Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Food Daydream #4: Poaching Eggs: Creating The Perfect Egg Cloud

You know how they say the mark of a great chef is when they've mastered all the forms of eggs?

Yeah. I can't do eggs.

When I scramble them, it is with absolute certainty that I will ruin the pan. It will be soaked in soapy water and sitting on the stove for days before the egg residue will finally come off. This happens regardless of if it's a nonstick pan, or if I use a whole stick of butter.

Yep. This pan is dead for 4 days.

My last attempt at boiled eggs was a complete tragedy. I tried to make soft boiled eggs, followed the instructions, came back after they had cooled down, to... Cold eggs with runny whites.

THE HORROR!

The last time I tried hard boiled eggs, *sigh* I murdered 8 eggs. I cooked them following the recipe to a T: ten minutes of boiling, let them cool down under running water,  and the whites were still runny.

My eggs never even saw it coming...

The last time I attempted to fry an egg was probably the saddest of all. I let the egg cook, the whites turned... white, and I honestly thought I had too much oil in the pan. But no, the egg stuck to the bottom when I went to flip it, and then the yolk broke, I screamed in horror, and it become this gross mash of non-scrambled white with that weird crispy edge that has the oddest taste and is sooo gross, with a hard yolk... It was a cruel and unusual butchering.

It looked like this, but far, far worse.
 

It was after that fried egg, that I completely gave up and placed the Irishman in charge of eggs, (just like he is in charge of potatoes and all meats that go in the oven. You shouldn't need to ask why.), claiming that I would never again mass murder the innocent eggs in the fridge!

But then, something happened. I was always extremely intimidated by the poached egg. They are my favorite egg and I get them at every restaurant that serves them. They are the only egg that tastes pure. There's no oil, no fat, just egg. AND as my luck turned out, they're the only egg I can cook.

That's right, I can't cook other eggs to save my life, but the egg that is well-known for being difficult, easy breezy baby.

Made without oil, poached eggs are a cloud of perfect whites surrounding a golden yolk from heaven. I always slice open the top of the egg, to create a honey pot of molten gold to dip the corners of my toast into. Poached eggs are the only eggs that stay WARM the entire meal. You break one molten yolk and eat slowly, and when you're done you have a second MOLTEN yolk to break.

Similar looking to Burrata, come to think of it.

If I was a breakfast person, I would eat them every single morning with a slice of wheat toast smotha'd in buddah.

I'm not. I rarely eat breakfast, but I am a brunch person.

So here I am to share the perfect poached egg and what to eat with it. In a restaurant, I can't ever look away from Eggs Benedict. It's a sick obsession; if it's on the menu I can't actually purchase anything else. It's not an option.

Variations to place a poached egg atop:
- Mashed avocado on wheat toast
- On a bed of greens and sliced tomato
- On a hash of potatoes, peppers and onions.
- ANY pork product
- A spicy tomato sauce ( or poached within the tomato sauce)
- Black beans and chorizo

Basically, all foods are improved by poached eggs. But please do the right thing: All poached eggs must be eaten with toast and a sprinkle of s&p.

At home, my favorites are vegetables. My go-to is crispy, roasted asparagus with salty parmesan cheese. So today, I will share the perfect poached egg and my recipe for the easiest roasted asparagus in the world.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound asparagus (Cleaned & trimmed)         
  • 4 large eggs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Parmesan cheese, thinly shaved
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 TBSP White vinegar

Instructions:
Eggs:
  • Fill a pot with water with about 4 inches of water.
  • Pour one TBSP of white vinegar in.
  • Crack an egg into a small bowl.  
  • When the saucepan begins bubble a little more than a simmer (tiny bubbles. You want the water to be moving, but NOT a rolling boil)
  • Take a spoon and create a whirlpool in the water.
  • When the whirlpool is going on it's own, pour the cracked egg into the direct center as quickly as possible.
Should look like this.
Then this.
  • Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  • Don't. Touch. Anything. Don't let the water get too hot. (If it looks like the egg is sticking to the bottom, when the white forms a little bit tap it with your spoon.)
  • At the end of three minutes I like to fill a large bowl with hot water and transfer the egg.
  • Repeat until all eggs are cooked.
Asparagus:
  • Heat oven to 350*
  • Cover a baking sheet with tin foil.
  • Throw asparagus on the sheet, drizzle with olive oil, s&p.
  • Put in oven for about 10 minutes until asparagus is tender.
  • Cover asparagus with shaved parmesan, turn off the oven and place asparagus back inside to keep warm..
To Serve:

