Run

October 31, 2018

Early Fall

“Hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to understand it.”

The boy stands at my shoe, toe to toe. I look up from my seat under the oak tree but can’t see his face through the sun.

“It’s Faulkner,” I say.

“I know.”

“If you know, how do you know I won’t understand it?” I lift a hand to shade my view, but all I can see is easy bones and white teeth.

“It’s Faulkner, isn’t it? Stream-of-consciousness bullshit.”

“Bullshit. According to you.”

“According to me.” He leans against the tree like he owns it. I don’t like him.

“What if I say it isn’t bullshit? What if I think it’s kind of brilliant?”

Piss off, I think. I don’t like your dimples and I don’t like your smile or your sandy hair and I don’t like your effortless way that you hold your shoulders. Piss off.

He doesn’t piss off. Instead, he sits on the ground beside me.

He takes the book out of my hands. “Then I guess it’s not bullshit.” He grins, opens and scans the page: “The guy wrote drunk, you know that, right?'”

“Maybe guys who write drunk are my thing.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t know enough about me to think so.”

He closes the book and hands it back to me. “I do think so. Because you’re about 50 pages into it and yesterday you were sitting here, same spot, and about 50 pages into it. So.”

He gives me a pointed look, launches himself off the ground and his eyes are greengreen and dammit.

***

Later Fall

“What is it about you and a perch?” he says, leaning against the doorway.

I am tucked into a corner of my dorm-issue bed, surrounded by pillows, several blankets and at least four books. “Point?”

“You…perch,” he shrugs, gesturing to the bed. “Whenever I knock on the door, there you are. Bird on a wire, but with books.”

“I hate birds,” I say.

“I know,” he says. “But for a girl who hates birds, you do perch.”

He walks across the room and slides in, burrowing under blankets. He reaches for my wrist and closes.

“Dinner? I think you need dinner.”

“I have to study.”

“I think you need to eat.”

“I think you need to go.” I press my lips hard between neck and collar.

***

“Lunch? Girl’s gotta feed the machine sometime.”

“I have class.”

“Ice cream?” He smiles. Jackal in frayed t-shirt. “C’mon, D. Say yes to ice cream, unless you are heartless and not human.”

“What if I say I only like vanilla?”

“Best flavor. Blank canvas. Let’s go.”

“No,” I laugh. “I have to go.”

“Of course you do. ‘I have to go, I have to go, I have to go.'” He catches my hand before I can stop him.

“What?”

“Just. Hey.” He looks too close and frowns. “Can we just…stop…for a second?”

I try to stop, I do.

“You’re always running away,” he says softly. “I feel like I never can catch up. Like you’re always two steps ahead, and there I am, running like an idiot.”

“I don’t run. And you’re not an idiot.”

I give up my shoulders and lean in, inhaling everything that is open and solid and exactly him. “Well, I mean, you probably are an idiot. But I don’t mind and I don’t run. I don’t.”

***

Way Later Fall

Knockknock. Bang.

“Hey. You in there?”

I slouch in the corner, among moving boxes.

Bang.

“D. Look, it’s way too quiet in there. I know Meg’s not there; she can’t be. There’s no Love and Rockets blaring.”

Soft knock.

“D. Hey. Open the door.”

Knock.

“If you open up, I’ll even like Faulkner.”

“Jesus Fuck,” I mutter. I kick the boxes into the closet throw the door a fraction.

“You don’t decide you like Faulkner. Faulkner chooses you.”

He laughs, greengreen, and sticks a toe through the narrow opening.

“That sounds ridiculous and snotty but hey, if Faulkner gets me through the door, I’m in.”  He nudges and I give one more inch. “Okay. Tell me which book to love.”

“You know absolutely zero about me, do you?” I smile.

***

My mother pulls up in the roundabout in front of the dorm. I’m on the curb, boxes at my feet.

My eyes well up at the sight of her silver Audi. It’s snowing like a bastard and I wipe my hand across my face.

And damned if he isn’t right there, out of my corners.

“Hey! Those look crazy heavy,” he says, jogging through the sludge, leaning in to lift the weightiest boxes. He places his hand on the small of my back. “You’ve gotta be freezing. Let’s get ’em in.”

“Taking some things home before break?” he says, opening the car door.

“Yeah. Just for a while.”

“Drive safe, okay?”

The hum and thrum of the Audi’s motor still isn’t enough to kill the noise in my head.

“Who was that boy?” my mother asks.

I curl hard into the passenger side, holding my face flush against the icy window.

“It’s nothing,” I say.

“THAT was not nothing,” my mother laughs, looking at me sideways. “That boy was beautiful.”

