Pannekaker

What’s that, you ask? Norwegian pancakes! I went to an international party the other night; everyone picked a country (or region/state) and brought representative foods. I opted for Norway, having just been in May (More on that later! Still sorting thoughts…). We had taken a train from a small port town to a village called Myrdal on top of a mountain. The little station had wireless Internet access (because obviously) and a cafe, where I ate a delicious Norwegian pancake topped with sweet sour cream and raspberry preserves.

I decided to recreate this dish for the party. I used this recipe, only I nixed the ricotta topping and used raspberry preserves instead of strawberry. I also sweetened the sour cream. However, depending on how sweet your preserves are, adding a sweetener is optional.

They turned out delicious–I must say the batter is basically a liquid, and since I was opting for miniature pancakes (party foods!) as opposed to pan-sized ones (like a crepe), I added more flour to thicken the batter so it would maintain a circular shape in the pan.

Here’s the cool thing I learned, which I’ve basically been telling everyone: The recipe called for cardamom, which I don’t have in my spice cabinet. A regular-size spice container was $12 at the store. It says you can substitute lemon zest, but hello authenticity! I insisted on using cardamom, a spice commonly used in Scandinavian baking, but I didn’t want to drop twelve bucks when I only needed one teaspoon. Enter bulk spices! Turns out places like Garner’s, a natural supplement store in South Carolina, sell spices in bulk. (Earth Fare and Whole Foods might, but I haven’t confirmed this.) You can actually buy as little or as much as you need and pay by weight. I eyeballed a teaspoon, and it was only 89 cents. I look at it as buying a spice sample for a recipe that may or may not work. If it does and I plan on using the spice continually, I might invest in the $12 container. But if not, I only spent, in this case, 89 cents. I’m filing this away for future reference.

Here are the pancakes sitting naturally* next to a Norwegian hat:

*staged strategically for an Instagram

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P.S. I do know ethnic grocery stores often sell spices for cheaper but not necessarily in bulk.

 

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Assignment

A friend recently suggested I write something this week that wasn’t for work or for my blog (and yet, here it is, but he said it was OK to post after I wrote it). Here goes:

“I Wish To Be Free Of This”

I’m tired of this.
Impatient for it to be over.
Scrape scrape scrape.
Raw. I need relief.
I can’t take any more.

The grind, it’s brutal.
Scratching and trying.
Wanting to be through.
Why can’t I just be done?

I am TIRED, inside and out.
My head, it’s light and far away.

But.

I’m almost there. Keep going.
Scrape scrape scrape.
Raw. Just a little further.

One last spray.
Done.

The bumper stickers are finally gone from my car.


(The background: I was using some sort of awful-smelling chemical spray to scrape bumper stickers off my car last night, which was awful and took forever. But while I was doing it, I thought about how a terrible, angst-y poem could actually double as a literal description of removing a bumper sticker from a car.)

Pantry Cleanse

I’m not much of a recipe poster, but I have one for you today. I’ve been on a cleanse/purge kick (something I hope turns into a pattern of living actually, but more on that later), and not just with clothes and other odds and ends. I’ve been trying to get rid of the random stuff in my pantry that I bought at one point or another to try a recipe or because it was on sale, etc. The last several weeks, I’ve been trying to use it up in one way or another.

For example, I had a couple bags of frozen fruit, so I bought some Greek yogurt and rice milk to make smoothies. Now here’s the thing: I tried to make sure that I used the right amount of ingredients so that everything  would be used up at once. If I’m trying to purge, the point is not to buy other ingredients that I’ll have a surplus of. Overall, the experience has been fairly economical, because the additional ingredients I need are inexpensive, and I end up with several meals from each attempt.

I had a couple bags of frozen peas and a bag of lentils just lying around, so the other week, I googled a soup recipe that I could make using both ingredients. I found this one for Curried Red Lentils with Peas (my notes are in italics):

1 cup dry red lentils (I had non-red lentils; doesn’t matter.)
3 cups vegetable stock (I ended up needing 4 cups.)
1 cup onion, chopped (I just used a whole onion.)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger root, minced
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can bits) (I just diced two whole tomatoes. It’s more than 1 1/2 cups, but more lycopene!)
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups peas

Heat water in pot until boiling. Add lentils and boil for one minute. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer lentils until they resemble a thick paste. (Not sure about the thick paste part? My lentils remained intact, and it turned out fine.)

