.  A lot of veggies + a little cheese = guilt free pizza. 

Step Four: Bake your pizza.  450* oven, 10 minutes or so, try not to burn it.  Pizza stones are a worthwhile investment if you’re going to do this every week.  Ours also seems to do great things to cakes.  Just saying.

Step Five: Eat pizza and feel good about consuming the last of your food for the week!  You are saving the world!  You are being a good steward!  And it’s tasty!  Happy day!

I hope your pizza comes out in focus.  We’ll keep trying.


You Pugs are so silly.

May 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’d like you to meet one of my nieces, Bellaboo.

You may call her Boo if you like.  You may not squeeze her.  Kisses, yes please.

It was because of our family ties to little Boo that Favorite, Cape, and I found ourselves attending Puglandia, one of Portland’s many ridiculous spring/summer fundraising festivals, with my sister and mom yesterday.  Not that we’re complaining.  We love ridiculous festivals, and we’re more than happy to support the Humane Society.  Though Caper would like to remind everyone that he is most definitely not a pug.

He was a little wary of all the pugness at first, but had fun getting to know everyone and lightened up considerably as the day went on.

The pug below won the costume contest.  He’s the least appetizing Voodoo Doughnut ever, in case you couldn’t tell.

What’s that?  You say you need more ridiculous photos of silly, silly pugs?  Well you’re in luck!

Oh pugs.  You are so silly.

Who knew that there were so many Portlanders with pugs, or that they would welcome us so kindly into their circle of pugness, even though Cape‘s Formosan Mountain Pug act wasn’t really fooling anyone?  We had a lovely time, and almost left wanting a pug.  Almost. 😉


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