When I was a child, I believed being an adult meant that I would have a career, I could buy candy when ever I wanted, and I would be awesome. I had a picture in my head of having a lovely home, only seen in glances, as I always pictured myself running out the door to work, but looking pretty professionally cool as I did so. That’s how I viewed my parents as a kid: loving, but always on their way to work. And they did it because they wanted to give my brother and I as good a life as they could; I just didn’t realize how hard it was for them. In my mind, you grew up, you had a job you liked, you then earned enough money from working so much that you had a nice home, and I would be physically fit because I had been forced to be on a diet since as far back as I can remember.
But that’s not what this whole “Adult” thing is about. I have to make decisions and live with those decisions, which is suddenly a very heavy thing to do. The odds of the average person being in a career that they love is slim to non-existent. Buying a house is filled with as many smiles as heartbreak. And you can’t eat candy all the time, because you hit twenty-four years of age and your body goes to shit – even more so than it was before. So, as an adult, I spend most of my time figuring out how to become an educational coordinator from the professional choices I’ve made, fixing my house or throwing money at past repairs we’ve made, working out, paying bills, and cuddling my loved ones when I get a second here or there. This all accumulates to cause me to over think my life. Daily.
I have a real draw toward beauty in natural surroundings. I can be alone for months if I look out and see beauty that makes my heart swell. But I’m adult now. So, I can’t just pick up and leave to admire another part of the country, getting a job where ever I land, because I need to be on a career path. And I’m an adult now, so suddenly where I choose to live means that the schools have to be decent, because I want to have a child one day, and I want that child to have a fighting chance. And I’m an adult now, which means I’m fortunate enough to share my life with another adult who supports me. And in turn, I support him, which means that out of respect for him, I have to be sure he is onboard for my insanity. And all of this comes down to accepting that I can’t leave Austin.
I struggle with living in Austin. Sure, it’s cool. And from certain parts of town, it’s even pretty. Find a list of Best Places to Live and somewhere amongst Portland, Seattle, and AnyWhere, North Carolina will be my little city upon the river they call a lake. Be young here, start a company here, retire here (try telling that to my folks). But, in a way, it’s also like living on an island in a sea of crazy. If you can focus on just your island, let yourself go, you’ll have fun, it’s chill, just flow with it. But remember that scene in Labyrinth, when Sarah is being wooed at the dance? Then Agnes is in her bedroom, giving her toys, and lipstick. But slowly Sarah comes to, remembers what’s important, and it’s just not fun any more, and she has to claw her way out. It’s a scene that makes me nauseous every time I see it. But, then, I’ve never been very good at the whole “relax” thing.
When I lived in Arizona, I was awed by the beauty outside my door every day, and when I wanted a change of scenery I drove an hour up north to Flagstaff, or an hour south to Phoenix. The politics and the schools there weren’t great there either, so I have to learn to let that go. But I loved the earth there. I loved the smell, the wind, the change in temperate zones, like it’s an area where the world is smiling. So why not just move there? Well, because I’m adult now and right when you have all the freedom in the world is right about when making changes seems impossible.
I moved here and got a job. Then I bought a home. Then I made a couple of friends. Then I made a few more. And these aren’t just “buddies”. These are people that I’m still surprised to have only known for a few years, because I could’ve sworn they were family. We support each other emotionally. We share and learn and play together. Sometimes we have Sunday dinner together the way we did as children with our blood relations. We give honest advice to each other, spend holidays within the warmth of each others’ homes, and, as many of us are far from our families, we have created the support of a clan within each other. It’s not a replacement, but it’s very tangible, and not something I ever expected at this time in my life. There are a number of things we still have to figure out in our lives, the two biggest ones being should we have a child (where? When?! HOW?!) and what the fuck are we doing with our lives? But one thing is for certain, it doesn’t look like we can leave Austin.
So, in that vein, I’m going to start really chronicling our Austin escapades, I’m going to remind myself as often as possible why exactly I live here, and learn, as best I can, to chill the fuck out and live in the present rather than the unforeseen future. If any of you have figured out how to do this please don’t hesitate to tell me how. I will continue with recipes and I will pick back up the pace on the Pop Bytes. I’ll nerd out more often on here. And we’ll make the best of what we’ve got.
Because that’s all you can do as an adult and these are the decisions we can live with.
On Sundays I always look to something special for dinner, which comes from my upbringing. Huge family dinners filled with love and hours of cooking and food – food – So Much Food! Now, my numerous cousins are scattered amongst different states, different countries. I’m not sure what many of them do for their Sunday dinners now, but I know that we do still all love food, sharing, nurturing. Which brings me to what I call The Absentee Dinner. I make something simple, but a little more involved than the other days of the week, something with protein, something that’s going to be delicious and worth savoring. I make something special. I do it in honor of my family, my upbringing, and I invite dear friends over whenever possible, just so we can eat in each others’ company. And maybe watch a little Doctor Who.
