Hungry Ginger Recommends – First Day of Fall Edition

It’s the first day of Fall. Thank god. Bring on the cool weather, the hot drinks and the scarves. The arrival of Fall doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your happy hour rosé habit though. Just take it inside and opt for a full-bodied red instead. Darker days may mean darker thoughts…revamp some of your mental health practices. And, of course, snuggle up with a good book. It’s decorative gourd season, motherfuckers!

Eats

If you’re in Seattle, go get Happy Hour at Zane+Wylie’s near Pacific Place. Your belly and your pocketbook will thank you! Find my Google Review HERE.

Mental Health

Start a Complaining Journal. There is a lot of focus on happiness these days. People are “hacking happiness” Silicon Valley style. There are so may TED talks and YouTube videos on the subject. I want to be happy just as much as the next person, but lately, I have been feeling like this search for happiness is, well, kind of a bummer. It’s also quite exhausting and overwhelming. This is an interesting article about this phenomenon and why it isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem. MY suggestion in the face of all of this is…COMPLAIN! Instead of a gratitude journal, create a journal, a blog, a Twitter account, whatever, where you can BITCH about your life. Don’t share it with anyone. Make it anonymous if it’s online and DO NOT tell your friends and family about it (you might be bitching about them after all!). I gotta tell you, it is SO cathartic! And once you write or type those things, they somehow seem…less terrible. In Pop Psychology speak, they have lost some of their power. If you need some inspiration, check out Unhappy Hour, a podcast in which comedian and former Buzzfeed Whine About It guy Matt Bellassai complains about stuff for 45 minutes.

Litnerd

Follow Sorted Library on Instagram (after you follow ME of course!). It is an independent library in New York City in which members recommend collections of books around a certain theme. It’s a great way to discover new books and fresh perspectives on old favorites.

A Sweet Summery Reminder

I don’t know if you remember, but a couple years back, Icebox cakes were the thing. From Food and Wine to Redbook, dessert lovers and mommy bloggers extolled the virtues of these no-bake sweet treats. I never really got on the bandwagon, being more of a savory gal myself, but lately, after cutting back on my alcohol consumption, I find myself leaning more into the sweet side of things. Oh, and I got my first cavity. Funny how that works…

Earlier in the summer I made this Banana icebox cake and it turned out fiiiinee. It may be because I am not a huge fan of bananas or Nilla wafers, but I didn’t love it. I didn’t feel guilty eating it though (there’s fruit!) and it seems like something that can be easily modified to taste. Chocolate cookies, strawberries and jam instead of banana. The possibilities are endless!

Banana Icebox

Camping and other summer excursions got in the way of further experimentation until recently, when I discovered Nigella Lawson’s Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce.  It languished on my Trello board for about a month before I got around to making it a few weeks ago. The Summer heat (and smoke, thank god!) had dissipated so the recipe didn’t feel as necessary as it had been just a few weeks earlier but, boy was it a treat! It had the consistency of very fluffy ice cream, flecked with barely sweet chocolate and covered in a drizzle of boozy chocolate sauce. The store-bought meringue cookies (I ordered these on Amazon because they don’t seem to be a common item in local grocery stores), crushed up and combined with whipped cream, provided and very airy consistency and I felt like I was eating a barely sweetened cloud, studded with crunchy chocolaty bits. That by itself would have been just grand, but blanketed in a lovely warm chocolate sauce spiked with dark rum and Kahlua…heaven! I highly recommend this dessert any time of year and, at the tail end of summer on a cool Friday evening, it was perfection; a reminder of summer warmth and and a hint of cozy Fall days ahead.

chocolate-icebox-nigella.jpg

Cooking is my Love Language

They say that there are five love languages: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. This article on She Knows has a good overview. We all tend more toward one of these than the others. Cooking is my love language. It is an act of service, but also quality time, the creation of something to be shared, with love. As a lifelong introvert, an only child and someone who would rather spend Friday night with a good book than out on the town, cooking appeals to me because it is something that I can do alone but also share with the world. It is my contribution to the larger dynamic of human relationships. I may not be the life of the party, gathering everyone around me with a thrilling story or funny joke, but I will gather you around my table for a delicious meal.

