Thursday, July 31, 2014

weekly inspiration: an imperfect picnic


I wanna have an imperfect picnic.

Minimal planning and minimal expectations, maximal food consumption.

The kind of picnic where olives get trampled in the grass, but we don't pick them up so squirrels just scurry over and pucker their faces on the sour olive juice. 

The kind of picnic where I have this maple butter smeared all over chin but nobody tells me about it because it gives my face a nice glow. 
The kind of picnic where we all sigh about how we're never going to finish all the food... and then eat even more at the end of the night.


The menu wouldn't be planned or balanced, we'd just bring buckets of good food and hope tastes good outside. There wouldn't be any snooty picnic foods like white bean salads in mason jars or crust-less cucumber sandwiches. Maybe I'd bring spanakopita, salami, and the stereotypical picnic baguette for shits-and-giggles. Maybe I'd bring cold cinnamon rolls and lo mein, haphazardly scooped into Ziploc containers. We'd eat a whole watermelon with metal spoons.  We'd bring a can whipped cream and spray it on fresh strawberries.

For dessert, we'd share a thermos of wildly thick hot chocolate, we'd eat Missisissippi mud pie and caramel peach cobbler with our fingers, starting daintily with the crusts, and then barbarically grabbing irregular clumps from the gooey center. 

I'd wear an old soft t-shirt, because I know I'll leave with blueberry stains on my clothes, but I'd wear my fancy and impractical orange heels, because this picnic is nonetheless an occasion.

By sunset, all of my picnic-goers are in a blissful food coma, so we all just kick it in the grass for a while as our brains melt a little and we tell secrets, stories, and laugh for no reason at all, stretched out in the dwindling sunshine.

Even though we're stuffed and have vowed never to eat again, we would build a fire and eat our weight in toasted marshmallows. Then, once it's dark, we will channel our inner pyromaniacs and throw random things in the fire and just quietly watch them burn and lull as the night sweeps over us all.

Then we'd go home, breadcrumbs in our hair, smelling like charcoal, fingers slightly sticky with cobbler and watermelon juice.

Would you go on an imperfect picnic with me?

With love,
Erica

(Pictures from the Davis Farmer's Market)

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

weekly inspiration


Is there any smell in the world better than the smell of fresh waffle cones?

I miss baking so much out here I'm actually going insane.  I'm 85% sure that my hands are searching for measuring spoons to level and frosting-laden spoons to lick while I sleep in my dorm here.  I was planning on making a batch of my oreo cheesecake brownies for my study group in the dorm kitchen, but the RA wouldn't let me use the oven (or even the microwave) due to "safety issues."  I thought that was funny for a second... I've probably opened the oven more times than most thirty-year-olds.  And c'mon... we're basically functional adults, we're using telescopes that cost insane amounts of dollars and Bunsen burners on the daily, I'm pretty sure we can use a microwave without burning our faces off. But they didn't buy it, so now I just have a big, sad bag of (now half-eaten) Double-Stuf Oreos and chocolate chunks sitting in my dorm room. 

Regardless, I've been doing a ton of daydreaming about the baking rampage I'm going to go on when I get home.

I've been dreaming up a lot of "fusion" recipes lately -- mixing Japanese and American classic recipes into crazy mash-ups.  I don't want to give all of my secrets away, but prepare to see mochi, tempura batter, and matcha powder where you've never seen it before -- along the lines of this miso caramel.

I want to venture into the world of dairy-free desserts. My mom and I shared an amazing vegan cheesecake before I left.  A lot of recipes use coconut milk, soaked nuts, bananas, or even tofu as a dairy replacement. I want to try them all.  I'm going to start with this, this, and this. 

But I could never go no-dairy myself.

Ice cream french toast... what the what.

I also want to churn my own butter. 

I also went to this California chain called C.R.E.A.M (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me) with my roommates. Think Cold Stone, but cheaper and for ice cream cookie sandwiches. Yeah.  I got there early when the whole place smelled like fresh baked cookies. Coffee ice cream smooshed between two warm snickerdoodles - perfect. I'm going to start experimenting with my own ice cream sandwiches (check these out).


I went on a day trip to San Francisco on Saturday.  Food.nerd.paradise.  I went to Boudin sourdough factory and watched those bread baskets swirl above my head for a solid 20 minutes, and got lost in the pools of chocolate at the Ghiradelli factory.  Sourdough waffles sound like the move.

Even though I've been deprived of my oven, I've been making the most of the dining hall here. Speaking of waffles, they have a spankin' "make-your-own-waffle" station here.  I like to make mine monstrous... with four pats of butter, every square inch covered in whipped cream, a hefty scoop of cherry pie filling, and a thorough drenching in syrup... stargazing counts as cardio right?  The cobbler here is also pretty great, I was a total jerk last night and scooped all of the majestic crumbly topping into my bowl, just leaving the stewed apricots for the rest of the line.

my homemade postcards
I swear I'm not always thinking about food/eating food here... I've been sending a bunch of letters home which is fun.  If you're looking for some letter inspiration, check out Mysterious Letters, it's exactly what it sounds like, two dudes send great letters to strangers and blog about it. 

