30 January 2010

Around the World

I'm making some travel plans for later this year and so I have traveling on the brain. Which flight should we take? How many PTO days will I need to use? What will the weather be like? What should I pack? Will my iPhone work in Baja California? Many uncertainties that I'm still working out for my own travel plans - which put me in a welcoming frame of mind to watch Around the World in 80 Days at the KC Repertory Theater tonight, in which life and traveling seems fundamental and simple.

Especially as portrayed with such a minimally appointed set, the journey of Phileas Fogg appeared to me pleasantly plain in its planning - but exciting all the same. Fogg and his valet, Passepartout, packed light, carrying just two carpet bags, some cash, and a little red book called the Bradshaw which lists time tables for ships and trains. With his penchant for mathematical precision, Fogg makes all the arrangements as he goes, never miscalculating, never erring.

Most welcoming of all, Fogg was so unscathed by the uncertainties of planning, the uncertainties of nineteenth century global travel, no less. I love the character of Fogg, so indefatigable, so constantly poised, so firm. When faced with even the most absurd set backs - an unfinished railroad, a warrant for his arrest - Fogg remains unflapped.

And here I am wasting a lot of energy on worrying that three months from now I might forget to bring the battery charger for my camera.

I'm sure the caricature of Fogg is meant to invite derision - I mean who could be so dry and intent as to ignore all the wonders of the world as they pass you by, no matter what kind of deadline you're on? - but I found his detachment sort of appealing. Of course, Passepartout is his foil - in awe of the sites along the way and inevitably getting into a couple of scrapes along the way.

But wouldn't it be nice to traverse even just a tiny little corner of the world with both Fogg's calm and Passepartout's verve? I think so.

23 January 2010

"Grana y Oro" Chili

three vegetarian chilis, mine is on the right, with the 'totopo' (chip)

Tonight was the 17th Annual Chili Cookoff at church - a fabulous event - and I decided to enter the contest this year. This was a last minute decision and with little time to get too creative, I decided just to spruce up my old favorite Red Bean and Quinoa Chili with some fancy beans, some chipotles, and a new name.

Since I was using two kinds of quinoa - the red one and the, uh, gold one - I got the idea to call it red and gold chili. Which was, of course, too boring. So I told Sergio I wanted to name it in Spanish and he directed me to this perfect word, "grana," which means both "scarlet" and "grain."

I forgot to take a picture of my chili, but I was very excited about my sign.

And thus was born my "Mostly local, organic and mild Grana y Oro chili, featuring QUINOA, the ancient grain and complete protein, from South America ... yellow CORN and red TOMATOES from Kansas and Missouri ... 2 kinds of BEANS (Kidney and Anasazi) ... and Mexican CHIPOTLES!"

It tied for second place in the Best Vegetarian Chili category!

GRANA Y ORO CHILI ("Scarlet & Gold" Chili)
based on "Red Bean and Quinoa Chili" from
Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair
serves 8-10

2 cups of red beans (kidney or anasazi)
soaked 6-8 hours, simmered in 6 cups of water 60 to 90 minutes with 1 t. cumin and 2 garlic cloves

2 t. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 t. sea salt
2 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a small jalapeño (or more to taste)
2 t. cumin
2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. cayenne *OR* better yet - chipotle chili powder from Planters
2/3 cup red quinoa, rinsed in warm water and drained
2/3 cup gold quinoa, rinsed in warm water and drained
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 can tomato sauce
1 pint (or can) crushed or diced tomatoes
32 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped

Heat oil in skillet on medium. Add onion, salt, garlic, pepper, and spices; sauté for 5 to 10 minutes. Add rinsed quinoa and stir in. Add corn, tomatoes, and broth to onion/quinoa mixture. Simmer 20 minutes. Add cooked beans and chipotles to other ingredients; simmer around 10 minutes.

20 January 2010

Drinking Chocolate

Well, last summer I got hooked on snow cones. Really hooked. Then, about a month after the snow cone season ended, when the weather had finally began to get chilly and I was just about ready for a new obsession, I was reminded of Christopher Elbow Drinking Chocolate.

drinking chocolate - that's drinking the modifier, not the verb

This was nothing new as I've been a fan of Mr. Elbow and his artisanal chocolates (strawberry balsamic is still far and away my fave) since he first started up in the tiny kitchen in the back section of the antique store on Southwest Blvd. But this year, since I was ready for my next fixation, I guess, when I was reintroduced to the drinking chocolates, I got hooked. Really hooked. It was a weekly thing at first - on Fridays before each trip to Badseed, just down the street from Christopher Elbow. Now that it's the new year all full of resolutions, I've cut back a tiny bit, but not without significant longing.