With the reminiscence complete, let me say that while I like the depth and complexity of Asian flavors – sweet yet sour, spicy yet cool and crisp, you don’t have to follow this style. A great alternative to this, perfect for Game Day at your house is RECIPE RECOMMENDATION MISSING. Hmmm. I’ll tell you what: if you want that full recipe from me you’re going to have to wait until next week.
Crispy Pork Tacos, Asian Style
1-1.5 pounds Boneless Pork Loin Center Chops
2 TBSP minced garlic, divided
1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
1/2 TBSP Hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp chile oil
2 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp black pepper (or red pepper flakes if you like it spicy)
Juice of one lemon
1 TBSP white vinegar
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder
1 Napa cabbage, leaves cleaned. Cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each leaf.
1/2 corn starch (if making “extra crispy”, see below)
2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil
Pre-shredded Broccoli slaw
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 red wine vinegar
2 tsp salt
1. 5 tsp black pepper
3 tsp sugar
About an hour or two prior to cooking, marinate the pork. Slice the pork in large bite sized pieces, I like strips, and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together half of the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chile oil sriracha, pepper, lemon juice, water, vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger. Add the pork to the bowl and tossed making sure each piece is coated. Let marinate for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
While marinating, make the crispy slaw topping. You can swap the slaw for kimchi. Toss the pre-shredded slaw mix, bean sprouts, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl, and set aside. This can sit some time and the flavors will just continue to marry while staying bright. Toss periodically in the time prior to serving.
Once the pork is marinated you have the option of sauteing or pan frying. On this night Chip and I made our Crispy Pork Tacos extra crispy, but you certainly simply dump the entire marinade mixture into a sauce pan heated with with the oil over medium high heat, cooking about 7-9 minutes. For extra crispy, however, remove the pork from the marinade and toss in the corn starch until evenly, but lightly coated. Discard the marinade, and heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Pan fry the pork about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a paper toweled plate to drain for a minute or two.
Taking one of the napa cabbage leaves, we set to work assembling our “Tacos”. We topped our pork with a sprinkling of slaw, a bit of the remaining minced garlic, a little chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and even some fresh diced mango. Serving with a wedge of lime, this would be perfect with a side of tropical quinoa or rice. Of course, we ate ours with squash, though, because I’m trying to will it to be Autumn here in Austin.
I love Autumn. There’s not much Fall to be had in Austin, but each and every year I try to will this season to occur. The leaves don’t chain color, unless you count the grass dying, the weather barely cools, but I still make my house smell like synthetic pumpkin, I wear layers in earth tones, and I make squash. Lots and lots of squash.
In an attempt to make squash more than a side dish, I decided to make a Spaghetti Squash Alfredo. Creamy without being heavy, filling without being packed with carbs. To lighten the sauce, I skipped the usual heavy cream, cut back on the butter, and made a roux instead.
Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
1 Spaghetti Squash
3 TBSP butter
4 TBSP all purpose flour
1/4 cup chicken stock (or dry white wine)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but any will do)
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Juice of 1 half lemon
1/2 TBSP dried parsley flakes or 1 TBSP freshly chopped parsley
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. In a 4 sided cookie pan or large pyrex fill with enough water to fill about 1/4-1/2 inch up the sides. Place the squash (which at this point will look nothing like spaghetti) face down into the water. Roast the spaghetti squash for 35-45 minutes or until tender. I like my pasta al dente, so I took the squash out at 35 minutes.
The sauce comes together quickly, so make this no more than 10 minutes before the squash needs to come out. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until you make a paste of even consistency. Add the milk and chicken stock or wine, whisking to incorporate. Add the garlic and let simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking periodically. Sprinkle in the parm and the garlic powder, whisking to combine. If the alfredo sauce seems to thick, add chicken stock or white wine a TBSP at a time. As it sits and simmers it will thicken, so be sure to whisk periodically. It is best, however, to make the sauce a little thick because the squash does contain a lot of liquid naturally and that will moisten the sauce once tossed together. Just before serving, whisk in the lemon juice for brightness. You can also sprinkle the lemon juice directly over the squash prior to topping with sauce if preferred.
Getting back to the squash, once done roasting, remove from cookie sheet or pyrex and let cool about 5 minutes. Wrapping the back of the squash in a tea towel (the side with the skin on it) lightly separate the innards of the squash with a fork. I stuck the tines of the fork into the squash meat and gentle twisted, revealing the meat to be spaghetti-like.