With love,
Erica


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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

banana oatmeal nutella pancakes

Lately, I've been doing a lot of "in the larger scheme of things..." thinking.  Here at astronomy camp, we've been talking a lot about big things, like black holes, supernovae, and ominous things like "dark matter" and "dark energy."


Thinking "in the larger scheme of things" can make me feel small and insignificant.  I am smaller than a dustbunny of a dustbunny of a dustbunny in our solar system, which is one of many in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is one of billions of billions of galaxies in a universe that is constantly expanding.  We are living on the periphery of a very average galaxy, orbiting a very average star... puts my seething rage toward the dude who took my java chip frappuccino at Starbucks yesterday into perspective.

That's the thing...if I'm so incredibly small, do things really matter? 


The universe isn't going to care if I smiled at you on the Metro.  Space aliens will never find out if I replaced the toilet paper roll.  Mars wouldn't know if I wrote you a handwritten letter or a sloppy Facebook message.  The black hole at the center of our galaxy definitely doesn't give a damn whether I washed my hair this morning (thank god).

I guess this is one way of looking at things, "in the larger scheme." But the other geeky way of looking at our place in the universe is that every action has a reaction.  Every shake and rattle sets off another and another.  In this scenario, the little things do matter.

Although the former way of thinking about it is tempting (and gives me an excuse not to wash my hair so often), I'm pretty convinced that the latter is better. 






Think about flipping pancakes. The trick to making good pancakes is to wait until you see little bubbles form around the edges of the pancake. These super tiny bubbles signify that the pancake is "flippable."
These bubbles are smaller than my pinky fingernail.  In the "larger scheme of things" they are  practically invisible. However, that little bubble makes the difference between a big, shriveled, goopy mess of pancake batter and a glorious, fluffy stack of pancakes. The difference between a grouchy, hungry morning spent washing batter off my black yoga pants, or leisurely watching pools of butter melt atop fresh flapjacks while sipping a mug of coffee. 

With love, 
Erica


Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 banana, mashed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella
Stir together all of the ingredients except for the Nutella in a large bowl until well combined.  Gently swirl in the Nutella.
Spoon the batter into a hot skillet over medium heat.  Cook each pancake until the batter starts to bubble at the edges, flip and cook until golden brown.  Continue cooking remaining pancakes. 
Enjoy with butter and maple syrup! (and perhaps some more Nutella!)

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

shake it like a polaroid picture




I've been at astronomy camp for the past week, out in the California desert where the sky gets pitch black at night and uncovers a blanket of stars -- unlike back home in D.C. where the only star I can see is the sun.

Today, instead of giving y'all the low down on all of the supernerdy things I'm doing out here, I'm going to tell you the three reasons why I have a newfound love for Polaroid photography.

1) Polaroids are small 

I used to carry my DSLR camera around my neck on all of my adventures, but then I realized that I was doing all of my adventuring through the lens of my camera instead of my own pupils.  Lugging around a DSLR was like putting a wall between myself and the world in more ways than one -- it instantly identified me as a tourist, it restricted the activities I could do, and caused heaps of anxiety.

"Crap, I can't go swimming, because a beach bum might steal my pricey DSLR/sand will scratch the lens/it will get stung by a jelly fish (?)."


"Shoot, I can't dance with you, street performer, because dancing with a DSLR around my neck is not only awkward, but there is an 80% chance I will smash your tooth out with it."

"Nooooo! Did I get guacamole on the lens?!"

Polaroids are small, hardy and can be tossed in a bag or bike basket or fanny pack with ease. They're also pretty resistant to guacamole.  


2) Polaroids are inefficient.

It's easy for me to get snap-happy with a memory card that holds 2000+ photos, or worse, my iPhone camera.  However, with my Polaroid, I can only take ten pictures per film pack.  It forces me to slow down and think "do I really need a picture holding a bell pepper that's shaped like a heart?" (yes) "do I really need an artsy picture of myself holding my morning coffee?" (no) "...but my nails look real nice today" (still no).  It weeds out the multitude of squirrel pictures, selfies and "artsy" cappuccino pictures that used to be mindlessly downloaded onto my computer never to be looked at again. Instead, I get 10 or so thoughtful pictures that sum up the day.

3) Polaroids don't always work

My camera's fussy- sometimes it decides it just doesn't want to print me a picture.  This happened yesterday when I went to a minor league baseball game in Sacramento - I had my camera poised to take the perfect shot of the fireworks at the end of the game... and then it decided not to print.  But then, I got to lie back and enjoy the fireworks fully without worrying about getting the perfect snapshot.  Even when the pictures do print they don't turn out crystal clear -- there are always strange little light squiggles over people faces, or little blurred halos in the center of the frame(check out my dismal food photography of a strawberry crepe).  How is this a plus?  It lets me relax and enjoy the moment, not for the picture-perfectness of it, but for the moment itself.

Polaroids are messy, fussy, and imperfect - much like the memories they capture.  Also much like the memories, they are unique and singular.  I can't print out a million copies of a Polaroid picture, but I can mail it off to a friend or tuck it away in a book for myself, giving that imperfect snapshot meaning and value that a digital picture can never have.  These pictures can't be photoshopped or airbrushed - but even when they've got red eye and light splotches, they can transport me back to the moment that I took them... and isn't that the whole point of a picture?

With love,
Erica

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.