a truly lovely visit

Last weekend, my in-laws came to town.  As my husband and I were preparing for the visit and trying to plan a schedule, it hit me.  I’ve been in a pretty simple routine.  Maybe rut is the better word.  I’ve definitely been keeping busy and not bored with life – that’s not really the rut I’m talking about.  I more mean – I had gotten into a city rut and an idea rut.  Whenever I make a plan to meet someone for drinks, it’s always at the same handful of bars.  Same story with restaurants.  And really – same story with any activities.  I’ve been in Indianapolis for less than two years, but you’d think I’d been here for ten. 

So, thank god my in-laws came.  I needed to spice things up – continue to fall in love with the city that is becoming my home.  And it’s always fun to see places through an outsider’s perspective.  Like, my in-laws couldn’t believe that on a Friday night, we could just show up at a brewery downtown and get free beer.  And, coming from an east coast lifestyle, it was really a great shock for them that we live in a densely populated neighborhood and still have a fairly large yard, big enough for a fire pit, two raised vegetable beds, a couple large trees and flower beds. 

Not only did we have a great time exploring the city, cooking together, indulging in a lot of truly delicious and rich food, and gardening together, but my love for this new home was rekindled.  [And, all my Philly friends, in case you’re missing it – this is a big HINT HINT to plan a visit!]

Free locally brewed beer tasting at Sun King Brewery

Our first home-cooked dinner together – barbecue pulled pork sandwiches.  And my two lovely carafes purchased a local homegoods store – Honeysuckle Homes.

Hiking through the Nature Preserve at Marrott Park.

Celebrating Jon and Ginger’s 33rd wedding anniversary at an amazing French Bistro – Petite Chou.  My chicken paillard and the shared apple pie crepe with caramel gelato were divine.

How was this my first visit to Traders Point Creamery?  Brunch in an old barn on Indiana’s only 100% organic and grass fed dairy farm.  We walked all through the farm and I actually squealed with joy at how close I could get to the animals.  Totally awesome afternoon.

 

The last dinner of the trip – my attempt at a Big Fancy Steak Salad.  Ginger and I had a lot of fun making this, and it was incredible.

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blueberries, beans, and bridesmaids

I’m not gonna lie – last week was rough.  I felt emotionally fragile most of the days, picked too many fights with my wonderfully-mellow husband, and didn’t do much to take care of myself.  I missed my new yoga class twice and watched way too much tv.  I’m not being hard on myself, not trying to beat myself up.  It’s just all the truth. 

So, when Friday rolled around, I shocked myself by deciding to go grocery shopping.  Our delivery of beautiful food had arrived, and my brain felt like it was moving for the first time in days.  I hadn’t looked at any recipes, but I knew I wanted to cook.  That’s always a good sign for me – it takes energy to create meals, even if I’m just following a recipe, and I was starting to feel excited about putting something together. 

Okay friends, I haven’t yet shared my obsession with Pioneer Woman.  I didn’t want to write about it too soon because I thought, once I start on Pioneer Woman, I won’t stop.  She is one of my greatest inspirations for all things domestically creative.  Her recipes are beyond delicious, her home is a place of nourishment and peace for friends and family, her writing is honest and hilarious, and most importantly, she has a basset hound with the most amazing droopy eyes EVER.  I kinda want to be her, except not in Oklahoma, and maybe not raising and homeschooling four kids.  Other than that, I kinda want to be her.

Everything I cooked this weekend was straight-up Pioneer Woman goodness.  First, I started Saturday morning with Lemon Blueberry Pancakes.  I had a huge lemon from my deliveries and half a bag of frozen blueberries.  I’ve never been able to get my pancakes to be thick and plump, and I think now I get why.  Maybe two reasons – first, I always thin my batter out too much.  As written, this recipe was too thick to simply pour onto the griddle – I had to scoop it out of the bowl.  I almost thinned it, but then I thought, “No Katie, trust PW.”  The second thing may be the amount of baking powder in most recipes – this one called for 3 ½ teaspoons (really, a heaping tablespoon) of it.  The result of thick batter with lots of baking powder – beautiful, pillowy pancakes that stood about ½ inch thick.  (Also, I halved the amount of lemon in this recipe, knowing someone in my house wouldn’t appreciate too much lemon.  Half was still lots of lemon.)