Once the squash meat is cleaned out of the skin, place your “spaghetti” into a paper towel lined colander in the sink. The one draw back to this dish is that the squash contains a lot of moisture and you want to try to remove some of that prior to serving, just so the meal doesn’t get watery. Once the sauce is done or the squash has drained a bit in the colander for 5 or so minutes, which ever comes first, place the spaghetti squash into a large bowl and toss with the sauce, reserving about 1/4 of alfredo for topping if desired. Plate topping each serving with a little extra sauce and a small sprinkling of parsley. I also topped mine with a shredded slice of prosciutto, but sautéed chicken or shrimp would also be perfect as well to add a healthy and light punch of protein. I really couldn’t detect much of a difference in flavor between the squash and regular spaghetti at all. It was a wonderfully flavorful Autumn dinner, without weighing us down, whether or not Fall was actually happening outside.
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp Worcester sauce
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp anchovy paste (Optional…or, in my house, Non-existent)
Caramelize the shallots. While those are working on their golden brown deliciousness, whisk everything else in a small bowl. Once caramelized, remove the shallots to cool a bit. You want to add them to the dressing when they’re warm so they don’t cook the egg, but do help thicken the dressing; letting them sit about 4-5 minutes should be fine.
Preheat your grill to high, clean the grates, and rub them down with vegetable or olive oil. Place the cut halves of Romaine flat/cut side down and don’t touch for 1-2 minutes. They char quick and you don’t want them completely blackened.
Remove from heat, and plate grilled side up. Drizzle the Caesar-ish dressing over the grilled side, allowing the dressing to drip in between the layers of lettuce. Top with a little more Parm if you’re so inclined. Served with chicken or a grilled steak makes a memorably delicious meal.
* So…The Hobbit is going to be 3 movies. There isn’t a script yet…or a budget…but, yeah, 3 films. [GeeksOfDoom]
* Global Warming opponents can go to Hell – and those in Oklahoma may very well be headed there. According to new reports, the current freak heat wave they’re experiencing is causing the street lights to melt. If we’re not going to alter our climate changing ways, we’ll have to at least tweak “Hot as balls” to “Hot as melting balls”. Naturally. [Inquistr]
* There have been a lot of talk about another Ghost Busters film claiming to be official. The newest comes from Cinema Blend stating that Bill Murray is officially out of any kind of future sequel. Granted, this story quotes Dan Aykroyd, but I’m still only taking it with a grain of salt. The only person who can say whether or not he’d be in is Murray himself, and even he wembles – it’s a word; look it up in the Fraggle Dictionary. The fact of the matter remains: These men are old. Like Indiana saving relics from the Nazi’s, perhaps this story should close completely. Can’t Hollywood come up with some new ideas, not simply “new-ish”? [CinemaBlend]
Photo Credit Inquistr
* The next X-Men movie has a name and it’s not “Second Class”. The next X-Men film, expected, will be called X-Men: The Days of Future Past, which to me is wordy and a bit Doctor Who-y. It’s also a fairly well known storyline of the comic book, making it a bit of a spoiler alert. This comes on the heels of set photos and video from the set Wolverine 2, which is currently filming. [HotOffThePresses, Hollywood Hills]
* There are rumors afoot that Jimmy Fallon may be in talks to host the 2013 Oscars. Lorne Michaels is expected to produce. Think he can get through any funny bits without giggling? I’m a fan of Jimmy Fallon, truly, and feel he’s definitely come into his own as a talk show host on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. [LATimes]
* Will Ferrell is super upset about Kristen Stewart cheating on Robert Pattinson, y’all. Like, super upset. Even calls BitchFace a TRAMPire. Oh, that “bitchface” thing? She’s got super bitchface, it’s just a matter of fact. Listen, if you want me to get all girly about it, no one should be so pussy whipped that he’s willing to dip his pen in the same ink at the same time as another man. Also, she’s shit for acting, also just matter of fact. Don’t let losers drag down your own rising star. Boom. What was I talking about again? [Inquistr]
We’ll start with dinner’s side, crispy un-fried “fries”.
I am not a huge fan of potato chips. I’m really not, can’t remember the last time I bought a bag, and will take a scoop of dressing-free coleslaw over them any day (I don’t like creamy coleslaw, either). I do occasionally like fries, though, especially sweet potato fries. Actually frying the perfect fries, though, is a multi-step process and a messy pain in the ass. Oh, and they’re SUPER unhealthy. Luckily, veggies can be easily manipulated to become something else.
