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Posts Tagged ‘food’

Alliteration, yay!  I know it’s been awhile (I think I say that every post and I’m sure that’s obnoxious, sorry), but I”ve been busy busy busy.  Actually, this weekend is the first weekend in September that I’ve been home, with absolutely nothing on the agenda.

That, combined with the incoming cooler weather (THANK JESUS), has put me into fall food mode, big time.  Faced with an abundance of happy root veggies in my CSA delivery this week, I did what any slightly insane home cook would do. I made soup. And while I know a pot of soup might not be a ‘feast’ to some people, this orange, velvety, creamy and healthy (mostly!) concoction hit the spot.

Disclaimer: there was so much winging it happening as I made this.  I literally was digging through my fridge for things to use up.  Thankfully, the results were top-notch.  Not to toot my own horn or anything (TOOT).

Butternut Squash (& Friends) Soup

You’ll Need (serves 4)

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 a medium onion, sliced
  • 2-3 small sweet potatoes (I had CSA sweet potatoes, which are extra-small. I used 4.)
  • 4 carrots
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, cut into slices
  • Veggie/Chicken Stock, or water
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Sour Cream (optional, but you should know by now that Dairy is NEVER optional for me)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
  • 2 pats of butter

To Do:

  • Peel sweet potatoes and carrots and half the squash, scooping out the seeds
  • On a baking sheet, toss slices of apple, onion, potatoes, carrots, and garlic clove (you can leave the skin on) together with S&P and a healthy drizzle of EVOO
  • On the same sheet place halved squash face down, with pats of butter under each half
  • Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, or until veggies are soft & carmelized.
  • Scoop out squash and cut veggies into smaller chunks,  dump into a soup pot (squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin before adding)
  • Over low heat, add stock or water until veggies are almost covered
  • Using an immersion blender (if you don’t own one, go buy one, right now. They are cheap and AMAZING.) whizz veggies and stock together until all chunks are gone & soupiness is achieved.
  • Continue adding stock/water and whizzing until you get your preferred soup consistency.
  • Add a shake of Cayenne pepper (how much is up to you, but the heat balances out the sweetness of this soup)
  • Add two spoonfuls of sour cream (or more! No judgement here)
  • Whiz once more for good measure, ladle into bowl, eat with crusty bread

I unfortunately didn’t remember to take photographic evidence of this soup, but it  is such a pretty autumny orange color. Imagine the beta-carotene in this puppy!  Off the charts.

Also, let me once again say: IMMERSION BLENDER. Here, this is the one I have. It comes in lots of pretty colors.

Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Blender

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Party food is one of my great joys in life.  Call it what you will: hors d’oeuvres, finger food, cocktail nibbles, appetizers…whatever you call it, it’s tasty.

When I first decided I was going to try my hand at being good at cooking, making my own party food wasn’t really on my radar.  But H fancies himself a host extraordinaire,  and soon enough I found myself in situations that required me feeding guests.  It was then that it dawned on me: I didn’t need to tolerate the store-bought onion dip with a weird chemical aftertaste.  I could make my own hors d’oeuvres. And boy, did I ever.

Some people (sane people) might argue that making all your own appetizers is a huge waste of time.  Yes, maybe I was scrambling around my kitchen last night frantically putting things together 5 minutes before my book-club ladies arrived, but you know what?  I think it’s worth the extra effort.  I know I’m in the minority in thinking that way, but I don’t care.  You can taste the love, people. You can.

One party food in particular that I am obsessed with is dips.  Scratch that: my love for dipping things in other things goes way beyond the realm of party food.  In any situation, if there is something dip-able that I can consume, I am infinitely happy.  Hey, I never said I was a complicated girl.

I made 3 dips (well, one could be considered a “spread”) last night. They were all equally delicious, but I must say, the Onion Dip is legitimately like crack.  In a good way.

 

Tomatillo & Avocado Dip

You’ll Need:

3-4 medium-sized tomatillos (note: I got tomatillos in my CSA last week.  They are the tomato-y looking things (but green) that have a papery skin which you have to remove before cooking. Trust that I would NEVER have bought these things on my own.  But they are very delicious).

