just for fun

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

a tale of two soups

i remember the first time i ever ate gazpacho. a few years ago, i spent some time in spain and like many european capitals, everywhere you turn there are little sidewalk cafes. picture van gogh's cafe only with a very sunny afternoon background. why did i order the soup in the first place? chances are that in my nearly nonexistant spanish vocabulary, there were only two or three things on the menu that i recognized or had heard of before. so i tried the gazpacho and was deeply upset by the croutons floating around on top getting soggier by the second. i know, i know, a couple of weeks ago i said i had no food issues. i, in fact, have one: i have soggy-food issues. i used to think it was a texture thing but the more i live and learn, i think its actually a visual thing. foods that used to be solid and are now soggy just look gross to me. and so after my first gazpacho experience (and if you've never tried it or don't really know what it is, i'll explain below, just hang in there), i really haven't tried it too many times since. and then last week, i happened across this weird recipe and decided to try it. its weird because the base of the soup doesn't have tomatos in it at all. and its weird because the stuff floating in the middle could easily stand alone as a soup all by itself (hence the subject of this entry).

so since it was strange, i've done some investigative journalism (mostly on google). i thought gazpacho was, by definition, a cold tomato soup garnished with veggies and croutons/bread. apparently that's not what it is at all. back back, way back in the day, the romans who were busy building the roads and aqueducts in spain made it but without the tomatoes (because tomatos aren't indiginous to spain). so it was a bread/oil/vinegar thing. the locals started adding veggies to make it heartier and after columbus discovered the new world, thats when the tomato got added. there are apparently tons of variations and many still do not have tomatos in them. at its heart, it is only supposed to be a cold soup designed to quinch the thirst of any poor soul slaving away outside in the summertime. and after making this variation, i agree with that completely. i don't work outside but its been so humid here recently, eating the soup was very refreshing.

Creamy Gaspacho

soup base:
2 ripe avocados, halved, and pits removed
2 cups plain yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
cilantro leaves to taste
parsley leaves to taste
1/2 cup water

garnish (second soup):
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
2 pounds red-ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 large red onion, cut into chunks
1/2 large green pepper, cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 cups crumbled French of Italian bread

for the soup base, toss all those ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. set aside. and then for the garnish (second soup), in batches, toss all of those ingredient into your blender but just pulse it a few times. you want this one to be really chunky. and you may want to add a half cup of water to this one too, if it seems too thick. instead of buying all those tomatos and onions, i bought two cans of diced tomatos. they come in all sorts of flavors and one of them is 'with diced onions.' i really like the 'open can and dump' method of cooking whenever possible. both parts of the soup should be served cold so chill all of your ingredients before or after you blend them. then, in your individual serving bowls, pour in some of the green soup and in the middle of the bowl, spoon in some of your garnish soup. since this was a long weekend and i was home all day, i had this for several lunches just with a big chunk of crusty bread and some different cheeses. i think if you had this for dinner, you'd want something else to go with it, but i'll leave that up to you. i don't think either soup wants to hang out in your fridge for more than about three days. the avacados can turn dark and the bread in the garnish, well, its gonna get soggy...

Saturday, May 27, 2006


that word always makes me think of timbits. the big coffee shop chain in canada is tim hortons, and every good canadian loves to go visit timmy's. its kind of like starbucks but less urban/trendy/sit around for hours. and i think more reasonably priced. anyway, they call their donut holes timbits. and i could really go for some timbits or krispy kremes or for any of you local lexingtonians, spauldings. for those of you not from lexington, spauldings donuts really are the best because somehow, they've managed to pack even more fat into each one. mmm.

but i was going to share tidbits, mostly from this past week. i was off traveling with work, in fabulous las vegas...and no catastrophes happened. woo. no scary elevator incidents. my rental car did not break down. i used only a minimal number of u turns. in this, i think less than 20 is considered minimal. there was one interstate that really freaked me out though. 215 goes through the town and on this trip, i got to drive on the section with no median. people who live in las vegas drive like crazy people. its the sun. it has melted all their brains away. and then, somewhere i read that one out of four drivers there have had at least one to two drinks in the past hour. so, four lanes of completely crazy, maybe tipsy, people flying by me at 70 and there was no median to keep oncoming traffic on their side. i don't know who thought that was a good idea.

the work that i did on site this week was very good. i work with low income housing. we honestly try to build and maintain the safest, nicest, most inviting apartments possible. at this particular site, in the clubhouse's minikitchen, there was this contraption. really it looked like an industrial sized easy bake oven, which i think was what it actually was. all day long, they were baking small batches of cookies. that way, anyone who came in wanting to rent an apartment, would instantly feel at home and not only get to smell freshly baking cookies, but actually get to eat warm, freshly baked cookies while they filled out their application. (i guess someone along the way decided that cookie flavored candles just wouldn't be inviting enough). guess who got to sit and smell freshly baking cookies day after day? me. guess who did not get to eat any cookies? me. i guess after a while the site staff had just build up an imunity. i don't think they realized they were torturing me. and i know there are people out there who have much tougher work environments, but man, that was just cruel.

