Category Archives: Pizza

Brunch for One

Brunch for One

Some people thrive on independence, solitary space, me-time, being alone—and then there are those who collapse into mild panic at the notion. I think it goes a little beyond introversion and extraversion; our comfort with having time to ourselves depends on our current mood, outlook, and level of motivation.

There are times where I need company—to drag myself out of a funk, or get out of my own head, or just to reaffirm that I’m a real person and have both feet on the ground. As funny as that sounds, I’m kind of a daydreamer, and tend to get lost if I don’t have someone anchoring me to reality.

My anchor is in Utah right now for a Physics conference, oddly enough at the same ski lodge where my dad worked once. Luckily, today is one of those days where I like being alone. I was wide awake when he left at 8 am, but then I turned on a geeky podcast (on how nutrition affects our skin, hair, teeth) and fell right back to sleep. Too bad, because I could’ve learned something.

Anyway, I woke up hours later, after a series of bad dreams involving a fictitious heroine hiding from her murderous husband who started killing the whole family (don’t worry, she joined in on the killing eventually and was the only one standing at the end). The dreams confirm that I definitely have a cold, if my runny nose and mannish voice weren’t strong enough indications. Bizarre dreams are the ultimate diagnosis.

I decided I should get out of bed, since it was 1:30 in the afternoon, although Zora didn’t like that idea. Yep, she cuddles with me under the blanket—my little purring spoon. It’s sickeningly cute.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted savory or sweet, pancakes or eggs, so I came up with something seriously blog-worthy. I might have to make this all week. It’s basically crepe batter, the way my Oma taught me how to make it, but poured into one thick, flappable pancake-omelet hybrid. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious.

Give me a title, someone.

2 large eggs

2 Tablespoons flour (I used Sainsbury’s gluten-free mix)

Splash of whole milk (maybe ¼ cup—you want the batter to be thick, but pourable)

–       Thoroughly mix the ingredients above. I just cracked my eggs into one of those blender bottle things, and shook it all up. Worked like a charm!

–       Heat large non-stick pan to medium-high. Add butter. When a drop of water is flicked onto the pan and it sizzles, it’s ready. Pour in all of the batter.

–       When the edges are dry and the crepe no longer looks liquidy on top, flip it.

–       Cook other side on medium for another minute or two, just until the eggs set.

Now the fun part- fillings! I spread on some “soft cheese” (cream cheese), sliced avocado, and cooked bacon (“back rashers,” which shrivel up more than my beloved “streaky bacon,” but which are equally tasty). Salt and pepper. I rolled it up, and topped with a little honey (the opaque, creamy kind, please). And maybe some bacon grease, if we’re being honest.

The rest of the day has gone by quickly. I got a package in the mail from my mom: a birthday card and some gorgeous earrings that I’m wearing now. I cleaned the whole house, including wiping down the messy kitchen, fridge, bathroom, surfaces, etc. Vacuumed—or should I say hoovered? They call vacuums “hoovers” here. Drank PG Tips with coconut milk. Organized all of our clothes. I really like cleaning, but I realize I’m probably putting most people to sleep.

I needed to get some fresh air (even though I can’t smell much today), so I walked into Headington and put my new Waitrose membership card to good use. It’s sort of like Whole Foods—overpriced and basically like a toy store to me. I signed up for a free membership card basically for the promised cup of coffee with each visit, and was delighted to find out that I can get coffee, a latte, or a cappuccino (I opted for the last one). I can see myself seriously abusing that privilege. Since it’s my birthday on Monday, I also stocked up on Lindt dark chocolate (one bar with blueberries, and one with sea salt).

Now I’m in Starbucks, and it’s closing soon, so I’d better pack up. The rest of the night will include marathoning season 6 of Dexter, homemade pizza, and more hot beverages. All in all, a decent me-time Saturday.

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Don’t make this about the rain

That’s not really a title inasmuch as a little note to myself to not whine about the rain. That’d make me the typical American tourist, right? So, I will not write about biking 4 miles uphill (both ways) through the cold wind to get to a job interview that I was late for and riding home, slaughtered by an angry rain that left me with water pouring out of my shoes. Nope, won’t do it.

I will write about my second attempt at pizza, because it went better than the first, even though once again the dough lacked sugar for the yeast to gobble up. But this time the recipe came from an expert in all things dough, Jim Lahey, and his no-knead crust truly is worth the hype. It’s hard to improve upon genius, but here are some tips that work for me, including two new ones:

1. Bring your dough to room temp. at least an hour before go-time. You’ll want to makesure it’s not sticky, so get your hands dirty (with flour). And if you can avoid turning your kitchen into a floury mess within the next five minutes, tell me your secret.

2. Handle the dough gently (to avoid hurting its feelings). Meaning, don’t roll it into oblivion with a bowling pin, just gently lift and stretch from the corners. I don’t have a pizza stone, so I baked on parchment+a baking sheer.

3. Throw pan with dough in oven as it preheats, maybe 3-4 minutes or so. Watch it carefully. You just want it to get a little firm, not bake. This helps avoid a soggy crust, as does this next tip:

4. Top partially-baked crust with thin layer of olive oil, then your sauce and toppings. A random Internet commenter argues that this prevents the sauce from soaking into the base, preserving that crispy crust. It sounds plausible.

