So many changes

My, my, how times have changed. It’s been a few years since I’ve written for Susan Eats the World, and I think it’s time to resurrect this blog because 1) I miss writing about food, 2) I have lots of food adventures to document, and 3) this blog is hella fun!

A few things that happened since my last post 3 years ago:

  • I worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in the Bakken.
  • I got surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.
  • I made friends with a Mexican family who owned the best taco truck ever.
  • I fell in love with a beautiful man.
  • I got pregnant and moved into an old Tudor house in Omaha that is pretty and NOT haunted.
  • I discovered pregnancy discrimination is a real thing and the fight for gender equality is far from over.
  • I gave birth to a boy who everyone always says is “so chill” in a surprised tone.
  • I joined a bacon club and published a feature on it.
  • I attended a food writers conference in Iowa City.
  • I ate lots and lots of great food in Omaha and discovered this little Midwestern city has a lot of diversity and some great restaurants. There’s a decent sized Thai community here, and we just celebrated Songkran (Thai new year).
  • I gained weight.

That last one has been a struggle. With more time at home with a baby, I find myself cooking a lot more. To me, food is life. I love to cook food, I love to eat it, smell it, taste it, feel it, knead dough with my hands, blow a spoonful of hot soup, mix spices, grill steaks, dip lobster in lemon and butter, get a bountiful supply of veggies at my farmers market, visit the Thai grocery store and make curry and tom yum…

Speaking of good Thai food, I made Thai chicken noodle soup this week, called “gua theywa” in Thai.

We had a tornado warning earlier this week. My baby and I sat under a desk under the basement and waited it out. We heard tornado sirens and wind outside. After all was clear, we went back upstair and upon seeing how gray and cool it was out, I decided it was the perfect time for a big, warm bowl of chicken soup.

I pulled out our dutch oven, filled it almost all the way with water, a large tablespoon full of Better than Boullion, 3 rib bones out of a gallon sized zip lock I keep in the freezer, drizzles of soy sauce and fish sauce, sliced fresh ginger, 3 smashed garlic cloves and 2 onions, chopped. I let that boil while I pulled a family sized package of chicken legs and defrosted it in the microwave. Once the chicken legs were defrosted enough to pull apart from each other, I placed them in the dutch oven and boiled for 15 minutes, then left it on low for about an hour. Makes the whole house smell soooo good, and it’s so easy to make.

When it was closer to suppertime, I prepared some rice noodles (boiled them separately, then rinsed with cold water), chopped up some fresh green onion, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Next, I pulled out a few chicken legs from the pot and chopped up the meat.

chicken2
Chopping chicken on the veggie side.

I pulled out my soup bowl and fill half of it with rice noodles, pour my onion-y broth over it, a handful of chopped chicken, cilantro, squeeze of lime, squirt of sriracha, and voila!

soup2
Homemade Thai chicken noodle soup.

One of my favorite soups of all time. The Thai grocery store by my house sells fried garlic in huge containers, so of course I keep that in the pantry handy to sprinkle over this soup. Why not? It adds texture and flavor, mmm!

I moved

My last post was only a month and a half ago, but it feels like a lifetime since I’ve had that pho.

In mid-July, I moved from Chicago to a little oil boom town in Eastern Montana to write for a local newspaper. At the Sidney Herald, I am publishing food reviews every Wednesday (among other things).

To read my food reviews for the Herald, check out my writer’s portfolio at susanmini.wordpress.com. On the left hand side of my portfolio there is a page called “Food writing” to click on.

At times, it’s a challenge to cover the “food scene” of small town America, but as some old white dude once said, “There are no dull subjects, only dull writers.”

Susan Eats the World has been fun to write. I would like to thank my (three) loyal readers for staying with me through the years. Although I’m now occupied with the Herald all the time, you can expect an occasional rant or ramble here in the future.

XOXO,
Gossip Girl
(Ha, not really. I just love Kristen Bell’s voice when she signs off.)

90 Miles Cuban Cafe is bold, fun and authentic

When is comes to eating meat, there are two things that make me a very happy woman. 

