Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mind-Swimming and Mind-Diving

Things have been pretty crazy 'round here.
Shady Shot of Caramelized Cabbage & Roasted Roots!
I had the first test-run cooking class on April 5th, and the second on May 3rd. Both menus showcased Scottish cuisine, and were a blast to put on. I also hosted a little dinner party on April 13th, between a work trip to Memphis and another to Omaha, and oh- let's not forget that I was in DC for my birthday (April 20th) before jetting out to Italy for a week's vacation.

"A little month," as Hamlet says.

I've been in a state that I call "Mind-Swimming," inspired by the feeling that I am awash in details, projects, and ideas. My mind literally feels like it is navigating water because it is so crowded in there!

Last Saturday though, I had a day of "Mind-Diving," meaning I chose one topic for a "deep dive." I woke up at 4 AM after a dream and decided to jump into some behind-the-scenes blog work that I've been wrestling with (with the happy assistance of friend and blog coach Ethan Waldman of Cloud Coach). It continued until about 5 PM, and I made some good progress.

This swimming/diving metaphor is another way of expressing Emilie's (of Puttylike fame) concept of the Three C's: that there is some technique involved in organizing your time according to the type of activity. Is the activity one of creation, consumption, or connection? This concept sort of blew my mind a few months ago, and I've been using it as a touchstone for getting things done in a way that doesn't burn me out- highly recommended.

Speaking of burnout, while I've been doing all this 'swimming' through ideas, and projects, and research, you may well ask what sustains me? The answer to that, and what gives me confidence that this venture will be a success, is that I keep doing it.

That's right. I'm using the insanity to prove I'm not insane.

Of course, what I mean is that if I didn't enjoy the cooking, hosting, planning, researching, why would I keep doing it? It gives this introvert energy, and that's the secret of following your bliss, folks.

It'll probably change and evolve, since that's what multipotentialites do, and that's okay! I'll be keeping a weather eye on the horizon, a firm hand on the rudder, and I'll adapt.

But for now, this is the hot ticket! :-)

I invited two couples of friends over for this Friday night dinner, and I knew when I did so that it needed to be creative. One of the husbands is a fancy cook. He had also previously commented on there not being enough food at one of my dinners, by which he meant the main dish. Lesson learned in my book, and so I wanted to be a little more impressive this time.
I started with sweet potatoes, as I often do (love this Ode to the Sweet Potato from Tasty Kitchen). I added paprika. I roasted with olive oil and salt.
I bought taco shells and shredded (the horror!) jack cheese, thinking of a potential different recipe, but collapsed them into a topping/stuffing/filling bar instead: with this red cabbage with apples recipe being the long-simmered and aromatic star.
I combined some unusual bedfellows when composing hors d'oeuvres: Saltines, black olive paste, and boquerones (marinated white anchovies).

The boquerones, by the way, were inspired by the tapas at Estadio- also delicious- but bought at Vace, an Italian delicatessen at Cleveland Park, much less expensively. Score!

There were a lot of choices in little bowls around the table, which was a little awkward to pass, but tasted good in the mouth. The husband previously referred to said that it was unusual to offer red cabbage as a taco filling.

Good observation.

We like doing unusual here.

Do try the red cabbage recipe- it's a smash hit, as well as cheap and easy (earning it a place on my next Favorites List). Let me know if you like it, or find good variations, in the comments!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The 411 on the TLT Cooking School

I'm happy to hear of the interest in the armchair-travel style cooking courses (and thankful to all the friends spreading the word! :-), so I thought I would provide a few more details about what the night will include.

Pub Short Ribs, an American view

  • Three-course (minimum) meal consisting of traditional researched regional food, adapted from authentic recipes
  • Quality organic, seasonal, and local produce and other ingredients, as much as possible

Ah, the simple joys of hosting!
  • Being hosted in my home, an apartment in the Logan Circle neighborhood
  • Explanation of cooking techniques involved in the preparation of the meal
  • Tidbits of historical and cultural interest about the food, the region, and the culture
Another theme to look forward to...

