Monday, August 25, 2014

Long Overdue (Just Like My Library Books)

Wow.  It's been quite a while.  In my defense, Joey and I did move this month.  And we're on a shoestring budget right now.  Whatever we make for dinner is pretty much the only option that night.  So I can't really afford to adventure.

Unless it's for free.  This is where political campaign fundraisers come in.

My father has long been a supporter of a local state politician.  He actually goes out and campaigns the old-fashioned, Chicago way: walking door to door and handing people political flyers.  I kid you not, he has almost been vehicularly manslaughtered by the footmen of the competition.  Chicago politics are intense.  When my sister and I were younger, we would get bundled up and go with him (Chicagoans spend about half the year bundled up).

This dedication has paid off in the form of free bowling and food once a year.  Other people pay upwards of $500 for this event.  Our invite always comes stamped "COMPLIMENTARY" right over all the three- and four-digit dinner options.

For years, I have avoided the salad at this event.  It's a pre-mixed Caesar salad.  I'm all for salad.  I think salad is wonderful...with the right dressing.  Caesar dressing is spicy!  There's way too much pepper in it!

But the meal was free.  And it might be my last adventure for at least a couple weeks.  So I grabbed a plate.

Exactly what it says on the tin: a plate full of salad.

And I started eating.  And it was spicy!  And I accidentally got a crouton, which Miriah was generous enough to eat for me.  Still, I adventured.  I have to take advantage of every adventurous opportunity that I can nowadays.

It was spicy.  But I ate it all anyway.  Just call me the Merriweather Lewis of political campaign fundraising dinners.

All of that salad was consumed by me!  I'm amazing!

I rewarded myself for having such an adventurous spirit with a hot dog.  Hot dogs are the best.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Year of Adventures

One year ago, I decided to actively eat disgusting foods.  But I had (and still have) a very skewed view of what qualified as "disgusting."

My views were not affected by morals.  I do not categorically avoid foods because I am vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, fruitarian, or any other type of eater restricted by ethical or religious qualms about eating certain things.

(Uh oh, cue minor rant about privilege....) Yes, when possible, I try to get meat and produce from companies that I know treat their animals well or better yet from farmers' markets.  I prefer Heartland meat over anything I can get in Jewel.  But I can afford to prefer that.  Other people cannot afford to buy grass-fed beef over industrial beef.  I respect that and do not judge what people eat based on how it came to be on their plate.  I judge it based on if it's gross.  (End rant.  Thanks for sticking it out!)

But my views on what makes a food gross are also not tied up with cultural norms.  I understand why people eat grasshoppers, squid, livers, testicles, you name it.  While I would not seek out a testicle as part of my meal, I might feel differently if I hadn't grown up in a very specific part of the world.  I also find culturally "normal" foods for my region to be disgusting.  Pickles, for example.  In the Midwest especially, people eat pickles off of sticks like popsicles.  They are disgusting.


Pickle_dog 
Pictured above: Nightmare fuel.  Photo from http://jschumacher.typepad.com/joe/

But a lot has changed in a year.  I have had many adventures, with varying degrees of success.  There are foods that were securely on my "Do Not Eat" list that are now very securely on my "Do Eat" list.  And I have come to terms with the fact that I may occasionally have to eat birds.

These are the foods that have made the jump to the other side:
  • Bell peppers
  • Beans
  • Cooked tomatoes
  • Cooked onions
  • Squash
  • Small amounts of pepper
  • Larger amounts of mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
If I can make that much progress in my first year adventuring, imagine what I can accomplish in my second!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rocky Mountain Adventures, Pt. Two

My dislike of eating birds has been mentioned before.  While I have definitely made peace with the idea of eating winged animals, I would never choose chicken or turkey over pork or beef.  (I would include lamb in that list, but I'm too poor.)

My exceptionally low tolerance for spiciness has also been mentioned before.  I love salt, but most other spices are too much for me to handle.  I say progress has been made on this front.  Joey says I am a baby.