  • Transfer eggs with slotted spoon onto a paper towels to drain excess water.
  • Plate asparagus, top with two poached eggs, then s&p.
  • Indulge with buttered toast and a glass of champagne.
Should resemble this. But with worse lighting.
 
All my love,
L.B.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Taking a Breath

You know when you burn out? Like a star, you run out of gas and just sort of float through your life? Excitement is gone, life is dull, the house is a mess and bills are piling up?

That was a lot of September for me. Never have I agreed so much with the song, "Wake Me Up When September Ends."

This sort of problem is not hard to fix, but mustering the energy can get a little rough.

Watching the sunset.
Opening a book.
Taking a walk.

Basically anything that isn't a computer can reboot your thoughts, but the best fix is nature.

Sometimes a beautiful picture as the background on your monitor can do the trick. Ever since I moved to foggy San Francisco I've had a soft spot for sunflowers. For if I can't SEE the sun, at the very least I need to have something bright and cheerful around me:

"Don't sunflowers follow the sun? Hence their name? This must be a sunrise...
I have so many questions."

Other times a picture just won't cut it.

Being surrounded by tall buildings and gloomy skies, with the added strain of a disgusting home, can seriously drain a person. Especially when the moon is covered by fog and there is a super blood moon in the sky that everyone in the United States can see - Except you.

So, I spent my weekend deep cleaning the dusty shack I call home until the tile gleamed like the Treehouse it really is!

Pictured: Not My Apartment

I don't like cleaning. But I am working very hard to fix this block in my brain. Yesterday was one of the very few days I got into it. I bought these sweet sponge cloth things that are like... Super paper towels. Usually I clean with paper towels, which become filthy and disintegrate, but these things were so cool! Anyway, this isn't a plug so moving on.

My house is shiny and clean. YAY!

Then the Irishman mentioned the beach and off we were to the sandy dunes and icy water.

So what's next?

Ah, yes. So my phone is old, and when I went to update to IOS9, the entire thing went kaput. It became a useless white blank screen with the somewhat mocking, "Slide to Unlock" frozen on it. It was a flashlight, which meant I was offline.

DEAR GOD HOW DO I MANAGE?! No interwebs? No tweets? No repetitive FB posts that we all saw three years ago that your Aunt Delilah saw for the first time and found HYSTERICAL?

"Get it??! The cat is GRUMPY!"

It was strange. I felt both anxiety and peace. I got *really* into The Day After Tomorrow that was playing on TV. Normally if I'm watching TV at all, I'll watch part of it, turn on my phone, get distracted, miss a lot of the movie, wish there was something more interesting and less expensive to do, etc.

But no phone meant no distractions. This is the third time I've seen that movie and I think this time I was the most involved with the characters. I was horrified when we learned she had the leg injury. It was honestly like I was watching it for the first time.

As it turns out, while losing all of my contacts, all my cat photos, super important selfies, and notes on my phone, was terrible -- I felt relief. I didn't have to keep track of them anymore. Sort of like organizing your closet by throwing everything away. Even though you still think of stuff you miss, it's a bit of a relief. You don't have all of the baggage weighing down on you.

While in this frozen internet state, I had a chance to really think. I kept auto-grabbing my flashlight phone, even when I was watching something I liked. A habit I had created that was rather toxic.

Without it, I was looking at the sunset. I was interacting with the Irishman. I felt myself truly living instead of becoming part-human/ part-Twitter. The twitter/internet side of me was emaciated and barely living. An addicted machine that needed the next quick fix of entertainment.

