Bubble Wrap

This is a true story. The names haven’t been changed because who am I kidding, you know it’s about me.

File May 28, 5 57 00 AMIn about three weeks I’ll be moving to Salt Lake City. That in and of itself is kind of exciting — moving to a great city, closer to people I’m close to, and (fingers crossed) the possibility of a really cool life on many levels. Yet with all that potential for awesome comes a bit (plus a bit more) of uncertainty. And that “bit” felt more like a giant load a few weeks ago. Which lead to the pounding stress monster that took up residence in my brain and a few other organs.

The thing about a Stressinator, (think cyborg like Schwarzenegger with the constant nasal whine of Woody Allen), is it has a tendency to nudge you awake at 3AM. Which it did. A barrage of “what if’s” and “oh god’s” ran through my head like the ceaseless news crawl on  CNN. Then a brief and quite pragmatic moment of clarity ran across my mental screen: I need to buy packing tape. So I did, hit send, closed the iPad, closed the eyes, and sleep took over again.

Like many of you, my tablet sleeps next to me on the nightstand. Once consciousness claims me in the morning, it and my readers are the start of my day.  More often than not it’s the “ping” of email that wakes me in the first place, and it did just that the morning after my Stressinator visit. It was an email from the elves at amazon, bringing glad tidings of packing tape in my future. Suddenly I felt better. One piece of the chaos was put into place, and with that ping the monster was vanquished for a little while. Ok, so it’s quite possibly a symptom of insanity that a delivery of office products makes me feel better, but it did, and these days I’ll take whatever I can get.

I relayed this whole thing to my mom in that week’s phone call, we had a good giggle, and life went on its way. Until the UPS man came by a few days later. Not unusual, since I order a lot of things online ever since I moved to a rural small town with closest city 65 miles away. The size of the box was what had me perplexed. It was enormous, and unless I had been sleep-ordering coffee tables, definitely wasn’t mine. “Yup, it’s addressed to you” said UPSMan. “Don’t worry, it’s really light.”

Inside the box was possibly the best defense against the monsters of uncertainty, doubt, and fear of leaping off cliffs…a GIANT roll of bubble wrap. I burst into giggles, then tears, then snorting laughter. Then I called mom. “Did you sent me an enormous roll of bubble wrap?” “Yup”, said she. “I figured if packing tape made you feel better for a morning, this would do the trick for a week!” And it still does, every time I look at it. I even hug it every once in a while. 🙂 ❤

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How do you follow that with a recipe? With homemade Balsamic Glaze, that’s how. It bubbles, it makes you feel better. You need more reason than that?

This stuff is magical, and stinkin’ easy. Just a bottle of balsamic vinegar (16oz.), half a cup of sugar, and a good pinch of salt, and grind or two of black pepper. Use it over strawberries, ice cream, pizza, salad, drizzled on some pecorino or aged parm, or just really good olive oil and crusty bread.

Balsamic Glaze

  • 1 16.9 oz bottle of good balsamic vinegar (you don’t have to buy the expensive aged ones for this, just use one you like the taste of.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • a few grinds black pepper

One very important thing to note about making your own balsamic glaze is boiling vinegar is a pretty pungent undertaking. Definitely an open window/exhaust fan thing. And don’t stand right over the pot. It’s not scary, just be a little cautious. Some of you may even have to leave the house while a loving volunteer whips some up for you.

Mix all the ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until it becomes syrupy, or until the volume is about half of what you started. Store in a clean jar or bottle in the fridge, it will keep for a pretty long time. If it gets too thick, just dilute a little with water, or some good aged balsamic vinegar.

Strawberry Bruschetta

I love making this for Memorial Day weekend, because it’s about that time of year the first strawberries show up at the farmers market.

Clean and chop a pint of strawberries and toss into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, a grind or two of black pepper, and a teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 cup chopped basil. Add in two teaspoons balsamic glaze, 1 teaspoon good olive oil, toss and let sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Toast up some baguette slices or grill slices of a good crusty country loaf. Top with the strawberry mixture and enjoy!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). You can also see what’s cookin’ on my Instagram page. Thanks!  :-)

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Embracing My Hate

FullSizeRender - Version 2I know we are supposed to be filled with the loving warm fuzzies this time of year.  But I feel it’s time to admit that as soon as Halloween rolls past and “the holidays” come into view, I feel something else too. I feel hate. Shocking, but true. And I’m not the only one.

