I Cooked: Mozzarella, Avocado, and Jalapeno Chimichurri Grilled Cheese

I was browsing through recipes on one of my favorite food blogs, Naturally Ella, and came across this recipe. It was in the morning and Drew and I were hanging out in the living room before work. I said something along the lines of “this looks like something you might like”, read out the title, and he looked at me with such longing in his eyes that I knew I had to make it for him, even though the recipe calls for a food processor to make the chimichurri and I didn’t have one. By the way, if you’re looking for innovative but straightforward-to-make vegetarian food, get thee over to Naturally Ella. Erin makes great stuff over there.

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But now I do! I found a well-reviewed inexpensive Huntington Beach model on Amazon and three days later there was a robot culinaire (according to the French translation of the user guide, which I think sounds way better than food processor) in our kitchen! It’s almost like I’m a real person who actually cooks on a pretty regular basis, eh? But enough about my tentative steps into being a Real Adult, you’re here for the food.

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Chimichurri Sauce
2 jalapeños
4 green onions
½ cup cilantro
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ripe avocado, cut into ¼” slices
2-4 ounces fresh mozzarella
4 slices whole wheat bread

Place chimichurri ingredients in a food processor, pulsing until broken down and well combined, adding more olive oil or lime juice as needed.

Preheat grill pan or regular pan over medium-low heat. Brush outsides of bread with olive oil. Place on piece of bread, olive oil side down, in the grill pan and smear on 1 tablespoon of chimichurri. Layer with slices of avocado and cheese. Smear 1 more tablespoon of chimichurri on remaining piece of bread and place olive oil side up.

Cook on each side until crisp and cheese has melted.

Serve and enjoy!

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I actually can’t speak to how this came out…I can’t abide spicy heat, so anything with jalapenos is completely out of the question for me (I made a chili a while back that only had 1 de-seeded jalapeno and it almost made my brain explode). For Drew, I de-seeded one of the jalapenos and left one alone, because he likes hot spice. Even for him, that was on the verge of too hot, so you may want to think about taking all of the seeds out of both jalapenos. Even though he considered this quite spicy, he did take down two sandwiches, and assured me that he really liked it, so I’m assuming that if you’re not a total wimp like I am and enjoy these flavors, it’s good. It was pretty easy to make, so it’s definitely worth whipping up for a lazy Sunday lunch with a little extra kick!

I Ate: The Cupcake Station

I am a living, breathing White Girl cliché. I love Starbucks, especially Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I wear sundresses and Wayfarers. I own and wear Uggs. I am in a co-dependent relationship with my iPhone. If my song comes on when I’m out, I put my hands up in the air and yell “this is my song!” and sing and dance along. AND I love cupcakes. I’ve been a big fan of the Cupcake Station for years now. They opened up their Ann Arbor location when I was in law school, so my sister introduced me to it when I got back to Michigan and I’ve been hooked ever since. So after our lunch at Grizzly Peak, Crystal, Eric, Drew, and I walked the 5 or so blocks over there for dessert!

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The Cupcake Station has a wide variety of flavors, from the traditional yellow cake with chocolate frosting and red velvet to carrot cake or the Station’s Samoa (pictured below, because that’s what I got), so everyone can find something they’ll like. They do monthly special flavors as well. One of my favorite things is that they have little mini cupcakes, so that if you just can’t decide between red velvet or Station’s Samoa, but know you can’t handle two regular-sized cupcakes, you can get a mini-one of both!

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Sorry that the picture is blurry and out of focus, I was really much more interested in putting the cupcake in my face than I was in taking pictures of it. There are little tables where you can sit down, but there’s not much seating, it’s really designed more as a place where you pick up your cupcakes and then go on your way. The space is small, but airy and bright. I’ve never had anything less than friendly service any time I’ve ever been there. They do stop making fresh cupcakes at some point, so if you’re heading over in the evening and want a popular flavor like red velvet, you should have a second choice in mind because they may be out.