Anyway, I felt like I was burning out. When I read over my last few blog posts it became quite clear I was definitely burning out. I needed a break.

With a break from the internet; A break from constantly updating with nothing interesting to update, I was able to remember what was truly important. I started to appreciate parts of my life I had been ignoring. Small things. Like the satisfaction of a housework. Finding the grimiest part of the bathroom and going to town (It's behind the toilet. It's a terrible, terrifying place, but you don't know happiness until you know that part of the bathroom is clean).

The feeling of boredom. What your brain does with boredom is amazing. I was bored, so I cleaned, and I made dinner, and all the while I sang a poor man's version of Phantom of the Opera.

Is there anything better than the sound onions make when they hit hot oil? The smell as they soften? It fills the entire house and tells you and your loved one's you'll be eating a home cooked meal soon.

I appreciated the lack of stimulation, because then the stimulation and entertainment came from ME. Not my surroundings; not faceless internet jokes. I realized how cool it was, and remembered funny and entertaining I am, so I treated myself to the fancy new Toasted Graham latte because I love Graham crackers and I'm pretty sure they created it just for me.

I think I ran too far out into the internet. I got swept up into constant, addictive stimulation. When in reality, being bored is probably the greatest thing you can do for your creative brain. The things your brain will come up with when you're bored will SHOCK you.

I'm working on a 3-Part short story now that crept out of the lack of stimulation. It's a creepy one, and I'm really excited about it. It's untitled at this point and I can't force a title. A title comes like a lightning bolt. So without the title I can't tell you anything else about it. Just that it's good. So stay tuned for Part One in a few days while I flesh it out.

And go outside today.

Boring nature is calling you. Go be bored in it.


Or if you can't, stare at this nature simulator.

All my love,
L.B.






Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Trouble With Inspiration

I feel that one of the hardest parts of keeping a blog is finding things I'm passionate about writing . . . about. If I don't find it interesting, why on earth would I expect anyone else to?

If I were an overflowing wealth of passion and inspiration, I think it would be exhausting. Writing a post isn't like writing a story. A story is, again, settling into my imagination and seeing how far I can stretch. Blog posts are a mixture of essays from college, news articles and random bits of ideas that I find interesting. So I guess, nonfiction.

Which is *fine* but a lot less fun. To me.

When writing nonfiction I find myself burning out. Keeping up the inspiration and finding new things to share when I am inspired is like, coming up with recipe ideas when I'm hungry. THOUSANDS come to mind and it's easy as pie - (Get it?!) - so topic after topic flies into my mind. I write a few sentences and then keep running until the next topic floods my mind.


Pie.
 
Stoking that fire is hard. Keeping the momentum is hard. What is inspiration and how do you find it when it's gone? What is the muse?

So right now I have about ten blog posts tucked away that are about 50% done. They're fine but I am looking for that final burst of inspiration to round out the idea. What emotion am I conveying in the post? Am I frustrated? Angry? Happy? Sad? Which emotion do I display for the reader? Which form does  my passion take? What form does *your* passion take?

I find myself in a weird balancing act through most of my writing. My fairytales are sickeningly sweet, which means my short stories tend to be exceedingly dark. I write about food because, well, we all have eat three times a day, and when I first moved out I was broke and got bored eating salads. So I'd hunt down recipes online and teach myself things, (or really, The Food Network taught me things).

But where does inspiration come from? It doesn't come from inspirational meme's, that's for sure. Seeking inspiration is not the same as avoiding depression. Actually, inspirational meme's posted in public are a serious cry for help. Keep an eye on those friends and check in with them.

Exhibit A

The original definition of inspiration: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

But the second, less commonly used definition, is: the drawing in of breath; inhalation.

The combination of those two ideas is rather profound: Inspiration is breath.

While exhaling is burning fuel or the drudgery of day-to-day life, inspiration is inhaling new ideas.

Exhaling is the past.
Inspiration is the future.