In the past I’ve tried to hide it. I’ve tried to ignore my loathing, to be open to at least considering the possibility of tolerating if not liking. But this year I’ve decided I’m done. I’m 53 and it’s high time I acknowledge and embrace, publicly. Step back, here goes:

I HATE BRUSSELS SPROUTS!  I can’t think of any food I hate more. Kale comes close, but the sprouts still win. Sure they’re kinda cute, like doll-sized toy cabbages. Cuteness can’t quell my hate fire. Neither does the fact that you can buy them all cozied up on brussels branches and flaunt your purchase through the farmer’s market like a vegetable drum majorette. I still hate them.

Why the need to post my sprout scorn for all the world to see? Because people don’t believe you when you tell them politely. Seriously. All you fellow haters out there try it and just see what happens. The minute your server gleefully announces “we finally have our brussels sprouts back on the menu for the season” and you reply, “thank you, no, I don’t care for them,” the dance starts. You’ll be told that their preparation is different. Countless sprout-haters have been converted with a mere bite, just trust them. Then they throw bacon, or duck fat, or cranberries into the mix. Maybe roast the suckers in high heat ovens, or braise them in bourbon, or countless other ploys to make you think that somehow the offending cruciferous veg would magically shrug off its foulness.

I know you sprout lovers have the best of intentions, but please, PLEASE believe me. I hate them. You could wrap them in hundred-dollar bills, bathe them in dark chocolate and bring out Clooney to serve them to me off his chest, and I would still refuse. THAT is how much I hate them. But hey, my hatred leaves more sprouts for you, right? So the next time you ask me to try them, telling me I only hate them because I haven’t tried yours, don’t. I love that you love them so I don’t have to, and will never question nor judge why. Just let me embrace my hate.

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Not a chance a brussels sprouts recipe could darken my blogstep, but since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, here are a few gems to help your holiday, including last year’s star attraction, trash can turkey!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! 

Rude Acts

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That’s right honey, look away….

This weekend I did something rather rude to a chicken. And despite living about 65 miles east of Portlandia, I didn’t ask the chicken her name, or anything about her life. Clearly that was inconsiderate, but not really rude. Rude came a little later, when I shoved a can up her, well…

I’ve been curious about the whole concept of Beer Can Chicken for a while now, but never attempted. I think a certain boldness is required to pursue it. The concept seemed sound enough.  Barbecues can certainly double for ovens. I’ve tested that theory with numerous grilled pizzas and stuffed flatbread. I think it was just the way the bird actually looked that was stopping me. She’s sitting there, upright, as though she was watching her favorite afternoon stories. Well, if she still had a head. It just seemed a little, um, disturbing. That was how I felt until last Thanksgiving, when I met Trash Can Turkey. That seemed a bit odd too, a turkey who looks like he’s sitting in an easy chair watching the game, encased in a garbage can. But the succulent beast that landed on the table was without a doubt the BEST turkey I’ve ever had. So if sitting under a can is good enough for Tom, sitting on one is good enough for whatshername.

File Aug 07, 6 07 05 PMAnd it was good. Really good. Especially with the barbecue sauce I made to dress her nakedness as she sat there, back to the inevitable, like she was waiting for a bus.  A bit more on that sauce in a minute. First the bird. Sam Sifton from the New York Times has a great recipe for Beer Can Chicken. I made two modifications. First, I very generously salted and peppered the beast and let rest in my fridge, covered, for about 24 hours. This is my standard prep for a bird that goes in the oven, so I figured it would work as well with barby-bird. Second, I had no beer but did have a can of hard cider. Since the purpose was mostly a perch I figured it would be fine substituting, and not being particularly fond of this brand of cider, foregoing the contents wasn’t a loss.  I was thinking of playing around with cider in a recipe anyway, so the half can I was going to dump went into the sauce.

The resulting Hard Cider BBQ Sauce was a nice play of sweetness, heat and a little tang. Give it a try. But if you use it on a chicken sitting on a can, at least introduce yourself first. It would be rude not to.

Hard Cider BBQ Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 a can of hard cider (your preference – I used Schilling Ginger Cider)
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 6 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne, New Mexico, or your favorite
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 good shot bourbon

Add everything together in a saucepan. Whisk until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook about 30-45 minutes until thickened. I found it to be better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to get to know each other. Store in a jar in the fridge.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!