Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Alison Hein.
Get out those apples again – we’re making fritters!
As autumn turns to winter each year, I’m reminded of my mother, who would heat up a batch of oil, and fry us up some old-timey fritters. A wonderful contradiction of tangy, sweet, crispy, and soft… But these are not your mother’s fritters – yesterday’s pancake batter has been updated with bubbly effervescence – beer! Carbon dioxide, foaming agents, and, of course, alcohol conspire to form the perfect triad for creating light, crispy crusts.
Webster’s dictionary describes a fritter as “a small mass of fried or sautéed batter often containing fruit or meat”. This foodstuff is age-old, ancient and across-the-board. Burmese make small fritters similar to falafel called a-kyaw; there are both sweet and savory Indonesian gorengan; and let’s not forget Japanese tempura or Phillippine kwek-kwek!
But back to my mom and her apple fritters. She did do something a little different. Instead of commonly adding chopped apples to the batter before frying, she merely sliced the fruit in rings before dipping them in a floury egg bath and cooking to a golden perfection. I like the beer dip, though. Not only for the light crispiness it helps to achieve, but for the modern, edgy flavor that lets you know you’re in for something special. In other words, a breakfast in bed that happens only once in a Blue Moon.
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chilled Blue Moon beer (or other beer or club soda)
2 tart apples, like McIntosh or Cortland
Oil for frying
Deep-fry or candy thermometer
Pour oil at least 2 inches deep into a small, heavy pan. Heat over medium heat to approximately 350°. Mix together flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. Whisk in beer or club soda until just mixed. Do not overmix. Set batter aside to rest a few minutes.
Pare and core apples, then slice into ¼-inch rings. Using long tongs, dip apple rings into batter, gently shaking off any excess, then into hot oil. Cook until batter is crisped and golden, carefully turning once, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and cool slightly on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve hot.
NOTE: Monitor oil with candy thermometer to maintain stable temperature.
I don’t know about you, but I need a little heart art right now. I’ve been thinking about switching up the art in my bedroom for a while. It’s been about five years since my last major bedroom redo and it feels like it is time for a change. The artwork in your home should always represent you- the people you love, the places you’ve been, how you want to feel. Artwork is deeply personal. My selections may not be your exact selections (that would be creepy), but know that for a quick and budget friendly bedroom update, new artwork that you feel passionate about is a great way to go.
These paper hearts look like they might fly right out of the frame. I appreciate the homemade, but stylish quality of this piece.
The intricacy of this Nordic heart is simply beautiful. I like the feeling of having a full heart on my wall and in my body.
For more lovely robots: http://www.etsy.com/shop/denadalton
Sometimes the best art for your home is created by someone you love. This is a piece that I picked up at Portland’s ginormous annual art fair, Crafty Wonderland last week. A friend of mine made this and it assures me that everything will be okay.
Children’s artwork will always have a place in my home. There is nothing more cheerful, uplifting, and sometimes downright funny than pieces made by kids. As a teacher, I am gifted many drawings throughout the school year. I love the idea of scanning pictures down to a small size to create a happy collection. This is a great way to enjoy many favorite pieces at once.
Take care and lots of love to you and yours.
Post by Josh Zinn.
Hi folks! We’ve got a special treat for you all today. Direct from some vague Midwestern town where children frequently suffer from bouts of depression and apathy, child star Charlie Brown is here to tell us all about his timeless and beloved holiday special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas!” Let’s take it away!
Josh Zinn: Hi there, Chuck. Can I call you Chuck?
Charlie Brown: I guess. I mean, it’s kind of overplayed and all, but do what you like.
JZ: Wow. I never knew you were so, what’s the word?
JZ: No, I was going to say sarcastic. Huh. I guess I just never suspected someone with such a big head and such a dour look on life would dare be prickly. It’s not like you have a lot of friends to begin with.
CB: What’s your point? Why does this even matter? Aren’t we here to talk about my “timeless” special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas?”
JZ: Sure, but I…
CB: But what? Oh, let me guess, you must just LOVE the song “Christmastime is Here,” huh?
JZ: Yeah, it’s very nice. Sure, they play it too many times at Starbucks, but it is pretty.
