Aside

All things worthy (and unworthy) of blogging about

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Beaverton’s Taste of Sichuan

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An all-American breakfast on a Corelle backdrop.
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Matcha matcha matcha🙂
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Dukkbokki & 番茄炒蛋
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Townshend on a sunny Aprilgrit

Beet, goat cheese & dandelion green papperdelle curry

咖哩雞

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Lunch- PB, honey & cinnamon sandwich, Fuji apple & honey milk tea chicory
Chicory root tea (no thank you)
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Dinner at Baja Fresh (a place I find myself far too often because 1.) I’m lazy, and 2.) coupons.)thai iced teaAnd this!

2014 (a backlog)!

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Tastes I’ve appreciated this year:

Honey. Honeycomb. Honey ice cream, swirled with candied honeycomb. Mirabelle plums. Potatoes freshly dug from the ground, thinly sliced and fried into chips. Frozen cherries in January, melting into Greek yogurt. Soft boiled eggs. Cold salted ma la Szechuan chicken. Oregon-raised bacon. Borage- floral and briny, with fuzz tickling the back of my throat. Olives- a taste as ‘old as cold water’. Wild salmon. Roasted garlic. Matcha tea with almond milk. Greasy, paper-thin pizza, showered with free toppings. Rose petal coconut honey over whole wheat levain. Meals –eaten out– that run under $7. Braised greens. Butter-poached white fish. Chawanmushi. Shaved zucchini slices. Milk Oolong tea- leaves that smell of cream, rain and the high mountains they grew in. Peanut butter, honey & cinnamon toast. Natto hand rolls.

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I’m still so far from Berkeley- and find that the longing for my city by the bay comes back in waves borne on memories of Philz coffees, Masse’s macarons, Asha matcha lattes, Tartine croissants! (And of course, the smell of salt, redwood, incense and  eucalyptus leaves.) Yet it’s both sad and grounding to feel the Bay slowly lose its hold on my heart as I begin to look forward, with real anticipation, to the smells, sights and sounds of another summer in the Pacific Northwest.

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cherry coast

We Ate Well and Cheaply-

Meals I’ve made at the shelter:

Frittata. Lamb and pea curry. Shaved zucchini salad. Pesto flatbread. Mac ‘n cheese pizza. Asian pear, roasted pepita and spinach salad. Chicken yakisoba. Shakshouka. Lots of chicken salsa verde enchiladas and cajun fries. Deviled eggs. Coconut chocolate banana bread. Pumpkin and coconut cream pie. Pear caramel. Sriracha fried rice.

In the early morning, the kids wake up and shuffle, blinking away sleep, to the kitchen to make themselves coffee before heading out. The street, enshrouded with fog, is a setting contrived to make life harder. I admire their resilience, their ability to brush their hair and teeth, forgo a morning hug, catch the bus to school, and find a bed for the night- 11 years old is so young to be thrown into the task of taking care of yourself. I want to tell them all not to drink coffee, but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll make dinner and put out the milk.

Veggie frittata



Kale pesto flatbread

Pearamel sauce

Kit Kat cake- courtesy of FFLC

and coffee

Single Origin Everything

I recently reread Barbara Ehrenreich’s novel Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and was struck by how differently I’m able to approach the book in my 25th year. I last read Nickle and Dimed in high school, and while it was no less intriguing, I found the subject material to be as foreign to me as say, coming of age in Samoa.

Now, having spent the last three years on the edge of poverty (and often falling under that national threshold, into poverty) I am intimately familiar with paying out of pocket for discounted medical services and generic prescriptions (because I alternate between having no insurance or having catastrophic insurance with a $10,000 deductible); with avoiding the imported cheese counter at grocery stores (a wedge of brie necessitates the purchase of a package of water crackers, which combined, will ruin my grocery budget for the better part of a week); with stacking credit card and utility and car payments, so as to not default on any of them.

Of course, I’ll never actually understand what it’s like to live without a safety net. I’ll probably never have to support myself and others off a minimum wage salary. I have my parents, a paid-for college education tucked behind my name, and a coddled, cultivated taste for expensive things food. Cashmere, I can do without. Single origin chocolate and steamed Chilean sea bass (okay- Patagonian toothfish, lay off) with fresh ginger and scallions are harder to part with.