While lentils are simmering, heat oil in frying pan. Add onion, garlic and ginger. Fry until soft. Add curry, chili, cumin, coriander, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and saute for another 3-5 minutes. Add fried spice mixture into lentil paste, add peas, stir and cook an additional 15-20 minutes. I added salt and pepper to taste.

I already had the spices and vegetable paste for stock in my cabinet, so all I needed was the produce. (If you live near or in Greenville, SC, I cannot recommend enough the farmer’s market on Rutherford Road. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm. For the soup, I had to buy an onion, a head of garlic, a tablespoon’s worth of fresh ginger root and two tomatoes. I think I had a couple more things in my order, but the total came to approximately five dollars. Totally reasonable!) The soup lasts me at least five meals and freezes fine too. I’m not a nutritionist, but I can’t imagine this soup is too bad for you either, so that’s a plus. I’ve already made it twice, and I still have enough lentils and peas left for one more batch. 

My next item to get rid of is a jar of tahini. Besides making hummus, any ideas?

Fourth of July.

My childhood summers didn’t offer much in the way of schedules and structure, because isn’t that how it should be? But the Fourth of July was undoubtedly one of the best and most scheduled days of my summer, with several outfit and scene changes, places to go and people to see!

Breakfast, of course, but a quick one, because I had to don my meticulously prepared patriotic outfit and then make sure that my knee pads, wrist guards and roller blades were in sound working order for the neighborhood parade. Over we trekked a couple streets to join the growing Falmouth Heights crowd, complete with streamered bikes and costumed dogs, all in the colors of our flag, of course. Some announcements and the National Anthem and some instructions, and at this point I just wanted to get the show on the road. And then it would start and we’d weave in and out of the streets and onto Grand Avenue, which ran along the beach. Up Montgomery and past the gnome house, where the nice man would hand out entire Hershey’s Bars to all the kids.

The parade would begin to disperse, and I’d head home to change into my bathing suit, and most likely today we’d pack lunch to eat on the beach. Towels, chairs, toys, wagon, check! And off we’d go, waving to Bill on the way.

The beach was a crowded collection of even more towels, chairs and toys, with hardly a blank space of sand to be found. While I didn’t prefer it to be this crowded every day (where would we play pickle?), this is exactly how it was supposed to be on Independence Day. Hot sand and cool New England water, back and forth, back and forth. And then the ding of the ice cream truck, and then back to the water.

Hours would turn into minutes, and then the bright sun would begin to soften into that magic light of a late Cape Cod afternoon. The beachgoers were thinning out. Maybe we could squeeze in a game of pickle? Dad usually stayed at the beach the latest, and at his cue, I’d head home.

Cleaned up, wet hair post shower and another outfit, red, white and blue (if I was lucky enough to have kept it clean, the parade one). Dinner was seafood and steak and maybe strawberry pie for dessert. Back outside to play until we instinctively knew it was time. Time to grab your windbreaker or sweatshirt, something to sit on and our glow bracelets. Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks–it was time. We’d walk back to the beach to join the ten thousand others, waiting. Hold someone’s hand until I was old enough to walk on my own. Find a spot, find your neighbors. The sand was cold, but I didn’t care. There was the barge, there were the boats. And then we waited.

The first whistle, the first comet. Silence. Then, “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” I loved the weeping willow ones, the golden sparks flowing down into the ocean. I could feel the boom in my heart, that pounding sound accompanying the colored stars. Everyone clapped and cheered when it was over; all the boats blew their horns. I loved the spent gunpowder aroma in my nose.

Gather the blankets, and head back home. Walk straight among the crowds, and you’d eventually find your way. And then, s’mores! Whose house this year? We alternated between the neighbor’s and ours. How many would I eat? I preferred my marshmallows well done, burnt crispy but gooey. Some preferred theirs toasted a light golden brown. But there were plenty of grahams and chocolate for everyone.

