Sunday, October 30

Falling in and out of love

My dear friend Alex, a wonderful musician and inspiring individual filled with wanderlust, sang a song once that has been stuck in my head since. It was a cover of the song "Cold and Blind" by Possessed by Paul James (who lately, I am in love with), and he sang it with the equally inspiring Caley Conway (who has a voice like none other!). Silly me, the only words I could remember were "... feel no consequences; falling in and out of love". So imagine me, like a broken record, singing this line over and over, till it was as natural as breathing. Though the actual lyrics depict a rather grim story (as Alex and I later discussed, after he shared the remaining lyrics), the line I first recalled has embodied another meaning for me, as of late.
An old, but favorite image of mine: hello, Fall!
This summer has been a continuous transition phase. As I have previously written, I have moved from place to place and fallen in and out of love with every place I have landed. This past month, Annie and I adventured across Wisconsin and Iowa, peddling our way on bicycles from Milwaukee to Omaha, Nebraska. Six-hundred miles later, and I have fallen in love and out of love with many things: I am in love with all of the people who shared their homes, families, shelter and food. I have fallen out of love with the notion that I can do things on my own; which surely I can, but I can guarantee it wouldn't be nearly as exciting! On the contrary, I am in love with the reality that while I can transport myself 600 miles, and I am equally in love with the reality of all the while being completely dependent on everyone else.
 Ready to ride, with a windsock made by Vanessa!
 Annie, packing her bike, about to head out
 600 miles later, we enter Nebraska: OMAHA! 
We made it! 

Before I move myself and belongings to Omaha for a more lengthy stay, I am home with my parents for the next couple weeks, and I plan to use this time to fall back in love with resting (which may also be called "being lazy as a bug"), and cooking. It has been a while since I have had a chance to do either of these things. In fact, rather than being as lazy as a bug, I spent most of the summer being as busy as a bee! It seems silly in retrospect that I was so busy, but I wouldn't change a minute of it, as I crafted till the wee hours of the night, and biked the streets of Milwaukee with my best friends. I am in love with Milwaukee and all those around me.

The other day, before Alex moved to Denver for the time being (recall, his great wanderlust; truly admirable), we spent the day casually exploring our favorite things in the city. We sampled cheese and shared a beer, we spent time with Michael at the Spice House, and then spent the afternoon exploring new parks and falling in love with a new side of Milwaukee. The evening ended with soup: filled with vegetables harvested from the garden Annie tended, and spices new and old, from the Spice House and from the spice shelf of my summer residence. A beautiful night, indeed.
Chili spices from the Spice House; The embodiment of fall
Clockwise from the top left: Turmeric (freshly ground!), Aleppo Chili Powder, Ground Ancho Chili Powder, Organic Garlic Powder, Guajillo Chili Powder

Of the new spices that I found at the Spice House with Alex, there was one I was quite excited to use: powdered porcini mushrooms. As I have spent the summer falling in and out of love with people, places, and things, I decided I would make a recipe that many already love in a new way, equally lovable. When asked (numerous, numerous times by my parents) to use the bountiful supply of our last harvest of green beans, I new just what I would do: green bean casserole. Originally, green bean casserole was created by Campbell's Soup Company in the 50s as a "quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950s: green beans and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup" (Campbell's). Times have changed, and thank goodness for me, I don't have a bountiful supply of canned cream of mushroom soup (at least not since I stopped buying canned food, last August). As of last Thursday, however, I do have a supply of powdered porcini mushroom! Let the revamp begin.
Green Bean Casserole (new and improved)
For the sauce:
2 cups of milk, I used 2%
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of horseradish
1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon dried porcini mushroom powder 
   (available here, in case you aren't so lucky to live by a Spice House)
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients, save the cornstarch, in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium low heat until the mix begins to steam, stirring to incorporate all ingredients. 

2. In a side dish, add water to the cornstarch and combine until it is completely dissolved (Don't just plop it into the other ingredients, or you will have a really lumpy sauce! yuck), and gradually pour into the sauce pan, stirring constantly. 

3. Increase the heat to medium, and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil softly. Cook until the sauce thickens and drops off a spoon, rather than pours. Remove from heat. 

For the casserole:
1 pound of green beans, cleaned (homegrown!)
Homemade mushroom sauce (see above) 
1/4 cup of homemade bread crumbs
1 purple onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

1. Place all the green beans in a small casserole dish. Pour the sauce on top of the green beans and spread the bread crumbs over the sauce. 

2. In a skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until they become translucent. Remove from heat and distribute evenly atop the bread crumbs. Top with the cheese.

3. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until the green beans are cooked through. Bon appetite! 

I do hope that you too will love this new spin on green bean casserole. Some people may think I am crazy for not purchasing canned/packaged foods, but let me just say, I have fallen in love with food more since I have forgone store-bought alternatives. While there are moments when cooking an entire meal seems more daunting than biking 600 miles with hills and wind (aka across Iowa), but somehow, I am still in love. 

Happy eating!

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