There are several flavors of drinking chocolate to choose from - Venezualen Spice, Mocha, Dark, Peanut Butter, and - I think - Curry. All delicious, I'm sure. But the one that steals my heart each and every time is the Peppermint. Truth be told, I could give up chocolate altogether if it weren't for the way that it tastes when combined with mint. And this combination of hot drinking chocolate with cool peppermint is something else.

pepp, indeed

If you're interested in marshmallows, I can tell you that your best bet is one marshmallow only and a lid (which traps the heat which melts the marshmallow which prevents you from having to messily fish the marshmallow remainder out at the end of your drink). Or, if you're marshmallow-averse, definitely go for a bit of Shatto cream. (OR, if you're a vegan, they will make the whole drinking chocolate for you with water instead of milk!)

Truly - you can't go wrong.

Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates on Urbanspoon

14 January 2010

Heat in the Cold

No sooner had I gotten a pressure canner for my birthday in August, I decided to make a batch of soup. The Ball Blue Book of Preserving offered one particularly promising recipe that was simple to make and only a bit time-consuming to can, which all seemed worth it to me when I imagined having homemade canned soup during the cold months of winter.

Little did I know just how cold this one winter month would be, and thus how welcome a reeeaaaaally spicy soup would be. (How many jalapeños did I put in there?) Nor did I realize how welcome a minimum-preparation-required meal would be on a weekend when the dishwasher had been broken for 10 days and when I couldn't possibly be persuaded to wash another dish.

Not to worry. Southwestern Soup out of a "can" (jar, really - why don't we call it "jarring") to the rescue. I only got four quarts out of my batch back in August and I want to make them last so I used just one quart for our lunch the other day. I thickened it with a pint of tomatoes and a can of kidney beans. Oh, and spruced it up with lime, cilantro, and plain yogurt. That made it just barely enough for four people, and only a little less spicy.

But it was still probably spicy enough to melt snow.

From the Ball Blue Book of Preserving:
Southwestern Vegetable Soup
Yield: about 9 pints or 4 quarts

6 c whole kernel corn, uncooked
1 quart chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes
2 c chopped, cored, husked tomatillos
1 c sliced carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sweet red pepper
1 cup sweet green pepper
3/4 c chopped and seeded long green pepper
1/4 c chopped and seeded hot pepper
3 T minced cilantro
2 t chili powder
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t black pepper
1 t salt
6 cups tomato juice
1 cup water
4 t hot pepper sauce ( I used Chipotle Tabasco)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust two piece caps. Process pints 55 minutes, quarts 1 hour and 25 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a steam-pressure canner. ("jarrer" if you will)
NOTE: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

03 January 2010

Snow KC

snow in the sun

As luck would have it, my first Christmas at home in KC was a white one. Well, I consider this luck, but I seem to be alone in this camp; there are as many complaints around this town as there are sullied, gray snow piles. But never mind those - the long clear paths of white are still out there if you look for them and they are lovely to me. AND I made a fantastic snow angel, my first in years.

rain boots in the snow at Christy and Armando's - perfect patch for a snow angel

I'm lucky in that I don't have to shovel my own drive - somebody (maintenance at our apartment? The city of KCMO?) does it for me. And I'm lucky in that my travel plans weren't severely delayed or impeded. Christmas day we took an extra half hour getting ourselves (and fellow stuck travelers) up that back side of hospital hill trying to get to Christy and Armando's. And another extra half hour on our journey to OKC the day after Christmas during which the roads were neither "completely snow packed" nor "ice," as the Kansas Department of Transportation had indicated.

snow family in OKC - note the snow baby in a snow stroller

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day we were back in KC where it continues to be super cold - as cold as Russia. According to the weather app on my phone, we've been neck and neck with Moscow for a few days now. But the festivities continued unhampered - after a birthday brunch for Joyce we all braved the bitter chill to ring in the new year together at Fogo de Chão, which, believe it or not, has a remarkable salad bar. And while the rest of our party enjoyed the highest quality meats carved right at the table, I imagined a restaurant that serves salad table side. "Roasted Chiaggo Beets?" "Hearts of Palm?" "Grilled Carrots?" the servers would ask each time they arrive at your elbow with their serious carving knives and top quality veggies on spits.

Orange Pound Birthday Cake with Orange Glaze and Orange Zest (and Vitamin C!)

I spent New Year's Day, a.k.a. my anniversary, trying to remember exactly how cold it was seven years ago in Oklahoma the day we got married and our guests shivered outside the door of the church and threw lavender as we ran away.


Last night I finally took down the tree and today I'm deflating the air mattresses now that our holiday guests have reluctantly packed up their things and gone home to the DF (where it's 64 degrees). But for us, more snow last night, only 12 degrees here today, and I'm thinking I might make a few snow balls this afternoon before it's back to the daily grind tomorrow.

Sunday, January 3