The act of gathering together to share sustenance is as old as human memory and therefore deeply ingrained as an essential part of our collective consciousness, our sense of order and comfort. This article in The Atlantic goes into some depth about the history of communal dining and is an interesting longer read. By facilitating this communal experience, I feel as if I am a part of something greater than myself, that I am making a contribution to a greater dialogue. An artist creates a painting or a piece of music for people to enjoy and thus brings them together. I roast a chicken and enjoy it with my husband and some friends. We eat at the table and talk about how our week went and what we are looking forward to. Why would we sit at this table talking about this and that if it was an empty table? We might instead watch a movie or go on a hike, both admirable activities, but less focused on one another than on the activity at hand.

I hug and kiss my husband when he gets home from work, but it is when he smiles in delight at a dish that I have prepared, or texts me in the middle of the day to say that he is enjoying the sandwich I made him, that I feel his love in a truly elemental way. One way of expressing love isn’t better than another, it is only important to stay true to your own love language while being receptive to those of others.

What a Difference a Season Makes

Thanks to last night’s storm, most of our deciduous tree friends have shed their autumnal locks, thus bringing to an end the yearly groundhog day-like ritual of bluster and rake and bluster and rake and curse the heavens…and rake. Besides the fact that I no longer have to worry about our basement flooding because leaves have clogged the basement drain and the sump pump has stopped working, this means that it’s time to tuck our little garden in for the winter. It was a good garden this year. I could have done more with it, but we had some lovely salads and mojitos and ity bity oh so sweet mountain strawberry snacks. There were fat bumble bees drunkenly teetering on lavender blossoms and colorful butterflies gracefully looping about. We cleared out a new part of the garden and planted some shade-loving ferns and our porch pots yielded a plethora of herbs.

After raking the leaves into the beds so they can mulch over the next couple months and enrich the soil below, the garden still looked beautiful in a way. It’s not the riot of lush green and bright fruit that it was this summer but it still seems cared for and…a little cozy really. I’m certainly glad that the damp, ever blowing pain in my side can become helpful nutrients for next year’s bounty. I’m looking forward to 2018 when I plan to expand the back garden (#teamnolawn) and start some beds in the front. Stay cozy out there, friends!

Podcasts for what life throws at you

We live in a world fraught with uncertainty, sadness and, well, dirty dishes. Here are some of the podcasts that have helped me navigate it all.

When you have mindless chores to do…

As a neat/clean freak (and currently unemployed person), I end up cleaning the house pretty frequently. It’s not like I’m down there scrubbing the baseboards with a toothbrush or dustbusting behind the fridge…I AM NOT A MONSTER, but I do like to keep things relatively clean and tidy. I find that I am more relaxed and productive in a clean environment and if I space it out into manageable pieces over the course of the week, it doesn’t seem so daunting. Some people like to listen to music while they clean but I generally listen to podcasts. Comedy podcasts are great because they are generally more entertaining than knowledge-packed, so I don’t feel the need to stop and write stuff down for later every three minutes. I also like serialized fiction podcasts because, like audiobooks, you are just listening to a story and, unlike audiobooks, they are broken down into discrete parts, easily consumable over several short sittings. They may even have a recap before each episode. A few “Cleaning Companions” that I recommend are below:

2 Dope Queens – Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams are the best friends we all yearn for. They are funny. They know a ton of amazing, hilarious people and they don’t take BS of any kind from anyone. Their podcast consists of them just shooting the shit, hanging out with their friends and having incredible comedians on to do stand-up. They tape their shows in front of an audience in Brooklyn and occasionally travel to other cities. I am seriously considering starting a GoFundMe to bring them here. They are that good.

2DopeQueens

Homecoming – Homecoming is a psychological thriller of the old-timey radio serial ilk. It has phenomenal voice acting from the likes of Catherine Keener,  David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris, David Cross and more (Michael Cera was on the last episode I listened to!). There are two full seasons out so far and it is so well done, from the acting to sound editing that you almost feel like you are watching a movie…but you’re not. You are scrubbing some unidentified gunk under the toilet seat. It’s magic! It’s productive escapism!