“I know.”

“And?”

“Please take me home,” I say.

 

 

I run.

 

 

 

{ 5 comments }

 

It’s been over a year since my husband and I decided to greatly reduce the amount of meat (especially red meat) that we consume. How is that possible? It doesn’t feel like that long, and I can honestly say that we don’t miss it much. We eat lots of other proteins like fish and shellfish and eggs and beans and cheese and when we do eat red meat (maybe once a month) it’s a pretty small serving. You’re not going to see us tucking into a giant ribeye or attacking a rack of ribs. Once in a while a burger craving will kick in with a vengeance, but then we eat the damn burger and don’t feel bad.

Something funny actually happened a month or so ago; I was puttering around in the kitchen and my husband was working on his laptop. The Cooking Channel was on in the background (alas, the tinnitus is still with me so background noise is a daily necessity). I wasn’t paying much attention to it but I heard a gagging sound and my husband got up to find the remote control.

“Gaaaa, this show is so disgusting!” he said.

I looked up and it was a show called Man, Fire, Food. The host, Roger Mooking, travels all around the country to barbecues, pig roasts, and other meat-centric feasty things, sampling everything and lighting shit on fire.

At the moment, Roger was tearing through a whole side of Hawaiian suckling roast pig with vigor.

“Jesus, that guy just eats meat and meat and more meat,” my husband said. “I’m surprised that asshole doesn’t moo.”

I laughed. “Not the healthiest job in the world, eh?”

“Seriously, it’s just revolting to me now. I can’t even look at that much meat,” he said.

I have never been a huge meat eater, but I feel the same way.

Sorry, Roger Mooking. We turned you off. I don’t like watching barbecue cookoffs anymore, either and I sure as hell don’t want to watch Guy Fieri inhale a burger the size of his bloated skull. And don’t even get me started on Man vs Food, where the host tries to polish off a 4-pound corned beef monster sandwich in 45 minutes. Some sights are too vile to bear.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t turned into one of those militant eaters whose sole purpose in life is to make you feel crummy about your own dietary preferences. Honest, I don’t care what you like to eat. Whatever works for you is a-okay with me. I’ve been all over the place, diet-wise: I’ve been a strict vegetarian and I’ve gone full Paleo. I spent my college years eschewing fat and eating loads of refined carbohydrates. For years, I mainlined Diet Coke and Barnum’s animal crackers for breakfast (yes. for breakfast). I still sometimes consider two Bloody Marys a mighty fine and balanced breakfast. I’m no hero.

For now, putting a muzzle on the red meat is working for us. That may change in the future and that’s okay, too.

Since we’ve switched to more plant-based meals, I’ve become a big fan of what my husband calls “slap an egg on it.” I’ll plop an egg on almost anything: ratatouille, rice bowls, spaghetti primavera, arugula salads. I am still having a hard time consuming eggs in the morning (what is with that? I am officially weird), but any other time of day, I’m all over it. Egg me up, baby.

This recipe for orzotto is the perfect example of how an egg can gussy up a humble plate. Take some leeks, onions and some rice-shaped pasta, cook them together until it’s kind of risotto-like and creamy, gild the lily with a handful of tomatoes and a nice frizzled egg and you have dinner. Somehow, it all adds up to something much lovelier in the end than what you started with. I like that.

I’m not sure quite how our eating practices are going to change over the next few months (aka: holiday season) but I’m already on the lookout for some out-of-the ordinary vegetable dishes that will nourish us and make us feel cared for, even if there’s a giant ham on the buffet table. We shall see. I promise I’ll fill you in. Onward!

 

 

Herb and Leek Orzotto with Fried Egg

serves 4

slightly adapted from Cooking Light

 

4 cups unsalted chicken stock (you can use 2 cups vegetable stock+2 cups water in place of chicken stock if you want to make this vegetarian)

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped sweet onion

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts chopped (about 2 1/4 cups)

1 cup orzo or whole-wheat orzo

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, divided

2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest

 

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low. Keep warm.

Heat butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add onion and leek and saute about 10 minutes. Add orzo and toast for 2 minutes. Add the wine; cook about a minute or until liquid nearly evaporates. Add 2/3 cup warm stock to pan; cook 3 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add remaining stock, 2/3 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion is absorbed before adding more.

Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley, 3 tablespoons chives, 1/3 cup parmesan, cherry tomatoes, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Crack eggs into pan and cook 2 minutes. Cover the pan and cook another minute or so or until desired degree of doneness.

Divide orzo among bowls. Top each portion with an egg, some chives, remaining Parmesan and remaining black pepper. Sprinkle lemon zest over.