1/2 an onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 small jalapeno, seeds removed (or keep some seeds for extra heat)

1 avocado

1 lime

1 small handful of cilantro

To Do:

1. In a pan over medium heat, throw chopped up onion, garlic, jalapeno, and the whole tomatillos together with a drizzle of EVOO

2.  Saute for approximately 10 minutes, or until the tomatillos have softened (but not burst)

3. Put sautéed veggies into a food processor, pulse once or twice–you want to keep it pretty chunky

4. Add avocado, the juice of the lime, and the cilantro to the food processor, pulse a few more times until you achieve desired consistency (I like my dip with a little body to it).

5. Salt & Pepper to taste. Stick in fridge until your guests arrive.

Serve with tortilla chips.  Also super yummy as a sandwich spread.

Carmelized Onion Dip

You’ll Need:

2 large white onions

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Butter (approx. 3 tablespoons)

1 1/2 cups of Sour Cream

1/4 cup of mayonnaise (I eyeballed this and used 2 heaping big-spoonfulls)

2 tablespoons of cream cheese

1 pinch of Cayenne pepper

Salt & Pepper

To Do:

*Note–you can make this dip 2 ways, either in the slow-cooker, or on the stop top. The slow-cooker method is more hands-off, but if you don’t have one, the pan method works great too–just takes more hands-on time.

For the Slow-Cooker version:

1. Chop onions

2. Add onions, a hearty drizzle of EVOO, and butter to slow-cooker. Sprinkle with salt.

3. Cook on “low” setting for 8 hours (do it in the morning and it will be ready when you get home from work), or the “high” setting for 4 hours.

4. Onions will be done when they are deep brown. That’s called carmelization!

5. Drain excess liquid from onions.

6. In a bowl, combine onions, sour-cream, mayo, and cream cheese.  Stir well to combine.  *Note: you can adjust the ratio of sour cream, mayo, and cream-cheese to your liking.  I know some people are weird about mayo.

7. Add pinch of Cayenne, and salt & pepper to taste.

8. Store in fridge until guests arrive, serve with potato chips, try not to lick bowl.

For the Stove-top Version:

1. Chop onions

2. In a large pan, combine onions, butter, and EVOO.  Sprinkle with salt.

3. Saute until onions are a deep-brown, stirring constantly and adding a splash of water if the onions start to burn (this will take some time, at least 30 minutes if not more)

4. Combine onions, sour cream, mayo, and cream-cheese.

5. Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, to taste

6. Store in fridge until guests arrive, serve with chips, try not to lick bowl.

White Bean Spread with Lemon & Thyme

You’ll Need:

2 cans of white beans (often labeled “Cannellini beans” or “White Northern Beans”

1 bunch of fresh Thyme

1 large lemon

2 cloves of garlic, minced

To Do:

1. Drain liquid from beans and rinse with water

2. In a pot, saute garlic in EVOO until barely golden

3. Dump beans into the same pot, adding a little water

4. Cook beans over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until soft

5. Remove beans from pot into a bowl, draining some water if necessary.

6. Add Thyme (just how much is up to you.  I added approx. 2 tablespoons, tasting as I went)

7. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash up beans into a “spreadable” consistency.

8. Squeeze lemon into bean mixture, stir to combine.  Drizzle with EVOO (optional)

9. Leave at room temperature until guests arrive.  Serve with a sliced baguette.

*this is also awesome on sandwiches.

Prosciutto & Fontina Pinwheels

(*Not a dip. Still awesome.)

You’ll Need:

1/4 a pound of Prosciutto

Fontina Cheese

1 Package Puff Pastry

Pepper

Dijon Mustard

To Do:

1. Thaw out puff pastry.  There are usually 2 sheets per package.  When dough is pliable but still cold, lay out 1 sheet on parchment paper.

