Reading 9 to 5

Hello again people of WordPress. I apologize for my absence. I’ve been beyond busy due to the fact that I’ve been rehearsing for a play and working temp jobs.

In fact, right now, live on the web, I’m temping as a receptionist. My main duties are answering the phone and delivering mail. This means I have ample time to sit and read, surf the internet, and write this blog. I’m glad this is allowed, because otherwise I’d just be staring into space. When I first whipped out a book, though, I got nervous. “Is this ok? Will others be pissed that I get to read all day?”

No one cares here, but I can guarantee if I did the same thing when I was a server, I’d be fired on the spot even if there was nothing to do. They work you like mules in restaurants. Being late is almost non-negotiable and they expect to get more than their money’s worth from you. I rank serving as one of the hardest jobs out there. Be kind to your servers, they truly are fighting a battle. They are champions of light against customers, their bosses, and the kitchen staff. Trust me, things get rough behind the scenes.

Reading books all day is not as great as it sounds though. As much as I enjoy the lack of stress, it does get old after a day.

Despite that, I do like the atmosphere of my temporary work environment. I’m currently working for an NPR radio show. I feel like I can’t disclose what show. I mean I’m not planning on saying anything bad, but I get the sense that’s info you shouldn’t divulge on a blog post.

I like the environment so much that I would want to stay permanently if I had busier work to do.

My other temp job was for a finance company. The work was busier and it paid well, but I was tucked in this corner away from everyone. Behind me was a conference room and in front of me was a grumpy woman. Needless to say, most of my social interactions were slight head nods and eavesdropping on the meetings taking place in the room behind me.

They also had a strict dress code, even though no one ever saw us, especially me. I mean I was hiding in this cubicle in the back for god’s sake. We still managed to get an email about how we weren’t living up to the dress code though. I was wearing flats and a nice shirt with leggings but this was unacceptable!!! The horror!

Against all those odds, I managed to enjoy myself well enough while I was there. My two supervisors were beyond patient and taught me some tricks on the computer. They were fun to interact with too. I just only saw them when I left my desk.

I’m getting used to office environments, but some elements are amusing to me. The one that affects me the most is, why is it ok for me to read books and not, shall we say my PSP or an iPAD game? Why do we gotta get all elitist about video games? It’s like office buildings think books are that girl you bring home to Mom and video games are some stripper with a tramp stamp and piercings in uncomfortable places.

Not all games are mindless whores! Some games are the type of girl you can bring home to Mom and have fun with at night! In fact, I consider myself to be a thought-provoking video game and every Mother I’ve met has loved me.

Why then is a book more acceptable office behavior than other activities? I feel guilty texting my friends on my phone even, but I don’t feel bad at all about reading a book or surfing the internet.

Isn’t that strange?

Besides having a bad reputation, I suppose video games is considered a childish endeavor, but let me counter that with, have you seen House of Cards? Frank Underwood rose his way to the top with aid of video games.

Frank Underwood answers his call of duty in so many ways!

On second thought, that might be a good argument against video games. “Hey kids, don’t play those devil games or you’ll end up like ol’Frank! Murder, political corruption, affairs, and threesomes with body guards!”

Maybe video games are the path to whoredom? Have I disgraced my honor?

Then again, Lana Del Rey seems to talk an awful lot about her boyfriend playing video games in the song aptly titled Video Games. She keeps wearing his favorite sun dress and coming over to his place. I think they both play video games, but it might be just him. Either way she states that “heaven is a place on earth here with you.” I should call her up and discuss this.

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Mayo Blob Dip

The official name for this dip is Delicious Cracker Spread and is from Tastes of Monroe County. Mine wasn’t quite delicious and looked like a white blob. I have no doubts that this could have been a delicious cracker spread and I have theories as to why this is. The mysteries of the infamous blob have never been solved, but after my experience with this dip I feel that I may have made a ground breaking discovery!

Steve McQueen and I would have made an excellent team.

My theory will best be understood if I expound onto you the origins of this gelatinous being. These origins are, 2 cups of mayonnaise, 2 cups of shredded Swiss cheese, and 2 cups of chopped onions.

The mayo blob’s membrane is a mix of all these ingredients, but for it to mature you must also incubate for 20 minutes under 350 degrees.

This all seems simple enough, but I believe you don’t need 2 cups of mayo. I’d reduce this down to one in a half cups, because my blob tasted mostly like mayo. This wasn’t a terrible thing, but it did keep it from being delicious. I brought it over to my friend Megumi’s place and we doctored it up by adding more cheese and some spice. The cheese really did the trick, which makes my theory promising.

