I know a lot of you have already seen the happiest Buddha on facebook, but I wanted to make sure that everyone got a chance to see him. I feel slightly guilty that he used to make the day of all of the shoppers in Port Townsend where he lived as a doorstop and now he just makes Barrett’s and my day living next to our fireplace. Doesn’t he make you smile?
The lovely Reiki practitioner that I work with (she’s awesome, check her out here) commented that it looks as though my happy Buddha is drawing energy down into his heart — I think she’s probably right and we can use all of the good energy in our house that we can get, but sometimes I just want to give him a high five.
In other news, I baked last week, something I’ve only been dreaming about doing for months. There’s something so enticing about baking — it makes your house smell great and there’s this feeling of transforming disparate pieces into an entirely new whole that’s like magic. I used a recipe for banana bread that I found online here. It uses agave nectar which I’ve been eager to try. I’m a big fan of most foods that are reputed to be gifts from the gods. It turns out that agave nectar is quite tasty and the banana bread got a thumbs up.
If my tech guy weren’t busy working at his other job, I would post pics of the cool things my talented and fabulous friends gave me for my birthday (as you can see from the Buddha above, my pic-taking is not quite up to Barrett’s standards). Carolyn and Adrienne both gave me homemade jam which are like jars full of edible sunshine and my friend Cyndi made this scarf that looks exactly like fudge ripple ice cream and there are more cool things, but without pics, I feel like I’m just taunting you and no one likes a taunter. I have no idea how I have been so lucky as to have fallen in with talented people who know how to make things (outside of banana bread which is about as much as I can do), but I am greatly enjoying the results.
And I have more news from my other talented and fabulous friends who have been helping to keep us out of debtor’s prison (which I have mentioned before is a grim and cakeless place) due to our surprise medical bills this year — an online auction run by Cailin and our friends in Madison. If you didn’t get a chance to be part of the fun of the last online auction, now’s your chance! Jone, who so generously ran the Portland online auction, sums it up all very nicely here. You can also see a picture of Barrett, myself, and cake.
I’ve decided to dedicate my life to pumpkins. I’ve always loved pumpkins — for one thing, they are adorable, all round and fat and orange with whimsicle curly bits at the stem, and for another they are incredibly tasty. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin chocolate chip cheesecake, pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin — I even discovered yesterday that I like pumpkin spice lattes although I’m not sure if the orange stuff they put in is really pumpkin or not.
We even named one of our cats Pumpkin.
When I was a toddler I won a Halloween Contest dressed as a pumpkin so maybe that’s where it all started (I’d post a pic, but I was actually quite a hideous looking baby, not normal hideous, but one that those Ooohhh, A Baby! People Who Lean Over the Mother’s Shoulder for a Peek would actually veer back from due to the shock and horror of discovering my face. I not only looked like a disgruntled old man, I had a large birthmark that made me look like a disgruntled old man who’d been in a wicked bar fight).
So, on dedicating my life to pumpkins — I’m going to do this by starting a new diet involving eating pumpkin as often as possible — I’d say every day but I can’t do much every single day except maybe brush my teeth and I didn’t want to put any undue pressure on myself or other dieters. The Pumpkin Diet or the Big P. Diet or possibly the Watch Out, Cinderella There’s a New Pumpkin Lover in Town Diet (WOCTANPLIT DIET). I’ve had some time to think about this as last week I came down with a cold (which hardly seems fair) which my body apparently couldn’t handle on top of the chemo side effects. It wasn’t even a very bad cold, but it was enough to knock me out for a good five days. In my unconscious and semi-conscious state I dreamt of pumpkins and how they were the key to a happy and healthy life.
People who come down with horrible and tragic diseases like cancer go on way weirder diets than this, some of them so disgusting (the cold vegetable mush diet, anyone?) that I will spare you the details. They persist, spreading from patient to patient often with little scientific evidence and a lot of urban myth behind them. A person could do far worse than the WOCTANPLIT DIET.
