My Winter Addiction

It’s that time of year again. We’ve set the clocks back, and it’s pitch dark by 5:30 pm, and the days are still getting shorter. By the time 9 pm hits, you feel like you should already be asleep because you’ve been enveloped in darkness for so long. As someone who actually likes winter, and spends a good portion of the summer hiding from the sun, I have to admit that the ever-present darkness around this time of year even gets to me. It’s tough to work up the motivation to do anything except curl up in bed after about 4 pm.

Since it isn’t actually feasible for me to go into hibernation, I’ve found that a good way to combat the darkness is to literally brighten it up. In other words, candles are my winter obsession. After all, at its core, the holiday season is really about bringing some light and warmth to the dark, right?

The onslaught of Christmas and holiday themed candles is already well under-way. Bath and Body Works, always on top of seasonal changes, has had their winter/holiday display out for several weeks now. On the other end of the price spectrum, Diptyque has unveiled their set of holiday candles for the season, and they’re just as stunning as ever. However, my favorite candle fragrance of the moment is something a little less obviously geared toward the holiday theme.

bendels chai

Henri Bendel’s Chai candle is my current addiction. I recently visited New York, and Bendel’s had one of their Chai candles burning in the store. It was the best sales technique – I was sold instantly. There’s no other way to describe it: this candle is like living in a chai tea latte. It’s the absolute embodiment of comfort.

I’ll be honest, Bendel’s candles don’t burn as evenly as I would like. Burning down the last third of the candle can be a messy business sometimes. However, the intensity and projection of the fragrance make up for it, and make this brand worth it for me. Burning one Bendel’s candle at a time is more than enough to leave my apartment smelling great for an evening, and even throughout the next day.

Bendel’s Chai is my obsession at the moment, but it doesn’t matter what particular candle brand or fragrance you prefer. Candles are a relatively simple way to (literally) brighten up an otherwise dreary evening. A great candle or two always make me feel just a tiny bit more cheerful about dragging myself away from the warmth of my comforter. It’s a chic way to bring a touch of festivity to what can otherwise be an overwhelmingly dark time of year.

The Souping Dead: Internment

​I’ve been on a comfort food kick the last couple of weekends. Last Sunday, I went the stew route​, because you just can’t go wrong with meat and potatoes and carrots simmering away in mix of stock and wine. Still in the same mindset, I decided to hit up another classic: tomato soup & cheese toasties.

For my recipe, I grabbed one of my favorite cookbooks: Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter (if there was ever a book I had a chance of cooking my way through cover to cover, it’s this one) for her take on tomato soup, a delicious combo of roasted tomatoes and fresh basil.

The tomato roasting process is half the fun with this one. Living in Minnesota, we’re graced with some of the best tomatoes in the world for an all-too-short span at the end of summer before it’s cruelly yanked away, leaving us once again with a passable-but-unspectacular lot of supermarket hot house tomatoes. Slow-roasting with a bit of olive oil and salt really brings out the flavor in even the most flavorless specimen. Added bonus, once the roasting process is done, the caramelized tomato juices, oil, and salt make for some delicious dipping if you happen to have a baguette around to snack on while the soup simmers away (failing a baguette, a finger will suffice… it’s that good). For the soup itself, the recipe is solid. I’ve made it a half dozen times now, and I only make a couple of tweaks. The first, my standard halving of the garlic in the dish. I don’t dig on garlic lately, and depending on the preparation, I either cut the amount or omit it entirely. Second, I sub in San Marzano tomatoes instead of the basic variety, because they are delish.

The finished product is richly tomato-y, bright and tangy, and a far cry from its canned cousin at Campbell’s, but no less of a great partner in crime for a grilled cheese.
As for the show? It was everything I love about The Walking Dead, and everything I love about the genre, period. As much as I love The Walking Dead, I can admit that it has been very uneven over the course of its run, sometimes even frustrating, and I love it in spite of those flaws. But “Internment” was the show at its best. No gimmicks, no interpersonal pettiness. It was just raw, human survival, and the humanity that can shine through in even the darkest times. It was flawlessly done, and a high mark in a season that has been full of them. I’ll be honest.. it kind of made me wish I’d gone for a fancier soup.

I Am a Foodie

I am one of those annoying people who proudly takes pictures of the food I’m about to consume, much to the chagrin of my dining companions.  I feel like I’ve earned the right to take obnoxious foodie pics because I spent the better part of ten years totally disconnected from the food I was eating.  During college and the ensuing years after, I subsisted on Starbuck’s caramel macchiatos with sugar-free vanilla syrup, Diet Coke, envelopes of instant oatmeal, Lean Cuisine, soy corn dogs, and Saltine crackers with American cheese and turkey.  It’s a miracle I didn’t get scurvy.