One is when you’ve got a great hunk of meat marinated and on low heat for ten hours. How could that not make anybody happy? There simply is NOTHING like the scent of dripping fat and spices permeating the kitchen all day long. It’s what makes home and holidays so great. A giant turkey cooking for six hours on Thanksgiving. A chunk of ham roasting in the oven on Christmas. Even if the day is mediocre, the knowledge that a juicy, dripping, tender, soft, chewy, pink piece of meat is sitting and working and just waiting all day for you to take a bit out of it is absolute bliss.
 
Shoot, I got so caught up in thinking about how much I love slow roast meat that I can’t remember what the second thing was.
 
Umm…
 
Uhh…
 
…..
 
…..
 
…..
 
…..
 
Well, whatever.
 
The point is this: if you’re a lover of meat, spice, and garlic, there is a great Cuban place in Chicago you’ve gotta check out. It’s called 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. They’ve got two locations–I went to the one on Armitage and Milwaukee.
 
Atmosphere
 
It felt as though I were back in Key West again. The Cuban presence at this place is legit and way fun. They had good windows and lighting. Water is served in glass jars and there are quirky antiques everywhere to decorate the dining room, include a wall piano. A large TV screen had I Love Lucy playing with the volume on mute. It’s colorful, bright, and happy without being overwhelming or too noisy. Tropical Cuban music could be heard throughout the cafe. I think Ernest Hemingway would have approved, though it might be just a tad too cute for him. (But definitely not too cute for me.) I half expected to see one of his six toed cats to stroll in. (Did not happen.)
 
Also the bathroom was one of those bathrooms where everyone writes all over the walls and all over the stalls. This can make a place look dirty depending on how it’s executed. At 90 Miles, it fortunately did not look dirty at all. Just made it more fun and customize!
 
Food
On my the server’s recommendation, I ordered the Churrasco. This consists of “marinated, tender, skirt steak served with parsley garlic sauce, yellow rice, and boiled yuca with mojo de ajo.” The garlic sauce is very strong, like pure chunks of nearly raw garlic. It will seep in your pores for days, but the savory, unique bold flavor is worth it.
 
Drinks
 
I went there for lunch with my teenaged sister, so being the responsible adult I did have have any alcoholic drinks. Although it should be noted that they have great looking sangria and mojitos! I imagine it would be the perfect place to host a summer birthday dinner. (Hint hint to all my friends.)
 
Service
 
Our server was very experienced. He told me he’d been at 90 Miles for four years now. He was very knowledgeable about every menu item and happy to give further descriptions and recommendations. You could tell he had a lot of tables but he did his best to manage his time and check up on everyone and be attentive and all that.
 
They give you a little brown paper bag to put your money in at the end of the meal, which I’ve never seen done before at a restaurant.
 
Overall, 4.5 out of 5 stars!

A trip to Wicker Park’s tastiest “eco-chic” restaurant

A few weeks ago when it was snowing terribly in Chicago, a friend took me to dinner at a place called Prasino.

I was in the mood for some cheap Thai food, so before we went I asked her what kind of food they serve. She stumbled around too long for an answer and I got short-tempered. Chinese? Greek? Vegan? Jesus Christ, is it really so difficult to categorize food?!

(It should be noted that similar to those people in Snickers commercials, I’m just not myself when I get hungry. This friend is very patient with me.)

The description she came up with was one word: (more…)

Hello again!

This blog is (more like was) a forum for me to write about food, but as it goes with so many internet blogs, I abandoned it for quite some time. Almost a year!

I do not have an explanation. The only reason I could think of would be that I’ve gone through several personal changes since I last posted. Plus, my voice is drowned with millions of others on the web so I feel like I can come and go and no one really cares. It’s kind of nice that way.

Lately I have not been doing any cooking, which is kind of a sad thought. I work a ridiculous number of hours a week and I haven’t the time. It’s funny I say that because I actually don’t like it when people say they don’t have time for the things love because I firmly believe(d) that if you truly love something or someone, you’ll make the time. But I can’t help it; it’s the truth of the matter. A sixty hour work week means I’m too worn out to do make much more than an easy mac. My fridge is filled with to go containers of restaurant food. I have been eating to live, and not living to eat! Thankfully this is temporary.