2. Spread a small amount of Dijon Mustard onto pastry, then sprinkle with Pepper (you don’t need salt here–the prosciutto is salty enough on its own)

3. Layer prosciutto slices over pastry

4. Grate fontina cheese, using enough to cover prosciutto evenly (exactly how much is up to you)

5. Roll up pasty (I rolled from the side, not the bottom), using a bit of warm water to seal the seam.

6. Store roll in fridge until you need it–it’s easier to slice the colder it is

7. Slice roll into “pinwheels,” lay out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet

8. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown

9. Repeat with 2nd sheet of pastry, if needed. Each sheet makes approximately 10 -12 pinwheels.

Now who wants to come over for some snacks?

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One of my favorite things about Summer, other than the sunshine and the beach and the seafood and the vacations and the cocktails, is tomatoes.  In our latest CSA haul we got 4.5 pounds of gorgeous orangey-red toms, and I couldn’t get one in my tummy fast enough. Sliced up, slapped on toasted fancy bread with some mayo, salt, and pepper: heaven.

That is the beauty of a good tomato: you don’t really need to do anything to it.  Salt, Pepper, Mayo, bread.  The tomato sandwich is simple, but so so freaking good.  It sounds a little weird for those of you who consider a tomato on a sandwich an accessory rather than the main component, but trust me on this one.  Give it a try.

When I was a wee child I actually didn’t like tomatoes.  I was young and stupid then (I also “didn’t like” hot sauce, red wine, or hamburgers. Like I said: stupid), and I think it was more of a textural thing than a taste thing.  Those little gooey globuals of tomato seed seriously grossed me out.  They were too akin to Jellyfish material than I was comfortable with.

Mouth is watering already...

Thankfully I grew out of that phase, and now I get downright gleeful when good summer tomatoes come my way.  But only summer tomatoes.  I cannot tolerate those awful sickly pink, rock hard things that pass for toms in the winter.  Ew.

I am going to eat as many tomato sandwiches as I can in the next few days (once, my sister K., who basically invented the tomato sandwich, ate so many that she got an acid bubble on the inside of her lip.  Disgusting, but worth it). But then I have other things planned: roasted tomato soup (you can find my recipe here!), maybe some sauce, obviously an epic Caprese salad. But like I said: the less you can do to a summer tom, the better.

I’ve been trying to make that my food motto lately: “Do as little as you can.”  Because the food we get in our CSA is so fresh and so good, you really don’t need to do anything to it. A quick toss in a pan with some olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, even eating things straight up raw.  Too much of my veggie haul has gone bad in the past as I’ve pondered what to do with it.  Epiphany time: you don’t have to do anything.  Just eat it.

Now: inspire me.  What are some of your favorite ways to eat tomatoes?

Also something to consider: why does the plural of tomato have an -e in it?  Unnecessary, English language.  Unnecessary.

I particularly love when they look all freaky.

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Autumn Eats

Remember when it was like September 2nd and I started raving about fall arriving and stuff?

Maybe that was a little premature.

But now, precisely 1 month later, I really can say that fall has arrived.  Sure, maybe it’s 70 degrees out today, but you can just feel it. The air-conditioner is permanently off, my big fluffy duvet is on the bed, and I am ready. for. autumn.

It would make lots of sense that my favorite foods are autumn-y foods, because autumn is my favorite season.  I’m also a big sucker for comfort food, and I feel like this season more than others encourage hearty eating.

Recently I’ve been obsessing about squash.  That’s normal, right?  Sure.  Humor me.  I am a big fan of winter squash because you can put butter and salt on it without being overly judged.  You can roast it or mash it or do a million different things with it.  Also, it’s good for you!  Wins alll around.

After watching a Jaime Oliver show in which he stuffs cannelloni with mashed up roasted cauliflower and broccoli (see the recipe here) I got to thinking: veggies stuffed in pasta?  How did I never think of that? Why can’t I do that with squash?  And a white sauce?  AND SOME CHEESE!?

This is generally where my brain short-circuts (cheeeseeeeee!!).  So I hunted around for a squash manicotti recipe and couldn’t find what I wanted.  So what’s a resourceful kinda-cook to do?  Master the art of manicotti-stuffing myself. That’s what.

