Monday, May 10, 2010

Freelance Writing Website...with Blog!

I've started hanging out over here:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Reading Assignments

Head over to Significant Objects to read my friend Lakin's story about a paper fan that, like a pet-store puppy, she had to take home. (No, I don't condone pet stores selling animals. But I do condone artistic license and simile).

Then, head on over to my new website, MichellePanik.com, and check out my latest blog entry, which includes a link to an article I wrote for TCSD's Newsletter.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Veggie Month: The Month After

I made it.

Sure, I might not have blogged on February 27, but rest assured that, along with Veronika, I ate fried green tomatoes here, and loved them.

This month-long experiment had a bigger effect on me than I'd anticipated in late January.

I thought I'd improve my knife skills, patronize new sections of Vons' produce section, and have some tasty meals.

I already eat a lot of vegetables. But I eat the same ones. My worst offense is Costco's 5lb bag of broccoli, cauliflower, and two types of carrots. This is my staple. And while it's tasty, and cheap, it's only three vegetables. There are so many more out there.

After the first week of February, I was in a rhythm. I looked forward to cooking up heaps of leafy greens, or experimenting with a new stir fry sauce, or Googling a vegetable to see just what I had bought.

I think this will change the way I cook and eat. And I'm all the better for it.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Veggie Month: Opo Squash


Apparently opo squash is used in Asian cooking. I made an Italian-style dish that was a rif on this recipe. I used jar pasta sauce, and included carrots. It reminds me of the ratatouille my family used to get at Rosine's; the opo squash tastes a lot like eggplant. This would probably be good over pasta, or with ground turkey, but I ate it alone.

(Has a saute pan ever been so well documented in such a short amount of time? Or, for that matter, a dog over a blog's lifetime?)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Veggie Month: Spinach

(Shown minus the first of many pieces that would be eaten tonight.)

I made this recipe in December for my end-of-class party. The students ate the whole thing, so Bryan didn't get to try it.

Tonight, he had two servings. (Me, too.)

The only changes I made to this recipe were to use egg whites and skip the butter. It still had enough good stuff to make it tasty--cheese and a pie crust--but wasn't too dense like quiche can sometimes be.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Veggie Month: Tomatillos

(Make sure you rinse off all the stick stuff underneath the wrappers.)

You have got to try this.

Bryan and I made an approximation of this Tomatillo Salad--without the jalapeno or fresh ginger, but with artichoke hearts. Delish.

Next time, we'll add sliced almonds. Someone invite us to a barbecue so we can bring this salad.

(I like when I exceed my expectations.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Veggie Month: Radishes

(Radish "chips.")

Let's just say I wouldn't make these again. It's not that they're completely terrible--they're coated in chili powder, garlic salt, and paprika--but they aren't exactly tasty, either. Nor are they terribly crisp.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Veggie Month: Piloncillo/Panela


Today's ingredient is essentially brown sugar, but it counts as a vegetable because I found it in the produce section. Let me explain:

I chose a box of three brown cones with the name "piloncillo." Since there was no explanation, I assumed they were a tuber. Once I got them home, a Google search explained that they are made from sugar cane. Sugar cane is a plant. Lots of plants are vegetables. Which makes piloncillo a vegetable. See?

If you don't agree with my logic, you'll at least agree that fruits cooked in a sugar syrup are delicious. So let's get right to it.

This recipe is courtesy of Elaina Rodriguez, who gave it to V over the phone while we wandered the awesome aisles of Cost Plus.

I dissolved one cone in hot water, and let it reduce:

Then I put a little oil, sliced bananas, and some syrup in a pan and let it saute. (Afterwards, I realized that I'd forgotten the cinnamon and cloves):

Bryan came home right as I was cooking these, so I shared. Which was a good thing. Because I'll always share with him, and because these are really sweet.

Veggie Month: Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes

(They're related to the sunflower, but I don't buy that anymore than the idea that Manet's the Father of Impressionism. I don't see it.)

In researching sunchokes online, I kept reading that they can be eaten raw. And I suppose they can. One can probably eat shoe leather, too, but I wouldn't recommend it.

After one raw bite, I decided to sauté them in water with celery and Omaha Steak Seasoning. If this meal weren't going to be on the Internet, they probably would've been microwaved and dunked in ketchup. But I'm glad I didn't.

(This dish is good by itself, or as a starchy base for last night's leftover okra stew.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Veggie Month: Okra

(It's a good sign when your husband wants seconds.)

I've always been a little leery of okra. Probably because I never had many opportunities to eat it as a kid.