Perhaps if the infamous blob had just been nurtured more with cheese, it would not have sought out revenge against the good people of Downingtown, PA.

This blob is friendlier then his cousin of fame.

This blob is friendlier then his cousin of fame.

Salmon Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

My next recipe was sent to me, via my mother years ago. She found it in a magazine. I can’t recall which one she got it from, but she thought it looked healthy and tasty. She wasn’t wrong.

This simple salad is filling and yet lite. It’s a healthy slab of salmon that doesn’t require a heavy dressing to be tasty.The tomatoes compliment the salmon and add a light juicy flavor. It’s the perfect salad to ween yourself off of heavy dressings like ranch and blue cheese, because it teaches you how tasty a salad can be without all the fatty bells and whistles. Trust me, I loved ranch dressing in my youth, but now I crave balsamic dressings with oregano because they compliment as opposed to overwhelming the taste of a salad.

So to make this healthy protein salad, you’ll need 16 cherry tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, plus a 1/4 cup for later, 4 6 oz. salmon fillets with skin, 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil, and 4 oz. of mixed baby green lettuce.

The first step is to pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Once it’s heated you will place the tomatoes inside to roast, but before you do so, drizzle two teaspoons of oil on top. They will roast for about 8 minutes.

While they are roasting, you will cut a couple of diagonal lines into each salmon fillet and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. This technique is called scoring and is done to open up the meat so it absorbs ingredients more deeply. Once you are done scoring, place the salmon on a saute pan with the salmon skin facing down. Set the heat to medium-low and then finally to high. I admittedly do not understand this, since there are no instructions as to how long you are supposed to keep it on medium-low, but I’m assuming it’s so the salmon can be a bit slow cooked. Anyway, you will cook the skin side for 2-3 minutes and then flip and cook for 1-2 minutes. The goal is for the salmon to have a slight pink color in the middle.

Once that’s done, you might as well make your dressing. To do so, you will slowly whisk and pour, the grapeseed oil and 1/4 cup of olive oil into a bowl with the lime juice already inside. Season with salt and pepper to your liking as well.

The final step is to put everything together! So, get your lettuce out, place a salmon fillet on top with some tomatoes, and drizzle with oil.

The final result, as I said at the top of this entry, is quite good! I feel it’s versatile as well. Meaning, that you could just keep the recipe for the tomatoes and salmon, add rice, and just sprinkle a bit of lime juice for flavor.

That’s the beauty of salmon, though. It’s simple to cook and doesn’t require a lot of dressing up. It’s a low maintenance kind of gal.

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Flaky, crispy, tasty, and healthy!

Tortilla Española

This recipe comes from Portlandia, which is proving to be a marvelous little cookbook. Portlandia is the only cookbook I own based on a show, but I did cook from a Sopranos cookbook with a past boyfriend of mine. We were both big fans of the show and only a quarter Italian. We hoped that somehow we could become more Italian American if we received consultation from a Sopranos cookbook. We ended up cooking several recipes from it and all were quite good. We did not become more Italian, however. He’s married with a kid and lives in Minnesota now. I dare say he became less Italian over the years.

Oh my god……I WON! Take that! Who cares if I’m single and unable to fully support myself!? I’m more Italian now!

Who need responsibility, kids, and cold climates anyway?

If by some strange miracle that ex reads this, I’m being my usual goofy self, so please don’t take offense. I’m happy that you are happy. Also, being that you are a writer, please don’t be too cruel about my lack of writing skills.

Let us move on.

As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m just a white girl from a small town in Indiana. I’m getting more Italian and gentrified in general, but I had never heard of Tortilla Española. I looked it up before writing this entry and discovered that it’s the Spanish version of an omelette. I say it’s more like a quiche than an omelette, though.

Also,according to my research, tortilla’s origin meaning is small cake. I found that quite interesting and it made me feel better about when I first moved to California. I used to call tortillas, tortilla shells. My California friends would look at me funny  every time and say, “It’s just a tortilla, you don’t need to add an extra word in there.”

If I had known what I know now, I could have quipped back. “It is not a small cake! Ok?! It’s a shell, a tortilla shell!”

Anyway, the authentic version of this dish consists of potatoes and frying oil, but our Portlandia version is mostly scallions and chorizo. This is fine with me, though. I love chorizo. It is a meat I was missing out on until I moved here. 20 some years without the knowledge of chorizo is a sad thing to admit.

