Monday, February 16, 2009

It's Not Just For Soap

Now that the worst of winter seems to be behind us, weekends are for walking. Eight miles this Saturday, and a bit less Sunday. Given that Mama Bird did not have to go to work today, we walked. Only about 3 miles, but we walked. Walking seems to have helped my recent moods, getting out in the fresh air and sun is always a good thing.
As I said, the organization continues, next up is my clothes closet. After that, I'm not sure. There are many other areas that could use the help, but without bookshelves it will be difficult. Perhaps I'll turn to thinning out the stuff I don't really need.
This afternoon Mama Bird and I baked cupcakes. Dark chocolate with lavender icing. We totally cheated and used a box mix for the cake part. We also cheated on the icing. It was from a can and was plain white icing. To this we added minced lavender, about 1/2 a teaspoon. Also added was food coloring to make it a pale, pale purple. 3 drops red to 2 drops blue for one can of icing. After they were iced we sprinkled lavender over them. Not only were they pretty to look at they taste divine!
In two weeks I will have lived here in Chicago for six years. March first. Sometimes it feels like I've been here forever, that this is where I belong. Other times it feels like I just moved here yesterday and it is like a revelation. When I was new here it felt that way. That weird duality. I felt like I had come home, but was also struck with the amazing wonder that is this city. There are things to do and places to go here. And not all of them cost an arm and a leg. Yes, winter here can be a pain (literally) and summer is fleeting. But it's a great city to live in. For one thing this city is pedestrian friendly. You can walk ANYWHERE. And I usually walk everywhere. If the weather is bad, or it's late in the evening I take a bus or a cab. If I'm going to an event with friends who drive, I catch a ride with them. I can't wait for summer when walking is easier (warmer) and the days are light for longer. For Millennium Park to start it's season of concerts again, so I can picnic while enjoying the music and the city together.
In honor of that six year anniversary I am planning a special meal. Roasted Duck, Haricot Verts with Walnut Oil, and Gratin Potatoes. The plan is to reserve the left over duck fat and make fries later. Thus the Frydaddy will be christened. I have never cooked duck before so this will be interesting. But we don't plan on using fancy sauces, and the rest of the menu should balance that out.

Haricot Verts with Walnuts and Walnut Oil

1/3 cup walnuts
sea salt
3/4 pound haricots verts, stems trimmed
3 tbsp walnut oil
coarsely ground black pepper or grains of paradise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the walnuts in a small baking dish. Bake until you can hear the walnuts sizzling or smell them when you open the oven door, about 5 minutes. (Set your timer!!) Remove from oven and chop coarsely.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water, seasoned with sea salt so that it tastes like ocean water (not quite, but salty), to a boil. Add the haricots verts and cook until just tender but still firm, about 4 minutes. (Don't over cook: they will continue to cook out of the water) Drain, then spread out on a kitchen towel to soak up excess water.
Gather the beans while still hot and toss in a bowl with the warm walnuts and the walnut oil. Season generously with pepper (or grains of paradise) and perhaps a bit more salt.

serves 2 ( double or triple as needed)
The green beans in this are supposed to be the really skinny kind, not cut skinny, naturally skinny. This recipe is adapted from a book my bestest friend gave me. And Grains of Paradise can be found at most specialty spice stores.

--Little Bird will fall into a sugar coma tonight.


Christopher said...

If you are going to collapse into a sugar coma, I can recommend a good pair of arms to sleep in, if you were so inclined.

Hertz said...

Dang Christopher...get a room!

Hertz said...

and wouldn't be "....if you were so reclined"???

Christopher said...

Salt my game again Hertz, and I'll recline you, hehe.

Little Bird said...

I'm inclined to recline in his arms ANY day!
And here I thought comments were on the decline.

-Avis/Little Bird

Judy (from FB) said...

"It's Not Just for Soap"!!! Your title killed me! Just what I was afraid of! But I might try it -- where can I find lavender?
Your story of Chicago life made me smile. One day, when my Andrew and I retire, I want to travel cross-country. Perhaps we can made Chicago one of our stops.

Little Bird said...

You can find lavender in most specialty spice shops. Some grocery stores have it in the spice section too. You want to get from a place where you are sure it's lavender meant for consumption. Otherwise it may have some preservatives or even fragrance in it! I would NOT recommend ripping open your sachets.

Little Bird said...

Oh Hertz? This IS my room.