But this meal is one of my favorite of the month (the chayote stir fry will be a dinner regular after February's long gone).

I had been about to fill a produce bag with $4.99/lb. fresh okra when I remembered the bags of frozen stuff I'd been seeing and passing up for years. So I went to the next aisle over and picked up a 1.25-lb. bag for $1.99.

Adapted from a recipe on the bag of generic Safeway frozen okra:
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
3 cloves minced garlic
1 (20 oz.) package frozen cut okra
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 lb. ground turkey
chili powder
red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
salt

Sautee onion and celery in oil until light brown. Add garlic, okra, and tomatoes. Cook five minutes, then add ground turkey and seasonings. Let simmer until ready. Serve plain, or over rice, pasta, or tortilla chips.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Veggie Month: Carrots

Since my backyard carrots won't be mature by month's end:

I purchased a bag at the grocery store.

And because carrots are a common vegetable, I didn't want to simply steam them, or dip them in ranch dressing.

So I shredded one cup, and added it to Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge brownie mix.

The result is something like chocolate-carrot cake. Perhaps the extra moisture from the carrots made them less fudgey than usual. And I know what's usual for this brownie mix; it's my party dessert staple.

(These would be even better with chocolate chips.
And, while I'm at it, topped with ice cream, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Veggie Month: Red Bell Pepper

(This dish's appearance could've benefited from some broccoli.
Or the purple cauliflower that I am going to try before month's end.)

I should be blogging about roasted red pepper soup right now. Except I'd only bought one red pepper, which wouldn't have been enough for more than a dixie cup's serving.

Yes, this is a stir fry. But I used a plum sauce instead of hoisin. I know; I like my Friday nights crazy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Veggie Month: Bok Choy

(Ten cups of bok choy cooked down to three.)

Today I got around to what I couldn't yesterday. Braised bok choy, which is a simple recipe that Bryan and I put together in ten minutes. He's an excellent chopper, and I'm liberal with the molasses.

And for Marc: the riddle of vegetables and fruits is unraveled. Cover your kids' eyes, though. It's for mature audiences.

From Ask Yahoo: A fruit is actually the sweet, ripened ovary or ovaries of a seed-bearing plant. A vegetable, in contrast, is an herbaceous plant cultivated for an edible part (seeds, roots, stems, leaves, bulbs, tubers, or nonsweet fruits). So, to be really nitpicky, a fruit could be a vegetable, but a vegetable could not be a fruit.

Bonus explanation to Sunday's question: a nut is, "a dry, one-seeded, usually oily fruit."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Veggie Month: Green Onions -- and One Book, One San Diego

Can I get a "Ground Hog Day" do-over?

I had plans for today's vegetable. Big plans. Big bok choy plans. But the day got away from me.

Some short article assignments. Lunch with Marc, V, and V's mom at Spices. A long trainer session with the Olympics. (The DVR is a remarkable thing. By fast-forwarding through figure skating, a marginally motivated triathlete can--literally--spin for hours without getting bored.)

And then I headed off to the One Book, One San Diego kick-off event.

During the video introduction, an African girl spoke of making samosas with her family. Which are pastries that can be filled with--among other things--potatoes, onions, and peas. I just may attempt one of these for a veggie later in the month.

In talking about Outcasts United, Warren St. John said it's been his experience that the diversity training that's so pervasive in America doesn't work. Rather than formally talking about and celebratig people's differences, they should instead simply find a commonality, and work together on it. In the case of these refugee kids in Georgia--and the longtime Georgian residents--that commonality is soccer.

Outcasts United isn't an easy read--because its issues aren't easy--but it's worthwhile. Especially if you're a San Diegan; read it and be "in the know."

(A hazy, non-flash Warren St. John.)

So I'm backtracking, and using the green onions from lunch for today's vegetable:

(Cashew nut and tofu curry, spice #2.)

In tomorrow's post, at Marc's request: I will differentiate between fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Veggie Month: Turnips

(Eating them in your PJs is the way to go.)

I used this recipe, which is essentially for breaded turnips fries. Then I added a little Essence to kick the fries up a notch. Bryan had the bright idea of dipping them in apple sauce.

KK is cooking turnips next door tonight, too. Tomorrow's we'll compare notes--or the reactions of our husbands--and see whose recipe won.

From Wikipedia: Pliny the Elder writes that he considered the turnip one of the most important vegetables of his day, rating it "directly after cereals or at all events after the bean, since its utility surpasses that of any other plant."

So suck it, lima beans.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Veggie Month: Celery

(Grandpa with his bowl of chicken--and celery!--soup.)