The Cupcake Station is located at 116 E. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor, MI. This is downtown Ann Arbor, so the street parking situation is pretty minimal, but there are several structures nearby. Prices are very reasonable ($3 for a normal-sized cupcake) and there is a great variety of flavors. For me, this was about a monthly indulgence and is a must-visit when I’m back in town.

Doubt

It creeps up on you, but once it arrives things are never quite the same. One day everything’s fine; the next, the little voice in the back of your head is asking you if you really believe that. Little things that wouldn’t have given you pause before suddenly wave in front of your face like big red flags. It’s not even that things start to not add up, it’s that you start consciously adding them, simultaneously hoping that they don’t come together and you’re not just being crazy and that everything checks out and that your life isn’t actually on the precipice of falling apart. And it’s not just romantic relationships where doubt rears its ugly head, it’s all relationships with people, including friends and colleagues.

For a true extrovert, I have a surprisingly high amount of social anxiety. I think it’s mostly related to that awful experience my freshman year. As an 18 year old, I was too naïve and hopeful to read between the lines of my growing exclusion from what had been my friend group, too see the tide that was turning against me until it was too late. But ever since, I’m sensitive to the slightest sign of rejection. A friend calls to say that she’s not feeling great or a family thing came up and she needs to cancel plans? As much as I know it happens to everyone and have had to do it myself because sometimes you’re sick or your mom calls and insists that you have dinner tonight instead of tomorrow, it’s hard not to think that maybe she’s just tired of me, can’t deal with hearing my same tired bullshit again. A boyfriend seems distant lately? It could be something stressful at work, it could be a situation with a friend that he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about because it deals with someone else’s confidences, it could be so many things that are totally legitimate. But what I feel is like I’m about to get dumped, that he’s thinking about someone else, that he doesn’t love me anymore and maybe never did at all. To be fair to myself, I have been dumped more than once at the end of a distant phase that I had tried desperately to explain away to myself, so it’s not like I’m working without precedent here.

It’s so damaging to doubt the intentions of the people you love. Even without something happening to break trust, trust is nibbled away at, eroded further and further until it’s in tatters. Instead of a strong bridge between two people, there’s just a thin frayed rope that could be broken up by a stiff wind even without any other pressure. You connect the dots to see two faces and completely ignore that there’s a vase there too, that the vase might even make more sense as a way to see it. It gnaws away at your heart and mind, makes you constantly replay scenarios where you could have said or done something different, something better, and maybe everything would be fine…all while it’s entirely possible and even likely that everything IS fine.

What I can’t figure out is how to stop it. Once doubt starts working its way into the nooks and crannies of my mind, I can’t figure out how to make it go away. I want to, I really want to. I want to be able to look at my loved ones and give them the benefit of the doubt when a questionable situation presents itself. That’s how it should be. But as much as I know that, I can’t shut up that little voice…

I Cooked: Cheesy Spinach and Tomato Quinoa Bake

I’ve been a vegetarian for over 13 years, and I only had my first bite of quinoa in December. I know, I know. It wasn’t any reluctance about quinoa, I just never seemed to have a chance to try it. There’s so much pasta to be eaten, you guys! Well, after I had that delicious scarlet quinoa salad at FIG in LA, I knew I wanted to try making something with quinoa. I wanted something simple, and this recipe from A Day From Scratch looked perfect! How can you go wrong with cheese, tomatoes, and spinach? Trick question; you can’t. And if you’re looking for delicious food to make, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, you should stop over at A Day From Scratch for this recipe and more. With how easy this was and how well it came out, I’m browsing her archives for more recipes to make!

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4 cloves garlic, minced

Cherry or grape tomatoes, one small container

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 cups fresh spinach

1 3/4 cups water

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

1 1/2 cup quinoa

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Salt and pepper

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Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Chop the garlic and rinse the tomatoes.

In a medium sauce pan add the oil and heat (1 to 2 minutes). Add the garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until light golden brown, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and ¼ cup of the water and cover. Cook until the tomatoes just start to break down, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the spinach.