My life update: I’m currently living on Mackinac Island, Michigan until the end of October and I can write a food review for this island in one sentence. Actually, just one word will do. That word would be (more…)

All day meat roast is heaven on earth

From three in the afternoon til seven in the evening this past Saturday, there was a pot resting on my stove with the heat on low. In the pot there lay a piece of heaven on earth: a two pound hunk of beef simmering its own broth mix with some dark beer, some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, onions, garlic and rosemary.

My mouth salivates at the mere memory of my dinner Saturday night. Slow roasted, tender, juicy, beef doused in titillating homemade beer-broth-onion-garlic sauce. Fluffy, buttery homemade garlic herb mash potatoes. Beef gravy. Swiss chard sauteed in olive oil, garlic and red wine.

A bespectacled, enthusiastic young cook at the Good Food Store recommended searing the meat just slightly before commencing the slow roast, to pocket in the moisture. That young man is now my god. Everything he told me I listened with the obedience of a devoted worshiper. Other tidbits of advice he gave me on meat roasts:

1. If you don’t have a crock pot (which I don’t) find a thick bottom pot and have the heat set to a simmering temperature.
2. Try a dark beer to soak your meat in, along with some start up broth. (The meat will juice up more of its own broth.)
3. Minimum four hours, can go up to eight.
4. Onions, garlic, herbs, a bay leave, butter… all good things.
5. Scraps the stuff on the sides of the pot every couple hours. It’s flavorful.

One of the best things about an all day meat roast is doing other activities, like say, watching a movie. (Today it was The Bodyguard for me.) You’re at a scene that fails to hold your attention and your mind wanders off to other things. Your to do list, your job, and then, suddenly, you remember. There is a giant chunk of meat roasting slowly on the stove, and at this very minute it is sweating out all of its beef juices, producing one of the most delectable flavors in the world. That thought comes to mind, you smile in excitement, and then you go back to trying to watch your movie, knowing that that by the evening, your food has been working and sweating for you all day long, finally ready for your teeth to bite into.

The most disgusting cookbook EVER

So maybe I’m behind in the latest semen cooking trends; the semen cook book was published in 2008 and it is now 2011.

For that, readers, I am sorry. Cooking with semen is not my usual forte.

I had heard of the semen cookbook before, but just in passing and with slight disbelief. But tonight I stumbled upon it online and I was simultaneously disgusted and fascinated.

The cookbook is titled Natural Harvest: A Collection of Semen-Based Recipes and a description is provided:

Semen is not only nutritious, but it also has a wonderful texture and amazing cooking properties. Like fine wine and cheeses, the taste of semen is complex and dynamic. Semen is inexpensive to produce and is commonly available in many, if not most, homes and restaurants. Despite all of these positive qualities, semen remains neglected as a food. This book hopes to change that. Once you overcome any initial hesitation, you will be surprised to learn how wonderful semen is in the kitchen. Semen is an exciting ingredient that can give every dish you make an interesting twist. If you are a passionate cook and are not afraid to experiment with new ingredients – you will love this cook book! 

I can’t tell if this is a joke. The book is not listed on Amazon and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s fake or if it’s because it’s too gross to sell on a respectable site. (You can, however, purchase it on http://www.cookingwithcum.com/ for $24.95. Classy.)

The funniest part is when they try to reason how wonderful semen is as an ingredient. Semen is nutritious, eh? I suppose semen has some protein. Oh hey, my menstrual blood has protein, too. Why don’t we just throw some of that into our next batch of chocolate cupcakes? Hell, why not just add snot and piss in all of our food while we’re at it? Those bodily liquids are also inexpensive to produce and are commonly available.

It was sad to see the semen cookbook cover be a picture of flan. As I’ve blogged before, I love flan. This kind of ruins flan for me for awhile. I usually get my flan at the local Mexican restaurant, and now I’m afraid I’ll be imagining an old, feeble, sickly man jacking off into a bowl of flan mix, perhaps two or three of his pubic hairs falling in, too. EW!

One may argue that some girls swallow semen during oral sex and enjoy it anyway, so why not just add it to to food? To that I say, some people eat their boogers and enjoy it, too. That doesn’t mean it would be a necessary or delicious ingredient in a food recipe.