I admit. These last few days I've been slacking with my vegetables. While I've been eating a different one each day, I've been letting the veggies come to me--usually in the form of a restaurant menu--rather than buying and preparing them myself.

I didn't prepare today's vegetable, either--celery--but I did drive two and a half hours to get it at my Grandpa's place. Mark and I both agreed the chicken soup was pretty tasty. I think it was the celery.

Wikipedia celery fun fact: A salt made from an extract of celery roots is used in Bloody Marys, Chicago hot dogs, and Old Bay Seasoning.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Veggie Month: Frisée Lettuce

(Frisée lettuce, as part of a Valentine's Day four-course dinner, at Eclipse Chocolat [full menu here].)

Half-way through Veggie month!

Veggie Month: Garlic

(Garlic grilling on the left of the zucchini slices.)

(How I miss teaching ESL.)

Garlic at a Korean BBQ.

Dinner conversation included a discussion of whether garlic's a fruit, vegetable, or a nut. Since it's in the onion family, it's gotta be a veggie, which means it counts for February 13th's vegetable.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Veggie Month: Asparagus

(Not a stir fry.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Veggie Month: Chayote

(Don't these look like a denture-less grandma?)


(I feel like I need to apologize for the tofu's dingy color.)

Stray Carrier Pigeon: testing the produce you see in the grocery store but are too afraid to try.

And since I've been a stir-frying fool lately, I cooked two chayote up with carrots and tofu in a hoisin sauce with extra ginger.

I won't mentions all the different names of this vegetable--for that you can check Wikipedia--but it makes sense that so many cultures eat it. It's a simple starchy squash that's easy to cook. It must be peeled, and although I hear its seed can be eaten, I took it out. I think I ate it in Belize at Erva's. The closest comparison I can make is to breadfruit.

Has anyone else eaten chayote? How did you prepare it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Veggie Month: String Beans

(Halfway through the salad. Since life is uncertain I ate the beets
first. One green bean is left at the top of the plate.)

String beans, raw, eaten in a roasted beet salad. I usually like my green veggies cooked (spinach, broccoli) but these were tasty.

As I type this, I wonder if the correct term are "string" or "green" beans. A Wikipedia check says that either is acceptable. So now we know.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Veggie Month: Broccolini

Broccolini, stir-fried with carrots and tofu in a hoisin sauce. This vegetable is 15% broccoli floret, 75% asparagus spear. Which is 100% delicious.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Veggie Month: Red Tomato

One roma tomato, cut into chunks and eaten on a salad.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Veggie Month: Cabbage

Regular cabbage, prepared as cole slaw from Phil's Barbecue at a Super Bowl party. Congratulations, Saints.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Veggie Month: Red Cabbage

While tempted to count the dill pickles I had at Elijah's this afternoon as today's vegetable, I pushed ahead and cooked a head of red cabbage from my vegetable drawer.

When I think of red cabbage, I think of "A Christmas Story." I have no idea if this recipe is in fact what was prepared in the movie, but it was tasty.

I've cooked red cabbage before, with just butter, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. This new recipe required more ingredients, but it wasn't any more difficult. Although next time I'd try it with apple cider vinegar to complement the diced apple.

As Ralphie's mother said, "You love red cabbage."

I do.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Veggie Month: Beet Greens

I can't wait for the emails on this post.

When KK and I were at the story yesterday, I picked up a bunch of beets with stems nearly as long as my arm. (And my arms aren't too stubs.) The beet greens were falling out of my basket, and I said something to KK along the lines of, "I wonder if you can eat the greens. I feel guilty throwing so much out."

When I got home, I noticed a tag on the beets with cooking directions. Directions for cooking the beets and the greens. So that's what I did today. Removed the stems and chopping the greens, then sautéed them in a little butter and water.

The results were fantastic. It tastes just like spinach, spinach that comes free with a bunch of beets.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Veggie Month: Bean Sprouts

I had a vegetable ready to go this afternoon when KK suggested we walk down to the grocery store to scour the produce section together. Never one to pass up a walk (especially with tomorrow's forecasted rain), I decided to pick up a different vegetable for today.

I ended up with bean sprouts, which I love but haven't eaten in some time. My childhood bean sprout memory is of my mom putting them on salads, which she'd dress with olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

Tonight, they gave my salad a nice crunch. So did the croutons, but this isn't carb month.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Veggie Month: Wheatgrass


Today's vegetable
A 1-ounce wheatgrass shot from Jamba Juice, which I washed down with their amazing Berry Cherry Pecan Oatmeal (can a liquid be "washed down" with a solid?).

