Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

“It’s not you.  It’s me.”  How many times have you heard that one?  Have many times have you found those words tumbling from your own mouth?  Often, we use that line in an attempt to gently extricate ourselves from a situation.  We verbally try and reassure others that the reason the relationship is ending is solely on our shoulders.  Which is usually a big bunch of hooey.  Usually, it’s both you and me, at least to some degree.  But it’s easier to shut a relationship down with a mea culpa and a (hopefully) graceful exit.

I’ve been considering a graceful exit from Bon Appetit Hon.  I had hoped that putting the blog on autopilot with my draft posts would magically get my head, and heart, back in this space.  But here I sit with all those “freebies” used up and I’m no more ready, or able, to dip my toes back in the water that I was a few months ago.  So clearly, that didn’t quite work out as planned.

I’m not sure what “it” is that is missing; I was never good at solving for “x” in equations, except in the most basic of problems.  And the ins and outs of life are anything but basic.

It’s not so much that I feel as though I’m being pulled away from BAH as much as it is that I’m not being pulled to it.  Five years is a long time to find new things to say to engage with readers, develop friendships, and reveal enough about myself to keep things interesting without veering into “clearly this lady is nuts” territory.  And between Exit 51 and BAH, it’s been almost five years to the day.

It would be overly simplistic to say that the events of the last year are responsible for this shift in my attention.  But it would be a lie to say that they had no impact at all.  Yes, there’s been some (ok, a lot) of reflection and introspection.  But just as none of that has told me it is time to put the brakes on this online journey, it also hasn’t told me to hit the gas and get moving.

If I look at the situation through the lens of my astrological sign, it makes perfect sense.  I’m a Cancer.  The crab.  Oh lord, am I ever The Crab.  I tend to come at things not exactly head-on, but from the sides.  I carry around an armored shell studded with barbs and accessorized with mighty pincers ready to clamp down.  And when I have outgrown my shell, I slough it off.  But I need to find the protection of a rock or a hiding place because once that shell comes off, I am vulnerable.  After my new shell hardens and I am safely ensconced in armor once again, I’m back on my way skittering around.

It’s the strangest thing to say but I feel as though change is afoot and I need to get myself someplace protected in order to leave this old shell behind.  I have said it a million times…Change is scary.  So part of me is still trying to hold on with both pincers while the rest of the shell wants to pull away.  Eventually, I will shed this carapace and leave it on the sandy bottom…a mere reminder, an outline, of what was.

So what does all of this mean?  Is BAH the old shell?  Is it the rock under which I will seek protection?  I have no idea.  It could be either one.  Or it could be something entirely different, something completely off my radar at the moment.  For the time being, I’m going to let this space just be.  It’s the one thing in the grasp of my pincers that I just can’t release just yet.  Maybe once this old shell is discarded I will find my way back to this spot.  Or maybe the tide will take me someplace different to grow into new my new shell.

Wherever the tide takes you, and me, I hope that our paths cross again.

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Flashback Friday – This Summer I…

The following post originally appeared on BAH on 10 September 2009.

Brugge Self Portrait

I don’t remember ever actually having to write an essay about what I did on my summer vacation.  Do teachers really give that as an assignment or have we collectively just made it up?  Regardless, it’s a good thing I never had to write about my summers.  Because for me, summer vacation from school did not equal going away.  Sure, there was one time that we took a day trip to Ocean City.  All I remember is leaving for the beach before the sun was even up and having to change out of  my sandy bathing suit in the back of the car at the end of the day.  There was also a stop at some restaurant along Rt. 50 for breakfast.  Silver Dollar pancakes, that I remember.

Even as an adult, I haven’t traveled much.  If I had the time, then I didn’t have the money.  When I had the money, I didn’t have the time.  Now, the Mistah and I have talked and talked about taking a trip, pretty much since we’ve been married.  Not like a long weekend away somewhere we could drive to but an honest to god, pack a big suitcase and get your passport stamped vacation.  It only took us five years for all the pieces to come together.