In the last five years I have made major headway in my eating and shopping habits.  I’m lucky to enjoy year-round farmers markets and a variety of community supported agriculture (CSA) opportunities in the area.  For a while my partner and I were members of Local Harvest Delivery, which delivered produce boxes to our porch every other Saturday.  It was a test of my patience to deal with things I’d never eaten, much less prepared.  During our membership I was exposed to eating leeks, fennel, pea tendrils, pepino melons, guava, and cherimoya, along with other conventional fruits and vegetables.  I had a lot of success making kale chips, salade Lyonnaise with frisée, and herbed spaghetti squash (fresh chives and lots of butter).  There were also a few flop experiments–like that time I roasted beets and my cat stole one and ate the whole thing (and left streaks of pink beet juice all over the floor and not a spot on her), or the time I nearly lost a finger to my battle with a butternut squash, and let’s not even talk about the half-eaten produce that went bad before I could figure out how it should be prepared.  After a solid run with a mixed vegetable and fruit box, we opted to go the easier route and switched to a fruit only box.  While the fruit box was much easier to consume, I found I actually missed eating vegetables, even the weird ones.  Now my partner hits up the Tuesday market after work, and I’m going to the newest one in town on Wednesdays.

photo (30)

Christina takes gratuitous amounts of pictures at the Gaucho Certified Farmers Market

In 2012 we joined Community Seafood, and according to their website, they “use a CSA-based model to help promote local retention of seafood harvested in the Santa Barbara channel.”  During the course of our membership we’ve had black cod, white seabass, yellowtail, sheephead, opah, rockfish, king salmon, rock lobster, rock crab, ridgeback shrimp, and mussels.  We’ve culled the internet and discovered some amazing hits like black cod with chili oil and fried garlic, but we’ve also regretted some preparations like the citrus and olive oil anchovies from last week.   Fish nights at our house are always fun because we rarely repeat a dish (the exception being the above), so generally it’s like cooking by the seat of your pants.

I still indulge in too many coffee drinks, but I’ve curbed my processed food habit almost entirely.  I don’t live under the misguided notion that eating fresh foods make me a better person, that I’m saving the planet, or even prolonging my life (because OMG vegetables with butter taste good!)–I just really like eating, and talking about food, and photographing it.  Buying and eating local has taught me that you don’t have to do a whole lot to make things taste delicious when your product is good.  Catch up with me here as I document Community Seafood nights and my spoils from farmers market.


The Souping Dead

Last year I found myself standing in my kitchen with a crisp, cool October breeze wafting in through the window, contemplating, as I often do, the notion of pairings: what does one serve with The Walking Dead? I mean, it’s my favorite show. It’s funny, it’s violent, the soundtrack kicks ass. Its premiere always falls around Halloween, officially kicking off the holiday season, and giving October that much more of a foundation for its permanent status as the best month of the year. The time had come to start cooking with intent; Rick Grimes deserved better than frozen quiche and leftover pad thai. And then it hit me: SOUP. It was perfect: warm for the chilly nights, comforting for the dismemberments and other miscellaneous carnage, and served in a bowl for easy eating from the sofa (or bed, because sometimes, that’s just how I roll).

Like that, The Souping Dead was born. Each Sunday when The Walking Dead airs sometimes new recipes, sometimes old favorites, but always hot and fresh, made that day and from scratch. I did it for the duration of the show’s third season and started up again with renewed vigor this year. They haven’t all been winners, but there’s something to the ritual of it that makes it worth it either way, settling in with my apron on, some good jams or the latest episode of Comedy Bang Bang playing, all three dogs underfoot, filling the house with good smells as I run between my tiny kitchen and the dining room to check the recipe, and then collapsing at the end with a glass of wine and some post-apocalyptic awesomeness with which to enjoy the spoils.

So circle back on Mondays during the season for a report on the night’s progress. I’ll share recipes when I can, or how you can track them down when I can’t. (For a sneak peek, check out my failed attempt at a cooking blog where I covered one of last year’s efforts.)


Hello world!

Welcome to Way Existential.  Pardon us while we work on developing the site.

What you’ll discover here…

Caitlin only cares about wine and One Direction.

Christina likes teen wolves and buys too many expensive coffee drinks.

Jen is all about yoga and zombies.

Meg enjoys kissing books and working on her night cheese.

We are four girls and a blog.