Apparently, wheatgrass isn't any more nutritious than other vegetables. But, c'mon, it smells funny! Surely the odor signifies some vitamin not found in broccoli or carrots.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Veggie Month! Beets & Snap Peas

Of course, neighbors are good for a cup of sugar. Mine also happen to be good for dinner parties, walks with our dogs, random lunches, and neighborhood gossip.

And this month, the female half of their household will also be good for a push to eat more (and strange!) vegetables. During the month of February, KK and I will be eating a different vegetable every day. I'll be posting my choices here, and you can follow KK at No Regrets 2010.

Long-time readers of Stray Carrier Pigeon will remember KK as the same neighbor who arranged for us to swing on an eccentric's trapeze as a "No Regrets" outing.

Onto the accountability. Yesterday, February 1, I ate beets. Which is really difficult for me, I know. (I wanted to ease into the challenge.)

Today, I snacked on sugar snap peas, after my leftover Mimi's sandwich (I love pesto!) but before a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. ... My veggie was sandwiched between two sandwiches. Odd. I need to get out more. And be more adventurous with my meals.

But back to this post's first line. After walking our dogs tonight, I gave KK some extra ginger and half a sweet onion to complete a recipe for her vegetable: swiss chard. Lending a cup of sugar is so 1960's.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Beatific

Every once in a while, people work together in a perfect symbiosis and my heart wants to burst, like the buds in a fistful of flowers that bloom all at once. Thanks, Humanity.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

At least night's Endurance Sports Award, Cody MacCasland, an eight-year-old double-amputee, was honored as Challenged Athlete of the Year.

During a brief back and forth on stage, Cody happily professed to having beaten two kids in his last swim race who had legs. (Can you imagine being the parent of the losing child, and having to console them? What could you do but enroll them in piano lessons or art classes.)

My brother and husband were with me last night, and afterwards I asked whether they felt just a little lazy after hearing Cody's story. They confessed that they did. I did, too, and I've done two half ironmans.

I've decided to do a third, but it doesn't seem like nearly the undertaking that any Challenged Athlete might accept.

I'm reminded of Hey Nostradamus!, where the protagonist, speaking from the dead, recounts a perfect evening where he stripped down and ran exultant circles through his neighborhood. He declares something like, "I wish that I could've run naked through the streets every day of my life."

I'm not suggesting that anyone, physically challenged or not, break laws of decency. But perhaps a little more metaphorical streaking, and a little less status quo, would do us all good.

Friday, January 29, 2010

JD Salinger: Half-pipe Thrasher

From the outside, you might think JD Salinger didn't do much with his life. 91 years on this planet and 4 books in 15 of those years, the last of which was published 45 years ago. Just a few interviews. Sort of like Forrest Gump running. And then, one day, not. I wonder what he's been doing since 1965.

We'll probably never know, but I like to think he's been learning the art of underwater welding, training a bear to dance, and performing some sweet ollies. Wouldn't that be cool?

At last night's Tri Club meeting (Chris Lieto and Craig Alexander; you totally missed it), I spoke with a friend who's recently switched from real estate to nursing. I used to write fiction, but now I am moving into nonfiction. Change is good.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Throw Your Hands in the Air and Wave Them Like You Just Don't Care

Today was my first run in 17 days, the last one being day I turned 31 (which still seems like a clerical error). It is good to be back on the roads.

I spent part of the run behind a jogger who'd periodically pump his fist while listening to (I can only assume) uptempo music.

I am in the middle of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It is Murakami's meditation on running, and also on writing. At one point he talks about a mutual understanding shared by all long-distance runners. I agree. I think people who enjoy running share plenty of character traits (which I won't go into here, Murakami does a much better job in his book).

I have never pumped my fist to music while running. But I completely understand the feeling.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Something Other Than the Sausage-making Metaphor

"Writing goes something like this: think of idea, collect material, find the right angle, do something else for a while, get sudden idea and write it down, think some more, plan, organize, think, write, rewrite, proofread, rewrite, proofread, proofread, finalize. Writing feels a lot like wrestling an alligator. A fair amount of violent thrashing is part of the struggle."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Storm Week: Friday Finish


In this picture are three other photographers, all shooting the waves. Water decides to come out of the sky, and Californians flock to the coast to document it.

Today there's been some rain, some pockets of nastiness, a few gusts, and calm sunshine. If you're patient enough, or look in the right places, things improve.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Storm Week: Thursday Thrashing

(No lunch outside today.)

