Thursday, September 26, 2013

Confession Time

It's confession time again.  I have to admit that I have a small problem.  I'm teetering on an addiction to. . .brace yourselves now.  Homemade kale chips.  I know, I know kale chips??  What am I some kind of nutrition zealot?  I don't think I know a single person who actually eats them.  Kind of like prunes. 

I experimented with making kale chips a few years ago, but I over-salted them, so they weren't very appealing. Kind of left a well, salty taste in my mouth so I didn't attempt it again until the other day.  Kale is great to add to soups, but eating it on its own takes a little spiffing.  It's not really a vegetable you'd want to eat raw.

I picked up some kale last week for a potato with kale & spinach soup I made, and I held some back so I could give making kale chips another shot. - And that's when my fixation began.

First of all, they're so easy to make.  All you have to do is tear the leaves from the stems (into bite-sized pieces) and toss them with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I like to use freshly ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Then, you spread the leaves in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. 

Now I know kale chips are most definitely not everyone's cup of tea.  They have a very distinct flavor and can be on the potent side, so I totally get it when people turn their noses up at them.  Hell, until recently I always thought of kale as just a garnish.  I remember waiting tables when I was in college, and getting a lecture from the restaurant manager about picking the plumpest, greenest piece of kale to garnish the plate.  I never gave much thought to doing anything else with kale besides giving a dish a little color to look pretty.

Tossed in oil, coated with salt & pepper and ready to bake!
And now. . .I'm completely fixated on these damn chips!  I can't get enough of that crunch and flavor.  It's weird, you have one, and they become like potato chips, you just can't stop eating them.  I made a tray and literally stood over the stove munching on every last chip until there was nothing left.  It took all of 5 minutes to hoover my way through the batch.

So of course, I had to make another batch the next day.  Which I managed to put in a bowl and respectably eat sitting down. (Instead of just leaning over the counter and stuffing my face)  Classy, no?

Don't think I don't have plans to procure more kale tomorrow and make yet another batch.  Because as I've mentioned, I have a slight problem.  I bet they'd be good with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on them, too.  I've reached a point where I put freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on almost all savory foods I eat.  Hey, just ask Mario Batali - it's the king of cheeses.  I'm not going to argue with the master.

So, I've developed a bit of an addiction.  Better to be infatuated with constantly eating a substantially nutritious, but somewhat obscure leafy green than partaking in any number of other less than healthy pursuits, right?

Other than my new-found kale chip preoccupation, we're in full on prepare for winter mode around here.  I've been bulking up my fun winter hat collection.  Because I have to replace my flip flop hoarding with some other clothing item, apparently.  Possibly a subject for another post.  In the meantime, don't be afraid to branch out and give some kale chips a try.  It's in season all winter long!

Ta-ta for now.
Mmmmm...kale chips.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Two Favorite Things This Week

The hubby sent me a link to this oh-so-hipstery vegan recipe website, so I was skimming through some of the recipes the other day. - I stumbled upon a chickpea salad recipe that I decided to experiment with for lunch.  Holy cow, was it good!  The recipe is from Post Punk Kitchen.  I'm not going to list the step by step here, just click the link for the recipe.  And then you can immediately feel less than hip, punk, and vegan after you poke around her site for a few minutes.

Seriously, the chickpea salad was a nice little lunch deviation. - Give it a try if you like chickpeas, you won't be disappointed!  I added some curry when I made it to give it a little more oomph and it turned out yummy.  I read someone else's freestyle version of it in the comments, and they used yogurt and lemon juice instead of mayonnaise.  Good substitution for those non-mayo people out there.  Who I'll never quite get.  No judgement, but mayo is like bacon and cheese - in reasonable quantities it makes everything better! 

I love that wudger face.  That's right, he's a wudger.
Of course, I don't have any pictures of the final product because I didn't realize I was going to blog about it this week.  Oh well.  Here's a lovely picture of Cheety the Wonderpup instead.  Who I'm sure would eagerly partake of some chickpea salad if offered a taste.

Alright, it's radical departure from the subject at hand time.  Ready?  We're jumping from lunch recipes to a book review.  Just keeping you on your toes, plus it's the second part of my two favorite things this week.  I just finished reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette?  by Maria Semple.  It had been on my list of want to reads for a while, and I finally got a hold of it.  Pretty much plowed through that one.  I'll definitely be adding it to the Read These! page of my blog as a must read.  It was completely entertaining, and the format was unique and engaging.  The story is basically told in the form of letters, emails, and faxes to and from each of the characters in the story, and at some points narrated by the daughter character, whose name is Bee.  I love when I'm reading a book and I laugh out loud while I'm reading.  That's when you know it's good writing.

All that chickpea salad is giving me crazy eyes.
So, I don't want to give a blow by blow of the plot, but the gist of it is not surprisingly about the character in the book title, Bernadette.  We'll just say she has issues. I loved the eccentric, off-the-wall personality traits she had.  The plot has some unexpected drama unfold throughout, and it was entertaining to hitch along for the ride.  No doubt a quirky, fun, and very quick read.  Gotta love those books you tear through in no time.