Sunday nights, I generally try to be a bit gourmet, adventuresome, or at least I try not to make something super-easy I could do any weeknight.  Except this Sunday.  This Sunday I had a craving for beans and cornbread.  I had never actually had “beans and cornbread” before, but it just sounded perfectly comforting.  Friends, it was stupidly easy and more tasty than I thought it would be.  As the recipe calls for, I didn’t season the beans except with salt and pepper.  But then I served them with chili powder and oregano on the side, as well as diced onions, poblano peppers and grated cheese.  This is definitely one of my new go-to easy-anytime recipes.  Oh, and I added 1/3 cup of sugar to the cornbread, because we like sweet cornbread here. 

Finally, I know this doesn’t have anything to do with food, but it was instrumental in this weekend lifting my spirits and setting me on a different course for this week.  I watched Bridesmaids.  I laughed till I cried, then actually cried, then watched it again 4 hours later.  Even though I’d heard, I still wasn’t prepared for some of the raunchiness.  But I love the women in it for taking on such unconventional roles for women.  And I have mad respect for Kristen Wigg for writing a script with a willingness to “go there.”  The whole movie reminded me of the exchange between Amy Poehler and Jimmy Fallon in Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”.  Basically, Amy did something “unladylike” in the writer’s room, and Jimmy, sorta joking, said “I don’t like it, that’s not cute.”  And Amy straight-up said  “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”  Women don’t have to play the cute girl-next-door, and we can be funny, almost offensively and definitely grossly funny.  We’re allowed.  But sometimes it takes a Bridesmaid moment for our world to see it.  

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our lovely local deliveries

Am I the only person who loves public radio pledge-drive campaigns?  I know they can get old after three straight weeks (I’m talking to you WFYI), but still – something about them just makes me feel like part of a community that is working hard to keep a good thing going. I also love hearing the big-time, corporate, named-partner-in-the-law-firm sponsors try to crack jokes at 6:30 in the morning.  HA. 

Well, during the first pledge-drive I heard in Indiana, while driving to my job … at corporate America … in the suburbs, I heard of this organization called “Green Bean Delivery.”  I instantly thought they were awesome because they pledged two pounds of fresh produce to a downtown food bank for every new member pledge WFYI received. 

So I looked them up – as it turned out, Green Bean is a grocery-delivery system to your house, but more like a farmers’ market delivered to your house.  They have a fantastic network of local farmers and artisans, and the website said I could get year-round delivery!  So obviously, I’m immediately thinking about how that means less rummaging through the produce bins at the grocery store, looking for anything that could possibly have come from my neck of the woods in the winter.  Tomatoes, strawberries, sugar snap peas – these things are just not natural in Indiana in January. 

Okay, here’s the thing.  No matter how excited I am, or passionately I feel about something, I WILL find a way to put it off.  Almost completely.  Until I have laid an internal guilt-trip on so strong that I can’t stand it anymore.  That’s what happened with Green Bean.  I learned of these lovely people in October 2010.  I signed up in November 2011.  But, let’s not dwell on that…

At least half of the produce we eat in our house now comes from farmers in my tri-state region.  And it’s gorgeous.  I’m someone who gets really excited to see pretty produce.  Yes, I think produce is pretty.  And I think my dog understands me when I talk to her.  And I still think Dennis Kucinich would make a fantastic president.  I don’t think there’s a problem with any of these things. 

This week we received some gorgeous local Shitake Mushrooms.  I have a recipe for sautéed fish with mushroom ragout, which just so happens to call for Shitakes.  Folks, it was DELICIOUS.  Thank you Williams-Sonoma Cooking From the Farmers’ Market.  (And thank you, mom, for getting it for me for Christmas.)  I used White Ruffy (a fantastic white fish that holds up well and doesn’t taste or smell too fishy).  The ragout had Shitakes and Criminis and some half-and-half.  Oil, butter, parsley…that’s about it.  I highly recommend it. 

This is definitely the most gourmet I’ll be all week.

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