0325 Pulled Pork OMG

I’m not sure how long ago I bookmarked this recipe, but The Time Had Come for pulled pork.  As with the last time I made a crock pot meal, though, I didn’t factor in that The Time would be 6am.

That’s right, if you’d been at our house this morning, you would’ve seen me browning a pork shoulder at 6am in order to get it into the crock pot and me onto the bus on time for a weirdly scheduled day.  It went something like this: start the oil, open cat food cats, put pork shoulder in hot oil, spoon cat food into dishes and distribute, turn pork shoulder, take soaked oats out of the fridge and warm in microwave, turn pork shoulder, chop vegetables between bites of oatmeal, turn pork shoulder, add veg to crock pot, add pork shoulder to crock pot.

Pop open beer.

Do not drink beer.

Use beer to deglaze pan while using hot water to deglaze oatmeal bowl.  Add rest of beer and pan drippings but NOT oatmeal water to crock pot.  Realize that 8 hours from 6:30 is 2:30, which is 2 hours before I’ll be home.  Wake up Shane to tell him to turn the crock pot on when he gets up.  Stick reminder note on bathroom mirror.

Run out the door in time to catch the bus, pick up some coffee, and roll into work at 7:30.  Return after 10 hours to a house resplendent with smells of pulled pork.  Commence drooling.

Amy, Adam, and their two girls – including tiny baby Erica! – joined us for dinner, and we shared the pulled pork, along with crusty Rustic Italian bread from Zingerman’s, a green salad, and my carrot jam, thinned with vinegar to make a slaw (just like I thought it would!).  We also ate cookies and read stories, but I’ll save that for another post.

Pulled Pork from Dinner with Julie


0324 Tempeh Tacos

I regret not having photos to show you so that you too can drool when you hear these words: tempeh. tacos.  Tempeh. Tacos.

Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans, is packed with protein and fiber, and when stir-fried with garlic, tamari, and a bunch of spices, it makes a fantastic centerpiece for a delicious and filling vegetarian meal.  When wrapped up in a tortilla with a few veggies and some Greek yogurt, you’ve got yourself a fantastic fast dinner.  Tonight’s meal might be the best version of tempeh tacos that we’ve made – we had a couple of jalapenos in the fridge, so I threw them in with the tempeh and onions, producing a bit more heat than usual.  I was so hungry by the time I finished cooking that I didn’t wait for Shane to get home from riding his moped – I just rolled up an epic tempeh wrap and enjoyed every savory, spicy bite.

As with most recipes of this type – and most of my recipes in general, I suspect – I can’t really tell you precise measurements.  Just season as the spirit moves you, and add whatever you think might be amazing.  I’d like to add mushrooms in the future – I also think you could shred some carrots and add them to the fry-up for extra fiber and beta carotene.  This should serve 2-4.

Olive or vegetable oil
A couple of cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cake of tempeh – we like Westsoy Original – sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
One red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium non-stick skillet.  Add the garlic, onion, tempeh, and jalapeno and saute over medium-high heat until onions are translucent and tempeh is starting to get golden.  Add cumin, coriander, and tamari and toss to coat.  Give it another minute or two, then add the pepper and saute until soft.

To serve, spoon tempeh and veg into a warmed tortilla and top with a handful of spinach and a spoonful of sour cream or Greek yogurt.  You might also add some shredded cheese and minced cilantro if you’re saucy.

0323 Happy Hour at The Earle

I’m not sure what to make of happy hour here in A2.  In DC, there was a solid happy hour culture.  There are a variety of theories as to why happy hours are so popular – the most solid that I’ve heard being that the local ‘industry’ thrives on workaholics, so happy hour makes it possible to work a full day, grab a few drinks, and still get more work in after hitting the bar.  In A2, though, happy hour seems to get packed earlier while lacking the deals (and draft list) that drew us out to Birreria, for example.

We’d been told that The Earle offered one of the best happy hour deals in town – $2.75 mussels until 6:30! – so we headed there after work to have drinks and a light dinner with Shana and Eric.  I’m not a huge mussels fan, but I enjoyed the bowl that we shared, as well as the savory mushrooms stuffed with spinach, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan.  Even better was the Salt and Pepper Hendrick’s Martini – smooth cucumber gin, vermouth, and a salt-and-peppery slice of cucumber on the rim – which made me even more anxious for warm weather.  While neither our waistbands nor our wallet will allow regular visits, we both enjoyed the food, drink, and company, and hope to visit The Earle again soon!