Once the tomatoes are ready, add the remaining 1½ cups water, salt, red pepper, and a pinch of black pepper. Let it come to a boil. Stir in the spinach then the quinoa. Transfer to an 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella and cover tightly with foil.

Transfer to the oven and bake until the quinoa is tender, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with extra cheese before serving!

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I LOVED this, y’all. I made a tiny modification from the original, switching out parmesan cheese for mozzarella just because I like mozzarella the best of all the cheeses, but I’m sure no matter what kind of cheese you use (or don’t use any at all and make this vegan), it would be great. It’s fairly healthy (depending on how much cheese you use, I guess), with mild but delicious flavors and it’s really filling. I tend to have this problem where when I really like food I’m eating, I shovel it in really fast. Which is normally just a little quirk, but really comes back to bite me when I make things with chickpeas or similar protein-heavy ingredients, because I eat way too much because it’s so good and then I am the all-caps kind of FULL. You would think that since I’m supposed to be smart and everything I would learn, but no. Never have. Probably never will. But you, you learn from my mistakes, alright? Eat this at a reasonable speed.

I Saw: March 2014

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Drew spent a lot of time out of town this month (a long weekend in North Dakota, and a 5-day work trip to Las Vegas), so I had a lot of time to myself. And what do I do with time to myself? I watch movies. 13 this month, to be exact. Whew! On the bright side, I’m very close to being all the way through every movie that’s ever won the Best Actress Oscar, which means just Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Documentary, and Foreign Film left. This is going to take me years.

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Dallas Buyer’s Club: 7/10

I had been really hoping that this was finally Leo’s year for the Oscar (always an Oscar bridesmaid), so when he lost again, I was really curious to see the performance that beat him out. And Matthew McConaughey was actually amazing. He imbues Ron Woodroof with an incredible hustling energy. Ron goes hard, rigging betting pools and screwing girls and doing drugs, until he finds out he has AIDS and only 30 days to live. He almost immediately starts moving and hustling in response, finding a way to get promising drug AZT on the side, and then moving on to a more complicated drug regimen prescribed by a Mexican doctor. Furiously angry at the drug companies (and doctors) for promoting AZT as the only hope when it has significant flaws, he teams up with younger transgender woman, Rayon, that he had previously met in the hospital and is no stranger to the hustle herself. Ron is deeply homophobic, but needs Rayon’s access to the LGBT community to promote the treatment that has been working for him. Jared Leto moves way past Jordan Catalano in his performance as Rayon, creating a character that is strong and dignified and flawed all at once. Jennifer Garner also acquits herself well as a doctor participating in AZT trials and starting to question them. Besides the performances, the movie itself is pretty standard issue…but the performances are worth watching.

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After Porn Ends: 5/10

One thing that is awesome about the internet is the way it opens up worlds totally outside of our own experience to us. When I was in law school, I spent about a year following a blog written by a male porn star. It humanized porn actors for me. He was always excited to film scenes with good-looking women, of course, but he also wrote about the strained relationship he had with his family and how insular the porn world can be. So when I saw that this documentary, about what happens to porn actors when they leave the industry, was streaming on Netflix, I knew it was worth a shot. And while the concept was good, I felt it skimmed across the surface too much, without developing real depth. On the one hand, it touched on many different experiences: the older era of porn v. the newer era, women v. men, those who regretted their time in porn v. those who didn’t. But it seemed like if they’d told more in-depth stories about fewer people, they could have developed a film with more impact. Is it worth seeing? Sure. Is it anything special? Nah.

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Blue Jasmine: 6/10

Cate Blanchett is an amazing actress, you guys. She is so good in everything she does. I just love her. And this performance was worth the Oscar she won this year. Jasmine, in other hands, could have been a “quirky” collection of tics and an utterly repellant character. As played by Blanchett, though, she’s human, and even when she’s unsympathetic, which is often, she’s still a person. Sally Hawkins is also very good in her role as Jasmine’s sister Ginger, but no one can match up to Blanchett’s tour de force. The rest of movie is Bernie Madoff meets Streetcar Named Desire…it’s fine, but nothing worth writing home about on its own merits.