5 Very Good Reasons for the WOCTANPLIT DIET, Based on Sound Logic and a Bit of Science:
1) Pumpkins are delicious and send happy chemicals through your body when you eat them. This lets your body know that you are happy with life and therefore would like to live a long, healthy one.
2) Pumpkins are often eaten with herbs and/or spices which have all sorts of interesting chemicals in them that scientists are always researching and discovering new ways that they are Good For You.
3) There is a lot of magic associated with pumpkins almost always in a good way, see Cinderella fairy tale for an example.
4) Pumpkins are full of beta-carotene which scientists also say is Good For You.
5) Pumpkins are a tenacious and wily vegetable bursting with life which can almost certainly rub off on you if you eat enough of them.
I know this last one because I tried to grow pumpkins once. We’d just moved into this very cool loft apartment in Madison that was the second story of an old brick house with a large garden out back that our landlord said had been an organic garden for 100 years or something impressive like that. I’d never had a vegetable garden before and I decided to start with pumpkins. We didn’t really have any money as I had just quit my job working in cancer research as I’d discovered that I hated hospitals, didn’t like calling up patients only to discover that they had died and I was talking to the grieving widow who’d just come from the funeral (true story), and wasn’t the slightest bit interested in cancer. Ha, ha, v. ironic that.
I scraped up enough money for some seeds but was sadly lacking in enough money left over for proper garden tools. I looked in the shed and found an old hand rake. It was made of some kind of hard plastic, the handle was missing, and there was a large crack down the center. I proceeded to the garden bed with this poor piece of equipment and did some eye-balling of the space for my seeds. It turns out I’m an exceptionally bad eye-baller of space. I dug and dug with the little rake, turning the soil so the roots could go deep, until I had large fat blisters on my palms. And then I dug and dug some more, mounding up the turned dirt into three mounds for my pumpkin seeds. One for little plump sugar pumpkins, one for big jack o’lantern pumpkins, and one for some cool looking French cheese wheel pumpkins.
It turns out that I am not only a bad eye-baller of space, I’m not much of a gardener either. I know other writers who have this problem. A story takes hold and the rest of the world fades away, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks, and you go through the non-writing parts of your day in a kind of haze still stuck in your story, finding everyone around you quite rude for interrupting you staring off into space as though you weren’t doing anything important. When you re-surface, the world of your garden has changed, sometimes dramatically.
In this case, the pumpkin plants had grown, entangled themselves together, and completely taken over the garden. I’d planted some tomato seedlings a friend had given us and even put up some cheap wire cages around them. The pumpkins LOVED the cheap wire cages and wrapped little tendrils all around them so tightly they pulled them right over to the ground. And these tenacious plants didn’t stop after I’d picked the pumpkins and enjoyed them either. They came back the next year!!!! The seeds from my pumpkins which were some kind of mutant cross breed as pumpkins cross pollinate when planted so close together grew new plants right out of my compost bin to take over the garden again.
Tenacious, wily, and bursting with life. Who doesn’t want that energy coursing through their body?
I’ll leave you with my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (a Bridget Zinn Original)
1 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur makes this as does someone else)
1 cup plus 2 TBL unbleached flour
¾ tsp salt
1 TBL baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup milk (2 % is best)
1/3 cup yogurt or sour cream
2 TBL canola oil
1 TBL vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup chocolate chips (If you’re going to the trouble, I’d recommend Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Chips as they are the Best)
Whisk together dry ingredients in one dish and whisk wet ingredients minus the chocolate chips in a different dish. Pour dry into wet and mix until just moist, adding in chocolate chips as you go. An hour or so of letting the dough set improves the texture and flavor. We usually leave it overnight in the fridge.
Take dough out of fridge — it could use a bit of time at room temperature but it’s not essential to get it all the way to room temp. Preheat oven to 375.
Spray muffin tin or cups if using with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon batter into muffin cups, fill to the rim.