So to make this, you’ll need 12 large eggs, 1 5 ounce bag of flavored chips, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 large scallions, and 3 ounces of chorizo.

Guess what the first step is?! Pre-heat the broiler! Don’t you love it when the first step is so simple?

The next step is monkey easy as well. All you do is beat all of your eggs, lightly crush your chips, and soak for ten minutes. By the way, feel free to pick whatever flavor you want. I went with jalapeno myself. Lay’s has a biscuits and gravy flavor at the moment if you want to live dangerously. Maybe that’s what they are good for, because they certainly aren’t tasty on their own.

While the chips soak, get a large skillet out and pre-heat with your oil. Once heated up, add the scallions and chorizo. I should mention that I always buy the “crumbled” version of chorizo, but if you decide to get a link, you will want to finely chop it before cooking. I recommend getting the version I buy. I mean it’s already finely chopped and it’s delicious. Why make things harder for yourself?

You will cook the chorizo and scallions for about three minutes over high heat too. Basically you are just waiting for all the fat to sizzle out in this step. Once it’s sizzled away, add your egg mix to the skillet and mix away. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about three minutes again. This time, you are wanting the egg to settle on the side of the pan.

Once it has settled, you place the skillet in the oven and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the tortilla is lightly browned.

After that, you should have a lovely small cake of egg and chorizo! Mine turned out really well! I was extremely pleased with this recipe. It was simple, effortless, and delicious! I will certainly make this again and highly recommend it.

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Spanish egg cake

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It’s not the most classy food picture, but trust me it’s good.

Lard Ass’s Soup of Revenge

I was going to call this entry the red soup of failure, but it reminds me a lot of the pie puke from the Lard Ass story of Stand By Me.

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Best served hot, but despite this, could be used as a tool of revenge

I don’t know what kind of childhood all of you had, but I was picked on. I also had a bit of a fat stage. I wasn’t huge like Lard Ass, but I was a bit roly poly. Like Lard Ass, I wasn’t going to take any crap about it. A girl once kept calling me fat in elementary school and I whipped around, folded my arms, looked her in the eyes and said, “Maybe I am fat, but I’d rather be fat than mean like you!”

After writing that out, it’s doesn’t seem all that badass. At the time it was though. Trust me on this. I’m still quite proud of myself for that anyway. I’m proud of Lard Ass too! I love that story in Stand By Me. Sure it’s disgusting, but it’s still my favorite part of the film. Anyone who doesn’t like seeing a picked on underdog get revenge is probably the man. Damn the man! Go Lard Ass!

In Lard Ass I trust!

The reason I was originally going to call this soup a failure is because I screwed it up big time. This was disappointing on multiple levels, because it came from my cookbook The Scent of Orange Blossoms. The last soup I made in here was mind blowing delicious. It’s the same soup I referenced in my last entry too. So that was disappointing, as well as the fact that I haven’t liked anything I’ve made recently.

Thankfully, I made something yesterday that was a winner, so my next entry will be a happier, more successful one.

The main reason this was a failure is because I couldn’t find two major ingredients. If I had, had those ingredients the soup would have turned green instead of red. Also, it might have been good, but I may never know.

Those two main ingredients I missed out on were turnips and fava beans. I substituted with baby beets and lima beans. That was the best I could do!

I’m still perplexed as to why I couldn’t find turnips too! I went to two grocery stores! Seriously! I went to Von’s and Gelson’s! Neither had turnips! I started to think that maybe I had missed something in my years of life. Like, maybe turnips and beets are actually the same thing. So, I looked it up on my handy dandy smart phone. They are not the same thing, but they are both root vegetables, so close enough, I guess? Not really, though, reader, not really.

I did the right thing by getting lima beans as a substitute, thankfully. The author does acknowledge that fava beans could be hard to find, unless it’s Passover time that is. She recommends frozen baby lima beans as a substitute. I didn’t read the details again and just got fresh ones. Go me.

Anyway, to make this soup, which is called Passover Fava Bean Soup, by the way, is 4 pounds of fresh peeled and shelled fava beans, 1 peeled and quartered potato, 1 peeled and quartered turnip, 1 quartered onion, 6 cups of beef stock, 1 1/2 cups of cilantro, 2 teaspoons of salt, and pepper.

The first step is to soak, peel, and shell your beans. This is excruciating and annoying. I recommend employing third world kids to help you out with this, because it takes forever. Once the beans are ready, though, the rest of the process is fairly easy. That next step is to cook the beans, potato, turnip (beets in my case), onion, and 2 cups of the beef stock in a pot. Bring this to a low boil and keep at a medium heat. Cook for about 25 to 30 minutes or until your turnip is tender.