So the message for the week is chickpea salad and Maria Semple.  Give 'em a shot.  You know I have good taste, right?

Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Be Magpie Aware?

A few weeks ago I posted about the ubiquitous "Be Bear Aware" campaign the city of Kodiak has going on.  Really, they need to add a whole other dimension to the campaign:  Magpies.  Granted, they're not dangerous, scary, or potentially life-threatening in any way, but they deserve a little cameo.  Why?  Because they're completely ridiculous.  I've already had three encounters of the weird with these birds, and I'm sure it's just the beginning. They're absolutely everywhere up here, just like backyard sparrows in the northeast.  First, so you know what the hell I'm talking about:

Their full name is Black-billed Magpie. - One of the first new species I got to identify up here. (birding nerd alert) You can't really tell in this picture, but their tails are SO long.  And their coloring is gorgeous. - Love that shade of blue

No doubt, they're beautiful.  They're also smart, travel in flocks, are territorial, and loud!  They're pretty big birds, ranging from 17-23 inches long.  Not as big as the huge Ravens we see around here, but still on the big side for a backyard bird.  

You can see how long their tails are better in this one.  Look at
those beady little eyes. - Just waiting to get up to no good!
Photo credit:   Alan D. Wilson
My first Magpie-encounter was the day after the movers dropped off all of our household goods.   We were in and out unpacking and moving things around, so we had the garage door open.  I was in the house and heard their tell-tale squawking, and it sounded really close.  As in, possibly in the next room close.  There was a reason for that. - There were two of them in the garage, swooping around to see if there was anything good to eat that they could steal.  As soon as I walked out to investigate, of course they both high tailed it out of there. But they were totally IN the garage, diving up and down making a huge racket with their high-pitched screeching.  I half expecetd to see bird poop all over the place.  (none, thankfully)  After that nonsense, I knew we were going to have to keep an eye on these sneaky Magpies we've got hanging around everywhere.

The second encounter was much more in your face.  They have no shame, I tell ya.  I had just come home from doing some grocery shopping, and I was unloading the bags from the back of the Jeep, which was parked in the driveway.  I was talking to the hubby in the kitchen for maybe 2 or 3 minutes, when once again we heard their tell-tale squawks.  I look out the door, and no joke, there were three of them feasting on a loaf of bread that was in the last grocery bag I hadn't unloaded yet.  So of course, I come busting out the front door to scare them off.  They flew away, but managed to peck holes through the bread bag and get a few mouthfuls before I chased them away.  One of them was in the back of the Jeep, casually standing on the grocery bag, munching away at his newly hijacked lunch!  The nerve! They're bold little mothers and they know they've got nothing to lose. 

I bet if I hadn't come out when I did, they would have figured out a way to fly away with the whole loaf of bread.  (That's a funny visual)  Once again, I expected to be scrubbing bird poop out of the back of the car, but lucky for me, I guess they weren't feeling spiteful that day.  Needless to say, we chucked that loaf of bread pretty quickly.  They're almost like Gulls at the beach - just looking for any opportunity to steal food.  I'm sure they'll scavenge whatever they can, wherever they can.

Look at all of them - It's probably their weekly pow-wow to plan their next bit of mayhem

Magpie story number three was pretty funny, especially because it didn't involve our house or vehicle.  It's always funnier when annoying crap happens to other people and you get to watch.  (Somehow not as funny when it's your car.  And bread.  Incorrigible birds)  So, we were taking Cheety for a walk, and passed by a neighbor's house.  Maybe the Magpies have a thing for Jeeps. - There was a white Grand Cherokee parked in the neighbor's driveway, and I noticed some sort of motion near the passenger side window.  

I look over, and I see a Magpie inside the back of the car, sitting on top of a pile of whatever was in the back seat.  Just hanging out in there, looking out the window at us as we walked by.  Taking a little break from the stresses of being a Magpie.  I'm sure it can get overwhelming at times, what with all the skulking around and pillaging they have to do.  I couldn't just scare the bird out of the car, I had to knock on the neighbor's door and let him know.  I'd want to know if there was a bird in my car, and I'm sure if he didn't roll up the window, it certainly wouldn't be the last visit from one of the hundreds of overly-assertive neighborhood Magpies.  Next time, he'd probably bring his buddies along and have a little Jeep Grand Cherokee shin-dig.

They're funny to watch, too.  They're always in groups. - Sometimes only two or three, but sometimes really big groups, and they're always hippity hopping around like a little comedy troupe.  Someone could easily film their antics and narrate it a la the honey badger video.  Sometimes they even dive bomb Cheety when we're out walking.  He'll be minding his own business doing dog things and a rogue Magpie will come tearing toward him, intent on a little canine harassment.  I'm sure they have quotas to keep.  So, lesson learned:  Be Magpie Aware.  They will steal from you and harass your dog!

Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Marlboro Men and Willie Nelsons

Wearing flannel and packing heat?  Check.  That's just one of the many fantastic people watching feasts for the eyes we had the pleasure of seeing at the Kodiak Rodeo and State Fair last weekend.  That's right, we went to the rodeo.  And yes, it was our FIRST rodeo.  Insert joke here.  Yee-freakin-ha! 

This guy was sitting in front of us.  Gotta love
the combination of the flannel and the piece.
People watching aside, it was actually pretty entertaining.  Tiny, and only a handful of booths, but it was a fun little afternoon.  I have to be honest though, I think if you aren't raised around things like calf roping and bull riding as part of the everyday norm of living. . .it's a little weird.  At the end of the day I just felt bad for the cows and bulls.

We wandered around checking out the cowboy hats for sale and resisting all the bad food choices that surrounded us.  I had to have a little talk with myself about succumbing to the lure of the corndog.  I was good, I didn't cave.

There were award winning Silver Wyandottes on display, which
were my favorite.  Who knew chickens could be so pretty?
Photo credit: Radosław Drożdżewski via Wikimedia Commons

It's funny, I never really gave much thought to all the different types of chickens there are.  Who knew there were so many beautiful breeds?  Not me, that's for sure.  I mean dog breeds, cat breeds, sure.  But if you don't come from a rural or farming type background, I think all you really know of chickens is whether you prefer eating the breast or the thigh.  They had a bunch of different pure breed chickens on display, and they were surprisingly beautiful.

There were a few other animals on display. - Goats, bunnies, horses and ponies, etc.  I'm kind of partial to the goats.  There's just something so cute about them.  Especially when they play together.  For some reason, they just come across as very innocent.  These two were hopping up on their hind legs and practically jousting with one another.

It didn't take very long to do a loop of the outdoor booths before it was time to go in for the real deal.  I wouldn't say the crowd was wall-to-wall Marlboro Men and Willie Nelson look-alikes, but it's safe to say that was the theme. And I'll say again, the people watching was top notch.

The first event was called Cowboy Mounted Shooting, which was basically dudes riding horses through orange cones and shooting at balloon targets.  I was glad I partook of the ear plugs they were giving out because it was definitely on the loud side.  It was kind

Getting ready for some Calf Roping - This guy was my favorite
of fun to watch them zip past and shoot at the targets.  I have to admit I had a moment of thinking, "Where the hell am I right now?"  And then I remembered, "Oh that's right, I'm trying on backwoods for a little while."  A little glimpse into living remotely, and the entertainment that can sometimes go along with it - Sure, why not?

After the Mounted Shooting, there were a few rounds of Calf Roping, which is when I started feeling bad for the cattle.  Poor things had these faux horns strapped to their heads so the ropers had something to lasso around.  And they weren't exactly gentle.  I found myself rooting for the calves and not the cowboys/girls.  Run little guy, RUN!! 
What a face.  And nice fake horns there, Elsie.

After the Calf Roping was when they busted out with the big guns. - The bull riding.  Man, those bulls came charging out of the gate like gangbusters.  Exactly like what you would picture, bucking and kicking like they were ready to take someone out.  Which they were.  And I can't help wondering how they get the bulls into such a state of anger.  Apparently, they have a rope tied around their belly called a flank strap that annoys them and encourages the bucking, & they're bread to be ornery.  I still sympathize with the animals, and I found myself rooting for the bull and not the cowboy again.  Good thing I have an inner monologue, or I probably would have been chased out by an angry, flannel-wearing mob.  Who may or may not have been armed.

I know I'm poking fun a little bit at the culture of rodeo/cowboy/rural living, but it was a fun day and I have a lot of respect for the training and professionalism of the riders.  It's no doubt impressive to watch the control and technical know-how of the competitors.  That being said, yeeeeeehaaaaaaww!   :)

Let's hear it for rubber boots
It rained for about 5 days before the rodeo. It was mucky on the fairgrounds, so our boots in the photo to the left were totally necessary.  Notice the hubby's Xtratufs.  It's the unofficial Kodiak uniform.  Not just fisherman.  EVERYONE.  A few weeks ago we checked out the local brewery for happy hour, and I remember glancing down at everyone's feet along the bar foot rail.  There were Xtratufs as far as the eye could see.  Just a sea of faded brown rubber.  Even the women wear them.  It was one of those instants where you're supremely aware of where in the world you are at a given moment. - A world and a half away from the Kai Kai's of Key West!

Opening Ceremony

I give the hubby a hard time & tell him he's a poser wearing his shiny new Xtratufs because he's not really a local yet. I think we have to endure at least one winter before we'll even begin to feel like locals.  Aside from boot preferences, they're pretty much mandatory with the weather here.

I felt like we got our money's worth at the rodeo after about an hour.  We can check that experience off the list of things we've never done before!

I can't say I'd be lining up to go to another rodeo, but it was fun to check it out for the first time. So, now we can really say it's not our first rodeo.

Ta-ta for now.