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The Country Girl: 6/10

Grace Kelly’s life is the stuff that dreams are made of: beautiful, successful actress goes on to become real-life princess. But in her Oscar-winning turn as Georgie, the wife of Bing Crosby’s alcoholic, self-pitying, has-been actor, she plays against type: she’s dowdy and dour. I know the big controversy that year at the Oscars was that she beat out Judy Garland’s bravura performance in A Star Is Born, but evaluating Kelly’s role on it’s own merits rather than against Garland’s, she’s wonderful. She refuses to play softness into Georgie’s personality, hardened by years of pain. When we see her being the lovely Grace Kelly we know in a flashback to happier times, it’s startling to see not only the obvious difference in makeup/looks, but whole bearing and essence. The plot is pretty forgettable, setting up Georgie against her husband’s director in a play in a contrived conflict, then setting them up in an equally contrived romance that’s obviously never going to work out. Even with Kelly’s performance, though, it’s skippable unless you’re a hardcore Oscar junkie like me.

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Jezebel: 4/10

I’d never seen a movie with Bette Davis when she was young before this one. And although she’s pretty good in it (she won an Oscar for it), it’s a pretty terrible movie. Davis plays Julie, a headstrong Southern belle (clearly a poor man’s Scarlett O’Hara, but without the magnetic charm that made Scarlett interesting) trying to win back the man she loved and lost. Davis is good, but Julie as written is just a spoiled brat. The plot drags, and the end is just ridiculous. Pass.

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The United States of Leland: 3/10

I wanted to see this when it first came out because Ryan Gosling. And when I looked at the cast recently, I thought I still wanted to see it: Gosling! Don Cheadle! Lena Olin! Michelle Williams! Kevin Spacey! It must be at least pretty good, right? WRONG. Terrible performances from everyone but Cheadle, and even he’s not more than serviceable. Gosling is worse than Chris Klein, who is just as wooden as ever. Not a single character is well-developed and the plot is just ludicrous. Skip.

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An Affair to Remember: 7/10

It’s easy to see why this is described as one of the most romantic movies ever made. The last quarter or so of the movie just drove me a little crazy, though. I thought the barrier set up to keep our romantic leads apart was overwrought. The rest of it, though, was wonderful. Cary Grant is always so charming on-screen, and Deborah Kerr is every bit as delightful. It’s easy to say why they paired together onscreen more than once, they have great chemistry. Her grounded quality sets us his smooth charm just perfectly. And while usually I wouldn’t buy that a couple who were both planning on marrying other people fell in love over about a week, spend six months apart, and then both actually intend to meet up so they can get married, I got emotionally invested in them despite myself. I’m usually the one rolling my eyes at romances, but this one got under my skin. You have to give in to it a little, but it’s easy to do, and once you have it’s a really good movie.

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The Good Earth: 2/10

Goodness gracious this was terrible. I’ve got the book on my Kindle to read and I can only hope it’s not nearly as bad. Apart from the historically unavoidable yellowface cast, the movie is way too long, edited terribly, and has no character development or any other interest in its plot. It just skims from plot point to plot point without any sense of drama or historical sweep. Waste of two hours of my life. I can’t bring myself to waste any more time writing anything longer.

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Citizen Kane: 8/10

This is regularly hyped as the greatest movie of all time and I hadn’t seen it yet! It was about to expire off Amazon Prime, so I decided now must be the time. And…it was really good, but greatest of all time? I don’t think I can go there. There’s a lot to love technically…the cinematography is amazing. Great use of chiaroscuro and camera angles, and the film actually pioneered the use of “deep focus”, a style of shooting that allows the entire frame to be in tight, clear focus and adds a richer sense of space to the film. The story has a Rashoman-like quality, with Charles Foster Kane’s life story being told only by multiple outside narrators, subject to their own sympathy or bitterness towards their subject. But in terms of watching a story about a young idealistic man who is corrupted by power and ends up alone, give me the first two Godfather movies any day. Citizen Kane is a great film, but I don’t think I can call it the greatest ever for me.

