innovation by necessity

This is what I woke up to this morning:


Stunning, right?

By the good graces of my boss, I was able to take the day off of work, and spent the morning snowshoeing up the creek (finding not one, but two places where you can still put a food straight through the ice into some frigid, murky water.. it’s a talent), shoveling my front walk, and raking snow off of my roof. By then it was about 1pm, at which point I went inside, sat down with a book, and promptly passed out for about three hours. Woke up, shoveled the back walk, and decided to call it a day.

Except after an hour or two of tv, it became readily apparent that the caloric expenditures of my snow day were not measuring up to its meager intakes. I was ravenous. But also, not about to truck down to the store.  So it was time to play “what’ve I got in my fridge/pantry?”

For veg, I had half a can of diced tomatoes from last week’s The Souping Dead, a box of baby kale, shallots, & sweet potatoes. And for something to bring them all together, I had assorted pastas, or eggs. I decided to go the pasta route, and, partaking of some of the orphaned vodka left here by my roommate, do a vodka pasta cavatelli with kale, ingredients roughly as follows, as I had no recipe to work from:

olive oil
1 small shallot
red pepper flakes
7oz diced tomatoes (half regular sized can)
some 2% milk (that’s about as accurate as I can get on it)
1 shot vodka
parmesan cheese
cavatelli (corkscrew) pasta
salt & pepper to taste

While I minced the shallot, I took a couple of good lugs of olive oil, then sautéed them with a good pinch of red pepper flakes (I like it spicy, but add to taste, or omit all together).  If you’re a garlic person, you’d maybe mince up some of that and add it in at this point as well, but I’m not, so I didn’t.  When it became fragrant, I added in the tomatoes and the milk. A measuring cup was not to be seen; I’ve had vodka sauce in restaurants, and just sort of added milk until it seemed like the right color. All together, I heated that to the scientific measure of “tongue-burningly-hot,” got the pasta going according to the directions on the box, then grated some parm into the sauce and added the vodka. I upped the heat a little here, to try and reduce the sauce some. Nearing the end of the sauce and pasta part of things, I did up the baby kale in a rough chop, about as much as to fit in my two cupped hands.

When the pasta was done, I drained it well, added it to the sauce, then added the chopped kale. I let that sit cooking a bit more for maybe a minute and a half, and then, voila:


Things I’d do differently next time: The sauce was a little thin, as you can maybe tell from the picture. I think I’d drain the tomatoes first, and maybe use a smidge less milk. It also wound up being a little salty. I made the mistake of treating it like a soup and seasoning during the simmering phase, but that didn’t take into account the parm I was adding in at the end, which defo upped the oomph of the salt quotient, and while it reduced, it intensified even more. I’d also use a little less pasta. The sauce was flavorful enough that each bite was still rich and good, but I think a thicker sauce, with fewer noodles, would have made for a more balanced dish.

All in all though, not bad for being snowed in on a Friday night!

Nostalgia and Late Night TV

Late night television has taken over pop culture news this week, as Jimmy Fallon is in his first week of hosting The Tonight Show, and Seth Meyers prepares to take over Late Night.

Here's Jimmy

Here’s Jimmy

My most vivid memory of late night tv doesn’t have anything to do with my favorite host or guest. What I remember most is begging my dad to let me stay up and watch with him. I was young enough at the time that Johnny Carson was still the host of The Tonight Show, but that didn’t necessarily matter to me. It felt like a treat to stay up way past my normal bedtime and watch what seemed like a terribly grown-up show.

Sometimes my dad would give in and let me watch without a fight. Sometimes I would creep back downstairs and sneak in to watch anyway, my dad looking at me over top of his glasses with a serious “didn’t I just tuck you in” look. But he would never get mad at me for it, he never got mad during The Tonight Show.

Sometimes I would pretend to fall asleep on the couch and watch the whole show with one eye open. Those nights The Tonight Show felt like my own private secret. But more often than not, I would actually fall asleep, lulled by the haze of music and applause from the tv.

This nostalgia factor, the strong memory of watching a grown-up show for the first time as a child, is a driving force of late night television. And Jimmy Fallon seems to have an innate understanding of this. He didn’t use his first monologue to tell the most clever jokes he could think of. Instead, he came out and introduced himself to viewers, and told similar stories about staying up late with his own parents to watch The Tonight Show. It wasn’t the edgiest example of television, but it didn’t need to be. Fallon was showing that he gets it, he’s one of us.

The Tonight Show moving back to New York City is significant not just for media reasons, and Fallon’s new set shows why. Every night, Fallon sits in front of a backdrop of a retro New York cityscape, the Chrysler building immediately identifiable with its iconic silver top. That’s what this version of The Tonight Show is: both a retro city that exists in dreams and memories, and the city as it is now made tangible. And sitting in front of it all is an affable guy offering a smile and laughter to help us navigate along.

If I were still a kid, I’d be excited to curl up on the couch next to my dad and watch this version of The Tonight Show as a treat. As a grown-up, I’m glad that I set my own bedtime now.

Going Shopping: Makeup Edition

Beauty bloggers have been one of the biggest revelations of the internet for me. Before the rise of youtube makeup tutorials, the most detailed tutorial I had witnessed was the episode of Full House where Aunt Becky teaches DJ the art of natural-looking makeup.
Tom Ford Beauty is always a treat to look at.

Tom Ford Beauty is always a treat to look at.

These days, being able to watch makeup tutorials and look at swatch comparisons feels pretty close being in heaven sometimes. For one thing, it’s made online shopping that much easier, as sometimes you can just tell that something will be perfect for you. I also find it calming to watch someone who is clearly experienced at what they do demonstrating makeup techniques, or talking about their favorite products. It all feels very genuine.

However, there are times when testing something in person is necessary. I recently went on a quest for a new foundation and I figured, if I wanted to do it right, I would have to match my shade in person. Shopping can be a hectic experience even at the best of times with crowded stores to overly-enthusiastic sales people. It’s the opposite of the calming makeup tutorial. So, I began my quest with some trepidation.

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