Baked Veggie Fries
Carrots, zucchini, parsnips cut into wedged sticks. Figure 1-2 vegetables per person.
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
sprinkling of dried parsly
I took carrots, zucchini, and parsnips, but you can seriously do this with any fruit or veg. Halved Roma tomatoes would be bad ass done the same way. But I was searching for a fried sweet potato alternative. I cut the root veggies and the zucchini into somewhat evenly sized wedged sticks, equaling what was probably 4-5 cups of “fries”. It’s hard to measure sticks in bowl form. I used 1 zucchini, 2 large carrots, and 1 parsnip, and it was more than enough for 3 people.
Preheat the oven to 450 and spray a cookie sheet with Pam (or whatever cooking spray ya got). Toss the “fries” in olive oil and then toss them in the panko. The panko isn’t meant to completely coat the veggies; it’s just meant to make up for a little bit of the crunch missed from deep fried anything. Spread the sticks out on the cookie sheet and sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes if going for spicy fries. Roast at 450 for 20-25 minutes. The baked carrots are exactly like fried sweet potato. You know how people say Coke Zero tastes just like regular Coke, when, in fact, it tastes gross, plasticy, diety? Well, these actually taste JUST like sweet potato fries! You’ll be searching for ranch or honey mustard to dip them into. And they’re baked and delicious and a little crispy, too. I’m not going to say they’re “healthy” because I’m at a point where I feel like just eating at all is unhealthy (fat complex, leave it be), but they are a great alternative when you’re craving something that is truly not great for your system.
The chicken was a no-brainer dinner – I wanted flavorful, moist chicken tacos! Poaching is a great way to keep chicken breast tender and juicy, but visually it ain’t pretty. Everything looks delicious when it’s in a taco, though! So, I went for it, and it’s something I’m going to add to my usual weeknight dinner line up. This recipe is more than enough for two people.
Spicy Beer Poached Chicken Tacos
6 oz. boneless chicken breast or tenderloins
1 bottle beer (I used a brown ale)
2 TBSP Franks Hot Wing Sauce
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chili oil or red pepper flakes, optional
1 tsp kosher salt
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 cup orange or grapefruit juice
Dump everything, but the brown sugar and OJ into a saucepan together, stir, and bring to a simmer. You want the chicken to be mostly covered with liquid, so use a smaller sauce pan with tall sides. Once simmering, poach the chicken for about 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the chicken breast with a slotted spoon and let rest five minutes. While the chicken is resting, add the brown sugar and orange juice to the poaching liquid in the sauce pan and bring to a boil, reducing the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2. You can add the orange juice right at the beginning, but adding it at the end and then reducing keeps its flavor bright. “Pull” the chicken apart using 2 forks, go with the grain, making it a very easy process. Once the liquid has reduced, turn off the heat and return the now pulled chicken to the sauce. Let the chicken absorb the liquid for about 5 minutes or so before making into tacos.
I topped my tacos with a little spring mix, diced tomatoes and onion, freshly cracked black pepper, and a squeeze of lime. A little sour cream goes perfect to quell the sweet heat as well. Served with the veggie fries this was a filling dinner on the lighter side of the usual American taco meal!
* First of all: Horse Riding Fitness ACE POOOOOOOOOOWER!!!!!
Okay. I feel better now. Super fit…or at least super something.
* Netflix added the next season of Breaking Bad to Watch Instantly this past weekend. Naturally, my marriage has been put on the back burner until all episodes can be watched.
* Wired interviewed Neil Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer. It’s all fine and good and funny and interesting. Whatever. All I really got out of it was that I am not Neil Gaiman’s wife, and I should be. At least I’ve believed I should be since the age of 13. [Wired]
* If you haven’t heard by now, you should know: There’s a guy in the hills of Utah dressing and behaving as a goat. Some are speculating that he’s a hunter. I am speculating he’s a man dressed as a goat with 99 problems and hunting ain’t one of them. [WebProNews]
* Every time you start to think you’re cool, just remind yourself that you’re not Patrick Stewart. You are not Patrick Stewart, and you never will be. You’ve never had the accolades he’s earned from doing Shakespeare while simultaneously doing voices for Seth McFarlaine and being the Captain of the Enterprise. And you won’t run the olympic torch across London while looking super awesome doing it. [Blastr]
* And, finally, Peter Jackson debuted the newest Hobbit journal at Comic Con. Whoot!
I’m horrible to watch Antiques Roadshow with. I find myself shouting at the screen a la Indian Jones, “That belongs in a museum!”
And this really is the core of my being: I am excited by old things, find them amazing, fascinating, want them to be accessible to all, and want to get others excited about these objects as well. To learn is to better one’s self and I’d love to write and educate, to spread enthusiasm for something in my daily career.