Since it could be quite a while before we ever get back to these places, we crammed as much as we could into the time we had.  I’ll try and condense nine day’s worth of adventure for you:

  • France is closed on Sunday.
  • I can’t find my way out of a (traffic) circle.
  • U2 let us bring 87,998 of our closest friends to see them at Wembley Stadium.
  • Croissants you get here ought to be ashamed of themselves.  They are nothing like croissants you get in France.
  • It’s totally worth the money to splurge on the Eurostar to get from England to mainland Europe.  Just don’t miss the train because you’re waiting for France to get back from lunch so you can return your rental car.
  • Eating at the mall food court in France is exactly like eating at a food court here.  Except that you can get a beer with your le burger and les fries at McDonald’s.
  • Airport security is really serious about not letting liquids larger than 1 ounce in your carryon.  They can also be reluctant to let you keep your fine Belgian chocolates.
  • Did I mention that France is closed on Sunday?
  • Omaha Beach in Normandy has stones that  “bleed”.
  • The $30 food voucher you get when the airline puts you up overnight isn’t enough to buy an order of pasta, a chicken Cesar salad, and two diet cokes at the Best Western.
  • If you set an alarm on your cell phone for 4:45 am so you can get back to the airport by 5:30, because you had to spend the night in Toronto, make sure you reset the clock on the phone so it’s not still running on London time.

If you happen to be visiting London, Bruges, or Normandy, I highly recommend:

Walking the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Ordering either the Chocolate Mousse or Iced Lemon Parfait at Bluebird.

Using the Wembley Park tube stop rather than the Wembley Central stop to get to Wembley Stadium.

The grilled asparagus at Zizzi in Paddington.

Making a reservation to enjoy the stuffed sole at Bistro De Eetkamer.

Visiting the Beer Wall.

Souvenirs from The Chocolate Line.

The view from the top of Mont Saint Michel and walking the sand flats at low tide.

Listening to the audio tour for The Bayeux Tapestry.

Crepes with butter and caramel sauce or french vanilla ice cream at Creperie Insolite.

Pia’s breakfast at Chateau de Lignerolles.

Roel’s full day tour of the D-Day Landing Beaches.

Looking up at the ceiling in the Chapel at the American Cemetery in Colleville.

So that’s what I did on my summer vacation, what about you?

Brownie Cupcakes

Brownie Cupcakes

Adapted from Annie Riggs

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 stick of butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and paper 12 cupcake liners in a muffin tin.

Place the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl and cook in 30 second increments on 50% power until completely melted.

While the melted chocolate mixture cools slightly, whisk the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in another bowl until foamy.  Stir in the chocolate mixture until combined.  Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl and fold the mixture until incorporated.

Portion the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the brownie-cakes have risen and are firm to the touch.  If you test with a toothpick, you should see some moist crumb stuck to your tester.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then carefully remove the brownie-cakes from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peach Preserves

Peach Preserves

Adapted from Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

BAH Note: I took this base preserve recipe and made three different batches of preserves.  One was plain peach preserves.  The second was a ginger peach preserve (added ground ginger to taste to the base recipe).  The third was habernero peach preserve (added a few splashes of hot sauce to the base recipe).  No matter if you fancy it up or not, it’s good stuff.

  • 4 cups peach slices (from about 4 pounds peaches)
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 7 cups sugar

Working in batches, blanch the peaches in boiling water for about one minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon or spider strainer and transfer the peaches to a towel lined board to cool.  Use a pairing knife to remove the skins and then pit and slice the peaches.

Combine the peach slices, pectin, and lemon juice in a dutch oven or large non-reactive pot.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.  Add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved, and bring to a rolling boil.  Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat, ladle the jam into heated jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space, and process for 10 minutes.

Let the jars cool for 24 hours before checking the seal and storing the jars. Any jars that have not sealed should be refrigerated or immediately reprocessed using new lids.

Flashback Friday – Poached

The following post appeared on BAH on 9 September 2009.

After the underwhelming outcome of my egg experiment, I wanted to give it another try. So I tasked my friend Google to see what other recipes were out there. The short answer is a lot. Most of the ones that I found involved baking the eggs in the oven. But there was one from Williams Sonoma that was more like a poached egg. I liked that approach because poaching, as a gentler cooking method, gives me a little more wiggle room before I go from raw to rubber.