Hence the following conversation with Maria (who will always (try to) keep me pinned down to my better senses, and away from impulsive purchasing decisions like $130 jeggings and $10 chocolate bars and $4 oxygenated water and subscriptions to StitchFix and BirchBox and all other amenities/goods marketed to Bay Area techies/millionaires, with whom I have only nominal ties to, no similarities in net worth, and from whom I grow farther and farther apart from by the day.

Maria:  How are you
me:  Good good
me:  Went to this chocolate and salt store in Portland with Jessie over the weekend
and sampled Some Francois Pralus chocolate
omfgballs
so good
Maria:  dorks
me:  Single origin 100% cacao
I don’t generally love dark chocolate
but it is so good
also left without buying anything ‘cuz
er…
I’d already spent too much at Powell’s
Maria:  “Chocolate and salt store”
me:  Actually it’s a “chocolate, salt and bitters store”
lol
sounds too bougie
and maybe it is
but it was also really well designed and warm and adorable
like a little fairy forest of chocolate and apothecary jars =3
Maria:  >>
me:  Hush
you would love it
I’d send you some Francois Pralus chocolate except it’s like…. $10 a bar
😐
Maria:  Disgusting
Maria:  10 bucks a bar
*chews on Hershey’s*
Maria:  WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE
me:  My second fave chocolate bar of all time is Green & Black ginger chocolate
also fuggin’ expensive
but for $3.50 ($2.99 when on sale!!!)
I think it is actually amazing
I think most other high end chocolate bars are pretty inferior for their price point
me:  In that inferior expensive category falls: Dagoba, Chuao, Vosges, Theo, Rechiutti, TCHO,
etc.
Maria:  Vosges can go suck a dick
me:  Oh, we also went to Sur la Table and sampled all the espresso machines (instead of going to Starbucks across the street) and then slunk out without buying anything :S
Maria:  Nice
I’m proud of you guys

So I can’t afford a 100% Madagascan cacao bar, made from roasted Criollo beans that were handpicked by well-compensated farmers. Nor can I afford to sprinkle my (non-existent) whole true cod with flaked lemon salt & fruity, early harvest extra virgin olive oil. I can still sample prolifically and see you (Francois Pralus, I’m looking at you) in my dreams. And when I’m making tons of money as a clinical social worker working with at-risk youth, I’ll come back for you.

Oh wait, that’s never going to happen. Well, love what you do.

A Rare Snow Day

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Necessitates that you stay under the covers until 10:30am, or until your dog finally shoves you out of bed and into your warmest wools, goose downs, fleeces, and that silly hat you bought two years ago– in a Portland fetish costume shop– because it matched the leg warmers you bought four years ago, on the coldest day in Berkeley, when the temperature dropped down to 40 degrees and you thought you might possibly die.

And now, global warming.

 

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You walk downtown (a snow day is no day to cook in your sub-30 degree kitchen, all flung with snow-crusted gloves and boots, the sink adrip to keep your pipes from freezing) and into the sandwich shop for chili-marinated pork banh mi and a hot bowl of pho. And then tea to follow. An afternoon watching snow fall from behind a steamy mug of pumpkin spice chai… and you forget that it’s February, that you’re in Eugene, that there are grievances or joys, anxieties or desires in the present- because there is snow, which quiets everything.

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“Snow is inherently nostalgic. It encourages you to travel back and think about your life. I think it’s something about the way it blankets reality, sort of erasing the present one dead pixel at a time. And that makes room for the past,” says Tomer Hanuka, about his image “Perfect Storm.”

“I moved to New York in my early twenties, after being in the Israeli Army for three years,” Hanuka says. “I have this image of myself in my first rental apartment, sitting on the edge of the bed and staring at the window. You encounter the world as an adult for the first time—I think that’s what the story was about. That’s a powerful thing. Every window you stared through before was your parent’s world, and now, suddenly, you’re in a city. You’re washed with optimism and a sense of freedom—you’ve just been liberated and that’s amazing. And then you realize you can do very little, and it’s terribly disappointing. But the heartache and all that, that comes later.”

The day you realize that yours is no longer yours

That really, all these treasures in life — memories of moments, sensory or chemical– that you’ve been so meticulously hoarding
are blessings at best
crutches at worst
and if you were looking for an identity
you’re bound to find yourself on a busy street
eating (if you’re lucky) an orange-scented morning bun
back at square one.

