Archive | June, 2011

Homeward Bound: BBQ Chicken & Macaroni Salad & Frozen Strawberry Yogurt

27 Jun

The fog!

So long, Shanghai. Farewell.

Lifting off from the steaming, teeming, humming, laser-beaming, shiny-gleaming metropolis, I felt like Stephen and I were slithering snakes, shedding a layer of dried-up skin and slipping into a new life.

Eight days in China, and so much changed for us — while we were on the trip, at home, and while we were on the trip, inside our unified little mind bubble.

You know the feeling. Sometimes vacations shift your inner compass permanently, clarify your vision of life, harden your purpose. Existing on distant shores for a week or two allows you get to dip your toe into an alternate reality, a separate self. The Odyssey for Dummies, Marco Polo’s adventures for the couch-bound.

Traveling China-style with our clinically insane travel guide made juggling a full-time job, freelance writing, cooking projects and life look like child’s play. We were up every day at dawn (it is the land of the rising sun, bah doom boom, I’m here all week folks) and home by, oh, 10 pm. I got used to five hours of sleep and fueled myself with the sights, sounds, tastes and chaos of Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai.

The Great Lookout

Stinky tofu for breakfast (it tastes like moldering blue cheese crossed with kimchi with a dash of pate, yum!), Imperial Palace, Summer Palace, lunching on mysterious street meat in the back alleys of hutong (“I think I just ate a scorpion!”), afternoon in the gardens, kung fu show, supping on Peking Duck (no words), driving tour of Beijing.

Seven more days of this. It was mentally absorb everything, but my favorite moments were:

  • Sprinting up the Great Wall in a miniskirt, barefoot
  • Kissing Stephen in the middle of Tiananmen Square in front of a poster of Mao
  • Getting yelled at by the guards for climbing on the city walls of Xi’an
  • Touching Terracotta warriors
  • Pomegranate Baby and Pleasant Goat (my two new favorite Chinese toys)
  • Walking on glass miles (it felt like) above Shanghai in the Pearl Tower, which I kept (accidentally) calling the Pearl Necklace

Sittin' pretty

  • Squirts of herbaceous pork soup dumplings running down my chin after waiting in line for them for 45 minutes in a back alley in Shanghai
  • Local women laughing and pointing at my apparently poor technique in the ubiquitous squatty potties
  • Realizing that Stephen and I could handle the two things we most feared we could not

This has been a big month for us: I will have major news that I can officially stop wadding up in a big box marked “Don’t Tell!” in my brain soon, which may or may involve large wads of bubble wrap, innumerable trips to fax machines, mass hysteria, deflating bank accounts and large trucks driven by gentleman who earn their keep by lifting objects from one abode and set them down in another.

Meanwhile, Stephen and I are thrilled to be back in the chaos we control on this side of the ocean, with lots of cheese, offal I can identify with confidence and non-Communistical candy. And of course, Penny!

What better way to celebrate our return to the States than with an all-American feast of grilled BBQ Chicken & Macaroni Salad with Bacon & Frozen Strawberry Yogurt?

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Lazy Days: Picnic Food & Veggie Brochettes & Souped Up Turkey Sliders

6 Jun

Slainte!

Summer’s here, and the living’s easy.

At least it should be: warm weather and sunny skies beckon me away from the hot stove, out to the sizzling grill in the open air and picnic benches on the edge of lakes, surrounded by rolling hills that blaze into fuchsia and azure flower-flecked glory as the sun sets.

Unfortunately, warm weather and sunny skies don’t magically imbue me with the sense of laid-back ease and je nous se qua everyone else seems to exhibit come June.

In general, I’m as relaxed and mellow as a Chihuahua being thrown out of a moving plane. If there’s a panic button, my finger is hovering near it, at the ready; the sun’s relative distance to my person does not seem to affect this, though wine seems to help.

This weekend, Stephen and I took that rare opportunity to enjoy the outdoors when we both actually enjoy the weather: I don’t need to wear a jacket and he isn’t schvitzing buckets. We decided to pack a picnic Friday night and have a little cookout with our neighbors Sunday night. I prepared for both as if we were mounting a sustained war against an unpredictable guerilla battalion, under continuous air and ground assault.

I strapped on a massive picnic panic kit that my father, another obsessive-compulsive preparer, gave Stephen for Christmas one year. It’s equipped with cutting boards, corks, cutlery galore, glasses, plates, blankets, a first aid kit, a map of the surrounding counties and quite possibly a few extra beating hearts, who knows? It’s a dream come true.

Click on for recipes for the perfect spread of no-cook grab and go picnic food, Vegetable Brochettes and Souped Up Turkey Burgers for the grill.

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