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The American President: 5/10

For about the first half hour of this movie, I was entertained. I really like The West Wing, and this was almost like a prequel: the walk-and-talk! The rapid-fire Sorkin dialogue (especially from Michael J. Fox)! Even the silly meet-cute managed to be charming. But as the movie went on, the typical rom-com stuff started to annoy me. Highly unrealistic situations! Highly unbelievable behavior in those unlikely situations! The way we’re supposed to believe that a couple that we’ve never seen have a serious conversation are soooooo in luuuuurv. And the failure to develop Bening’s Sydney Ellen Wade is criminal: what was her life like before she got to DC? Even on just the romantic angle, what is her past like? Has she ever been married before? Even engaged? She seems to exist in the movie solely to react to Michael Douglas’ President Shepherd, she’s not an actual human being at all. Annette Bening does her best, but she can’t make up for the failures of the script all by herself. This movie reminded me why I usually don’t watch romantic comedies.

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Gravity: 9/10

I’ve been a huge fan of Alfonso Curaon ever since the first time I saw Y Tu Mama Tambien over a decade ago. I’ve rewatched it many times since, and it just gets deeper and richer as time goes on. When I was a teenager, I identified with the coming-of-age story, and as I’ve gotten older, I’m drawn more and more to Luisa’s story. Anyways, the point is that Cuaron has a knack for making films that last because they speak to the power of the human spirit. See also: Children of Men. To finally get around to this movie, Gravity is a film that could have been technically amazing but empty but for two things: an amazing performance by Sandra Bullock and the direction of Alfonso Cuaron. Cauron never takes his eye off the ball, never forgets that this is fundamentally about Dr. Stone’s fight to survive against astronomical (no pun intended) odds. Even though we don’t know much besides the bare bones of her story, Cuaron and Bullock make sure that we know who she is. I am famously a movie crier if one hits me right emotionally, and this one definitely brought the tears out.

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North by Northwest: 8/10

Cary Grant has been an actor that I’ve only really discovered fairly recently, and I just love him. As always, he’s great in this Hitchcock classic. Everything works here: the plot and direction sweeps along, twisting and turning and not leaving you any time to process too much but keeps you wondering how all the pieces are going to fit together in the end. Grant is fantastic, smooth and charming and funny and compelling. He has great screen presence and excellent chemistry with Eva Marie Saint, who plays her femme fatale role to the hilt. It almost feels James Bond-esque: suave leading man, beautiful woman of dubious trustworthiness, charismatic villain with evil plot, improbable chase sequence (I mean, Saint is really going to climb down Mount Rushmore in high heels?), lots of energy and wit. Really enjoyable stuff, and that ending shot of the train going into the tunnel was a hilarious middle finger to the Hays Code.

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The Great Gatsby: 6/10

I first read The Great Gatsby in high school, and I didn’t like it very much. I didn’t understand it, really, and my English teacher droning on about the beautiful symbolism of the green light=hope didn’t really help. I picked it up again near the end of college. I don’t know quite why, but I’m glad that I did, because it’s become one of my all time favorites. One day, someone will make a great movie of this amazing book, but sadly it isn’t this one. It had a lot of promise. Baz Luhrmann was great choice of director for the jazz-age sensibility of the setting: no one does lurid better. Leonardo DiCaprio was a great choice for Gatsby, if a touch too old…I know he’s only 7 years older than Gatsby, but those 7 years have their mark on him. He looks significantly older than Carey Mulligan, who as much as I adore her, is miscast in the role of Daisy. She doesn’t have great chemistry with DiCaprio, and she’s too substantial (I am not referring to her spare frame, but her gravitas) to play the ephemeral Daisy. Also miscast is Tobey Maguire, who is both too old and doesn’t have enough substance to really ground the role. He plays Nick as a cipher, but somehow doesn’t really serve well for the audience surrogate. He seems more along for the ride than swept up. Elizabeth Debicki is probably the best cast role, her Jordan Baker hits all the right notes and steals every scene she’s in.