We discuss inspiration as this fleeting moment that we chase after; a constant searching for this idea, this feeling that makes us burst with something to do or say. It causes us to write down our constantly changing thoughts on topics and try to make sense of the tumultuous, unsteady feeling in the pit of our stomachs.

Inspiration is the breath of life.

Inspiration is the almost violent pressure that causes poor men to fight to become rich, causes soldiers to run into battle, causes artists to imagine wind, and writers to create magic. Inspiration causes technology, leadership, religion, and discovery. Inspiration has caused every imaginable shift in the human world.

 I just really liked this photo.

And then it dies on you. It's not writer's block so much, it's just, the wind calming the sails. Stagnant air. Instead of speeding forward into the open ocean, you sit with a slow breeze on a glassy lake. While it's frustrating, it gives you time to look over what you've accomplished. It gives you time to make sure you're heading in the right direction.

Introspective retrospection. Yes, I'll call it that.

I believe we all truly want to inspire others. Be it to inspire others to act like you, or inspire others to jump ahead of you. I don't think we all sit here and hope that we'll be the best in anything. What a terrifying thought, for if you're the best at anything, it ends with you.

I'm afraid of the people that revel in others hiccups and downfalls. Unless the person failing is downright evil, I don't think that most of us are so selfish that we look upon anothers failure as a personal achievement.

We all want people to be proud of us. We want ourselves and others to feel important.

The best way to feel important is to act on inspiration. Even if no one notices, use your inspiration.

I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. Change is necessary, inevitable, and stagnation is draining. Repetition is constructive and boring. I don't believe in writing for the sake of writing. This blog will never be one of predictable, "Here's Your Post" Tuesday's!

That's not me, I don't have that kind of rhythm and when I go to form it, my spirit dies.

So instead, I bring you ideas, plans, analogies, and comparisons, that were brought to me via pure and perfect inspiration. I won't be sharing some stupid idea about a man I saw crossing the street, unless it's absolutely hilarious and I can re-produce the circumstance.

My muse isn't steady and predictable. My muse is ever-changing.

Sometimes my muse is my anger or frustration.

Sometimes it's pleasure and beauty and ideals.

And sometimes, every so often, it's cheese.


All my love,
L.B.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Leading Men - The Abusive Hero is Overdone

I get it. He's the bad boy. He's dreamy because he's mysterious and has a dark past. He loves you because he's always wondering where you are. He's protecting you. He's strong and he cares about your hobbies. He is damaged and can kill and hurt whomever he wants, but not you. He would never hurt someone as cool and funny and understanding as you. He's troubled and only you can fix him.


"And he sparkles!"

Okay, come on. Edward is 117 or something ridiculous (I refuse to look this up) and he chooses to spend his time in high school... trying to date a boring girl with next to no personality. She's literally a glove of a human that any girl can insert herself into.

These "cool bad" guys in real life are attractive until a certain age, then you realize they are going no where with their lives and they are creepy beyond belief. These "mysterious" men, are truly just boring men with nothing to contribute to intelligent conversation, so they've learned being *attractive* is easier than gaining a personality and being *tough* is easier than being a man.
(Don't even get me started on the *nice* guy, I may do a piece on him soon. All the "Guys" are pathetic, be a MAN.)

The bad boy isn't protecting you and watching out for you, he's stalking you. If it was real life, there would be way more than you want to actually experience along with that stalking. Jealousy of your guy friends? Jealousy of your girl friends? Jealousy of any time you spend away from him? Calling you at work? Sneaking into your house without your knowledge and watching you while you sleep... (I'm looking at you, Eddie)

There is a fine line. The bad guy in the film/book/fantasy has some redeeming quality, because the writer added it. The abusive guy is forced by the writer to be saved by the woman in love with him. It makes for a promising and dramatic story as they all end happily ever after.

The bad boy in real life, is probably a sociopath, with severe emotional control issues, preying on the young because no one their age will date them. They aren't mysterious, they're depressed and angry. Why? Because they were probably emotionally abused as kids. So the abused become the abuser and the cycle continues. On, and on, and on... But never does the story end with black eyes and police knocking on the door.