0322 Butternut Squash Salad Revisited

We intended to have this salad for dinner last night, but instead ate whatever we could find in the fridge – leftover pasta for me, a pizza bagel from West Side Market for Shane.  Tonight, however, a small butternut squash was the star of the meal – another beautiful salad of roasted squash, spinach, and goat cheese.  This is one meal that I think I could eat every week for as long as squash are in season, which won’t be much longer.

Now that I say that, however, I realize that our squash friends have been edging out of season for a while, and that it’s been months since we’ve been to the farmers’ market.  Unless you’re really dedicated (or hate vegetables), it gets harder and harder to maintain seasonal eating as the winter months drag on.  We’ve been diligent about avoiding the strawberries from California and have been working our way through the applesauce and tomatoes canned last fall – but it’s harder to avoid a package of spinach or a hard-skinned squash in the dead of winter when all you want is a colorful change from the white, gray, and muddy color palette.  Now that spring veg is on its way, I’m really looking forward to getting back to the market, and to all of the delicious things the growing season will bring!

0321 Delicious Scone, Disappointing Brunch

Our meals this morning/afternoon hit both ends of several spectrums.  We had delicious baked goods, and underwhelming sandwiches.  We had good coffee in questionable cups, and questionable coffee in regular cups.  We had an uninterested server, a nice server who was wearing her pajamas, and a server whose demeanor concealed a hidden evil (according to a fantastic Yelp review).  There was a pancake-eating contest.  It was that kind of morning.

While Shane’s family went to meeting, we grabbed a quick breakfast at The Root Cafe, which offered a dizzying array of vegan and non-vegan baked goods – we went for the latter, and were very happy with our warm and buttery savory scones.  Shane had heard good things about their coffee, but the barista taking orders seemed pretty blasé about both his job and their offerings, and we felt similarly blasé about both the coffee and the Styrofoam cup in which it was served.  The Root apparently has a recycling program, but honestly, what’s the likelihood of the average coffee-to-go person bringing their dirty Styrofoam cup back at some later date?

After taking a scenic drive down to Berea to check out our reception site, we met up with the family and had a late brunch at 56 West.  The brunch buffet deal – $7.56 all you could eat! – was perfect for the guys, at least two of which immediately engaged in a pancake eating contest.  The brunch options just weren’t appealing to me, so I ordered the B.E.L.T – a BLT with roasted tomatoes, a fried egg, and arugula = hooray!  Unfortunately what I actually received was an over-hard egg, a smushy oily tomato, arugula mixed with regular lettuce, and some tasty bacon sandwiched between two VERY LARGE pieces of baguette.  If I could open my mouth very wide and also had metal teeth like Jaws, I might’ve been able to eat this sandwich as a sandwich.  Instead, I ate it in pieces, and saved my sweet potato fries for the drive home.  I’ve mentioned that eating out often serves as cooking inspiration – this is definitely a meal I think we can improve upon at home.

Yesterday at the Dentist

A conversation:

Hygienist: Do you think you could remove that? [meaning my tongue stud]
Me: Umm….honestly, I’m not sure.
Hygienist: OK. I’ll just work around it.
Me: Sure, feel free to move it around as much as you need to.

Dentist: How long have you had that? [meaning my tongue stud]
Me: Um, 11 years?
Dentist, pushing back his chair a bit: 11 years?
Me: Yep!
Dentist: I guess my speech about hurting your teeth probably won’t work if you’ve had it for 11 years.
Me: Nope!
Dentist: Because I’ve seen people who have broken teeth…
Me: I don’t play with it, I don’t bite it – in fact most of the time I don’t even remember that I have it.

I share this anecdote because hello, I forget all the time that I have my tongue pierced period, much less that I’ve had it for 11 years. I can’t decide if it’s cool or weird or gross or all of the above that I’ve had this piece of metal in my mouth FOR NO GOOD REASON for 11 years.