CB: Yeah, ooooh: “Christmastime is here/happiness and cheer.” Wow, what a lyrical powerhouse! You and every other hipster that’s out there have such unique taste. Let me guess, it sounds better on vinyl, right?
JZ: I think we’re getting off on the wrong foot here.
CB: Sorry. Look, I just… This special brings up some really bad memories for me, okay?
JZ: Why? Because you spend most of the special pondering your worth via the existential ennui that often sets in for people around the holidays?
JZ: And it becomes evident early in that all of your chums from school have zero respect for you, both as a peer and as a human being.
JZ: Heck, even your dog boos you at one point when you’re trying to direct the Christmas pageant.
CB: Yeah, that stung a bit. Stupid dog.
JZ: Oh, and let’s not forget the tree. I mean, I get that it’s supposed to be touching because you basically rescue this imperfect thing that’s dying in a sea of plastic artificiality, but couldn’t you tell when you saw it that everyone was going to hate you for buying it?
CB: I guess you could look at it…
JZ: Or did you just not care cause everyone hates you already? In that case, was this some fit of rebellion on your part? Did you think that by purchasing the crummy invalid tree you’d be making a bold statement about your own perceived lack of worth? Isn’t that basically just making the entire tree-buying scenario into something self-serving rather than something that is meant to serve the play? Has anyone ever called you a narcissist?
CB: Jeez, you are reading far too much into this! I just bought it because I felt bad for it, okay? Wouldn’t you feel bad if you saw something that you knew no one would probably ever want, but you knew had some kind of worth to it? Wouldn’t you want to give it a home?
JZ: Sure, but I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m trying to say here Chuck…
JZ: Okay, Charlie. What I’m trying to convey here is that, yes, I get why you bought the tree on a very surface “Christmas is a time of redemption” level, but I want to know if you have given much thought as to how the tree’s journey mirrors your own desire to be seen as someone who is worthwhile? I mean, all the kids do come to love it and don’t you want to be loved too?
CB: Yeah, they come to love it, but that’s only after Linus makes another one of his grandiose sermonizing speeches that are meant to be heartfelt, but make him come across as some kind of creepy and weird know-it-all. And yeah, I want to be loved. Doesn’t everybody? Hey, why aren’t you asking me any questions about what’s wrong with all the other kids in the special? It’s not as if Lucy comes across as all that put-together either. Plus, her ego is ten times the size of mine.
JZ: Sure, but the show isn’t called “A Lucy Christmas,” is it?
CB: Not my fault.
JZ: Regardless of whether it’s your fault or not, the onus is on you Chu… Charlie.
CB: Yeah, I get that. That’s why I told you that this whole thing brings up bad memories for me. Fine. Yes, I wanted to be loved just like the tree. Yes, I bought it because it reminded me of me. Yes, I am lonely. Yes, my dog hates me. Yes, I seek out emotional gratification by attempting to please others but oftentimes I shoot myself in the foot because I get angry that I have to resort to such pathetic maneuvering. The tree is me. THE TREE IS ME Are you happy?
JZ: I think that’s a question you should probably be asking yourself, Chuck. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!
CB: Good grief.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Once you’ve selected a mattress, the second most important decision you have to make in regards to your bedding is which pillow to use. There are a ton of options, each with different pros and cons depending on the type of sleeper you are. Constantly searching for the ultimate night’s sleep, I’ve been through more pillows than I care to admit; finding the right one can be an arduous task—especially if your shopping on a budget. To help you in your decision-making, I’ve put together a quick list of a couple different types of pillow selections, and why you may prefer one over the other.
Synthetic, Organic, or Down Pillows
The first decision you need to make when buying a pillow is what type of filler material it’s made out of. There a lot of different choices, especially if you start looking into some of the more specialty pillows, but there are three broad options to choose from: synthetic, organic, or down.
Synthetic pillows can be made of either polyester or a memory foam material. Polyester pillows are made to resemble the feel of down, but without the allergies and often for a fraction of the cost. Interestingly, I am somewhat allergic to polyester bedding – particularly sheets – and I find the feel of polyester to be less satisfactory having slept with down pillows for much of my life. People who suffer from asthma are often more inclined to purchase synthetic pillows as there is a belief that down pillows contain and collect more allergens such as dust mites. Interestingly, a study conducted by alergyasthmacenter.com found that many of these claims are not entirely based in science.