These romanticized men do not exist. The one's that do exist are a joke. They are not the written version and you are looking at years of therapy for the poor fools who decide to date them. Or, they may never get out of the abusive relationship, but I don't want to travel down that dark analogy road with you. I will share this, one in four women and one in seven men will be abused in their lifetime.

Do you really want to help that statistic along by making it seem cool? There is an outpouring of support for the gender bias, and here you are, making a terrible, terrible mistake and pushing the social norm in the opposite direction for the sake of your own sick fantasy. At what cost?

So now, in the 21st Century, the women have the same rights as men (ish), but they pine for an abusive relationship in books?

Cognitive dissonance the world over is at a standstill.

Let's look at the two most obvious choices for the "bad boy": Edward from Twilight, and... *sigh* "Christian" Grey IS Edward from Twilight (it started as Twilight fan fiction. Don't ask me why I know that) so let's go back a little bit farther to...



This guy.

Belle's father is threatened and thrown into a dungeon for.. trespassing. She only manages to free her father when she says she'll go into the dungeon instead... Then the beast threatens her and screams at her until she runs away and luckily (?) he follows her and saves her life from wolves. She nurses him back to health and ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, Stockholm Syndrome has won over Belle's young, never-been-in-love, heart. Her father is terrified and tries to save her by telling all the townsfolk about how his daughter was kidnapped by a BEAST, and from here the story gets fuzzy... Luckily, there are talking inanimate objects to clarify to the audience that we are on the beast's side. *Phew* That was close, guys.

 
"You should be ashamed of yourselves." 

The romanticized abusive relationship is terrifying to me. Please stop writing these books. You may have some weird fantasy about them, but do you really want your daughter or your niece, or any girl for that matter, actually dating someone like the Beast? Or Edward, the million year old vampire that watches her sleep, makes her lie to her parents and gives up her LIFE for his child?

Sure! Throw in the supernatural and everything is happy and dandy!

Wait.

Do you want them to question their morals? Do you want them to pine for an emotionally stunted man with a depressing past and an awkward way with words? Who can't tell a woman he loves them? Who doesn't understand them and wants to be fawned over? Who doesn't actually care about them?

It shocks me that *this* relationship is socially acceptable and *loved*. It's racy and can't be allowed in schools, but fear not! Twilight is written by a Mormon and it's just fine for them to be together as long as they are married first.

Abuse is outright acceptable, but one hint of magic or a "potty mouth" sends everyone into an uproar, demonizing the books in the media. They call on libraries around the world to ban these satanic books. Blood sucking monsters are far better than witch's magic. Which, in their infinite wisdom, they haven't quite realized that banning a book is the surest way to sell a book.

The clearest examples to me are Harry Potter (again, I know, just... let it happen), and then the newest one I've seen is, "Captain Underpants." It's OUTBANNED 50 Shades of Grey?

REALLY?! Captain Underpants is NOT COOL for your kid to read? The same kid that is making those same jokes behind your back every single day?! This is the same kid that hated reading until this book came along and made him think, "Hey, they write books for me too!"

Congratulations half-wit, take the book that understands your kid away and now your kid hates reading. At least they'll grow up to be just like you! Hand them Beauty and the Beast and let's teach kids how to emotionally beat a woman into submission. Good job parents, you've sure done it!

I'm getting distracted... Back to the point.

Now here I feel like someone is going to say, "But the healthy relationship is boring. A healthy relationship won't sell books."

THAT'S WHAT THE ANTAGONIST IS FOR!

Some Disney examples incase you forgot:

 

Stop confusing the two! You don't need an abusive blob to save the girl, you need a HERO. In fact, why not turn it completely on its head? Why is the man the hero at all? That story has been written over and over again since the beginning of TIME. It's over. It's boring.

Let it die... Let it die with the old stereotypes of women. Let it fall by the wayside and let our daughters grow up frowning on our bad judgment. Create a generation of strong leaders who don't need no man to save them.

We are strong, independent women.

HEAR US ROAR!


All my love,
L.B.