Cook approximately 20 minutes, more if the dough was still cold. Muffins should be light golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean or at least not covered in dough (sometimes chocolate chips can interfere with the toothpick test). Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing.
(NOTE: You can replace milk with buttermilk [might need a tiny bit regular milk still to thin it out] and replace yogurt or sour cream with ricotta or cottage cheese if you have extras of one of these ingredients on hand and want to use it up. They key is to have one liquid [milk or buttermilk] and one solid [yogurt, sour cream, ricotta or cottage cheese] for the right consistency, one “sour” [buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream] and one “neutral” [ricotta or cottage cheese] for the right flavor)
(NOTE #2: If you are looking to make them a little healthier, you can replace ¼ cup of the white whole wheat flour with ground flax seeds and reduce the sugar to ¾ cup).
Love to you all,
ps. Barrett wanted me to let you all know that he feeds me other foods besides pumpkins and makes me carrot, apple, broccoli, spinach and beet juice every day (which tastes better than it sounds).
The final day without the boyfriend. Felt a bit better. Yay! Almost like a productive member of society again.
You might notice that I’m somewhat obsessed with food (particularly potatoes), but you might not know that I have recipes in a cookbook THAT’S IN PRINT. That you can go all on your little lonesome and buy and read and cook and think, awww… isn’t that Bridget nice for sharing such deliciousness with me? It’s called From Asparagus to Zucchini and my recipes are Spinach Feta Brown Rice Bowl on page 87, Spinach and Cheese Phyllo Pie on page 143, and Late Summer Bruschetta on page 170. Try them out! My contributions aside, it’s a great cookbook for veggie lovers.
Potato Recipe Finale:
I’m posting your recipes! From comments, e-mails, etc. these are the best of.
Disgusting Tasty Potatoes from John Zimm
John says: I’ve got the most disgusting, tasty potato recipe. First, peel and boil some potatoes. While that is going, put some butter and salt in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Slice the boiled potatoes into the pan and spread them out, then pour butter and salt on top then bake in the over for a while until the top gets a little crunchy. Man, they are so fattening and tasty.
Alkelda the Gleeful says: I’m a fan of garlic mashed potatoes. I roast the garlic cloves in the oven as I’m cooking the potatoes over the stove, and then mash the cloves in when they’re nice and soft. Can one put in too much garlic? I haven’t yet discovered any limits!
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
I small eggplant
1 red or yellow pepper
1 can tomatoes (15 oz)
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 cup marinated artichokes
½ cup Kalamata olives
Salt, pepper, and seasoning salt
Sauté onions and garlic, add zuke and squash and cook until starting to soften. Add other veggies, tomato sauce and spices. Simmer 10 – 15 minutes
6 medium potatoes
3 cloves garlic
½ cup Asiago cheese
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
Chop and boil potatoes with whole garlic cloves and salt. Mash garlic cloves with a small amount of potatoes. Mash into the rest of the potatoes. Mix in butter, seasoning salt, and cheeses. Pour vegetables into a 9” x 13” pan and spread potatoes over the top. Sprinkle with more cheese. Bake at 400° for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and cheese are browned and bubbly.
Boyfriend out of town day 4 (out of 5) was yesterday. Still sick. Still not the fun party time one would expect of being home alone. Read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Wild Magic for non-scary entertainment (HP only the first half, the second half is way too scary!).
But there was even more cheerful entertainment to be had! Checked out my friend Georgia’s awesome gallery of shoes. Georgia made The Bridget Zinn Memorial Cool Retreat Shoes Gallery so that I wouldn’t miss anything at the SCBWI-WI fall retreat this year (the first I’ve missed in six years!), including the shoes! So so cool. Thanks, Georgia! I can’t decide which are my favorite. I have a thing for red shoes but I have to admire anyone who can wear heels to a long weekend conference.
