Daily Archives: May 29, 2007

Overspooned

From the top of Washington Pass

We had a spectacular camping trip: good hikes, great views, and time both alone and with friends punctuated by sightseeing, random wine tastings, a quick interview with a brown bear, and a stop at a farm selling fresh, raw goat’s milk cheese (which is illegal, by the way, but quite delicious). Add perfect weather and the season’s first cherries, obscene quantities of cheddar cheese and salami, and, well, I guess you could say it was an ideal two-day vacation.

Cherries (or what's left of them)

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Now bits and pieces of our hiking gear litter our property inside and out like a yard sale, and my body, which felt so spry and strong and able 24 hours ago that I commented to my husband that I felt like maybe this whole lupus thing was a bit of a lie (he raised his eyebrows), now feels slow and weak and grumpy, to put it mildly.

I think I need to commission someone to build me a personal prediction model. I’m sure Tito could do it in Matlab, can’t you do anything in Matlab? All I really need is a program where I can put in the day’s activities and access a little print-out of what I might expect for the following day, given how many spoons I’ve spent. Put in “rest,” get out “energy.” Put in “5-course dinner for 10,” get out “nonfunctional.” Wouldn’t it be nice if life was that predictable?

I’m getting better at judging how much some activities drain me of energy, which is a nice way of saying I’ve made certain mistakes enough times to learn from them, but new things . . .I need the program to help me predict the results of activities I’ve avoided altogether for the past few years. How many spoons does an 8-mile hike take? Well, I really have no idea.

Yesterday, for example, after having hiked the day before, I happily marched up to Stuart Lake under clear skies of Western Blue (I believe Crayola is perpetually postponing their launch of that color; there simply is no manmade match for it). Then we fought the traffic back to Seattle with the rest of the “citiots” who decided to hike last weekend, baked brownies for Tito’s birthday sculpture, and enjoyed the bulk of the evening on the porch with some friends, drinking beer and eating the bratwurst we were never able to find on Sunday night in Leavenworth, which, for mysterious reasons, thinks its a good idea to close down all pork-related fast food stands by 5 p.m. on a holiday weekend. Here’s the one we wanted to try:

The sausage place that pissed us off by being closed

Yesterday at 9 p.m., I languished, satisfied and slightly sunburned, sated with pork and sauerkraut and hefeweizen (Tito’s requested birthday meal) and the last of the day’s sunlight. Katie and I built artful sculptures out of strawberry ice cream, espresso brownies, and toasted marshmallows, and paired them with some delicious South African screw-top pinotage.

Birthday Sculpture 2

Had I thought about the day’s activities at 7 a.m., when I was climbing out of a tent at 4,000 feet in a hat and gloves, and punched them into a handy-dandy prediction model, the printout would have told me that without more rest I’d crash at precisely 9:24 p.m., perhaps when the day’s steroids began circling my system’s drain. I’d become a complete basket case, with pains shooting up the sides of my legs and out of each place where tendon attached to bone, and that I’d wake up the next day (today) with a pretty stubborn headache, the kind of stuffy head you get when you spend a day outside below freezing without a hat on, and random waves of nausea.

But no. I have no personalized Matlab model, so I sure spooned it out this weekend without realizing it, and today, I’m reminded to do my calculations by hand the next time I’m eating breakfast by a river somewhere in the Pacific Northwest:

Camping spot near 8 Mile Creek

Oy. I overspooned. But I might add that it was totally worth it.

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Chris’s Chicken

Last week my friend Sarah forwarded me a baked chicken recipe from her boyfriend Chris, who cooks like many of the men I know, from what I can tell: infrequently but with great pride. She wanted to know how to incorporate the leeks I’d saddled her with into his recipe, and it sounded so darn good I had to try it, albeit with fresh oregano and real garlic.

Of course, I recommended throwing a few chopped leeks right into the roasting pan with the chicken and potatoes and lemon halves, but as I took my own chicken out of the oven, I realize I’d forgotten the leeks entirely. Which is just as well, because all those leeks in my garden – remember those? – I think they might be garlic.

Unfortunately, I roasted beets on the rack above the chicken, and it just about stole that poor chicken’s thunder. No golden, perfectly crisped skin, just regular, everyday-looking almost-browned chicken. Luckily I didn’t get stubborn and continue cooking it until it was brown; it had that juicy, tender quality of poached chicken that’ll make you swear never to touch overcooked chicken again. Tito pointed out that underbrowning chicken skin does prevent me from eating it after dinner, standing up at the stove while he starts in on the dishes, like I usually do.

Squeeze any residual juice out of the hot, roasted lemons onto the chicken as you eat it, and mop up that good lemon-oregano gravy with, say, EBC’s rosemary bread.

Chris's Baked Chicken

Recipe for Chris’s Baked Chicken with Potatoes, Lemons, and Oregano
Recipe 149 of 365

Although I’ve never tasted it in his kitchen, this is one of my friend Chris’s go-to recipes, and his girlfriend Sarah raved about it enough to convince me to try it myself. Here’s my formalized and measured version, using fresh oregano and leaving the garlic cloves whole, so they morph into the ideal spread for the fresh, crusty bread you’ll inevitably use to mop your plates.

Chris lines his pan with aluminum foil because he loathes the clean-up involved, but I didn’t have any trouble with clean-up – in fact, the lemony brown fonds that stick to the bottom of the pan are the very best part.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
2 pounds small red new potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup (packed) finely chopped fresh oregano
3 lemons

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the chicken and the potatoes in a large roasting pan. (If your roasting pan has an insert with holes in it, set it aside – you won’t need the insert.) Drizzle the chicken with the olive oil, and use your hands to coat the potatoes and all sides of the chicken pieces with a thin layer of the oil. Add the garlic and season everything liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Turn the chicken breasts meat side-up. Sprinkle the oregano over everything. Roll the lemons on the counter under the palm of your hand to get their juices flowing, then cut them in half, seed them, squeeze their juices over the chicken and potatoes, and add the lemons to the pan as well.

Roast the chicken for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken measures 165 degrees with an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. Transfer the chicken and potatoes to a platter, and drizzle with any juices and brown bits that have accumulated in the bottom of the pan. Serve hot.

Here’s Chris’s original recipe.

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