{ 8 comments }

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo

October 17, 2018

 

 

I’m not kidding when I say that Colorado has a mean streak in the fall. Saturday was absolutely glorious here, and the leaves were strutting their colored stuff with pride. Miss D. and I ran errands in the early afternoon, and as we drove by an apple orchard, she sighed and said, “Everything’s so pretty. I wish the trees looked like this all year.”

“Maybe we wouldn’t appreciate them so much if they were like this all year,” I said.

“You’re probably right,” she grumbled. “But fall seems so short here.”

“It does seem too short,” I said. “In fact, it’s supposed to snow tonight.”

She looked at me like I was nuts. “No way. It’s like, 65 degrees right now.”

I laughed. “And? Your point is?”

 

Sure enough, by 7pm the winds were howling through said trees and there was a deep chill in the air. I tried to take Mozz-man for his evening constitutional and he hi-tailed it back in the house, wanting no part of it.

We woke to 4 inches of fresh snow Sunday, and it continued to fall through the morning.

Both of the girls were nursing cold viruses, and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a pot of soup, brew many cups of tea and cuddle in. Around noon I decided to rummage through the refrigerator and figure out what to make for dinner. I wasn’t in the mood to leave the warm and cozy house, so I knew it had to be a meal that I could cobble together with ingredients I had on hand.

I settled on chicken adobo, a dish classic to the Philippines. Adobo is a perfect meal for those times when you have to go pantry surfing for ingredients, because most of the components of the dish are things I readily have on-hand. I always have several types of vinegar in the house, and vinegar is a key flavoring in adobo. I always have soy sauce, garlic and ginger loafing around, too (Asian food addict, here). Rice, check. Onions, check.

I always, always have some type of chicken parts in the freezer, usually both breasts and thighs. In fact, I kind of feel panicked if I don’t have chicken of some sort in the freezer during the colder months; what if I wake up with the sniffles and don’t have any chicken for soup? That’s not something I’m willing to let happen on my watch.

To those of you who haven’t eaten chicken adobo–or any kind of adobo, for that matter–I realize that at first blush, it sounds a little weird. A sauce made with nearly a cup of vinegar and half a cup of soy sauce? Yowza. Those are some aggressive flavors. Won’t they overpower everything?

This is where the slow cooker is your friend. Cooking the chicken low and slow in those flavors turns the dish into something quite mellow. It won’t smack you in the face when you sit down to dinner, I swear. It’s tangy, salty, aromatic and a little sweet. It pairs perfectly with rice, and if you’ve got lettuce wrap fans in your house, the dish lends itself well to that preparation. We’re almost always on Team Lettuce Wrap at this house, but ahem…aforementioned laziness and yucky weather had us settling for a bed of basmati rice, which soaks up that sassy sauce in a lovely way.

The snow is nearly gone in my front yard now, but the leaves on our trees were (alas) a sad casualty. They’re sitting on the lawn like a forlorn carpet. It’s a little melancholy to let them go, but then again, nothing gold can stay. Right, Ponyboy?

 

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo

serves 4-6

 

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

salt and pepper

1 large yellow onion, sliced

6 cloves garlic, smashed

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 4 slices

2 star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick, snapped into 2 pieces

3/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly

sliced scallions, for serving

sesame seeds, for serving

cooked rice and/or romaine lettuce leaves, for serving

 

Spread the onion slices evenly over the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with the ginger slices and the smashed garlic cloves. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Lay the chicken on top of the onion slices.

In a small bowl, whisk the rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar together. Pour over the chicken.

Nestle the star anise and the cinnamon stick in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours*, or until chicken is meltingly tender and shreds easily.

Remove the chicken and shred. Cover to keep warm.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the ginger and the garlic cloves. Skim any excess fat off the surface of liquid. Stir in the red pepper, put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on HI for about half an hour (or if you are in a hurry, you can just microwave the red pepper in a covered bowl for about a minute or two until tender).

To serve, warm the chicken through in the cooking liquid and place with the onion and the red pepper on a large platter. Spoon about half the cooking liquid over the chicken; serve remaining sauce on the side for those who want extra. Top with scallions and sesame seeds.

Serve over rice or you can make lettuce wraps outta the whole shebang. If you want to try something a little different, layer the chicken and rice in the lettuce wrap and top with mango salsa–that’s how I like to roll!

 

*All slow cookers run differently, so keep watch at the 4 hour mark but be willing to add some time on. My slow cooker runs on the hot side, so my chicken took 4 hours. You probably have an idea how your own slow cooker runs, so just use a little good judgement.

{ 8 comments }

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