I don’t tend to watch much tv when I’m home alone because I like to revel in the quiet, but there’s something about being sick that makes television entertainment seem soothing and nice (by tv, I mean my laptop, but they’re shows MADE for tv so I’m counting them). I tried to watch The OC and One Tree Hill (I was on the ‘O’ section of hulu) but I realized that they might have hot guys in them but are totally depressing. I finally got Undeclared in from the library so I gave that a try. It is such a funny show! Makes me wonder why I worked so hard in college.
Potatoes Recipe of the Day:
Potatoes and Pasta with Pesto and Green Beans
I’ve always loved the potato/pasta/pesto combo and it was one of the first dishes I learned how to make on my own (right after buttered noodles!). I picked up the green bean addition from the recipe in Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.
1/2 lb green beans
1/2 lb baby red potatoes
1 lb penne pasta
Large bunch (1/2 cup or so) fresh basil, finely chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
Handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese (1/4 cup or so)
olive oil (as needed, usually about 1/4 cup)
Start salted water boiling.
Chop potatoes into thimble sized chunks.
Tip and tail green beans with kitchen scissors.
When water is at a rolling boil add pasta, set timer for full time.
One minute later add potatoes. Two minutes after that add green beans. (If you wish to retain more nutrients steam these veggies separately).
While the pasta and veggies cook, make pesto by mixing together in a large bowl chopped basil, crushed garlic, grated parmesan, and olive oil. (You can use pre-made pesto too).
When timer goes off, drain pasta and veggies, stir into pesto.
Good with broiled salmon and/or tomato cucumber feta salad.
Boyfriend out of town Day 3 (of 5) was on Saturday. All of my big plans for strolling around in the autumn sunshine, hanging out at coffee shops, and reading with a cat on my lap and a big mug of tea went right out the window. In the wee hours of Saturday, somehow I caught a cold. I don’t know how this could have happened! I was taking vitamins, echinacea, astragalus — copious amounts of raw garlic — how is it possible that I got sick? I’d been feeling a bit wonky a week or so ago, but I thought I’d nipped it in the bud. But no, I was not safe! I felt the nose stuff up, the sneezing start, and the general feeling of misery creeping over me.
Such a sad mid-point to the super fun staying home alone adventure!
So I wallowed around miserably and decided I was too sick to get scared and that I could handle the scary-ish books I had (not the really scary zombie, ghost or evil faerie books). I read The Knife of Never Letting Go and Hunger Games which aren’t scary in a oooh, spooky kind of way, but scary in a bigger picture what has the world come to kind of way. Which my sick brain was too tired to fully comprehend so it worked out. But it definitely wasn’t the fun mug of tea, cat on my lap kind of reading. It was a holding a kleenex under my nose, moaning in distress kind of reading.
My one big adventure was out to the pharmacy which, it turns out, is closed on Saturday. I almost sat down and had a bit of a breakdown on the street. It’s a sizeable walk for a sick person and it had pretty much used up my energy for the day. But I kept going and the next pharmacy was open and though they mostly do prescriptions, they did have some kind of nasal spray. Hoo-ha! I was saved (ish). Still on the miserable side but it allowed me to breath which is always a bonus.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub 2 lbs of potatoes and chop them into 1-2 inch chunks. Put into an oven baking pan, toss with a couple of table spoons of olive oil, salt and pepper, and pop into the oven. Cook 20 minutes, then stir, add more oil if things are sticking, keep roasting, checking every ten minutes or so until crisp on the outside and soft when poked with a knife. While the potatoes are roasting chop a couple of cups of broccoli (the recipe says you can try asparagus or brussel sprouts, but I’ve never done that), shred a couple of cups of cheese (I like Monterey Jack) and a 1/4 cup of parmesan, and chop a half a cup walnuts. Toss the cheese (except for the parmesan) with a bit of cornstarch. When the potatoes are done roasting sprinkle half of the cornstarched cheese on top. Then spread the broccoli on top of that and sprinkle on the rest of the cornstarched cheese. Toss the parmesan and nuts on top. Cover with foil 15-20 minutes or until the cheese melts. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes. It should look golden and bubbly.