Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I've always wanted to live in the same place so long that I'll wake up bored and with a routine, but not yet.

Today I took a walk thinking how I would like a daily walk to be part of my routine, same time, everyday. However, that isn't my nature so I'll have to settle for being grateful that I could do it since I'm recouping from an injury.

On my walk, I was listening to a radio program, On Being, where I get soul food from time to time. Remember, I'm still waiting for death by routine to either put me in ecstasy or slay me on the spot.

The conversation was about noticing the moment-- particularly to notice five new things about a person you talk to everyday. I was walking along the river so there was no office to duck into after the show. Instead, I kept trying to notice new things on my walk like that the leaves are starting to turn though it's still August and that a few of those fluorescent yellow and black birds are still fluttering about town. 

I noted that some people smile at you on the bike path, but they usually aren't wearing a headset. One guy saw me trying to read his shirt-- I knew he had put it on mindlessly when he pulled it out in front of himself to read it and then looked up at me with a big smile. His shirt had a Chinese character on it, and I don't think either of us knew the kanji. 

I'm waiting to fall asleep now, but I'm thinking that the discipline of noticing is an effective tool for getting into the moment. It's just hard to stay there. 

I can't wait to go back, to noticing.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Reviewing Movies

An injury that caused writhing spasms in my piriformis muscle forced me to spend a few days near the couch. I timidly embraced the return of mobility and suggested a movie to my solo child couped up with me. Plus the weather peaked into the muggy-sphere of awful which is how I found myself at the movie theater on a recent afternoon to see Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

My kid, now nine, told me that the story is from the archives of Marvel Comics. I mentioned that the film for me was a mash up of Star Wars (1977) and The Fifth Element (1997) except that the conceptual design felt scattered compared to the stunning sharp visual style of the older films. The child reminded me that the costumes from The Fifth Element were done by the French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier and that Lucas got all his best ideas from Japan and in particular samurais. (Apparently my son does listen to me sometimes.) 

He then wondered if The Fifth Element had been based on a cartoon, "because it has that look you know." Turns out two French comic creators, Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, provided inspiration, drawings, and were hired as production designers for the film. My child notices stuff that I do not.

The work of Jean-Claude Mézières, Valérian and Laureline, also served as inspiration to Star Wars--  the alien bar scene in particular per my Google research.

When a random day's events conspires to get one off the couch, you never know what you'll notice plus I'm thinking that I need to get some old comic books!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Drinking Coffee with Munsters

It's the last day of our trip, 6:30 am. I'm in a coffee shop with two kids so Dada can sleep. They're wearing their pajamas and discovering the thrill of beverages without the need to turn on the stove or a pot. 

Uninterrupted thoughts are rare in the life of a parent. I'm thinking Dada needs to wake up soon.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Carbonara in 15 Minutes

If you eat swine, I recommend this recipe for carbaonara for two reasons-- it's great for a quick dinner and easy. 

In a big pot with a lid, over high heat bring to boil water with a fat pinch of salt. 

There are certain dishes that I love to eat when they are made with lots of bacon-- carbonara, pizza for adults, and fried rice. However, an early trek to the farmers market is necessary to get the local stuff so when I do manage to buy bacon, I stash it in my freezer. 

Pull out a frozen block of bacon, hack it to bits, and brown it. You'll notice that keeping bacon in the freezer is great for chopping it.

I buy local food, but for some items are some that have no substitute-- Dececco pasta, avocados, and pomegranates. Put the pasta into boiling water and set the timer. If you use Dececco, it's always al dente when it says it will be, ten minutes for spaghetti. Add frozen peas when six minutes have passed.

Crack two eggs and place the yolks in bowl to use. Pour out the cream.

Drain the pasta, keeping some of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the still hot pan. Using a pasta scoop or two forks, mix the pasta until it is coated with the egg yolks, adding cream slowly. Season with salt and pepper. Add Parmesan cheese and toss again. Add more cream to obtain desired consistency. Serve the pasta and garnish with the cripsy bacon bits.

You might find you have an emergency worthy of this dish, regularly.

Carbonara in 15 minutes

Box of Spaghetti (Dececo), cooked al dente 10 minutes
Bacon, sliced (I prefer the whole package but if you've more self control half is tolerable)
Frozen Peas, 1/2 cup (optional)
Egg Yolks, 2
Cream, 1 cup
Parmesean Cheese, 1/2 cup
Kosher Salt, to taste
Fresh Ground Black Pepper, 1-2 cranks

Cover and bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until al dente ( has a bite when bitten), about 10 minutes.

