Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Cooking for One

One of the things I dreaded when I once again set out on my own was going back to cooking for one. It’s not that I can’t cook. If you give me a recipe I can follow it and turn out something pretty tasty but rarely are recipes for one serving. Most of the recipes I have are for 4-6 people and honestly leftovers get tiresome by the third meal. I also I have little desire to go through read and follow the directions for a recipe to whip up dinner after a long day of work. In my opinions recipes are for the weekend. It makes me miss all those days of my life living at home where there was a below from the house and magically there was a version of a home cooked meal waiting.

The last time I was out of my own I relied heavily on Lean Cuisines and canned soup. Every so often I would feel very grown up and cook myself dinner. I’d “grill” (heat up) a ham steak on my George Foreman and cook up a box of Mac & Cheese. In my mind, especially after a long day of work, boiling water for macaroni was a serious culinary operation.

Now that I’m back in my own apartment again I’m attempting to do a little better than frozen dinners and boxed Mac & Cheese. Don’t get me wrong my specialty, ham steak with mac & cheese, is still on the menu from time to time but I’m attempting to be a little healthier and diverse with my dinners.

The local farm stands have helped. I have whipped up some seriously tasty salads courtesy of those fine establishments. Just last week I was debating what to eat and was about to heat up a can of Chef Boyardee that I had purchased to prepare for a certain large storm that hit the northeast. I then remembered I had purchased spaghetti and a jar of sauce waaaay back when I first moved in.I opted for boiling my pasta rather than going for the canned variety. I was so proud of my adult behavior (It’s the little things).

My next trip to the grocery store I stepped up my game and bought a small bag of frozen meatballs. My family will vouch for me on this, I love a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Now that I’ve realized how quickly I can whip up a single plate, well let’s just say I’ve had more than my fair share of spaghetti dinners and I have yet to tire of them. Some nights I’ll just make an even bigger salad when I feel I need a really healthy dinner.

I’m hoping I can progress even further and come up with other quick single serve dinners I can throw together. I’m proud of my progress these last few weeks. I at least feel like I’m headed in the right direction. Now I just have Lean Cuisines for lunch.

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Being Bicoastal

New York City Skyline Sunset

Image by mikeleeorg via Flickr

Greetings from New Jersey! Last Thursday, I flew from Seattle to Newark in order to enjoy a nearly three week vacation in the beautiful Edison, NJ area. While I realize that this is not usually considered a highly desirable vacation destination, it serves as a fantastic home base while I hit five states in my 19 days out here.

I love Seattle, but I truly miss the East Coast. I lived in PA for 9 years, NJ for two, and NYC for two.  Seattle will always be my hometown, but there are a lot of things that I miss about the mid-Atlantic region:

Seasons:

Seattle has two seasons – cold rain (November to April) and warmer rain (May to October). While growing up, I was used to this, but when I moved to PA, I became accustomed to have four distinct seasons. I loved the warmth of the summer, the cool crispness and changing leaves of the fall, the snow in the winter, and the actual spring.  Seattle doesn’t get much snow and has a very mild climate due to its proximity to the ocean. We also have a lot of evergreen trees (thus the name the Evergreen State), so we don’t have the amazing color changing leaves. I truly miss the seasonal differences that I grew to love out East.

Food:

I think the reason that I have had success with my weight loss in the past several months is because there is nothing to eat out west. Maybe if you have a lot of money and can afford fancy or cutting edge restaurants, food in Seattle is great. However, especially living in New York, I loved being able to walk in some little hole in the wall and having a fantastic meal.  The pizza is fantastic (all we have in Seattle is chains), the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to is a little family owned place just north of Times Square, and even at your little corner deli, you knew you could get a great sandwich (Seattle loves its Subway!). If I still lived here, I don’t know that I would have lost the weight I did, but I think I would be much more gastronomically satisfied.

Getting Around:

I know I’ve discussed this before, but Seattle has horrid transportation. It’s only been in the last year or so that I have been able to get to the airport without utilizing the services of a airport shuttle company of a taxi. We finally have one light rail line that goes between downtown and the airport. Of course, this still means that I need to get downtown, which I do via commuter bus. Once I arrived in Newark, however, I got on the monorail at the airport which took me to the NJ Transit station. Four stops down the line I was at my sister’s place. Easy Peasy. Why can’t Seattle figure this out??

I do love Seattle – on a sunny day in July or August, there is no place like it. It’s great when I want to go running in the summer – none of this 90+ degree temps with 60%+ humidity. The access to the water and the mountains make it ideal for the outdoorsperson. I just wish there was a way we could take a few of the really great things about the East Coast and add them to what we’ve got in the West. Maybe I’ll just continue to be bicoastal – spend the school year in the west and the summers in the east.

Now to end the week with a little Muppet goodness…

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Next week, the Our View From Here bloggers will be taking a well-deserved break. We’ll be back Monday, July 25th with our usual posting schedule. We thank you for your continued readership!

 

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I scream, you scream…

….we all scream for ice cream!

It’s the middle of July and a good chunk of the country is in the grip of a heat wave. It seemed like a good opportunity to talk about one of my favorite things: Ice Cream.

When thinking through this blog post, I realized I can divide my life into various ice cream moments, which amused me. My first ice cream moment of any significance occurred sometime in elementary school. My parents decided to reward my sister and me with Dairy Queen ice cream for our good report cards. It became a quasi-regular tradition (can a tradition be quasi-regular??). I don’t think I received all of the ice cream I was due, but it was always a nice treat to get an ice cream for my scholarly efforts. I know some parents reward their kids with cash for good report cards, which always seemed a little weird to me. But ice cream seemed like a nice, reasonable treat for a job well-done.