Birchbox: March 2014

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COOLA Tinted Matte SPF 30 for Face: Oh goody, yet another BB-type cream for my face! I actually might get a little use out of this when I head down to Las Vegas to meet up with my sister in a few weeks…she wants to spend time poolside and it’s been a long time since I spent any q.t. in the sun’s rays, so I will definitely be interested in shielding my face with SPF. And this isn’t bad stuff…it has a light, mousse-y kind of texture that blends very easily and provides very light coverage. But I don’t wear any sort of tinted anything and at this point, I would happily pay Birchbox to stop sending me BB creams that I am never going to use.

DDF Ultra Lite Oil-Free Moisturizing Dew: I’m already obsessed with DDF’s Brightening Cleanser, which I received in a long-ago Birchbox, so I was excited to try this moisturizer. It didn’t disappoint, but it probably won’t knock off my beloved bareMinerals moisturizer, either. It is a little bit sticky when you first put it on, which I presume is from the aloe vera in the product (if you’ve ever put aloe on a sunburn, it has that same kind of slippery, kind of sticky texture). One thing it does do better than my usual moisturizer is that it’s not at all greasy…my t-zone gets slick during the day with my usual stuff, but not with this. If I weren’t already settled on a moisturizer, this would probably be my new go-to.

Gilchrist & Soames London Collection Body Lotion: This is good, but nothing I’m going to actually buy. It’s thick and rich, and my dry legs (thanks, arid Reno climate!) felt and looked better after using it. The thing that keeps it from being great is the strong “lotion-y” smell…it’s enough of an annoyance that it would keep me from buying the product.

English Laundry No.7 for Her: When this goes on, it has almost a mosquito-spray chemically kind of smell…not strong, but a whiff of something along those lines. When it dries down, it’s a lovely and feminine fruity gourmand-type scent. The harsher smell evaporates quickly, so it’s mostly enjoyable, but I’m not going to go rush out and buy the full size.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango: I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have much love for dark chocolate (I find it bitter and unpleasant), so I forked this over to Drew for eating. He liked it, but didn’t fuss over it, so I assume if it’s your kind of thing you would enjoy this.

Ojon damage reverse Restorative Hair Treatment Plus: I’ve got split ends like woah, but I’d never actually tried an oil treatment until I got this in my Birchbox. I used in on a Sunday morning, and was horrified that afternoon that even though I’d thought I’d shampooed well, my hair looked and felt like an oil slick still (thankfully, I’d run all my errands on Saturday). I gave it one more rinse before I went to bed so I wouldn’t get grease on the pillow, then actually lather rinse repeated on Monday morning so I’d be presentable for work. My already-soft hair was noticeably softer and silkier than before (not too much improvement on the split ends, sadly), so I’m happy with it. This is going to become a part of my weekend hair routine at least until it’s gone…after that I might buy more and use it once a month or so. Definitely a solid find!

 

I Cooked: Fried Brown Rice with Scallions and Egg

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Fried rice is one of my go-to “Asian” food dishes…it pops up in multiple Eastern/Southeastern Asian cultures, and it’s pretty easy to get vegetarian, so if I find myself lost for what to eat, it’s an easy way to know I’ll get something I can eat and will almost certainly like. I was thinking recently that it doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to make, so I should try to actually, you know, make it. I found this basic recipe at Food & Wine, and I thought it seemed straightforward enough that even I could figure it out.

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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
One bunch scallions, white and green parts separated, both parts thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
4 cups cooked short-grain brown rice (1.5 cups dry)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons soy sauce

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In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrots and white parts of the scallions and stir-fry over high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice and all but 1 tablespoon of the scallion greens and stir-fry until the rice is heated through and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.

Push the fried rice to the side of the pan to create a well. Pour the eggs into the well and cook, stirring gently, until nearly set. Toss the fried rice with the eggs and cook for 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the soy sauce. Transfer the fried rice to bowls, garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of scallion greens and serve!