Chop bacon. In a sauté pan, brown bacon over medium low heat. Remove from heat and drain onto a paper towel. Set aside. 

Add peas to pasta when pasta has about 4 minutes to go.

When pasta is al dente, drain pasta but not too thoroughly, save a bit of the water. Return pasta to the still warm pot. Add the egg yolks and with a pasta scoop or two forks, toss until the pasta is coated. Slowly, add cream until desired consistency is reached. 

Add the cheese and continue to toss. 

Season with salt and pepper. Adjust to taste.

Serve pasta topped with crispy bacon bits.

Fresh off the Cob Corn Salsa

If you live in or near Ohio in the summer, fresh corn is on the menu. Over the years it has been consumed at our table, mostly, on the cob. However, my children don't eat corn like I did so there is often leftover. I'm more a fan of reusing leftovers in another dish than reheating, but whether you cut it off the cob or use frozen or canned corn kernels, this is a great way to serve corn. I used cherry tomatoes fresh from my garden in this batch.

Corn Salsa combines black beans and fresh tomatoes to make a tasty topping to Taco Rice Salad or corn chips. For me, it's really about the cumin and lime-- I'll eat most anything with that combination. Try it!

Fresh off the Cob Corn Salsa

Corn-- Fresh, frozen, or Canned, cooked and cooled, 1 1/2 cups
Cooked Black Beans, cooled and rinsed, 1 1/2 cups
Fresh Tomato, diced,  2 large
Sweet Onion, diced, 1 small
Fresh Cilantro, chopped, 3 Tbsp
Fresh Lime Juice, 3 Tbsp (1-2 Limes)
Ground Cumin, 1/2 tsp
Salt, 1 tsp

Prep vegetables. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with taco rice salad or eat with Shagbark Corn Chips.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ohio Winner of Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

Abby Cornwell, winner of Michelle Obama's Healthy Lunchtime Challenge for Ohio, has just returned from Washington, DC, where she attended the 2014 Kid's State Dinner at the White House. Her winning entrée was Sunrise Tuscan Chicken.  There will likely be other events and opportunities that come her way. Abby told me that a guest celebrity chef from Ohio may visit her school, East Elementary, later this year!

This is a clip of our meeting about her participation in the event. A big thanks to Abby's mom, Jenny Messina,  for hosting and to Sam Girton for recording the video. It was edited by a newbie, yours truly.

Abby has been interviewed a few times in recent days:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Suan La Tang Chinese Hot & Sour Soup

Cravings for Chinese food hit randomly. We go on egg roll making sprees and stash them in the freezer. Egg rolls taste almost as good heated in the oven as they do fresh out of the fry oil . This is a favorite with egg rolls at my house. There is a stash of lilly buds and wood-ear ever ready in the pantry. Fresh tofu and ginger are often in our fridge so the ingredients are easy to gather together. Increase the heat by adding more black pepper. I go for middle of the road heat.

Suan la Tang Chinese Hot and Sour Soup
Serves 3 to 4

Tiger Lilly Buds, 20 buds
Cloud Ear Fungus/Wood-Ear/Ki-kurage, 2 Tbsp dried
Chicken stock, 3 cups
Garlic, 1 clove peeled & smashed
Fresh Ginger, 1 knob peeled & smashed
Soy Sauce, 1 Tbsp
Salt, 1/2 tsp
Black pepper, 2 grinds
Rice Vinegar, 1 Tbsp
Corn starch, 2 Tbsp + 2Tbsp Water (more for thicker soup)
Firm Tofu, 1/4 block finely cubed
Scallions, garnish, chopped 1 tsp per serving
Sesame oil, garnish with a splash

  1. Rehydrate Tiger Lilly Buds and Cloud Ear in hot water until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes.  
  2. Over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil with smashed garlic and ginger.
  3. Add soy sauce, salt, black pepper, and vinegar to stock.
  4. Mix the corn starch with water and slowly add to the soup stirring vigorously until you have the consistency you want.
  5. Dice tofu and scallions. Add tofu to stock and simmer 1 to 2 minutes until heated throughly.
  6. Turn off the heat. Garnish with scallions and a splash of sesame oil. Serve with egg rolls if you have them.
Suan La Tang Chinese Hot and Sour Soup