When you are feeling sad or anxious…

As I mentioned previously, the world can be a sad, uncertain place and we can be sad, uncertain, anxiety attack in the soup aisle having individuals. Sometimes we need to know that we are not alone.

Terrible, Thanks For Asking – Sometimes, the glossy world created by social media and societal expectation, can make it seem like everyone else is doing better than you. I mean, YOU didn’t spend the day apple picking, then curled up by a roaring fire drinking mulled wine. YOU didn’t hike that gorgeous trail (“Eight miles each way!” “Feeling the GOOD kind of tired now as a chicken roasts in the oven and Hendrix on the turntable”). YOU stared at the cat in bed for an hour before moving to the couch to binge on Hemlock Grove. I mean we all have those awesome days every now and then and you can bet that most of us want to get that high from talking about it on social media and getting positive feedback. I am certainly guilty of this, just as I am guilty of the other…(Hemlock Grove…seriously a good show, guys). The point is, we have shitty days and great days and most days are just, meh. It’s the human condition. Terrible Thanks for Asking is a great reminder that everyone else is having those shitty days, weeks, months too. And that is pretty comforting, almost like mulled wine.

The Hilarious World of Depression – Hosted by John Moe, an NPR guy who is depressed and not afraid to talk about it, this podcast also provides an element of “You are not alone” comfort plus a lot of entertaining, intelligent celebrities being brutally honest about their lifelong struggles with depression. Margaret Cho works out to beat depression, Wil Wheaton finds medication most helpful (and for the record is not trying to be cute with that single L. His mother spelled it that way on an early hastilly written note to his father and it stuck). Most of the guests are comedians and all have been through the ringer and come out the other side intact – ish. And that -ish is a perfectly fine state. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

When you want to sound smart and/or politically savvy at an upcoming holiday party/family gathering…

Yes, friends, the holidays are almost upon us. While Summer may have been the time for happy hour margs on the patio, reliving epic camping/beaching/Eclipsing adventures, or (if you live in Washington or Oregon) bitching about the smoke and the latest Trumpian Tweet, Fall and Winter are for more weighty matters. Maybe you have an office party that you would like to win by talking intelligently to your boss for five minutes, allowing you to thoroughly enjoy the shots of high-end Mezcal on the company’s dime mere moments later. Or perhaps you finally want to show your mother that, while you still can’t keep a houseplant alive, you have coherent things to say about gene therapy. Try these on for size:

Waking Up With Sam Harris – Sam Harris is a guy who went to Stanford in the 80s, took MDMA, dropped out, spent 10 years studying consciousness around the world, went back to Stanford, graduated and got a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

What, that’s not enough to get you to listen? OK, this is a very smart but chill person who talks about DEEP shit and complex political issues in an approachable way. And he talks about these things with equally smart people. He will say some things that will make you uncomfortable that you may not agree with completely, but he says them in a way that will spark intelligent debate rather than make you run for your bed with visions of acrimonious comment threads seared into your brain.

The TED Radio Hour – There are SO MANY TED talks out there and who has the time to mine them for pithy facts to impress egghead uncle Jeff, your boss, or that barista who reads The Economist on her breaks and is not impressed by your sportsball trivia? NPR has the solution for you. Timely, themed podcasts that combine TED talks plus bonus interviews with the speakers into a neat little package of knowledge. For example, I just learned that playing video games is by definition the opposite of depression! Don’t believe me, check it out here. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of useful facts for life, love, and monetary gain.

Podcast2

Well, I have lots more of these for you, but I will save them for another time. I hope you are inspired to listen to a podcast or two next time you have a chore to do, are feeling down or want to be inspired!