In the meanwhile, enjoy the blessings, enjoy the 65 degree sunshine; enjoy the swirls of coarse sugar and cinnamon sticking to your fingers, warm cardamom hitting the back of your throat, soy-braised pork hocks, and the supermarket uncles that call you 姐姐 and tell you that you have good 氣質. They don’t know you, but at the moment that you’re buying a bento, treading (hushed) through a menagerie of silk and cashmere, or filling up your gas tank at the border, you could be someone else entirely. And you are.

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“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea.” — T.S. Eliot

A Season of Foodventuring

Summer kicks off… and funemployment begins! At the end of August, I will start the Best Job Ever (Americorps Outdoor Educator/Youth Development Specialist at Eugene’s Outdoor High School) but for now, the day begins at 10am (earliest) with coffee & canning (preserved lemons and spiced plum jam).

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Cardamom plum jam, preserved lemons & cherry pit cordial
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A garter snake in the garden🙂

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Those rare and tasty strawberries.
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Coffee & grogs at Party Downtown; brunch is religion.
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Aand… I’m back for dinner. Kimchi & beer braised beef with turnips and parsnips.
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Strawberry Riesling Sorbet & Saturday Morning Ice Cream (made from Fruity Pebbles-soaked milk.)

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A grassroots garden- kale, lettuce & mustard greens. Not pictured, but also winning: Ground cherries, summer squash, zucchini, sugar snap peas, edamame, black beans, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, spinach.

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The start of lettuce wraps.

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Garden greens & free-range chakkun for dinner😀

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Grilling on weekdays.

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And the gorgeous, 35 degree Tamolitch Pool, tucked behind the McKenzie River.

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I had to do it. And it was stabbingly cold, as can be expected from a spring-fed, lava sediment-filtered crystal pool.

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Things to do when hiking: Find hollow tree logs for photo ops.

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Can’t ever be classy at a winery. It’s just not in me.

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A hard workout at the gym needs follow-up: Blue Sky grape soda and organic, free-range chicken, cooked in an organic bacon demi-glace & topped with fried Spam, and a parsley garnish. Because why not.

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Blueberry picking in Leaburg!

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And Chester admiring his backyard produce haul.

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Ground cherries.

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And tree cherries too.

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Brown butter cherry bars for weeks.

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Plus plums from the tree in the backyard.
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And always, fries & ice cream for dinner (Bourbon pecan ice cream & poutine.)

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Hope your summer is as hedonistic & sunny as mine! Noms forever.

Meringue Cookies & Summer Sweets

Hi guys,

If you’re like me and have no idea how the fuck to make meringue (and as a corollary, failed high school chemistry (and by fail i mean B+ (effmylife, that B+ is why i didn’t get accepted into Columbia (just kidding I didn’t apply and besides that, I’m just lazy, which is exactly why I can’t make a textbook meringue…)))) here’s a recipe I cobbled together today with the unused egg whites from a batch of blackberry mint chip ice cream (Pics of ice cream to come. Unless eaten before pics are taken).

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It starts with a 350 degree preheated oven, and 5 egg whites, beaten until they (supposedly) form stiff white peaks. Mine never do. So instead, when your egg whites start looking like very dense whipped cream, you gradually add in about a cup of confectioner’s sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and almond extract each, and about three tablespoons of flour. Continue beating in the hopes that stiff peaks will form; stop when you’re about to ragescream from boredom. Pour the thick, fluffy batter into a square nonstick cake pan, and smooth out the top. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the ‘meringue’ is set. When it is set, take it out of the oven/cake pan, cut it into squares, and rebake ’til golden brown… maybe another 30 or so minutes. What you end up with is marshmallowy-spongecakey-cookielike squares that are crisp and sweet on the outside and fluffy on the inside. AND LOW CALORIE TO BOOT.

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Also pictured: A jar of cinnamon/blackberry/chardonnay/lime jam. You know how it goes. =) More on canning later.

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Oregon summer, don’t ever leave me.

COFFEE

1.) We have a Nespresso machine & Aeroccino milk frother at work.

2.) I made myself an espresso macchiato this morning.

3.) Starbucks is giving out free* (endless, literally endless) caramel & hazelnut macchiatos from now ’til the end of the month. (Just mention discount code 350, or sleuth up the coupon online, and print a million copies for personal use). I always get mine with soymilk– and lo and behold– the soymilk is free too!

4.) I have not had to pay for coffee drinks in dayz.

5.) My life is complete.

Happy caffeinating!