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This came out pretty well! Both Drew and I liked it and ate multiple servings…there was actually not enough left to really put any leftovers away, which is always a good sign. If I’m going to keep doing cooking like this, though, it might be time to invest in a decent-quality wok. Our big skillet is just not meant to handle as much food as I put in it sometimes. There were a few moments of confusion, I’ll admit, mostly related to “what does gentle stirring mean?” in relation to the egg. I can honestly say I’ve never made scrambled eggs (mine was not a breakfast household growing up, and besides a mostly booze-fueled fondness for brunch, I’m still not big on breakfast even as an adult), so egg cooking kind of baffles me. It all worked out, though. This was pretty basic, but it was warm and tasty and no one died of food poisoning, which means I call it a success.

I Ate: Grizzly Peak

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Because my schedule filled up so fast when Drew and I were in Michigan, and trying to get everyone’s schedules together was such a pain, it ended up that the only day that worked for us to meet up with Crystal and her boyfriend Eric was Christmas Eve. We had lots of ideas about places we wanted to go out to grab lunch, but even that early on Christmas Eve, a lot of things were closed. So we ended up at Grizzly Peak, one of Ann Arbor’s many fine brewery/restaurants. This was a regular “birthday lunch” spot when I worked at the law firm, so I’ve been several times and always liked it.

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The food here is classic pub fare dressed up a little bit. But the real reason you come here is for the beer. I LOVE their Hefeweizen, but sadly that is a summer brew so I had to content myself with the Steelhead Red. I’m not a big beer person, really. I prefer cider. If I have to have beer, I go for a fruity and/or wheat beer. If I can’t get those, I’ll do a malt. If I can’t get that, I do without. Drew had the IPA, his favorite kind of beer, and didn’t come away especially impressed. He’s very partial to Great Basin out here in Reno and measures all other breweries against them. My red ale was fine but not anything special.

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Because I am an overgrown child, I went with the mac and cheese for lunch. Calories don’t count on vacation, right? It was pretty good, it’s made with three cheeses and topped with breadcrumbs so it’s nice and crunchy. I ate more of that generous helping than I probably should have. Drew had a burger, which he liked, and I think Crystal did as well. Altogether, it was a solid but unspectacular lunch outing. The company was wonderful though (this was another time that Drew spent most of the meal eating and drinking while I rapid-fire gossiped with one of my besties) so it was all good. In terms of ambience, the restaurant is dark as you can probably tell from the pictures, but the booths have high backs and feel cozy. You don’t feel like the people at the table behind you are listening in on your conversation. The service here is so-so most times I’ve been here and was this time as well, honestly. I felt sorry for the waitstaff because they probably wanted us all (we were far from the only people in the restaurant) to finish up and go home so they could leave…no one acted like that, but I’ve worked in retail so I understood. In general here, though, you aren’t going to be fussed over by the staff. It’s more like the “try to make eye contact and flag them down if you need something, because it’ll be a while before they come check on you”.

Grizzly Peak is located at 120 West Washington St in Ann Arbor, MI. This is downtown Ann Arbor, so there is effectively zero street parking, but there are structures nearby. Prices are reasonable for downtown Ann Arbor (read: slightly inflated). It’s a nice place to go grab a casual lunch or hang out for happy hour, but I probably wouldn’t want to go there for an actual dinner.

The Sex And The City Generation

Do college aged girls even watch Sex and the City anymore? If there is an 18 year old girl out there, can you answer that for me? I know I did, and I know my sister (who just graduated from college last year) did, but I wonder if your average bright eyed college freshman goes off to college with a set of DVDs in those cheap plastic cases anymore. It used to be ubiquitous, like at least one set came standard issue for a dorm room or girl’s apartment on campus. I remember the sense of victory I felt completing my collection when Target had a killer after-Christmas sale; I finally had all of them. But I have to be honest, the last time I watched them dates in the “years ago” rather than the “months ago”. Back when it was new (or at least new-ish), it was bold, exciting, transgressive in its depiction of sexually frank conversations (not to mention action…even Charlotte the “prude” put quite a few notches on her bedpost) among women. These days, I can’t imagine a conversation about talking dirty in bed or golden showers would raise too many eyebrows. I don’t know what an 18 year old would find in Sex in the City that speaks to her. But for my age cohort, it left an indelible impression.

