23 September 2009

Proof that I can use a kitchen when I put my mind to it

Perhaps some of you know about my lack of cooking experience. I did not grow up in a household that did a lot of cooking, so it's not that I don't enjoy doing it, it's just that cooking a meal doesn't come as naturally to me as it might to some people. Also, generally speaking, when someone does something cool in the kitchen, it's rather like magic to me. As all of my former roommates can tell you, I made them each teach me how to make something (whether I retained all of those skills is a different story...)

So I'm now living in a place that has a very large garden with lots of vegetables growing in it. AND, while I was in graduate school, I enacted a policy of not refusing free food; ergo, since I now have access to lots of free vegetables growing in this garden, I have not only picked them but I've been having a good time trying new ways of preparing them. The photo below shows some of the bounty I got from the garden, including Roma and yellow tomatoes, lemon cucumbers (those yellow things at the top left), zucchini, beets, and basil.

One of the more obvious meal solutions was to slice up the tomatoes, add the whole leaf basil, and pour some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top, with a pinch of salt. Delicious! Another dish was a beet salad that I made with the majority of the beets you see in this photo. To be clear, there are many, many beets.

BUT, I wanted to make something up, so I decided to try a pasta dish, since I had enough basil to make pesto. I will now attempt to write out my recipe in case you would like to try it. I promise it was good!

Auntie Em's Pink Pasta (it has a ring to it, right?)
Makes 3-4 servings
  • 1 cup basil pesto (if you want to make it fresh like I did, combine 2 cups fresh basil, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts, 3 medium sized garlic cloves - minced, and salt + pepper to taste in a food processor)
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped lemon cucumber (or another light vegetable of your choice; corn would work too)
  • 1 cup chopped beets (prepare the beets by boiling or baking, and skin them before chopping)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 2 cups rotini pasta
  • 1/2 cup-ish of romano-parmesan cheese blend
Here's a photo of the ingredients I procured from the garden after preparing the beets and basil pesto to get them ready for final cooking (unfortunately we don't grow spinach so I had to get that from a bag):

Boil rotini pasta in salted water until tender to your liking; drain, place into large serving dish, and cover. Set aside.

In a skillet, combine pesto, spinach, zucchini, and cucumber over medium heat and stir. Fry vegetables in pesto until softened and spinach is kind of wilty (like spinach is supposed to look when you fry it in a skillet). When the combination is almost ready, add beets in and stir. The beets have already been cooked, essentially, so they just need to be warmed.

Finally, mix the vegetable-pesto combination in with the pasta in serving dish. And yes, the beets will start to make everything pink (thus the name of the dish). It should look roughly like this:

When everything is all mixed up, dish it out and sprinkle romano-parmesan cheese blend on top and serve. Voila! Delicious pink pasta!

Whew. Bet you never thought you'd find a recipe here, huh? :o)

18 September 2009

Things to do in the Pacific Northwest when you're unemployed

...Well I'm not sitting still, that's for sure. It's probably easier if I just show you the pictures and tell you about them, rather than try to explain all of this.

1)My friend Laura came out to the West Coast to help me move my stuff, and also to enjoy some of the sights in and around Portland. First we went to Cannon Beach and saw Haystack Rock:

Here's a photo of one of the spiders that seems to be everywhere out here. Please, someone tell me this thing isn't harmful to humans...

And I saw a dog that I wanted to take home with me...

2)We also took a drive through the Columbia River Gorge to see Multnomah Falls, and later, the Vista House. Very pretty!

These are the falls...

...And this is the Vista House. So named for its amazing view, I would guess.

3) Later, after Laura had left and it rained a bit, I met a slug on the back patio. Look at this size of this dude!

4) And then there's this project that I'm working on: I'm sewing again. I hope this turns out better than the last time I tried to recycle a t-shirt....

09 September 2009

Happy 09/09/09!

In honor of the day's awesome date, I decided to do a Wordle, based on my del.icio.us tags. Voila! Happy nine-nine-nine everyone!

08 September 2009

Scenes from dusk

I haven't really been that interesting lately. Except for the part where I went down to Southern California - just a few days after the massive Station Fire started eating up the San Gabriel Mountains - to retrieve the majority of my belongings and move them up to Portland. I was trying to come up with a reason to blog, and I found it in a couple of pictures taken from my iPhone.

Observe: this first photo is taken on August 30, as the Station Fire raged just north of Pasadena. It looks like a volcano erupting, no?

...And now take a look at this photo, which was taken from my new bedroom. It's hard to tell (because the iPhone isn't exactly a top-rate camera) but the sun is framed by plants and trees. It's quite a lovely view.

So, yeah. I've definitely experienced a recent change in scenery. Not too bad!