Fruits of the Nightshade and the Royal Herb

This summer, we got our garden planted a little late and my attitude towards tending our little dirt patch was more Laissez-faire than dedicated care. Stuff did grow. We enjoyed tender lettuces in many a salad and mint in many a cocktail. The Kale had some sort of blight from the start, which I made minimal effort to investigate and fix. I mean, it’s kale. Not something to get too worked up about in my opinion. It will be mixed into my mulch pile later this month and have a second life. C’est la vie. But, the REAL star of every summer garden is always the Tomato. Whether it be Plum or Grape, Roma or Zebra, garden fresh tomatoes smell better, look better and taste better than your average grocery store variety. Just pluck one directly from the vine on a hot day and you will know what I mean. Smell the peppery tomato aroma emanating from the vine, sink your teeth into the fruit and absorb the very essence of the season. Ahhhhh…

This is lovely when you get your plants in the ground early enough and tend to them lovingly throughout a solid two months of sunny days and warm temps. This is Seattle, however, and we get about a month of really nice weather and then there are days like today, when the rain falls and your half-ripe tomatoes sit dejectedly on the vine. Don’t get me wrong, we got a few rounds of ripe, delicious fruits of the nightshade but not the hoped-for haul that we could turn into a delicious sauce to brighten our plates in the dead of winter. This has been noted in my garden journal and next year I hope to do better.

On a happier note, it’s pretty much impossible to screw up another summer staple, basil, or the Royal Herb. Basil can be grown in the garden or in a pot and as long as you keep it well hydrated, it will yield more herb that you will know what to do with. A brief note on watering. Many herbs, like rosemary and thyme (the woody ones, as I like to call them), like to dry out from time to time. They like to be slapped around, told they’ve been bad, neglected a tiny bit. It makes them stronger and more herby. Basil, on the other hand, is a true princeling. He must be kept in moist soil and pruned regularly or he will go chop off Ned Stark’s head or something. But really, the leaves will be dry and narrow rather than round a succulent and he will go to seed all over the place. Ok, I’m done with the weird sex metaphors now, but seriously, if you put a modicum of effort into growing your basil, you will reap the rewards. And that, to me, means pesto pesto pesto! So far I’ve done two mass harvests (where I cut actual stalks, leaving one set of leaves for future growth), eaten two delicious pesto meals and frozen several portions for later. If I play my cards right, I can keep harvesting until it freezes!

Pesto is one of those “no recipe” recipes. Oil, basil, salt, parm and some sort of nut (usually pine nuts) are all that is required. Some people also add garlic and some add lemon juice. It’s all about what you like and what you have around the house…aka the BEST kind of recipe! Toss all your ingredients into a food processor or blender and voila! For my pesto, I drew on recipes from the New York Times, Kitchn, and Simply Recipes. They are all pretty similar and are good to look over to get an idea on proportions. In one batch, I used raw pine nuts and in another, I toasted them. I plan to add some lemon juice to a third and see what that tastes like.

I learned a lot about gardening and the very different requirements for plant care this summer and hopefully, I can bring these lessons to my garden next year so that it is bigger and better. For now, I will be making pesto and coaxing the last of the tomatoes to ripen and to gild a couple more salads before they give up the ghost.

Hungry Ginger Recommends August 3 Edition

First post of the re-imagined Hungry Ginger Blog. Starting pretty basic here because I know myself. Check out my new About tab where I talk about where I’ve been and some of my goals in life and for the blog and find below, a few of the things that are making me happy this week.

Eats

Start your day with a smoothie! Grocery stores and farmers markets are bursting with delicious fruit! Peaches, blueberries, apricots, oh my! Throw a banana, sliced peach, two handfuls of blueberries and several strawberries (why not keep the greens on? It’s all getting blended up anyway.) into a blender. Top with coconut water, kefir (more probiotics than your average yogurt – Web MD has the deets http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/why-is-kefir-good-for-me#1) and juice (I love to use Morning Blend by R.W Knudsen). Blend ‘er up and you have a great start to your day!

#Litnerd

Step away from the Netflix. It’s too hot to be inside anyway. Sit on your porch, or in a park, or air conditioned bar/coffee shop and read this book: Theft By Finding (http://www.davidsedarisbooks.com/theftbyfinding.html). You will laugh at David Sedaris’s witticisms and observations of humanity while simultaneously marveling at the sheer amount of acid the dude dropped in the 70’s. You will think, if David freaking Sedaris spent his early years that messed up and dirt poor, there IS hope for me yet.

Oh yeah, exercise

In Seattle currently, it is too darn smoky and hot to go for that run. The gym is always an option if that’s your thing, but if you like FREE like ME, I have another suggestion. Yoga with Adriene on You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/yogawithadriene). Close all your doors and windows and you basically have a free hot yoga class!