And then the day’s buzz would start to dwindle as the sounds of firecrackers grew further and further apart. That salty night air replaced the smoke smell, and I’d begin to fade. Time to head to my bed. I was already excited for next year.

This was a Cape Cod Fourth of July, and today I miss everything about it.

Cat.

I’ve written an “I can’t believe I’m saying this” entry before, and here’s another one.

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My younger sister Natalie lives with me and was asking to get a cat. My response was usually something in the way of a gentle rejection, like, “NO WAY” or “ABSOLUTELY NOT” or “ARE YOU KIDDING ME.”

Well, “No!” turned into “I’ll think about it.” And then her coworker’s cat had kittens, so now we’re talking a cat in the flesh and not just a nebulous request for a yet-unmet feline companion. And what happens when you meet a kitten?

You say yes. That’s what. Because when you stand at the bottom of the stairs and that little squirt is hopping down one step at a time to come meet you, the ice that encases your heart shatters into a million pieces, which turn into little magical fairies that sprinkle the air with glitter and rainbows blah blah.

In all seriousness, I really do like having this little kitten greet me at the door when I come home from work and watching her play with simple things like crumpled paper and empty paper towel rolls. She is impish and curious and has a calico coat.

Natalie always imagined naming a cat something glamorous like Scarlett O’Hara. But as we watched her scamper around and miss the coffee table when she tried to jump on it, we felt like glamour didn’t suit her. So, we chose Junie B. Jones, after the rascal little girl that Barbara Park created in her series of children’s books.

And here she is (in a quieter moment):

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Jeanne Petrizzo, Age 27

One of my favorite books growing up was Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Not about anything particularly grand or epic, the book describes the antics and issues of a normal little girl who is a member of a normal family. I think that’s why I like it so much. Throughout the book, the parents face car trouble, financial problems and job insecurity, and these adult stresses translate into their own set of worries for Ramona. At the end the family is cooped up together in the house on a rainy Sunday afternoon; they’re cross with each either and antsy. Finally, the father demands that the family get in the car and go to a restaurant so they can be together and enjoy a delicious meal, while temporarily setting their stresses and anxieties aside. The book describes Ramona’s sheer enjoyment of her juicy burger and crispy fries as she sits with her kind family. The relief and warmth is tangible compared to the stress and rain at the beginning of the chapter. On the way home, “Ramona snuggled inside her car coat, feeling cozy enclosed in the car with the heater breathing warm air on her nice family. She was a member of a nice sticking-together family.” I admit, as a little girl myself, I cried when I read the ending.

On Saturday, Cara, my traveling buddy and blogger over at Trip Crush, and I ventured to Charleston for the day. We had only two things on the agenda: eat at Jeni’s new Charleston scoop shop (a bucket list item for me), and visit the Rifle Paper Company’s pop-up shop. The rest we could fill in with whatever suited our whims. I had the Purple Goat at Glazed on King Street–it’s a berry-and-goat-cheese-filled donut with a lavender glaze. We browsed the stands at the city’s lovely and large farmer’s market, where we stumbled upon some of the most delicious pickles and okra at Fresh Pickle Works. We went to Jeni’s as soon as it opened at 11–I ordered a scoop of the Wildberry Lavender and the Goat Cheese with Cherries. In addition to really creative and masterfully paired flavors, the ice cream itself is the richest, creamiest consistency. King Street is one long line of both actual luxury shops, like Louis Vuitton, and stores that are luxurious in my book, like Madewell and Lucky Brand. We browsed and made purchases and then stopped for a BBQ taco snack. OK, I admit, we went back to Jeni’s for more ice cream.

Now, I don’t have nearly the list of problems that Ramona’s parents had (right now, anyway). But like most normal adults, there are the demands and responsibilities of simply waking up every day. Not that I’m necessarily overwhelmed, but I must say, a meandering day in a pretty place is just what I didn’t realize I needed. I’m not advocating irresponsibility, but I (obviously) disregarded my normal daily caloric concerns and readily spent a little more money than I usually do. And to be honest, it felt GREAT. I highly recommend a break every now and then, whatever that might look like for you.