You will then allow it to cool and blend. As I’ve mentioned in the past, an immersion blender would be so nice for this. Unfortunately I still don’t have one and as a result, made a huge mess. The mess also reminded me of Lard Ass’s story, just in case you doubted the connection.

When you blend, I should mention, this is the time you add the extra beef stock as well as the cilantro. So, blend away, until you have a smooth consistency.

The final step is to re-heat your blended mix and serve. Feel free to garnish with extra cilantro and season with pepper and salt.

Despite it’s resemblance to pie puke, this soup wasn’t terrible. It was just kind of bland for me. I also think I should have soaked the beans and beets longer. Then again, maybe it beets and beans just shouldn’t go together. Maybe it would have turned out better with turnips.

I’m not dying to find out, though. If you feel like trying, let me know.

Isa Hot and Sour Soup with Shrooms!

I can’t recall where I saw this video, but I saw this video that was studying whether women or men are smarter. My initial reaction to this was, “Well this seems like trouble. I don’t know how I feel about this.”

Thankfully, it ended up being an entertaining, light-hearted show.The final analysis was that women and men are equally intelligent, but they excel in certain areas and struggle in the opposite areas, thus resulting into an evening out.

Fair and balanced, I say, and it does seem to make sense.

Anyway, the experiment that resonated with me the most was one where a couple had to race each other doing certain tasks. So, they gave them both a list of activities. The men quickly rushed into doing the tasks on the list, while the women quietly read the list to theirself first. Turns out the very last ‘task’ on the list was to sign the list noting that you had read all the activities and to not do any of the other tasks.

My point in mentioning this, is that I make this same mistake with my cookbooks. I forget to read the details and just go straight to the cooking. I feel like I have the worst qualities of each sex. Emotional and sensitive, as well as not looking at details. The study caused me to feel insecure about my level of intelligence. I guess I’m just an idiot then.

That’s the beauty about life though. Intelligent people know they can learn to change their habits and by doing so, not only improve their well-being, but their level of intelligence as well. At least that’s what I’m telling myself and I’m hoping is true, because otherwise I’ll become depressed. Please let me live in ignorant bliss if you find this to be false.

What did I do with this recipe? I’m sure you’re wondering. Well, the author of the cookbook, which is Isa from Isa Does It!, had this whole little blurb about where I could possibly find the mushrooms that I couldn’t find and provided the best substitute if they weren’t found. Since I didn’t read this blurb, I ended up buying a bunch of regular brown button mushrooms. This wasn’t the end of the world, but it does change the whole dynamic of the soup.

Hopefully, if you make this soup, you will be a typical woman and read all the details.

What you’ll need for this soup is 1 ounce of dried wood ear mushrooms (shiitake is the substitute if you have the same trouble I did), 2 cups of boiling water, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger, 4 cups of vegetable broth, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sriracha, 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, 1 8 oz can of bamboo shoots, 5 ounces of thinly sliced cabbage, 14 ounces of 1/4 diced tofu, 1/2 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 4 ounces of small button mushrooms, 1 cup of chopped scallions, and optional chow mein noodles.

The first step is to boil the wood ear mushrooms, provided that you were able to find them. The author says you can find them in the international section of grocery stores, but I did not. I’m assuming if you get shiitake mushrooms, you don’t need to boil them, as they are not dry and hard like wood.

Anyway if you are eating wood, boil that for 30 minutes. Then drain and chop into small pieces.

The next step is to pre-heat your pot over low heat with the oil and then saute the garlic and ginger until lightly brown. Next, add the broth, wood ears, vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, sugar, bamboo shoots, and cabbage. Bring all of this to a boil, add the tofu, and then simmer for 5 minutes.

While this is happening, mix the cornstarch with some water until it has dissolved. Add that to the soup, along with the regular mushrooms and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

After that, you just want to make sure the soup has thickened  a bit. Once it seems appropriately thickened you can then serve and garnish with scallions, sriracha, and chow mein.

I was disappointed with this soup admittedly. I think it would have been better with the right mushrooms though. My friend Megumi was over when I made this, so I gave her a bowl. She seemed to like it, but we both agreed it wasn’t as good as the soup I made for her last. That soup was a Tangier bean soup from my Moroccan cook book. It was delicious stuff and I do highly recommend that one!

This one, I’d like to make again someday with the proper ingredients.

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The soup of hot and sour