I sometimes like to reflect on what earlier incarnations of E might think of where I am in my life.  I’m in an adequate office job that makes not much more than what 22 year old E made, but I have two graduate degrees, which is something that 17 year old didn’t want to go to college E wouldn’t believe.  I’m about to get remarried to an awesome guy with whom I have a really stable and healthy relationship, which is something that 24 year old E probably wouldn’t have imagined, but all ages of E should be happy about.  I’m not a doctor, but I do have two cats, which should make 8-10 year old E pretty happy.  I don’t stay out all night anymore, which would likely disappoint 19 year old E, but I do still have the tongue stud that I got at 19, so maybe we’ll call that one a draw.

0320 West Side Market

Shane’s mom suggested that we cook at home rather than going out – so we met her at Cleveland’s West Side Market to do our shopping and plan dinner. Somehow I slept terribly last night, and as a result, the market was a bit more overwhelming than it would’ve been otherwise. Like Philly’s Reading Terminal Market or the lovely North Market in Columbus, the West Side Market is a hectic maze of independent vendors selling cheese, produce, baked goods, fresh pasta, spices, and all manner of meats in preparation for various ethnic cuisines – plus places to grab a quick lunch or a cup of coffee.  We shared a very hot crêpe complète for lunch, which we hastily ate in a stairwell as we couldn’t find anywhere to sit.  Better than standing over a garbage can, I suppose.

What did we get for dinner? Fresh black pepper linguine, a loaf of bread, and a slab of butter made from the pasteurized cream used to make Parmigiano-Reggiano.  A bottle of Italian red wine (can’t remember the kind, but we liked it a great deal) picked up later in the day, and a homemade marinara.  A happy compromise, and a nice day (after I got a nap).

0319 Late Night at Prosperity

While I no longer experience daily pangs of homesickness for Champaign, nights like tonight remind me of the things I do miss about living there.  In my four years in Champaign, I never lived further than a 15 minute walk from the downtown area – an easy stumble home from a handful of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, music venues, and a great movie theater.  In Alexandria, a fantastic restaurant and our favorite coffeeshop/bakery were just around the corner.  We have yet to find those favorite spots in Ann Arbor, and when we do, they’ll be at least a 20 minutes walk that manages to be up hill both ways.

So after a full day of work and a 2 1/2 hour drive to Cleveland, it was really nice to walk a few blocks to Prosperity with Steve and Kate.  We’d had dinner on the road, but by 10:30 were snackish again, so we split the pork empanadas – delicious pockets of meat and veg served with rice and pineapple salsa.  I’d like to go back when I’m more awake – by the end of the evening, 3/5 of us were literally falling asleep at the table – but that will have to wait until next time.  In the interim, I will continue to long for a third place (or a Galaxy Hut) in our neighborhood.

Things I Know About Detroit Circa 1948

My grandparents lived in Detroit after the war, and every time I talk to my grandma on the phone, she tells me stories about Detroit. More often than not, they’re the same stories I’ve already heard, but she’s 91 and has earned the right to repeat herself. It occurred to me this weekend that I should probably write some of this stuff down, if only so that I can remember it for future trips to Detroit:

  • There used to be a buttermilk bar in Eastern Market, where you could go have a glass of cold buttermilk, just like you might go to a soda fountain for an chocolate milkshake.
  • They lived on a street called Orchestra Place, which no longer seems to exist, and both worked at Harper Hospital.  One of their neighbors was Hawaiian.
  • I think Grandpa was doing his residency at Harper.  Occasionally they would get to go to the theater or the opera because in those days, they always had to have a doctor in the house.  They once sat behind the heir to one of the major auto companies.  Said heir had just married the heiress to a major tire company.  That was one of my grandparents’ brushes with famous people in Detroit.
  • Grandma was the head nurse on the ward where famous people were treated.  Said famous people would bring their own food and linens, and occasionally the nurses would catch a famous person in bed with a lover.
  • There was only one washing machine in their apartment building, and each household got it for one hour per week.  With two kids in cloth diapers, that one hour was precious.
  • Grandma would take the trolley downtown to do her grocery shopping.
  • Living in a big, diverse city was a big shock for two kids from Iowa, but no one bothered my Grandma when she walked to and from work in her white nurse’s uniform.
  • One time there was a knock at the door of their apartment, and it was a big African-American guy.  He had heard that my grandparents had gone to the University of Iowa and wanted to meet them, as he’d gone to school there as well.
  • There was a place where you could go pick out your chicken, and they’d do all of the cleaning and other stuff for you.

These are some things I know about post-war Detroit.  My grandparents lived there until around 1950, when they moved to Davenport, Iowa, where they still live.