As much as the thought of semen food grosses me out (it’s simply unsanitary; think about it coming from a strange source like an old diseased man AHH!), as an amateur cook, I can’t help but be curious about what the recipes are like.

I’m not curious enough to fork over $24.95 + shipping. However, if this cook book were laying around while I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office (why a doctor would have it in their waiting room I don’t know), I’d probably skim through. Waiting rooms are boring enough to justify reading trashy magazines and semen cookbooks.

(Although, if just the cover has ruined flan for me, maybe it’s best that I don’t open it so nothing else gets ruined for me… I always want to know more than I should. The old cliche rings true. Curiosity killed the cat.)

My renewed omnivorism

Eating meat after approximately five years of vegetarianism feels similar to losing your virginity.

Suddenly, a whole new world of delightful, pleasurable possibilities is open to your senses. There are numerous new scents to sniff, new textures in your mouth, and delectable new flavors to be discovered. Reintroducing an omnivorous diet adds a refreshing, exquisite dimension to your life that feels sinfully divine.

I popped my meat eating cherry a few weeks ago. Redneck sausage from Montana did the job, although not in its phallic form. My housemate cut up the sausage and threw it on some homemade pizza for dinner, along with some caramelized onions and sauteed mushroom. She encouraged me to eat it, and on an impulse, I thought, why the hell not. I ate soy sausage. It couldn’t be that much different. Just this once.

The next day I woke up with one thought: meat. I felt like a dog with a one track mind. Catch the stick. Meat. Meat. Meat.

As I rushed that morning to make toast for breakfast, I thought, bacon would be nice with this, if only I had some. I ate a slice of pepperoni pizza for lunch. During a break, I biked off campus over to Five Guys and had my first real burger (as real as you can get for fast food) for an afternoon snack. I even got desperate enough in my meat binge to grab a $1 cheesy beef burrito from Taco Bell for dinner. (I do not plan on doing that ever again. Grossest meat ever. I bet dog food meat is better than that garbage.)I could have anything! No limits! I was free! Free at last! Free at last! Thank god almighty, I was free at last! (Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice rung through my head.)

No more skimming through menus at restaurants and sometimes just settling for salad. I could have spaghetti with MEATBALLS! Gyros with LAMB! Pho soup with BEEF! Burgers with RED MEAT! Alfredo with CHICKEN! Pancakes with BACON! And all of the Montana game meat I had deprived myself from. ELK! ANTELOPE! DEER! Oh my god, yes! Praise the lord hallelujah! It felt so good to let go; it felt so alive.

Later on during that first week of fine omnivorous living, I went to a friend’s family’s house for dinner. They were serving elk burgers, shot by my friend’s father’s co-worker. Typical Montana game meat that I had been missing out on. My mouth salivated at the sight of freshly hunted meat being grilled.

I lamented over my former, silly vegetarian ways while we sat at the kitchen table. My friend’s father was so excitedly proud that I had crossed over into the meat eating world that after I finished my elk burger he hurriedly made me a side of meatballs. How supportive!

Another night, I was at a potluck party and someone had made a pizza with pepperoni AND sausage. A girl I didn’t know was cutting up the pizza.

My eyes got big(ger). “Wow, that looks glorious!” I said.

The girl cutting the pizza said, “You think?”

“Oh my god, yes. Can I have a piece?”

“Sure. Hey, aren’t you that girl that just stopped being a vegetarian?”

“Yeah! It was so stupid being vegetarian.” I took a slice of the meat pizza.

The girl looked sheepish. “Actually, I’m vegetarian…”

I bit into my pizza. “I’m sorry,” I said, and then I walked away. And really, I was. I was sorry for her. That pizza was delicious.

Why did I do it? Why be vegetarian? Who knows. I’m sure I had my reasons when I was seventeen. Animal rights. Health. The politics of the meat industry in America. Partly just to see if I could do it.

This past weekend I tried to remember why I was a vegetarian, as I bit into my raw looking, slow roasted, salty, tender, juicy, medium rare filet mignon. Oh yeah.