Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stress and the Imagination

It's no secret that owning your own business is a stressful endeavor. Just getting a small business up and running is a slightly monumental task itself and keeping it running requires constant attention. It's no accident that small businesses are often referred to as the owner's "baby". It requires almost as much attention, and at least as much money. Just like parenting, there are good days and bad days, weeks that you wish could be repeated over and over and weeks that just won't end. I've noticed that the more stress I am under, the more my imagination runs off on me. The more work I have to do, the more time I seem to spend daydreaming about happier moments and places. My husband, naturally, works the opposite way. His rising stress only corresponds with an increasing sense of impending doom. A figment of his imagination to be sure and not a fun one. For all of you who stress like he does, and for those of you who just want a visual Quaalude to relax your day I've compiled a few places and things that instantly send my imagination off the deep end. When I'm wishing I could escape my current stress and worry, these are the places I wish I could escape to. To quote Liz Lemon, "I want to go to there".

Colmar, France


Greece? I'm guessing here, but it doesn't matter, it only exists in my imagination right now anyway.

Bruano, Italy.

Just for naptime. For dinner in my imagination, I'd like to eat here:

And I'd like to sleep here:

I feel better already...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

La Cuisine

I've designed two kitchens now, the shop kitchen which was an exercise in function over style and my home kitchen. We remodeled our house almost four years ago and took what was an decent sized but outdated, hideously painted and badly organized 1955 kitchen and turned it into something useful. I probably spend more time there than any other room besides the bedroom, and that's only because I'm sleeping in the bedroom. I had two main requirements for my kitchen: a big, industrial style stove with a convection oven and hood fan (ok that may be a couple requirements right there) and lots of light. Of course, if you're going to spend lots of time in one room it helps to make it pretty to look at. I'm not looking to remodel a kitchen anytime soon, even during bbq weather, but that doesn't keep me from being inspired by other people's beautiful kitchens. Here's a little culinary eye candy of some spaces that I find inspiring.

I covet this stove and I love how they've incorporated Ikea-looking shelving so seamlessly.

Chandelier. That's all I'll say.

Ok, so it's the stove again, but it's also almost the exact same wall color as my kitchen and therefore, love.

I don't even know where to begin here. The Beams! The open fire! The stone walls!

I find this so clever. I could actually do this DIY project. Or, more likely, get my lovely husband to do it...

This photos is from Cote Maison. It is so French I probably didn't even need to mention that it's French.

This is a view into the kitchen at the Chateau de Bagnois Hotel in France. Beaujolais, I think. For any of you who have worked in hotel kitchens, you know how utterly dreamy this is. Someday I want my home kitchen to look out onto a well-lit, gorgeous stone courtyard. A girl can dream, yes?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Salad Again?!

While it may seem like I have nothing better to do than write about what we eat for dinner every Tuesday, I really have a lot going on. Trying to decipher USDA regulations and researching small scale food manufacturers takes up more time than one would think, not to mention the pie-making that happens every day. It's a wonder I'm not bored of eating in general given how much time in a day I spend thinking about food and the making of food. I think that combined with the early Spring urge to eat anything besides meat and root vegetables is what keeps leading me to salads lately. This week I was inspired by the olive bar at my grocery store. It seems like every grocery has jumped on the olive/antipasti bar bandwagon in the last couple of years, some more effectively than others. This is really a combination of a chopped salad, panzanella and an antipasti plate. Which is great because that means it's super flexible and can be altered in a variety of ways.

Here's what it includes:

Rotisserie chicken cooled and shredded
chopped romaine hearts
sliced radicchio
sliced yellow bell pepper
sliced fennel
chopped cucumber
yellow cherry tomatoes
olive bar marinated mozzarella balls, sweet-hot peppers, almond stuffed olives & marinated onion
focaccia croutons
drizzles of balsamic and olive oil

You can sub iceberg for romaine, salami for chicken, feta for mozzarella, etc. In the fall you can use beets and carrots or whatever. I bought a square of supermarket focaccia and cut it into chunks toasted them in the toaster oven. The whole thing took about ten minutes to put together and made an all encompassing dinner. I only wish it had been warm enough to eat it with a glass of pink wine in the yard.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Worknight Dinner From Scraps

Tuesday nights are always a bit of a scramble for dinner at our house. With my first grader at Grandma's until I close the shop at 7 and husband at an evening class, we often get by on grilled cheese or worse. This was, of course, never my intention and I often think I'll plan a menu for the week, making something Monday night when I have the day off that can be transformed into various healthy, quick meals for the rest of the week. I mean, that's what so many magazines tell me I can do, yes? Here's what actually happens: Monday night's dinner is either all gone or sent off as lunch. I spend Tuesday cooking or prepping pie fillings, braising meats and rolling out dough. I close the shop as quickly as possible, race to my mom's house, get my daughter, race home smelling like sausage or beer braised beef or whatever the smelliest thing at work was that day and S. says, "mom I'm STARVING! What's for dinner?" While in my head I'm thinking, "the olives on the toothpick in the martini I'm about to make," but what I say is, "let me see what we have in the fridge".
And then it's the fridge's turn. There is food in our fridge. We're not one of those houses that only use it to store condiments and juice, but often it's full of things that need preparation. You know, ingredients. Raw vegetables, eggs, random bits of leftovers that should have been thrown in the bin days before, and of course, condiments. Sometimes it holds some sort of gem that I can morph into real food and last week I got lucky. Salvaging whatever edible goods I found in the produce bin and a peek in the freezer ended up producing one of S.'s favorite dinners yet.

With no time for shaking martinis I turned on the oven and cleared some space and set up a cook's snack.

I love a salad. But only a good salad. Throwing together marginal greens and a little oil and vinegar does not a salad make for me. Luckily on this day I had the remains of green produce that had once belonged to some other recipe but happen to go together beautifully: Butter lettuce, celery and fresh tarragon.

I would say it was more of a frantic tearing than actual chopping that put those together but they still seemed to be missing something. I really wished I had an avocado, but I hardly ever have an avocado when I really need one. I opted for some feta cheese instead. I should note, though, that the feta I had was one I brought from work (I use it in the greens and feta tarts for anyone who knows the shop) and it's an Israeli feta which is creamier and milder than the Greek version we're most used to. This is a survivalist style salad, however so if you're going to make it at home, for God's sake use whatever is handy.

By this time the frozen goodies are in the oven, S. is almost out of the shower (I don't think she knows I can hear her singing when the water is on) and it's time for dressing. Now, my kid has no problem with veggies. I don't know if we're just lucky or if it's because I've always refused to make two dinners. She eats what we put on the table or she doesn't eat and I can tell you with those options she always eats. But she's still only 7 so if I'm going to make this salad truly appealing I need one special thing:

S. is putting on pajamas, I'm turning off the oven and it's time to eat.

Oh, I almost forgot to show you what's in the oven. And don't judge, it was a long day and the fact that I managed a salad and the showering of a child all at the same time deserves a visit from our friend the chicken nugget.