I'm really looking forward to diving into the next research project, which will involve a certain boot-shaped mass of land... I will say no more!
...except to say that having just returned from a week in Napoli and Sicily, they will be influential resources!

If you're interested and live in the DC area, please feel free to drop me a line at margaret [at] taste-life-twice [dot] com and I'll be happy to accommodate you!

If you're interested but living outside the DC Metro area, tell those you know about the idea!

Also, I take suggestions, and would love to chat about food and/or travel, so don't hold back in the comments.
Ciao for now~!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TLT Cooking School Now Open for Business!

Yes, you read that right.
As part of my Creative Endeavor Year of 2012, I am pursuing my passions for teaching, guiding, cooking and travel... by offering cooking courses!
I have been ever so excited about this since January, but managed to keep mum as I planned, prepared, and conducted two trial runs, one with friends, one with friends-of-friends whom I didn't know (I hosted strangers!).

Both trial runs went very well, and my lovely guinea pigs gave me great feedback for how to tweak this or that aspect, which I have incorporated into my menu and planning process. I am SO READY.
The theme, and the way I incorporated the passion for travel into this activity, was Scotland. Ah yes, you do remember, I was a little obsessed with it last year? Well, it didn't go away. Apparently I'm marked for life.
And it's not just Scotland. While I had a marvelous time pouring over books of Scottish cultural history and traditional receipt-books, I am just as excited to do the same for other locales I have visited and have some connection with, such as Turkey, Ireland, France, and let's not forget... Italy! (coming soon)
But for now, it's Scotland. The menu reflected traditional peasant cuisine, with some shortcuts for practicality and taste.


Hors d'oeuvre: Oatcakes with Cheese, Preserves, & Honey 

Vegetable Accompaniments: 'Neeps and Tatties,' Fresh Green Salad

Main Course: Herring Sauteed in Oatmeal 

Dessert: Millionaire's Shortbread

The shortcuts, you will observe, involve the toppings for the oatcakes, and the millionaire's shortbread (a bit of an anachronism when considered in context with the other dishes, but I didn't hear anyone complaining).
I was aiming for good, peasant food that used some different ingredients and techniques than the ones we are used to here in the U.S.
I searched out local, seasonal, organic ingredients, and got most of the way there on most of the dishes (let me know when the eastern U.S. gets back in the sugar business, though). All in all, it's been a thrilling and rewarding experience to be able to pass on some knowledge learned about a place I love and a cuisine I am very much interested in. Win-Win, all the way.

And so, I am putting out the good vibes to all you who may stop to read here from time to time. Do you know people who live in D.C. that are interested in cooking and travel? Do you live in D.C? Are you looking for something to do on a weeknight other than go out to eat or get Thai take-out?

I would love to host you and your friends, or you and your soon-to-be friends, for an evening of cooking, baking, learning, and of course... EATING! Because let's not forget the primacy of the eating experience, and that it is what brings us together so often, in so many ways. Mangia!
And to finish, the gallery of pictures of Millionaire's Shortbread, the rich man's Twix Bar (shortbread, caramel, and chocolate)... how can you NOT want to gobble it all up??
If you're interested, email me at Margaret's email or twitterpate me at @tastelifetwice where I like to pass on others' great content on food, life, and travel as well.

See you here (subscribe by feed / email) & there (Twitter)!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Showers of Flowers

It has been a while since I posted, but I promise you, wheels have been turning.

Short version: Birthday, Italy, Cooking Course Trial Runs, and a Big, Fat Cold

While the dreaded cough is still rattling around in my lungs, I still have to go back to work, to delight all my coworkers- ha!

Meanwhile, here are the shots of cherry blossoms and other blossoms I managed to capture during April. Such a short time, it's such a delight to get these glimpses each year.
Just breaking in...

One of my favorites: wisteria! Smells divine...

This made me think of an Indian wedding, with all the white confetti... with evidence a granny cart or something has passed by.

We sure have been having some crazy weather here, and I hear in other places too... this week it's back to cool temps and overcast mugginess. Ugh. Here's to brighter weather!

...and an update on all I've been up to (it's a lot) in the past few weeks.