A totally irrelevant photo of me enjoying freshly roasted Tarrazu beans in Quepos, Costa Rica =9

*I essentially think I deserve this. I’ve stood by Starbucks’ caramel macchiatos through 5+ years of price increases, burned espresso shots, caramel drownings (in Texas, of course), airport markups & the relentless anti-corporate mockery that you inevitably incite… when you walk around Berkeley with a Starbucks cup en hand… It’s all paying back now😀

Baking through All Existential Crises

I had a thought the other morning- that having oatmeal, coffee & a powerbar* for brunch (or whatever you call snacking between the hours of 8am-12pm) can be so mundane, yet dependably awesome. Nothing to prep & cook- just pure energy (in the form of carbs, caffeine & your daily dose of vitamins) flowing through your system to smoothly power you into a new day.

That being said… Whatever. Oatmeal & powerbar sure, but brownies & peanut butter cups? Fuck yeah. Let’s bake those.

Ever since hitting age 22, I’ve been rocking through a quarter-life crisis, (yes it is a thing- See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter-life_crisis) trying my INFJ’y best to dodge major life decisions, center my insatiable spirit & shore up my undisciplined lazy-ass self, while quashing down the “Oh god, I’m so old I’m gonna die!” qualms that bubble up incessantly, irrationally.

Now that I’m 23 (and about to hit 24! Sob) I’ve learned to coast through these fickle (though not inconsequential) feelings. Case in point: Job hunting. I’ve come to learn that not everyone who doesn’t hire me is an asshole. Some may be assholes in and of themselves, but there is no corollary. At least not for my immediate purposes. (See next paragraph: Bitching.)

Bitching: Two weeks ago, I screwed up my 2 part interview for (what I viewed as) the only legitimate job in town. Actually, that is misleading. I have no idea what went down. In all honesty, I thought I slipped (gracefully, even!) through part un, and aced part deux. But maybe the only legitimate job in town needed a more legitimate, experienced person. I received the news (through a gentle source), had my requisite half hour of existential angst, and then determined that I would step out of my mind for the evening.

I set out to make brownies. I never make brownies (I am not that fond of chocolate) but lemon bars & fruit tarts seemed far too sprightly for the occasion at hand, and I was not fully ready to give up the heavy melodrama of the day. Nothing but dark chocolate for me. I came across a lovely recipe for brownies with Port soaked cherries & headed to Safeway to pick up some Port.

Long story short, when you go to Safeway (there are no Bevmo’s in the Pacific Northwest…) you will find that Port comes in two forms: the undrinkable $5 bottom shelfer, and the $28 “Why am I paying this much for generic Port?” bottle.

(You will also find this……..)

I went home Portless, found a shot and a half left at the bottom of a bottle of Amaretto, and proceeded to make brownies with Amaretto soaked dried cranberries & strawberries. (Also did not have cherries on hand. ;))

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It was past 9pm by the time the brownies were baked & the coffee was dripped, but I ate the shit out of those brownies (from the pan! no plate! I am a rebel) … and it cheered me up significantly.

The other cheering thing about my brownie-making endeavor was the fact that I concocted my treat recipe-blind. It went roughly like this: Two eggs creamed with a cup of sugar, about a third cup of oil, generous dashes of vanilla and almond extract, a spoonful of baking powder, just enough flour and dark chocolate chips to make the brownie batter look sufficiently ‘brownie-like’… and spoonfuls of liqueur-soaked dried fruit to mix in at the end. I (daringly) poured it into a greased pyrex and set it into the 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

And it came out perfectly! So I didn’t get that (perfect, dreamworthy) copywriting job. I can appreciate myself –and my brownie-making abilities– regardless. The moral of the blog post (in case it wasn’t eminently clear) is as follows: Love yourself. Treat yourself kindly. Curb the introspection. Bitch at appropriate times, to the appropriate people, and then learn when to stop. And then bake brownies, and eat THEM ALL. ALL OF THEM.

Or share a couple- whatever floats your boat.

That being said, I *did* end up finding a grand new job that I will be officially starting next week (!! Confetti! Fireworks!) and have a recipe for that occasion as well:

These are the best homemade peanut butter cups you will ever taste! Courtesy of Blue-Eyed Bakers (via Pinterest, of course), the recipe takes less than 15 minutes of prep time, and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love it madly. I use cinnamon graham crackers, raw sugar, fat-free milk, Wild Squirrel cinnamon raisin nut butter & Himalayan pink salt to … essentially make myself feel fancy… but any sort of small variation will do.

Happy Wednesday!

*Specifically, Clif Bars. Only Black Cherry Almond Clif Bars will do *nods*

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