5. Never trust bake times. Since it’s baked in a hot-as-possible oven, pizza can go from underdone to burnt fairly quickly. Just watch it like a hawk, which you’ll be doing anyway, because there’s something magical about seeing your creation spring to life in the oven.

If anyone makes this and wants to wax poetic about pizza, please report back! No, seriously. It can’t be just me.

I wasn’t planning to ramble about pizza, though. I was going to offer a lighter topic than the last post, heavy in statistics and journal citations, so here’s an enlightening list of some cultural differences that are on my mind this week. Now I am being that obnoxious American tourist. But my aim is to admit the wrong of my ways, because the differences I’ve noticed are all positive.

1. People don’t wear a lot of clothes here. Wait, that sounded wrong. I’ll explain by giving you a glimpse into our home: a washing machine that looks like it belongs in a dollhouse, and already too many drying racks. We have to be picky about what to wash (do we want to wear it again soon?), when (things take a while to dry– when do we need this sweater or towel or pair of jeans?), and how often (one load needs to finish drying so the next one can be hung up). I think this type of setup is common in these little houses/apartments, and Europeans (gross generalization, I know) just don’t have extensive wardrobes.

kitchen storage and washer
teeny-tiny washing machine

Basically, I should have packed 1/6 the amount of clothes that I did, because that’s how much I actually wear. When something is dry, I’ll most likely wear it again, rather than dig for that other shirt or pair of socks.

Okay, I have a cat on my lap, telling me to put down the laptop and put up my feet. Because it’s Friday. And all I want to do is watch Homeland, and eventually pass out at an embarrassingly early bedtime. You’ll have to wait for the continuation of this list ’til tomorrow. Or Monday. My blogging habits are sporadic at best, and I’m not going to apologize for it.

Have a nice weekend!

Rule #1 of Starting a Travel Blog: Don’t title your first entry “Greetings from ______”

Embarrassingly, this is not my first foray into blogging.

But it might be my most public attempt. I can track my compulsion with online journaling back to Xanga, LiveJournal, and even Angelfire. The last one is a bit hazy, as it might’ve been the spark that set it off. I can’t remember if my site was hosted on Angelfire (it most certainly was not Geocities), but I do recall that the username featured “peach” and my birthday, and I can still see myself editing the text and background colors to the perfectly complementary shades of coral and sunset. I filled the pages of my first online journal with quiz results (mostly in hopes that a certain crush would see my speck of cyberspace) and inside jokes. It didn’t last long, probably not even beyond that summer spent in Germany, pecking away at the keys on my grandparents’ outdated PC and crawling dial-up connection.

Xanga, on the other hand, was a plunge into the dark side. If pressed to define “Xanga,” I’d call it your typical teen angst outlet. Black background, “mood” icons to show my audience of 5 exactly how I was feeling each time I hit the “submit” button on a new entry, and some back-end drama thanks to the ability to see who was reading.

Fast forward a few years later– this isn’t even my first WordPress blog. I actually chronicled (haphazardly, at best) my move to Philly, through cooking vegetarian/vegan cuisine. Sorry, veggie friends, but I eat meat these days (I’m not sorry, just polite, sometimes). One of the first things I bought at the grocery store here was pancetta. Anyway, food blogs are boring, but I may share the occasional recipe here or there, since I’m into cooking and eating.

Some of my friends know that homemade pizza is sort of my “go-to” meal when I don’t know what else to make. So with a mostly-bare kitchen in our little shoebox of a place, the first non-takeaway (see, I’m picking up the lingo already) dinner was pancetta and British cheddar pizza on a whole wheat crust. It wasn’t as good as it sounds, though, because I didn’t have sugar, and yeast needs sugar in order to produce a non-mushy-cardboard crust. John and I ate off a cutting board and rubber casserole dish lid, because we didn’t even have plates yet. Thanks to our neighbor Mike, we now have plates.

Speaking of our neighbor, I’m not used to people being friendly and open. This guy cooked dinner for John the first night he arrived, and for the past few days, we’d just knock on his door and hang out for a bit. He’s in the military, working an “if I told you, I’d have to kill you” types of job. Except, he’s pretty bad at keeping mum, because he’ll flip through the channels and I see his eyes light up at certain military-related scenes and locations, and he’ll hint at where he will be and what he will do as long as we ask first. He won’t tell us directly, but I guess he’s a bad liar and has to confess when asked. Although I don’t agree with all things military and counter-terrorism, I do value his endearing traits: being a bad liar and a giving neighbor.

I do this thing when I write, when I come to a “natural pause” in the speed at which my fingers are clicking away, and my mind just stops. Some might call that writer’s block; I call it time to wrap up this post. I’m glad I managed to avoid the typical “Hi, my name is ___ and I just moved to ___ and it’s __! Lots of !!!!!’s” introduction. This ramble probably isn’t much better, but if you take anything away, let’s summarize it into a tidy, bulleted list.

  • I’m a serial blogger and have a hard time keeping content both interesting and audience-appropriate. This could be a good thing.
  • Always use sugar in pizza dough, and maybe cook your pizza longer in these confusing Celsius mini-ovens.
  • Friendly neighbors do wonders for making a place feel welcoming and homey, immediately.

Stick around! I promise, it’ll get better.