My junior year of college, for example, wouldn’t be the same without my roommate Anna and me turning on “the pot episode”, in which Carrie gets busted smoking a joint in the wake of the Berger breakup post-it, to cheer ourselves up when we were having boy trouble. Whenever I felt like I had just screwed something up so epically that my life was about to be over, I turned on the episode where Carrie falls on her ass on the runway. Charlotte’s marriage to Trey showed me how rushing into a relationship that you feel like you need to be in rather than one that grows organically can backfire. Carrie’s relationship with Aiden showed me that the “perfect guy” might not be perfect for you. Miranda’s devotion to her career not being compromised for romance showed me that being a “career woman” isn’t relationship suicide. Samantha’s unabashed pursuit of sex showed me that sex wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. Now that I’m in my late 20s and rapidly approaching the ages of the women as depicted in the series, even more of the themes are the show are applicable: how it feels to be the single one as your friends start to settle down, the feeling of unfairness at shelling out for endless bridal and baby showers, financial struggles, work-life balance, maintaining friendships.

But even though it’s becoming more and more relevant to me in some ways, it’s less and less relevant in others. Sex and the City is of a particular time; the pre-recession time, to be specific. The Sex and the City women aren’t worrying about student loan payments, they have plenty of cash at hand for things like new clothes and shoes. No, that one episode where Carrie tries to get a bank loan doesn’t make up for the whole rest of the series. We don’t see them fight to make it: when the show starts, Miranda’s already in a powerful position at her firm, Samantha’s PR agency is well-established, Carrie has a regular column, Charlotte’s job at the gallery is stable until she gives it up when she gets married. Finding (and hanging on to) a good job is something that young women (and men) have a really hard time with, it’s a generation-defining issue. On a relationship front, sexting wasn’t even a thing yet when Sex and the City went off the air (to say nothing of apps like Tinder or Snapchat). The impact of technology on dating had barely begun to be felt then (Carrie’s angst about sending Aiden an email is quaint), and has exploded in the time since. Sex and the City doesn’t really work in today’s world, but for those of us that were in the right place at the right time, we’ll never forget that Post-It breakup note.

I Cooked: Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Squash and Shallots with Sauteed Spinach

At that point, it should probably just be “roasted veggies”, eh? My relationship with cauliflower is interesting. I go through periods where I decide it’s yucky and refuse to eat it, and then I have it made really well and remember how good it can be when there’s actually some effort put in. But I recently had some delicious cauliflower, so I got inspired to try it for myself (and Drew). I found this promising-looking recipe from Beauty in the Feast and resolved to try this whole cauliflower thing. I added squash to the recipe because it’s good when roasted and it seemed like it would be a natural fit with the veggies already in the dish.

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1 Head of Cauliflower, chopped

1 Summer Squash

1 10oz Container of Grape Tomatoes

2 Shallots, sliced

2-3 Cloves of Garlic, sliced

2-3 Cups Spinach, washed and roughly chopped

3 tbsp Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

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Preheat oven to 425°. On a foiled lined baking sheet, toss the cauliflower, squash, tomatoes, shallots and garlic with 2tbsp of oil, a sprinkle of herbs, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting (about 5 minutes left), sautée the spinach with 1tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper.

When the cauliflower mix is finished roasting, toss in a bowl with the spinach. Add mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste.

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Honestly, I was less than 100% satisfied with the results. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with the recipe, but I think my approach was a little off. First of all, I made this as “dinner” when it’s really more of a side dish. There was no protein to round it out, so there was just something lacking for an actual dinner. Secondly, my oven runs hot and things are often “done” before I mean them to be, so I pulled it out early. I think that was a mistake, a little more roasting would have brought out the flavors better. If I were to make this again (I don’t know that I will), I think I would probably add chickpeas for protein and let it roast longer, and serve it as a side, where I think is where it really belongs.