Now, if you’ve ever looked at the recipes in the Williams Sonoma catalog, they are basically vehicles to get you to buy their wares. And I’m sure the fancy-schmancy Breakfast Pan that is specified in the Eggs en Cocotte recipe is the bomb, but a little reverse engineering with a large sauce pan and some glass ramekins worked just fine and didn’t cost me $175.

So I made myself a nice water bath on the stove and got cracking. Unlike last time, I was pretty vigilant about checking the progress of my eggs. Since I was using improvised tools, my cooking times were slightly longer than what the folks at WS said to expect. But that’s ok because after about 15 minutes (10 minutes on the heat, 5 minutes off) the whites were perfectly cooked, the yolks were firm but still soft and creamy, and the cheese had melted into the eggs and ham. I tried to get one of the eggs out of the ramekin and onto a plate can state with all certainty that eating it directly out of the ramekin is a much better idea.

Another good idea? Don’t think that this is just for breakfast or brunch. I think Eggs en Cocotte, as WS likes to call them, is a great dinner option especially if you’re cooking for just one person.

Eggs en Cocotte

Adapted from williams-sonoma.com

I easily made two individual servings in a 4 quart sauce pan on the stove. If I were cooking more than four ramekins, I would probably put the whole thing in a large roasting pan, filled with simmering water to reach halfway up the ramekins, and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

  • 1/4 cup cooked bacon or ham (I used canadian bacon), diced
  • 1/4 cup, plus 4 teaspoons, shredded cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 teaspoons heavy cream (I used half and half)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chives or other herb

Fill a large sauce pan with water (I put my ramekins in the pan, added enough water to reach halfway up them, and then removed the ramekins). Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low.

Lightly coat ramekins with olive oil or butter. Put 1 tablespoon diced bacon or ham in the bottom of each and top with 1 tablespoon of cheese. Break one egg into each ramekin and top with 2 teaspoons cream and 1 additional teaspoon cheese.

Place the ramekins in the simmering water. Cover and cook until whites and yolks are set. The recipe said 6 to 7 minutes for runny yolks and 9 to 10 minutes for firmer ones. Don’t be afraid to test the whites with a fork because after 10 minutes the whites were not cooked. So I let the pan sit, covered, off the heat for another five minutes or so until the whites had cooked and the yolks were soft set.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the pan, season with salt, pepper, and herbs.   Serve immediately.

{Printable Recipe}

Beef Tenderloin with Wine Sauce

Beef Tenderloin with Wine Sauce

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

BAH Note:  To amp up the wine sauce even more, whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter just before taking the sauce off the heat and serving.

  • 2 pounds beef tenderloin
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced shallots
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon natural cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Heat your oven to 425 degrees.  Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and set a cooling rack in the pan.

Pat the tenderloin dry and then season all over with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the beef and sear until well browned on all sides, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the tenderloin to the sheet pan and roast in the oven until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the tenderloin reaches 140 degrees for medium rare, approximately 30 minutes (155 degrees for medium).  Remove the tenderloin from the oven and let it rest, covered with foil, until ready to serve.

While the tenderloin roasts, heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the shallots and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 or 10 minutes.  Add the wine, broth, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces to about 1/2 cup, approximately 40 minutes.

Once the sauce has reduced, pour it through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan.  Be sure to press all the juices out of the vegetables.  Whisk the cocoa powder into the reduced sauce, add the rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the sauce over slices of the beef tenderloin.

Baked Barley and Mushrooms

Baked Barley and Mushrooms

Adapted from And Baby Cakes Three

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, simmering
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted, saute the onions and mushrooms until tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the barley and salt and stir so that it gets coated with the oil in the pot.  Cook the barley for a few minutes, until it gets a bit toasty, before stirring in the simmering broth.

Stir to combine, cover with a lid (or aluminum foil if your pot doesn’t have a lid) and bake for 1 hour.

After an hour, carefully remove the pot to check for doneness.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the barley should be just tender.  If the barley is still too hard, add additional liquid and continue to cook, covered, checking every 15 to 20 minutes.  Once the barley is done, you can cook for 10 or 15 minutes with the lid off if you have too much liquid left in your pot.

Carefully remove from the oven and stir in the grated cheese, if using, before serving.