My next ice cream remembrance predominately involved my grandmother. One of the towns I grew up in as a kid, Snohomish, is infamous for its antique stores. My grandmother liked to frequent these stores from time to time and since she watched my sister and me during the day while my parents were at work, invariably we had to tag along. An antique store is pretty boring for a little kid, but sometimes after we were done she would take us to the ice cream shop in town. I loved this shop. I don’t remember the name but it was a local shop that looked like it had been around since the turn of the century. My favorite part of it was that they sold blackberry ice cream, one of my all-time favorites. Somehow being dragged through the antique shops didn’t seem to be that calamitous if I was going to be given ice cream at the end.

Creamery Facebook page

My move to the East Coast brought new ice cream experiences. The State College community was fortunate enough to be blessed with two excellent ice cream institutions, Meyer’s Dairy, on the outskirts of town, and the Penn State Creamery, located in the heart of the Penn State campus. Meyer Dairy was an old, family-owned farm that also had a restaurant and dairy products for sale. Their ice cream was phenomenal, and conveniently placed just up the road from a playhouse where I did a lot of summer theatre.

The summer between high school graduation and into the spring semester of my freshman year at Penn State, I worked at the University Creamery. I blame my employment here for the bulk of my “Freshman 15.” We were allowed free ice cream on breaks….’nuff said. The Penn State Creamery has amazing ice cream. In fact, Ben & Jerry took one of the Creamery’s Ice Cream Short Courses to learn how to make ice cream, and look at them now. Even when I no longer worked at the Creamery, I still made several trips a semester to partake of their frozen delights, and pretty much every trip back since graduation has included a stop-over.
 

After graduation, when I moved to Jersey City, there happened to be another excellent, local ice cream shop around the corner from my sister’s apartment. This was about the only place on the East Coast where I’ve ever seen blackberry ice cream. In addition to the standard flavors, they also had some really creative flavors that I never had the guts to try. I don’t remember the specifics, but they were flavors like okra and sweet potato or somesuch. Call me boring, but I just like the old favorites.

Finally, in my current abode I have found What the Scoop (or Scoops as I call it) in Metuchen, NJ. This is another local shop with a million different ice cream flavors. They also make pizza, which can make a convenient dinner-dessert combo. More and more as people come into town to visit, I find us wandering over to Scoops. Oh darn.

Ice cream has also reassured me that I will likely never be an alcoholic. On a bad day, given the choice between wine and alcohol, I almost always go for the ice cream. So, I may be obese, but not an alcoholic.

 Ah Ice Cream, how I love you so. This post is making me hungry. Fortunately, I just happen to have some ice cream in the freezer….bye!!!

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Cooking for the In-Laws

I have mentioned, or perhaps alluded to, the fact that I am slightly neurotic when it comes to certain things. One of those things is entertaining. Somewhere along the line, I seem to have gotten it in my head that the worst fate that could befall upon me would be to have a lousy party with bad food. The fear is always in the back of my mind when I have friends over, but when I’m cooking for family for a holiday, it warps into a whole new level of insanity. Easter is coming up this Sunday and I’m cooking for the in-laws.

We’ve hosted Easter in years past, but we usually relied heavily upon the Honey Baked Ham Company, and augmented dinner with a few sides. This year, everything will be homemade. Preparations began (in my head) at least 6 weeks ago. I started scouring my bartending book for the perfect pre-dinner cocktail. I began talking though a potential menu with Darren. Though Darren loves to entertain, he doesn’t seem as enthusiastic about Easter as he does with Christmas Eve. I think it might have to do with the fact that Christmas Eve is steeped in tradition, and so he does a lot of the heavy lifting for that holiday. Easter doesn’t have the same traditions in this family as Christmas so I guess it’s less interesting.

A few weeks ago, I had an Easter dinner “trial run.” Since I hadn’t made any of the dishes I was planning on serving, I thought it prudent to try them out first. By in large, it was a success, though the cranberry quinoa pilaf got the ax (might save that for Thanksgiving though!). The drink that made the cut was the Toblerone (coffee flavored liqueur, hazelnut liqueur and Irish Cream, topped with milk…..yum). Dinner will be ham, Tuscan vegetables, roasted red potatoes, asparagus, rolls…..and something else I’m forgetting.

This is my problem. I plan and plan and plan, and invariably I forget something stupid, like buying dressing for a salad or putting out serving spoons or heating up the rolls. Even when making a list I forget to put something on my list, or lose my list, or forget to read one of the items on my list. Of course, I’m the only one bothered by such things. My in-laws are perfectly lovely people who wouldn’t bat an eye at ordering a pizza if I had an absolute catastrophe. But, for as liberated and progressive I like to think myself, there’s still this seemingly innate biological need to be able to host a successful holiday meal; to be a gracious, charming host and to provide my family with a wonderful meal that they’ll go tell other relatives about; to prove to myself and my family that I’m a capable adult that can make hosting a holiday seem effortless, like all the adults in my family always seemed to do. Or maybe it’s just an in-law thing – I have to prove I was a good match for their son. I dunno. It really doesn’t make any sense since I know my inlaws love and accept me. But just the same, it doesn’t seem to help me from getting a bit nervous when a holiday rolls around. I’m sure everything will go perfectly fine, or at least fine enough, and we’ll all have a nice time. But, if things do start to go poorly, I’ll just keep pouring Toblerones.

May all of our readers have a Happy Passover/Easter/Tuesday, where ever your persuasions lie.

Announcement: The week of April 25, Our View From Here will be holding its first virtual book club!  We will all be reading, and commenting on, the book Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruen.  Read along with us!
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