Sunday, July 22, 2012

Simple Summer Eats Topped with a Dash of Complaining

summer, Baltimore, Raw Olive, extreme heat
The beast of Baltimore is here. Summer is in full force, with suffocating humidity, 100-degree temperatures and blood sucking mosquitoes.
The fire pit has been dragged into a corner and the only life on the porch and deck are the fearless squirrels and my half dead potted plants. It’s too hot to water. I certainly appreciate staying cool in my air conditioning ever since the week-long power outage, but I don’t enjoy feeling confined to my house.
Meal preparation has become very limited during this house arrest too. With busy schedules shooting in different directions faster than Katniss could fire off her arrows in “The Hunger Games,” I find that everyone is eating at different times and are randomly hungry.
I’ve been experimenting with a few simple snacks that also serve as quick, healthy meals to try to smooth out the random hungriness problem before it evolves to crappy food.
A good friend turned me on to cottage cheese and brown rice cakes for a quick, protein-rich breakfast. I know, I thought the same thing, but it’s actually really tasty and not gross at all. She likes to eat hers on those poppy corn things that they make in the back of Wegmans, but it’s not worth the drive for me. You’ll be hooked once you give it a chance.
healthy snack, avocado, Raw Olive, Cooking Light MagazineA big thanks to Cooking Light’s editor, Scott Mowbray, for reminding me of one of my favorite savory snacks, avocado toasts. He created his in a panic when he realized he forgot to plan an appetizer for a summer gathering. He also used the word “fussification” in his most recent note from the editor to emphasize the fact that sometimes simplicity gets lost when we cook.
At Chez Voss (sorry that’s not a new gourmet restaurant in Towson, just my house) we like to prepare our avocado toast on a sesame bagel. Just toast a sliced bagel, scoop out the avocado and mash it with a fork on the bagel halves, add a pinch of kosher salt and hot sauce.
Avocados are a staple in our house. We always have a batch ready to go and several in bowls ripening at various stages, since you know there’s never a ripe avocado at the store when you need it.
Spinach and parmesan tortilla pizza topped with avocado and tomato has become a tasty meal recently. Just Raw Olive, healthy pizza, avocado, tomatosprinkle some shredded parmesan cheese on a flour tortilla, top with chopped, fresh spinach and toast in the toaster oven on light-medium. Remove from the oven, top with chunks of avocado and fresh tomato and sprinkle with salt. I really hope you have a toaster oven. We are probably the last people on earth without a microwave, I’ve been told by my children, so we use our toaster oven a lot.
I don’t typically love tomatoes, but when they are fresh and perfectly ripe, I’m game. I’ve always enjoyed a tasty garden tomato and cheese sandwich, but to make it a little heartier, I cooked up a grilled feta and tomato combo. Don’t go too crazy with the butter, but definitely butter the outside of each piece of bread. Place a thick slice of feta cheese on one slice of bread, top with some thinly sliced tomatoes and a few basil leaves if you have them. Top with the other slice of bread and cook it just like a good old grilled cheese that mom used to make
grilled cheese, healthy lunch, Raw OliveOf course, those were the blissful days of Velveeta, and I can’t buy it anymore because I now know that it’s not really cheese. Sigh.
What simple things are you making these days?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Six Things I Learned from Six Days Without Power

I extracted a few valuable lessons during our unintentional week off of the grid. Now that I’m sitting in my cool house with a frosty glass of iced tea and some very happy fat cats, I can clearly reflect on the past week.
I had people say, “How did you do it? I would have never survived that long.” Well, actually, you wouldn’t have died from lack of ice, but you might have been strangled by your spouse or trampled by your irritated children at some point.
Seriously, although it was a blur, it really wasn’tthat bad. I am bit wiser from the entire experience, too. 
1. It’s hard to run an Internet business without power. I tried it for two days, but my hand-crafted quality levels went way down when I started sweating all over the counter. Perfect time for a forced stay-cation.
2. Panera isn’t very good. After dumping all of my fridge contents and accepting the fact that we were eating out for three meals a day, I realized that there aren’t that many decent, healthy, affordable places to eat. I don’t do fast food restaurants and most other sit-down places are too expensive for multiple meals. I’m sure Panera’s increased traffic from the storm will be followed by a sharp decline for a month or two. I know I won’t be back for a while.
3. People love to rally when there’s a community crisis. It’s refreshing to see neighbors shift into altruistic mode during times of need to assist each other with tree limbs, ice purchases and reassuring chatter about the latest BGE truck sighting. I had many friends reach out to offer their homes for sleeping or re-charging, but I also had a surprisingly large number of people offer me a shower. Now I am known to skip showers after the gym in an effort to save time, but typically showering is not a problem when the power is out. 
4. Generators are really noisy. Yes, I am one of those non-generator users and we aren’t really fond of the other side. I know that it’s nice to have a light and fan or maybe your refrigerator, but not at the expense of your poor neighbor whose bedroom window is 10 feet from your droning generator. I know there are some exceptions here, but generally it doesn’t add up to spend $30 a day on gas to save a gallon of milk, some frozen chicken and irritate the heck out of your neighbors. Just rough it like the rest of us.
5. My kids loved it. Well, "love" might be a strong word, but after the power was restored the kids were surprisingly dissappointed that mom and dad were back to business. While off the grid, we were forced to spend more time doing things with the kids out of the house. We enjoyed time with cousins, Red Zone, too much time in Panera and the library. Air conditioned errands were the highlight of our day.
6. Ice is underrated and dry ice is overrated. You don’t realize how much you appreciate a proper ice cube until you don’t have any ice. Warm water and an 87 degree house are not complementary. I honestly think I missed ice more than anything last week. It was music to my ears to hear the clinks of my ice maker generating those first few cubes once the power was restored. Our $50 in dry ice lasted a disappointing 24 hours and didn’t save a lick of food. We would have been better off using it for entertainment.
What did you learn during the outage? I realize this could get ugly.