P.S. On our fun little trip, we frequently quoted Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec: “Treat. Yo. Self.” They’re definitely onto something with their annual tradition.

Girl on a Boat.

Scene opens on the earth from outer space. Zoom in to the Western Hemisphere, North America, the United States, the Northeast, New England, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Lambert’s Cove. There’s a boat anchored there, and I’m sitting on the stern with my feet in the ocean.

The calm inlet water laps against the boat, rocking it and lulling me into a dozy reverie encouraged by the ocean air I love so much. “Aren’t you going to jump in? The water feels great!” My dad and brother are submerged and then not, turning the water into foam as they swim back and forth.

I look toward the beach where the water is shallow, the sand visible and the ocean safe. I like where I’m sitting. I glance down past the boat stern and only see the sun’s and my watery reflection and not the elusive ocean floor. Should I jump? I can’t see the bottom.

But then I’m standing up and leaping through the air and with a splash, I’m in. I resurface, soaked in salt with the sea air refilling my lungs, and I’m laughing and happy because how could I not be?

20.

Tagged to share 20 things about myself by my friend Shannon, so here we go (I faintly recall this being a Facebook trend several years ago):

1. My mom wanted to name me Jenna, and my dad preferred the name Gina. Jeanne (rhymes with clean, not genie) was the happy medium.

2. During the test for my driver’s license, I sped, took six attempts to back into a parking space, went straight instead of turning right like the instructor told me to, changed lanes without looking and almost rear-ended the car in front of me. I passed.

3. I wouldn’t refuse a Krispy Kreme, but I definitely prefer Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s in my New England DNA.

4. I was involved in a skiing accident my junior year of high school and received a concussion. Said many interesting things.

5. Ron Weasley is my favorite character in the Harry Potter series.

6. I cried at the end of Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

7. I once played Beth March in Little Women. A stretch for sure, but after getting yelled at by the director approximately six thousand times, I pulled it off in the end.

8. Once my friend and I were on a guided tour in the Vatican; we were going to bypass the Raphael Rooms and head for the Sistine Chapel. Well, we couldn’t possibly live with not seeing Raphael, so we snuck away from the tour, raced to the Raphael Rooms, stood in awe, and raced back to find our tour in the Sistine Chapel. One of the guys in our group gave us a funny look, but other than that, I don’t think anyone noticed. It felt risky and thrilling.

9. I like capers enough to eat them straight from the jar.

10. I was valedictorian of my graduating class of five hundred people.

11. I’ve been pulled over only once, and I got off with a warning. The only ticket I’ve ever received was from a NYPD undercover cop for doubling up in the subway turnstile with a friend.

12. My favorite place in the world is Spohr Gardens in Falmouth, MA. Tucked away. Secret almost. A quiet walk through flowered woods breaks open onto the sea.

13. I was in a handbell choir at one point in my life.

14. Like any normal human being, I could eat pizza forever and ne’er grow tired of it.

15. I was never a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a kid, but now I can’t get enough.

16. Is this almost done?

17. I think Angels in the Outfield is one of the greatest movies of all time.

18. I hate horror movies, but I’m always up for any type of science-experiment-gone-wrong/over-sized-killer-creature movie. Like Jurassic Park or Jaws.

19. A young Al Pacino (in The Godfather for instance) trumps all the current “hearthrobs.”

20. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

The world is not a prison house but a kind of spiritual kindergarten where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks. – E.A. Robinson

Holland Days

After a lovely few days in Paris, we boarded a train for Amsterdam. The train was just a means to an end, but an ideal means it was. Foggy expanses of European countryside dotted by the occasional village. I wanted to stop at every single one.

Amsterdam is all parts style, grit, Dutch Masters, pancakes, bicycles and the Amstel River, tossed and mixed to create the network of charming canals that comprise it. If you hear someone mention Amsterdam and don’t think of drugs and prostitution first, I commend you, because this city is so, so, so much more.

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We arrived in the late afternoon, hungry, tired and missing Paris. To remedy our misery, we ate pizza and went to bed, and wouldn’t you know, it worked. The next days were filled with food, new friends, exploration and a step or several back in time.