This is not a ‘whip up in 30 minutes on a week night’ meal.  Let’s be clear.  It’s a special ocassion kind of thing, or a ‘I’m too hungover to do anything on Sunday until about 8pm when I can finally cook’ kind of thing.  Guess which one it was for me?  Roasting the squash a day or two (or 4) ahead of time also helps speed up this recipe.  I did it while I was making another meal earlier in the week, shoved it into tupperware, and when I was ready to stuff, my squash was all ready and waiting.

 

Positively Cozy!

 

Winter Squash Stuffed Manicotti

You’ll Need:

  • For the Filling:

  • 2 small-medium winter squashes (any variety)
  • 2-2.5 cups of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 a white onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2  handfuls of swiss chard, chopped (optional)
  • 1/3 cup of goat cheese (optional)
  • Dashes of: Red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper

For the Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons of butter (I said this was hearty, not healthy)
  • 4-5 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 cups of milk (or cream, or half and half)
  • Dashes of: nutmeg, salt, pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

And of course!

  • 1 package of manicotti or cannelonni

To Do:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400.
  • Cut squash in half.  Drizzle Olive Oil, salt and pepper on each half and roast, face down, for approximately 45 minutes.
  • Scoop squash out of skin, mash into bowl or tupperware. Set aside. *Note: Do this step a day or so before to save yourself time.
  • Put 1 large pot of water on to boil for pasta.  As that is heating up…
  • Combine minced garlic and onion in a pan. Drizzle with olive oil and saute until onions are translucent.
  • (Optional Step) Add swiss chard to onions and garlic in pan, drizzle a little more olive oil, and saute until greens are wilted. Remove mixture from heat and set aside.
  • In a smaller pot, heat milk on LOW heat. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.  Make sure NOT to boil milk.
  • While milk is heating, melt butter in yet another pot.
  • As butter is melting, boil your pasta.  Drain pasta when it is still very al dente.  It will cook more in the oven later on. Set aside.
  • Once butter is melted, whisk in flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a golden-brown roux is formed (you want the texture to be thick, but stirrable…almost like applesauce).
  • Going one cup at a time, add the heated milk to the roux, stirring continuously.  The sauce should be just a bit thinner than you’d like (it will thicken up as it continues to sit over low heat).  As sauce is thickening…
  • Combine onion-garlic-chard mixture with mashed up squash.  Add dashes of oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
  • To this, add goat cheese (if using) and Ricotta.  Mix stuffing well to blend all components.
  • Fill up a ziplock bag with stuffing mix.  Snip off 1 bottom corner and use this contraption to fill your pasta.
  • Smear the bottom of 1 large glass baking dish with a little sauce.  Lay filled pasta in dish, cover with more sauce, bake for 20 minutes covered in foil, 5  uncovered.

* Note #2: This made a lot of manicotti.  I think I filled up 12 or so of them (1 entire package) and I still had a little bit of left over stuffing mix.  So, prepare for a feast.  Invite friends.

I ate this with some fancy sourdough bread from the bakery next to my office that is currently draining both my bank account and my dignity, and some roasted fennel (that’s what is artfully placed on top of the pasta in the picture).  Why fennel?  Really, H and I had no idea what to do with it.  So it got roasted, because the oven was on anyway.

I also made the salted toffee square again (recipe here).  Because why not just leap full-tilt into the world of Obesity?  Bathing suit season is officially O-V-A OVER.  Thank god.

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So my mom was in the hospital last week for reasons that I don’t feel like explaining (this is a lighthearted blog, people).  The important thing is that she did great, she’s home now, and she’s on her way to recovery with some help from her new friends Oxycontin, Percocet, and Dilaudid.

I unfortunately was not present for this new high (new low), but I was sent photographic proof and felt the need to share it with the world.

If you’ve never had the express pleasure of being a multi-night patient at a hospital, please allow me to let you in on a little secret: hospitals kind of suck.  It is bureaucracy at it’s finest.  It smells funny, there are lots of annoying beeps and alarms, and you don’t get to pick your roommates.  Plus, there are sick people everywhere.  And old people…lots of old people. So you can imagine how psyched my mom was to finally go home on day 6 of surgery-fest 2010.  Except you can’t just pack up your stuff, unhook your machines, and go.  There is a process.  A long, obnoxious, complicated, form-filling-out process.