In Colorado, we took turns making massive dinners.  One of the last nights, Joey's lovely first cousin once removed (also known as his mom's cousin) made a chicken dinner.  With jalapeños.  Progress or no progress, I definitely do not eat jalapeños.

But I am adventurous now!

All those green flecks are potentially deadly.  Or they're bits of parsley.

So I cut off a piece of Joey's chicken of death.  And I tried it.  It definitely had a kick, but it actually wasn't too bad.  The little bits of jalapeños were easy to avoid.  I managed to get the gist of the spiciness without any of the real fire.

It would have been better with pork, though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rocky Mountain Adventures, Pt. One

On our recent vacation to Colorado, Joey and I ate what might be considered by some to be too much.  But we were on vacation!  We were allowed to over-indulge!

Because vacations are meant to be relaxing, I didn't make adventuring a priority.  When we went out to eat, I ordered the cheapest thing that I knew I would like.  That's my usual restaurant strategy.  And it's a good strategy.  When we ate the house, I ate whatever I felt like from the large group meals that were prepared (one of ours was a very successful previous adventure!).

Nevertheless, two adventures were had.  One at a restaurant and one at the house.

Let's talk about the restaurant first.  There were fifteen of us, so (to save money) we only ate out twice as a big group.  The first time, we went to a restaurant a few miles from downtown Estes Park.

I picked a pretty safe entree and the table ordered some appetizers.  One of the appetizers was a pretty delicious Hummus.  Joey also put in an order for Spicy Corn Dip.  He's a sucker for anything that says "served with sour cream."

The aforementioned sour cream on top of slightly digested corn--I mean corn dip!


As an appetizer, I was allowed to adventure with very little financial risk.  It did not look particularly appetizing.  But it did look adventurous.  So, knowing I could wash any foul tastes out with yummy Hummus, I sampled the Spicy Corn Dip.

Kind of a disappointment.  Not the adventure I had been mentally preparing for.  It was very mild.  The sour cream immediately balanced out all the spice.  The corn was too sweet for the whole combo of sour cream and mildly spicy.  It was like those pizzerias in the Midwest that will throw corn on your pizza for no additional charge just because it's lying around.

As much as I like corn, there are things I wouldn't pair it with.  This dish either needed more spice (the first time I've ever said/written that!) or no corn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Pre-Vacation Adventure

Few things are as American as baseball, apple pie, the Ferris Wheel, or barbecue.  So when Joey and I ate out before heading to the Rocky Mountains for more adventures, barbecue seemed a natural choice.  Except that barbecue is scary.

Barbecuing is not grilling.  These two cooking methods are very different.  You grill a hot dog or hamburger.  You don't barbecue them (adding sauce after cooking is not barbecuing).  Grilling is applying open flame to a meat to cook it.  Like pan cooking but without the pan.  Barbecuing is steeping meat in sauce and then applying the smoke of an open flame and some of the heat to cook it slowly for hours till it's so tender it practically falls off the bone.

I can hear your confused cries.  "But that sounds delicious!  Meat so tender it falls off the bone!  How can you possibly go wrong?"

I'll tell you.  It's the sauce.  The sauce is what makes barbecue so scary.  It's also what makes barbecue so popular.  There are so many different sauces.  America has practically a thousand different barbecue sauces.  Most of them involve scary spices such as pepper or mustard.

"But, Kayla," you say, "you have come so far!  Surely a little mustard or pepper doesn't scare you anymore!  This a meal where you don't even need teeth!"

You see this was not a meal I was eating in the comfort of my own home, where I could make another dinner if I didn't like this one.  This was not a meal that I assembled at a fraction of the cost of what I would pay in a restaurant.  I paid to take the L to this restaurant where I paid to eat food that someone else made and, if I didn't like it, I was just going to go home hungry.

Thank God I know I like cornbread and mac and cheese!