Mother Nature unleashed her full wrath on the southland today. I'm sure there were better storm photos to be had. But since I wasn't about to venture out into today's apocalypse dry-run, this is what you get. Shamu didn't have to get out of his cage, and I wasn't getting out of mine, either.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Storm Week: Wednesday Wimp

video
(Diary of a Wimpy Dog)

The brunt of today's storm has yet to arrive, and yet I couldn't get Louie out the door for a walk. I think it's the poodle part of him that doesn't "do" water. Pick up his leash on any sunny day (which, let's be honest, is almost every day in San Diego), and he bounces up and down like a pogo stick, so anxious is he to get out and see the neighborhood sights.

Something tells me that by Friday, after being cooped up for five days, he'll be willing to venture out in a shower.

(This video might not play for you. It's a "known" blogger issue. Which means you just need to keep coming back and trying. How's that for suspense?)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Storm Week: Tuesday Drops

(The view out my sunroof.)

Don't let the subtitle fool you; today's weather was much more than mere "drops" falling from the sky. We're talking hardcore rain and wind. V and I watched a Sparkletts delivery guy lose two dozen empty bottles off a cart to the gusting wind. This is the kind of weather you get in Michigan and Ohio and places with real weather. Watch out, rest of the country; San Diego is increasing its meteorological currency.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Storm Week: Monday Yellow

Since rain and foul weather are forecast this whole week (and throughout most of the state), I am proclaiming it Storm Week on Stray Carrier Pigeon. Each day I'll be posting a picture of the great outdoors, and the mess Mother Nature is making of it.

The rain really came down today, but anyone can get a picture of rain. What's better is what occurred early this evening, when the rain tapered off and the sky became yellow. Yes, yellow. Either the humidity reacted with sunlight or San Onofre blew a gasket. Anyhow, it sure is beautiful:


Sunday, January 17, 2010

This Title Will Be Free of a "Beet the Jets" Pun

I planted them in July. And they grew. And grew into the little red nubs that will stain your fingers better than Easter egg dye. Today seemed like as good a day as any to pluck them out and turn them into a salad. Just in time for a meal before the Chargers cream the Jets.

(The garden. And the help.)


(The haul.)


(Lettuce, beets, walnuts, goat cheese, and croutons. Finished with a balsamic vinaigrette.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now 25% More!

(Wasabi-ginger, maple-bacon, and pomegranate-tangerine.)

In a rebuttal to my last post and its discussion of portion size, I offer the lollipops that arrived in yesterday's mail from my brother. 1.1 ounces each of sugar, water, and all manner of natural and artificial flavors.

My brother lamented that, while tasty, they're too large. And yet, Dum Dums are too small.

Which is why Nerds are still the classic, perfectly portioned candy. I wonder if Willy Wonka is interested in a bourbon-white russian variety.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Now 25% Less!


For several years now, a "half-gallon" of ice cream (the equivalent of 2 quarts) has been 1.75 quarts. Then last year, my beloved carton of creamy-sugary goodness was shrunk again to 1.5 quarts. I've known about this (and the peanut butter conspiracy) for a while now. But when I put a half-gallon of Dreyer's cookie dough in my grocery cart yesterday, I got riled up all over again.

A half gallon isn't 1.75 quarts. It isn't 1.5 quarts. Volume measurements aren't like women's clothing sizes; they are exact.

Maybe I wouldn't be so upset if this packaging change didn't involve the vice that I embrace most. Or maybe I'm offended by the complete disregard for words and definition. Or maybe I just feel like it's one more instance of the world being turned upside-down. All I can do is console myself with a metric chart and a bowl of ice cream.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thirty-one

Sometimes, on one's birthday, it is just as satisfying to do something for a friend as it is to have a friend do something for you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

MIA

After almost a month away, I finally have something new to blog about. And it deals with, well, blogs.

Today, a neighbor asked me about starting a blog. Which was flattering (although what do I really know about this crazy medium, except that people love watching parts of your personal life--like what's in your pantry). But it came at a funny time in my life, because this blog has sat silent for nearly four weeks.

It wasn't that I was out clubbing downtown or taking advantage of the bargain-basement hotel room prices in Tijuana and couldn't be bothered to blog. Rather, I've been home. A lot. While I love teaching ESL, it's not enough for me as a career. It's something I want to do in an alter-ego way, although probably without the black mask or cape...unless I can get some type of tenure--then I'll be teaching in flip flops.

But anyhow, as I've been rethinking how I want to use my writing skills in a full-time job, I've taken a break from writing here.

But it feels like a good time to return. Welcome back, me. And soon: welcome to the blogging world, my neighbor.