There are 2 things I want to do with my life. To the average person, they’re very mundane. But to me, however, they’re the equivalent of becoming a rock star.
I want to:
1. Write lesson plans in accordance to state regulations for historical societies and museums in order to entice local schools to take field trips to such establishments.
2. Work and write for Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen, working as an Ethno-Foodologist or, even better, a Food Archeologist.
When I was in junior high and high school I would skip class about once a month or so. None of my friends would ever want to join me and my parents were always very supportive of these escapades. You’d think I had egghead friends and that’s why they wouldn’t skip, or that I had hippy dippy parents that would allow me to be so flagrant about my education, but neither was the case. Well, my mom could kinda be hippy dippy, but that’s a different story. When I decided to skip school I would get a ride to the train station and take Metro North to Grand Central Station. Exciting, right? Who wouldn’t want to skip school to hang out in The City all day?! I would then walk up Park Ave. to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or I would head west across the park to the American Museum of Natural History (or what’s know as the Museum of Mother Fucking Awesomeness by its fans) and I would spend hours and hours reading in silence, smiling over beauty…with the periodic stop off at the Central Park Zoo to finish the trip. I did this over and over and over again. In high school I was fairly popular, I was certainly no prude, and the most epic parties were normally hosted by my brother or I. But when it came to what I really wanted, it was historical solitude. I would have shared that time with others, allowing them to tag along, but who cared for those things but me?
Photo Credit Jessica Hische
I’m extremely fortunate in the sense that I’ve been to the museums of NYC so frequently that I can’t even count the days spent in their ancient and loving embrace. Dozens of times? Definitely. Hundreds? Very possible. I’ve moved away from that area a couple of times since graduating high school and being unable to take advantage of those museums is always the number one issue that I have when living more than a train ride away. I guess I miss my family, too, but I really miss those museums. In fact, when I visit my family, a jaunt to a museum in NYC is always one of the first afternoons planned. I am not so ego maniacal to ever think I could work at the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In order to do something like that I would have had to make all the right moves, and absolutely no mistakes, in the professional decisions of my life. The employees and curators of those establishments are my heros, my Steven Tylers and Brad Pitts. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve done the opposite of not making professional blunders thus far in my life. I’ve created quite the resume and educational experience with not one, but two degrees under my belt. They’re just as far from the museum and/or food path as humanly possible. Awesome.
The first time in memory of going to a museum, I was about three years old and with my parents and brother. We headed out to the Museum of Natural History. My brother and I never really got along very well, and on trips like this we were more simply in the same place at the same time rather than actually experiencing something together. We walked passed the dinosaur skeleton in the entry hall and made our way around the mammoths and the naked, hairy neanderthals with the droopy boobs. This was prior to the Rose Center, otherwise we would have probably made a bee line for the giant glass box of Space. The favorite at this time, however, was the Great Hall. The Great Hall is massive, primarily so it can fit the life-sized model of a blue whale. It’s romantically lit, and by that I mean, that it’s somewhat dark, like the depths of the ocean. It consists of two levels with marine life exhibits lining the walls and a large open area in the center, from which one can admire the whale.
Photo credit Linden78. That bitch’ll crush yo’ ass.
I say “admire”.
There are two things I remember from this day, one of my earliest trips to the AMNH:
1. Being horrified in the Great Hall by this massive whale that was going to crush and/or eat me at any moment while…2. George Michael’s Careless Whisper played over the loud speaker. I mean, yeah, technically it was a Wham! song, but, c’mon, it was all George Michael and that damned whale. My mother said she heard “teeny, tiny pounding feet” and turned to see me flying toward her staring over my shoulder at the whale, horrified. And what self respecting toddler wouldn’t be? Even at that young age I knew anything from above could crush you below, both literally and figuratively.
It’s a hazy memory, but it’s very real, and it didn’t just end with that day.
I then proceded to carry around a fear of being in an ocean for years. Playing in the surf = good. Playing far enough out where water could go over your head and therefore allow you to be crushed from above by a whale = bad. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I could picture myself getting out of a boat and into open waters. I wasn’t afraid of whales, so much as being in water with them. I grew up along the north eastern seaboard, so going whale watching was a common activity. I respected their beauty and their power. And their ability to crush me in real life in the ocean or as a giant model in a museum.
Soul inhibited experience or no, I knew to differentiate my fear from what actually caused it and not where the experience occurred. Loosely translated: I didn’t blame the museum for this silly fear that followed me around for a couple of decades.
And to this day I want to be apart of some historical and educational organization that learns from and loves the past, whale or no.