Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Casa Zerger....

has hired a chef! Ha. Kidding. But we have been busy with many things this year and truth be told, my interest in cooking has increased, but my interest in writing about cooking well, has become nonexistent. I've found a number of fun food-related blogs and here are my top two:

Kiss My Spatula - Food+Photography
. Creative recipes, writing, and photos to match. Genius in every way.

Pioneer Woman Cooks. Seriously, if you need a good recipe with loads of butter, cream or any other treat - this is your blog. I recently made the Cinnamon Baked French Toast for a baby shower. It was phenomenal and ridiculously easy.

So, here ends the world of Furlough Food. It was a silly-but-important-to-me little endeavor to get through some economically challenging times. Thank you all for reading and telling me you enjoyed it. I can't leave the Furlough Food echo chamber without a little closure and glimpse into my current and future endeavors, can I?

I am happy to say, things in the Zerger world are better than ever anticipated in this year of 2010. Todd and I formalized BrainstormOverload, and its been a banner year for the creative work (Todd) and behind the scenes work (Cindy). We weren't sure a stint at self-employment / creating a business would work. But, really, there is no long-term guarantee in any employment scenario these days. We never doubted Todd's amazing talent, but making a successful business venture together was completely unknown territory for both of us and I will admit, I was doubtful of our ability in that realm. But, we've mixed a bit of our creative and practical abilities and for now, we are enjoying fun design challenges and feeling good that it has kept a roof over our heads. I am unbelievably proud of Todd, and inspired by his ideas and talent. I've become a part of a number of BrainstormOverload projects and have more recently started contributing to the voice of BSOL. You can check out our work here and blog here. We are brainstorming (pun intended) about how it evolves into a even better consultancy and design shop. Stay tuned and wish us luck!

As for other things...I am still with the University of Minnesota's Center for Changing Landscapes working in the realm of landscape architecture and planning, and love it...Devin is with us on a more regular basis and we even had him for his 13th birthday last weekend! My brother is getting married this summer and our garden continues to bloom.

Here are some of my wedding photo favorites....

From the California Celebration:

And lastly...some blooms from our garden...(Todd posted them as desktops on our blog. Click on the photo to go there.)

Make muffins no matter what comes your way.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

beautiful day


terrible photos but I'm learning.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


NPR aired an interesting piece on superstitions and end of the year rituals, and I happened to catch it while at work today. Did you know that some people eat pork and sauerkraut and avoid chicken because pigs root forward and chickens scratch backward? Who knew? And, no, she did not have an answer to why sauerkraut. Where are fish in this equation anyway?

So here we are the day of letting go of the old, and ringing in of the new. I'm superstition-less and resolution-less. I’ve tried to embrace the resolution idea from time to time, but for me, it just becomes a recipe for unfulfilled expectations and ensuing self-deprecation. Not that I don’t set goals – I do – I just think I'm less likely to accomplish goals set just because of a point in time. Superstitions? No. (Except for putting my right sock and shinguard on before left when playing soccer. And, perhaps I have a lacing my shoes superstition too. There is also the whole must wear the right...)

So superstition-resolution-less. Anarchy I tell you. But, just in the nick of time, I thought of a few things I could do to save myself from utter chaos, and I implemented two year-end rituals to mark the shedding of 2009.

Ritual One: I do this at random times of the year, but it seems fitting to kick off the year on the right foot and do it really, really well. It’s something I seem to do in fits and starts or in times of a Storage Emergency Situation or Olfactory Relief Crisis; never do I do it as one big cathartic pull-everything-out-at-the-same-time-and-start-over-once-a-year event, but this year I did.

Here’s a process photograph:

2009 Year End Fridge Cleaning! That’s right, what better way to ring in a new year than with a clean, organized fridge? I can think of nothing better. Well, maybe I’d like an organized undie drawer too, but need I remind: this is about cooking and fun, not laundry and fun. Do note that no good food was killed in this process, this stuff had been in there long enough to gather some fuzz, thus was already rendered fully dead.

Ritual Two: Red leaf lettuce, Bermuda onion, honey roasted walnuts, Point Reyes blue cheese, honey crisp apples and a white balsamic dressing. What?

Embrace Something New! is ritual number two. Yes, a vague ritual and just the way I like it. But to be specific, for this New Year’s Eve I decided to embrace something that I so often turn away: fruit in dinner meals. I like fruit but have always felt there is no need for fruit to be IN meals. So I made myself the above salad and slowly (yes slowly) worked through the complexity of all the flavors separately and then together. I should get to this next sentence and say, "Wow, it was AMAZING!!" Sorry to disappoint, but that sentence is not coming next. I did like the apples and blue cheese combo, but hmmmm, perhaps my embracing will take a little time.

So here I am, ritual one and ritual two COMPLETE!

I did some other fun things to ring in the New Year, too. I saw a shooting star on a blue moon, and spent the evening with Surly, my friends’ dog. I didn't capture the shooting star by camera, but did get a few of Surly. I was thoroughly entertained by his tail chasing.

And he was thoroughly entertained by my hat.

Happy New Year to you all, I hope 2010 proves to be a fantastic year with adventure, joy, and many laughs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

a carlson and a zerger, too.