So the inital “yay you’re going home!” feeling my siblings had when they went to go get my Mom quickly devolved into more of a “WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG I’M HUNGRY IT’S 5PM AND WHAT IS THAT G-DAMN BEEPING NOISE” kind of thing.  And that’s when “our man (nurse*) Phil,” as my Dad kept calling him, stepped in.  And delivered this:

The Remains of the Feeding Frenzy

Not sure what you’re seeing?  I’ll tell you: you’re seeing THREE TRAYS of hospital food that Phil bestowed upon my brothers, sisters, and dad.  Without prompting.  Probably to shut them up.  Have you ever witnessed 6 people crammed into a hospital room corner? It ain’t pretty.  I don’t blame Phil at all.

You know all those horrible things you hear about hospital food, right?  Well, all those horrible things are true.  It’s gross.  And yet–you see the photographic evidence–it was devoured with gusto.  What a bunch of Freaks.

New low, DEFINITELY.  Because hospital food should never be voluntary consumed. Belch.

*Yes, my mother had a male nurse…a profession which is totally respectable, but sadly a big joke, thanks primarily to Greg Focker in Meet the Parents.

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Obsessed

You know that weird skinny-person theory that goes on and on about food being fuel ONLY, and how you should “eat to live”?  Well.  I don’t exactly eat to live.  Actually, I live to eat.  Yup, I am obsessed with food.

I’m not sure how this happened exactly.  It’s kind of weird because for as long as I can remember I’ve been an extremely picky eater.  So it was hard to be obsessed with food if I disliked 99% of it.  The pickiness is not completely gone these days, but it’s certainly much better than it was.  And it certainly hasn’t hampered this growing fixation.

A few other things that happened lately probably also contribute: A. I finally have my own kitchen and can stock my own cabinets and fridge B. I suddenly discovered I didn’t actually suck as a cook. C. Said kitchen was located in what is arguably the culinary capital of the USA, if not the WORLD.  Even the universe maybe.

So the food hurricane is blowing like crazy.  And last weekend was basically the eye of the storm.  Because of two little words: BBQ.  FESTIVAL.

That’s right.  Hello, Madison Square Park.  Hello, 18 of the top “pitmasters” generously bringing their specialties for me to munch on.  Hello, delicious delicious BBQ goodness.

People who know me will be shocked that I am raving about BBQ because I was that girl pretty much flat out refused to eat red meat until a couple of years ago.  I had never eaten a fast food hamburger until I was maybe 22 years old.  Not kidding.  Thankfully I’ve grown and matured and can now enjoy things like pulled pork sandwiches, brisket, and ribs.  Hallelujah.

my tum is grumbling already

We got there pretty early because if there is one thing I am NOT obsessed with it is standing in stupidly long lines.  So by the time 1:30pm rolled around, as the crowds of BBQ deprived NYC-ers flooded in, H and I were already slowing sinking into a wonderful meat coma.

NOM

But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet.  Oh no.  As you can imagine, events like this draw a unique crowd of people.  Fun loving, hungry, a little bit wacky.  The food was good and stuff but what really put the icing on the cake was this:

Look Closely

No, not the guy’s heinous choice of pseudo-Hawaiian shirt (perfect for a BBQ on a Saturday, though.  Bet you thought about that one for a while, buddy).  Look beyond the ugly shirt (if you can).  Look to the left of the ugly shirt.  What do you see?

If your answer is “I see a woman pole dancing on a pole mounted on the back of a adult-sized tricycle, Mary” DING DING!  You are correct!  Because what would any BBQ Festival be without a mobile stripper showcasing her talent?

I chased this dynamic duo down the street, obviously.  Here’s another one:

Stripper Trike!

I mean, to the stripper’s credit, she was talented.  Pole dancing is not easy, you guys.

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I am 24 years old.  And last night, for the first time in my LIFE, I popped popcorn on the stove-top.  And it blew my mind.