one morning though, the cutest thing happened. i was standing outside the hotel waiting for my car and there was this tiny tiny bird hopping around looking for abandoned crumbs. he was a cutie. it hopped over to the doors. it hopped over to the curb. and at one point hopped across my shoe. how often can you look down and exclaim, there is a bird on my shoe!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

disguise the veggies please

first off, thank you to everyone who replied to my 'kitty help' email. the evil kitty seems to be eating again. the reason for his fasting is still undetermined. personally, i think he was trying to shed a few pounds, probably trying to score more points with the ladies. it is summer after all, the season of shorts and swimsuits. or possibly he was depressed at andrew's leaving. if he couldn't chew on andrew's toes then why bother with kibble? either way, one day while he was not eating, i came home from work and discovered that he had piled all of his favorite toys into his food bowl on top of his uneatened food. and i thought this was just too cute. it made me think of a little kid trying to hide brussle sprouts in a napkin or slip the family dog a green bean, anything to not eat the veggies. and that made me think of a casserole i like.

at work, we seem to have a knack for hiring people with food issues. its not a big office but we have: a woman alergic to wheat; a man who barely eats anything besides chicken and fruit or sometimes rice and beans; then we hired a second wheat alergy person; next came a woman who doesn't eat meat but will do fish; we've got a couple of randomly picky eaters; and then for a while a total vegetarian. and then the rest of us really enjoy just about everything, especially the stuff thats bad for you. some of the food issue people have since gone away, but at the time of this tale, they were mostly all present. and at work, we do a monthly potluck. which is the only reason i know or care about other people's food issues. i have no food issues. my husband has no food issues. no one in either of our imediate families have food issues. so i often wonder, how does my workplace manage to have such a high percentage of people with food issues? so the montly potluck came around and no one knew what to bring. it seemed that no matter what, only the person who brought it was going to be able to eat it. i decided on this particular casserole, bought some glueten free bread for the no-wheat lady, and hoped that there was enough cheese and cream cheese to hide the fact that there really are a lot of veggies in it. everyone loved it and a couple of people have fixed it at home and managed to get their kids to eat some veggies. i don't know what the real name of the dish is, so i'm going to call it:

eat your veggies casserole

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large purple onion, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into stips
3 T olive oil, divided
2 yellow squash, thinly sliced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
8oz pack sliced mushrooms
6 large eggs
1/4 cup whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste
8 slices sandwich bread, cubed
8 or more oz cream cheese
2 or more cups shredded swiss cheese

preheat oven to 325. saute first 4 ingredients in 1 T oil until tender, set aside. saute squash and zucchini in 1 T oil until tender, set aside. saute mushrooms in remaining oil until tender, set aside. whisk together eggs, cream, salt and pepper. in a large baking dish/pan, mix together all the veggies, bread, cream cheese and swiss. pour egg mixture on top and stick it all in the oven. bake at 325 for 1 hour, covering after 45 minutes to prevent overbrowning. serve warm. its better leftover if you use extra cheese. but really, i think its better on the first round if you use extra cheese. the trick is to not use too much to overflow the pan...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

i'm back to the 'popcorn for dinner' coping mechanism

10 best things about R&R

10. eating tons of steaks and carbs and sweets but no veggies at all
9. getting caught up on all the new movies
8. going back to bed for naps and stuff after breakfast or showering or lunch, etc.
7. buying a washer/dryer
6. holding hands while riding in the car
5. the running joke. she says: what time is it? he says: its 1400 (or some other number bigger than 12). she says: but what time is it really? he is sassy and wont ever tell her.
4. snugging on the couch
3. going to bed at night and finding it not empty
2. sharing communion
1. seeing his smile when he got off the airplane

there's really only one worst thing about it: its over now. sigh. my inner mantra has been 'the deployment is almost over' and 'we're on the downhill now.' they are working only because they are in fact true.

Monday, May 08, 2006

he stickiness of the glue is directly proportional to the size of the warning label

the past week has been rather enjoyable. after all the homecoming hoopla faded and the family left town, andrew and i cut a swath through every comic shop and shoe store in the lexington-cincinnati-louisville triangle. it should be easy to guess that the shoes were for me and the comics for andrew, but i enjoy a few comics myself. and comic shops are always full of interesting things and people that you rarely see in daylight anywhere else. if you are thinking about a similar trek, you should know that the best comics were found in frankfort. there is an unknown, hole-in-the-stipmall store, and it would seem that no one else ever shops there, which allowed us to buy all the things that were sold out in the big city shops. as for the shoes, if you are familiar with zappos.com, then you might be interested to know that they have an outlet/warehouse store in louisville. i think their online shoes can be a little pricy (really their gimmick is free shipping on returns) but their actual store is a shoe shopper's paradise (and sometimes they do sidewalk sales where all the shoes are $10-15). however, the highlight of the trip was the B&B. if you are ever in the cinci area and are looking for a cozy getaway for you and your sweetie, The Weller Haus receives our highest possible recommendations. They offer a variety of nice things like in-room massages, jacuzzis for two, and breakfast dropped off outside the door so that you can scamper back with it and eat it in bed.

since then, andrew and i have been lounging and working on some projects. one of his projects required glue, and we really spent quite some time in the walmart craft isle. the items to be glued need to survive army life in iraq so the glue needed to be nearly industrial if not illegal. we found some: amazing goop. the warning label was impressively long and the fumes were surely toxic but the items appear to be stuck to each other. since this was andrew's project and i had my own, i wasn't really paying much attention until he shouted out, "communist, unholy-pit-fiends."

that's not really something you expect to hear during family craft time.

the problem was in resecuring the lid to the glue tube; the problem is that you can't. it originally came with a cap. you unscrew it, poke a hole in the metal seal, and then screw on a tappered topper. now that he was done with the glue, you couldn't just take off the three inch tappered topper, it was full of glue. but you also couldn't put the original cap on top of the topper. so we are just stuck with a huge tube of incredible toxic glue and no way to seal it. we may die in our sleep from the fumes, but the project turned out terrific.