Perhaps it is the fact that light is slowly returning to our days here in Minnesota (thus I feel like my personal productivity must follow suit) or perhaps it is the fact that December 31st fast approaches (and I'm well aware I should be setting January 1, 2010 resolutions) that I find myself back here on Furlough Food. Whatever reason may be, I find myself with renewed interest in the blog-o-sphere. Forgive me, my dear readers, er, family, for such a long hiatus. But, you likely know many of the reasons, er, excuses, I would conjure. Wedding, fantastic but harried change of employment, Devin challenges, and the holidays are the first to come to mind. All these little life details have ensured months of emotions, and though it may seem that I have lost interest in culinary exploration if one were to assess such by my blog posts, nothing could be further from the truth. I've made delicious sauces and soups with vegetables from the garden, Swedish meatballs for Papa san and Melissa, cookies and candies galore for holiday treats and a few delicious experiments in between. I will fill you in on the finer details but surely need good food photos and stories to do so. For now, I leave you with a few iPhone photos...Along with a personal goal of writing more regularly, I also intend to step it up a notch and - pause - photograph things with a *real* camera, so these may be the last few from my iPhone to you.

Ah, blessed summer. Don't these look delicious? They were. The tomatoes were insanely productive this year and the size of the zuchini is a direct result of the August 1st nuptuals (read: week or two of garden neglect). I made a few delicious soups and salads and pasta sauces with the above.

Our lovely Socrates. Yes, those treaty-weaties were delicious, thanks.

Oh, and what of the title? Well, more on that later of course!

Monday, June 1, 2009

a skellenger

I finally connected a few dots of my behavioral eating patterns and can now squarely place all the blame on growing up in the extended Skellenger family.

See, I eat fast. Really fast compared to Todd, and moderately fast compared to most people who do not claim relation to the Skellenger Clan. I cannot place blame at the foot of one person, it is the result of the collective (feet?). We have aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, second cousins and cousins significant others, grandmas and grandma-likes. When we do a breakfast or dinner, 15-20 people is a low turnout. Meals are a production, and it is akin to a 'feeding' - we literally count the mouths, the known appetites of various relatives and we do the math to ensure everyone gets one of everything. There is an egg team, a waffle team and a fruit / juice team for breakfasts. There is a similar evening meal teams designation. Ancillary bodies not assigned to a team, but near the kitchen make sure the table is set, and become food runners in the preparatory stages of a meal. It is a model of efficiency, and I believe, at its essence, could be a model for team building or office efficiency. I am digressing here, but the point is this: making food AND eating food is a sight to behold with the Skellenger family. And, I've come to realize my tendency to eat quickly is a direct result of how good the food is and how scarce it becomes about 15 minutes into the feeding. We have voracious appetites, and if you are to be sated with the current meal, you better plate up and do not second guess your impulse to double stack...just do it. If you eat fast enough, you may, just may be able to get seconds on something. Good luck, though, especially when the 20-30somethings gather 'round.

There in lies the root of my nature to eat fast. I am trying to slow down, but obviously failed miserably during my Memorial Weekend sojourn in Michigan. I have absolutely not one photo of meals at the Skellengers' despite the fact that I agreed with myself that I'd take the time to take some photos to share. I was on the corn team for dinner, egg team for breakfast and there was no way I was going to pull out the camera and let Elly beat me to the waffles and syrup.

I did, though, manage to take a few photos of the dogs whilst resting my stomach muscles.

This is Jaeger being called to his feeding.

This picture perfectly conveys the black lab personalities. Maisy, the watchful guard of the lake, Jaeger the mischevious digger, and Sadie the eldest, sun bathing on a beautiful May morning. Oh, and Todd, in the kayak, looking for turtles and burning a few breakfast calories.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

more grillin'

Inspired by my bro and the epic Minnesota weather of late, I'm at the grill most evenings (except, of course when I run out of gas in the middle of the meal...but that RARELY happens two years in a row, right?). Here's a recent evening's fare:

Bleu Cheese Stuffed Burgers, Yukon Potato Wedges and Spicy Green Beans

Bleu Cheese Stuffed Burgers
3-4 tablespoons grated onion (like a vadalia)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 egg (trust me, it helps keep the burger moist)
1.5 lbs ground beef (I use 90% or leaner ground beef)

Mix above together and roll into four balls. Press thumb into middle of ball - about an inch in. Fill with one tablespoon of a good creamy bleu cheese (my favorite is Pt. Reyes Bleu Cheese). Flatten to 1 inch thick patties. Grill on high heat (don't forget to spray the grill - refer to this post for a good spray bottle photo op), 4-5 minutes on each side. Consider grilling up some of the left over vadalia onion, and while you're at it throw the buns on the grill to toast them.

Yukon Potato Wedges
3-4 small yukon potatoes, sliced however you want to
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss wedges in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on aluminum foil and place right on hot (400 degree) grill. Close lid and grill for a good 20 minutes, or until a little crispy. Given the time these take, I'd suggest putting them on the grill before burgers. P.S. Mine didn't get super crispy, but my this is my brother's recipe and he does them in the oven at 375 for 20 minutes so perhaps the oven situation was better for crispiness.

Spicy Green Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili paste (more or less depending on your heat-tolerance index)
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon ginger minced (or a tad more if you like)
3 green onions sliced / diced whatever your favorite style of cutting
2-3 handfuls of green beans (perhaps a pound or so?)

Clean green beans and snap ends. Heat olive oil in skillet - medium heat. Add green beans to skillet and heat for 5-7 minutes...good green color and a little puckering...but still crispy. Remove green beans and set aside. Add green onions, ginger and garlic to skillet and heat for just a minute or so. Add chili paste, soy sauce, brown sugar and stir. Add green beans, stir to coat and allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Slice a good tomato, onion, lettuce and get some great buns (these are from Breadsmith). A good tonic with lime refreshment and it's like summer is here or something (though we did sit inside on this evening, it was about 60 degrees).

burgers and onion...nearly done!