Okay, so maybe I’m easily mind-blown.  But what is perhaps worse is that I didn’t even realize a regular person could do that.  I thought one needed a fancy popper machine or at the very least, a microwave.  For me, it was microwave popcorn or nothing.  Which really, if you think about it, is pretty sad…not to mention pretty telling about my generation and the world I grew up in.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love me some technology.  I am obsessed with my iPhone and can’t imagine how I ever lived without it.  I get mad when my wireless internet goes slow.  I Twitter, for god’s sake.  But lately I’ve been on a little bit of a  ‘let’s live more simply” kick.

Everyone talks about how ‘easy’ life is now, how we have everything at our fingertips.  And everyone is right.  Living is easier today than it has ever been.  Which is probably why Humans are now fat, lazy, and uninspired.

I’ve come to the conclusion that all the things that make life easier really take away from our quality of life.  I mean look at all the news stories–kids committing suicide over online bullying, obesity skyrocketing because people want ‘fast’ (read: unhealthy) food, basic human relationships deteriorating because of our dependence on technology, super antibiotic-resistant viruses…ugh.  Life may be easier now, but it sure isn’t any better.

New York City is a weird place, because on one had it prides itself on being at the very cuttingest edge of everything: fashion, art, cuisine, etc.   On the other hand though, I’ve noticed that there is a burgeoning movement in which people here are trying to remove themselves from all that edginess and return to a basic, more simple kind of life.  Bike-riding is taking off as the newest trend.  People are growing gardens on their roofs and raving about it like they invented photosynthesis.  Restaurants are pushing a ‘farm to table’ style of food.  At flea markets and farmer’s markets business is a boomin’.

It’s a little bit annoying and rather pretentious though.  Inevitably the people who are doing this have the means to do it–that is, they are upper middle class, educated, financially sound. And the way some people flaunt it (“Oh yes, I just bought this 2nd hand bike (for 300 bucks) and now I’m going to attach a darling basket to it and go to the organic market and stock up on tofu and brown rice and spelt!”) is downright grating.

But I’m being a leeeetle bit of a hypocrite, because I suddenly find myself inching towards this group, even becoming (GASP) a part of it.

Up until very recently I was one of those people who turned their nose up at the whole “Organic” thing, claiming it was just a ploy to part me with my hard-earned cash a little quicker than usual.  But the longer I lived in the city, the more I came to understand why these people act the way they do.  NYC is not an easy place to live.  It’s stressful and loud, dirty, unfriendly, exhausting, potentially dangerous at every turn.  Considering that, it doesn’t really surprise me that people have foregone the high-speed, human contact-less, money focused culture for something a little more breathable.  Plus, behaviors etc that are considered ‘old’ now suddenly take on a patina of charm and quirk, of authenticity.  No, I shall not buy my veggies from a grocery store!  I shall buy them from…A FARMER! People are so smug about this–like it’s a brand new idea that they themselves thought up.  Everything old is new again.

Oh well. Guilty as charged: we joined a CSA.  I started buying organic items.  I grow herbs on my windowsill.  One of my favorite activities is Farmer’s Market browsing.  Why the change?

Well aside from the NYC-dwelling and all issues that come with it (see above),  I don’t make a lot of money.  Thanks bunches, publishing industry.  I should’ve known to try another career when in my very 1st interview a manager told me that “no one in publishing does it to make money.”   So that has kind of lit a fire under my bum to do things at home that I would not regularly do.  Like make popcorn on a stove top.

It’s simplicity out of necessity, I suppose.  But I’m not complaining.  I enjoy discovering that I can do things at home for way less dollars than going out and buying it.  It sort of makes life feel more real.   My next attempt in this category?  Making my own bread.

I’m not totally eschewing capitalism and commercialism and technology.  I like to shop, I love my Mac, and I still think that sometimes this whole “Green” movement is just kinda annoying and self-superior.  But you have to admit: there is something refreshing about consciously rejecting the ease of Modern Life.  It’s just not necessary to flaunt it.  I’m looking at you, Brooklyn.

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