Organic pillows are made of anything other than synthetic materials or down. One of our writers, Laura Cheng, wrote about her experiences with Japanese Buckwheat pillows, which a popular alternative to synthetic or down pillows. I haven’t tried them myself, but I imagine they feel like a larger (and more natural) version of the neck pillows you see people traveling with on the airplane. Since I cannot testify to their comfort first hand, I will leave my evaluation of them as a good alternative for sleepers who cannot have down pillows (due to allergies or ethical reasons), but don’t want synthetic either.
My personal favorite type of pillow is the down filled variety. Down pillows are made from one of several different types of feathers and down, including: chicken, goose, and duck. Goose down is often thought of as the higher-end filler since ducks are more abundant throughout the world, and marketers have done a good job convincing us that Goose is better. That said, there is probably little actual difference between a comparably made pillow of either duck or goose. Chicken feather pillows are less common, and make up the lower end of pillow stuffing. Feathers aren’t nearly as soft, not do they have the insulating characteristics of down and used mostly for support. I actually sleep with a pillow stuffed with chicken feathers that my girlfriend’s grandmother made for her back in Italy. It is one of my favorite “base pillows” as it provides a stable base to put a more plush goose down pillow on top of.
Firm, Medium, or Soft Pillows
Once you’ve narrowed down you pillow preference in terms of the filling materials, the next set of choices (and perhaps the more difficult) is whether to get a firm, medium or soft pillow. The firmness of the pillow is largely a factor of the fill-count (e.g., how many feathers are stuffed inside the pillow); however, the actual feel of the pillow varies significantly between manufacturers. Generally, softer pillows, which use less filling, are less expensive than firm pillows.
Your choice between a soft, medium, or firm pillow largely has to do with how you sleep. Soft pillows are ideal for stomach sleepers, or sleepers who move a lot during the night since they are much more pliable than their firmer counterparts. Medium pillows are ideal for back sleepers, and firm pillows are best for side sleepers. As I mentioned above, the actual firmness of the pillow has more to do with the manufacture than the label attached to the pillow, so you’ll want to do your pillow shopping in person so you can feel the difference. I generally err on the side of more firm, since down tends to soften with time.
The type of pillow you choose ultimately depends on your sleeping habits, and personal preferences. If I had my druthers, I’d get a soft, medium, and firm pillow because I like to have choices and find that some nights I’m looking for something different.
What type of pillow do you use? Do you have any recommendations for readers currently in the market for a new pillow? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Post by Alison Hein.
I just read an article by the Natural Resources Defense Council about food waste in the US (http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf). Did you know that 40 percent of food in our country is wasted annually? Estimates indicate this is equivalent to approximately $165 billion per year! Kind of hard to believe, considering that one in six Americans currently lacks a steady food supply.
Most of the time, I’m pretty good about consuming all the groceries we buy. I’ve got lots of neat tricks for using celery leaves and aging vegetables to make nourishing soups and stocks. You will also find me freezing leftovers, or carting care packages to friends and family. When I fall short, though, is during holiday season – I always overestimate the amount of baking that actually occurs.
Take Thanksgiving, for example. I baked two apple pies and two pumpkin pies, yet I still have four cans of pumpkin in my pantry! Anyway, a long serious spiel to get to the point of providing you with an excellent remedy for holiday overstocking – Pumpkin Spice Bread.
This is a simple recipe that warms your home with pumpkin pie scents, and neatly rounds out a breakfast or brunch menu. Rich and filling pumpkin creates a moist, dense bread that works well when lightly warmed and topped off with a schmear of whipped cream cheese. Stash a slice or two in your children’s lunch boxes, or treat yourself to a spicy, pumpkin breakfast in bed.
Then come join me in donating some of my overstocked pantry to our local food bank. 🙂
4 tablespoons butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs until smooth. Add pumpkin and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Add dry ingredients all at once to pumpkin mixture, stirring to combine. Spread batter evenly in a well-greased loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack at least 1 hour before slicing.
Makes one loaf of pumpkin bread.