I ordered Carolina Pulled Pork.  Joey said I would probably like.  He's known me long enough that I trust his judgement.  Also, I really like pork.

I was nervous when it was brought out to us, and not only because I would be one of those people who takes a picture of their food in a restaurant.  I had gambled a lot of money on this plate.  I really hoped it would good.

It was better than good!  It was delicious!  Carolina Pulled Pork seems to use a lot of brown sugar, and that cuts the bite of any pepper or mustard.  It was super tender and delicious, and I was so glad I ordered it!

I think I can say with confidence that I enjoy Carolina barbecue.  Maybe Kansas City will be next....

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Excuses, Excuses

Here's the part where I make excuses for my lack of posts.

Firstly, I've been watching a lot of Netflix.  A lot of Idiot Abroad, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, and some D- and C-list horror movies.  But that's not my only excuse!

Secondly, I've been eating a lot of salads and stir-fries.  Not super adventurous.  Especially now that I kind of love green peppers.  (In fact, they were in every meal I had yesterday!  Talk about progress!)

Thirdly, it has been outrageously humid this whole week.  Chicago has been itching for a giant thunderstorm since at least Monday.  The forecasts have predicted rain every day.  We've had about two itty-bitty little rainstorms.  Nothing to really break the humidity.  Last night, it finally stormed.

What we've all been waiting for.

Humidity doesn't sound like it should be such big deal.  But in a house with a gas stove and no central air conditioning, it means you're not going to be doing a lot of cooking.  Most adventurous meals happen to be hot meals.

Next week, it should be less humid.  Hopefully I'll be able to adventure then.  And less lazy....

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Adventures in Westeros

I have a new found respect for women who existed before modern appliances.  (And I say "women" because the home/kitchen has traditionally been the woman's sphere of influence.)  I don't know what I'd do without a crock pot.  Especially if I had small children to take care of.  There's a reason I make cupcakes when I babysit and not soup.

But, yesterday, I did make a soup.  I also made a dinner pie and lemon cakes.  Because, yesterday, we had a Game of Thrones party.  And I own A Feast of Ice and Fire.  (The authors' blog is here!)

We feasted on Bowls of Brown, Medieval Cheese and Onion Pie, and Elizabethan Lemon Cakes.

Joey and I decided on the dishes together.  However, I had the final okay on the menu because I'm the pickiest.

There is an insane amount of meat under those apples and carrots!

Bowls of Brown involve pretty much every type of meat imaginable.  It's rumored in King's Landing that sometimes they fill the bowls with a bit of human meat.  I used pork chop bits, beef ribs, top round bits, chicken thighs, and a whole Cornish game hen.  It was delicious.

I also made the pie dough myself.  I was feeling very domestic yesterday.

The only dish I had any qualms about, the Cheese and Onion Pie called for 4 onions.  That's a lot of onions.  I'm getting better with onions, but I still wouldn't choose to eat them.  At least, I wouldn't choose to eat them a year ago.

The recipe also called for cheese (obviously), fresh herbs, 8 eggs (I know, right?), and dried currants.  I love dried currants.  In fact, dried currants were the reason I okayed this recipe for our feast.

When I tried the Cheese and Onion Pie, I was very prepared to hate it.  The onions had been cooked enough to be a bit soft, so they didn't have a bite to them.  The cheese was very light and helped play up the sweeter notes of the onions.  But the best part was easily the currants.  They plumped up during the baking and were little pearls of concentrated sweetness.  Delicious!  They helped make this my dish of the night!

A little bigger than they were supposed to be....

The Lemon Cakes were also delicious.  The lemon flavors were much more subtle than modern lemon desserts.  My completely unresearched guess is that lemons were not easy to come by in Elizabethan England.  So maybe they flavored lemon treats a bit more sparingly.  The lovely people at the Inn at the Crossroads would probably know better than me.

The main courses of our feast!

The citizens of King's Landing definitely know how to eat like royalty.