Some notes and highlights:

1. BIKES. BIKES. BIKES. Biking in Amsterdam is no joke. Everyone owns a bike and rides it everywhere. To simply walk across the street, you must be sure the way is clear of cars and then the tram, and once you’ve made it that far, you have to look out for the multitude of bikes coming and going in all directions. It’s real-life Frogger. In fact, pedestrians carry Valium with them to combat the anxiety they suffer every time they have to cross a street. I’m kidding, but I did find it nerve-wracking at times. Bikers have their own lane, and they will yell and/or ding their bike bells at you if you so much as set your big toe on their allotted pavement. (Read this New York Times piece for more insight.)

2. People. I’d say all the people we encountered in Amsterdam were friendly, helpful and proud of their city (not to mention they spoke flawless English). I was impressed with their knowledge of the canal layout, restaurant recommendations and help with tram stops. I was challenged to better know the city I live in and be the kind of helpful ambassador I encountered in Amsterdam.

3. Anne Frank House. A sobering but necessary experience, the Anne Frank House was worth the wait and emotional strain. Anne wrote often in her diary about the challenge of that many people living in such a small space, but their endurance of those cramped conditions was literally a matter of life and death. Anne’s and Margot’s mother marked their growth progress in pencil on the wall; the markings are still visible. My own mother did the same with me and my siblings.

4. Language. Dutch is a mixture of German and English. Like most city transportation systems, an automated voice on the trams would call out each stop and then name the next one. I liked listening to all the different grachts, straats, pleins and skades; the street names exuded a manner of significance. Perhaps it was the amount of syllables?

5. Cheese. The Netherlands has a big dairy scene, so CHEESE. YES, CHEESE. I LOVE CHEESE. Most shops in the city sold shrink-wrapped selections for tourists to take through airport security. I brought back smoked goat cheese, which I had never seen over here in the States; shock of shocks, it made it all the way home untouched, tempting as it was to rip into and scarf down (it was a gift for my sister).

6. Other Delicious Culinary Treats. So, if pancakes are your thing, you’ll love Amsterdam. Savoury, sweet, local, international, you can get anything you want. The dish pictured below easily falls in my top ten list of most delicious foods I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy. It was a pancake filled with warm apple compote topped with homemade apple ice cream, chocolate, whipped cream and a type of buttery syrup. Cara’s selection, which I was more than happy to help her eat.

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The city is full of ethnic options–we had some delicious Italian food on multiple occasions, including homemade pasta–and lots of fried food stands, for obvious reasons (In reference to the photo below, coffeeshops in Amsterdam don’t specialize in coffee).

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We met a nice lady named Mary on the tram one night, and we asked her for a restaurant recommendation. She told us she’s a chef at a cafe called Van Puffelen and that we should stop by for lunch. We had hot sandwiches with a side of Dutch cheese and mustard. I also ordered bitterballen, a fried meat snack.

7. Dutch Masters. The Rijksmuseum is The Netherlands’ national museum where you can see works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, among other Dutch Masters. The Night Watch, Rembrandt’s wall-sized masterpiece, is certainly a highlight. You can also visit Rembrandt’s Amsterdam home; of course, the house has been staged for tourists, but it still is an educational glance into his lifestyle and artistic habits. I felt much the same sense of awe I had when I stood at the door of Carl Sandburg’s personal home office.

8. Dutch Trademarks. I hope to return someday to see the tulip fields in the spring, but the bulbs were readily available everywhere. The cold weather didn’t shut down the enchanting Bloemenmarkt. Another trademark of the Dutch is the wooden shoe, the prevalence of which in Amsterdam is that of netted bags of seashells in a beach town; it’s what tourists know and want. Also, the blue and white motifs like those found on Delftware, a famous and historic Dutch pottery brand, accent many of the city’s interior walls and dishware.

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shoes

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9. Zaanse Schans. A short train ride took us outside the city to the small town of Zaanse Schans. An idyllic change of city scenery, Zaanse Schans is home to several historic windmills and a delicious-smelling chocolate factory. The arms of the windmills waved to welcome, and the flat, wet plains stretched as far as I could see. We went inside a windmill and climbed to the top; I’m glad I can say I did it, but it was certainly precarious.

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