Monday, June 29, 2009

Making Ends Meat

Everybody's cutting back these days.

For some - it means scouting out the best happy hour deals in town, for others - it means buying less fresh produce and more beans and rice.

Months ago I blogged about my childhood misinterpretation involving a common euphemism used to discuss budgeting and stretching a paycheck. I thought Ends Meat was something families had to eat when they couldn't afford steak or chicken breasts or ground beef.

Little did I know that making ends meet does, indeed, involve tailoring your dining and cooking habits to something that is both palatable and practical.

Enter Angel Food Ministries.

I first heard about AFM a couple months ago at an office retreat. I work at one of Cincinnati's largest non-profit organizations, a place that is committed to financial stability among other priorities. I have aspirations for financial stability of my own, and was grateful our organization invited an expert to share ways we can all save money and grow wealth. (ed. note: AFM is not related to my employer in any way and does not receive funding from my employer).

AFM happens to be a place where anyone of any income level can buy a hearty supply of groceries for $30 or less.

The non-profit, non-denominational organization is dedicated to providing grocery relief and financial support to communities across the country. There are no qualifications, minimums, income restrictions, or applications to participate.

Participants call up a host church to place an order. Orders include perishables, dry goods, meats, dairy, produce - enough food to feed a family of four for a whole week - and a box of food costs only 30 dollars. AFM says they're providing the average family $65 worth of food for less than half the cost.

Sounds great, huh?

The July menu Signature Box includes ribeye steaks, a lasagna dinner entree, boneless chicken chunks, broccoli, rice, milk, eggs and other items.

AFM also offers a Seniors/Convenience Box with pre-packaged meals ($28) and an Allergen-Free Box ($25). You can even buy a Seafood Box with six pounds of seafood for $35.

What a deal.

Sometimes I am looking to stretch a buck, and the continuous rising prices of groceries have me considering which sacrifices I'll make as I cruise through the aisles toward the checkout register.

I checked online to see if I had any host sites near my neighborhood, and was thrilled to learn there's one less than two miles away from my home.

Angel Food Ministries accepts food stamps and features recipes and cooking instructions right on its website. It also says it offers its clients "restaurant grade" food items, never seconds or day-old products.

I've already scouted out the options and plan on ordering a "Signature Box" and am eyeing the "Latin Flavors Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box."

Who's coming over for dinner?

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jeni's in Columbus

People of Cincinnati, you're gonna hate me.

I am proud of our hometown, what with our rolling hills and spectacular tradition of good food.

Screw what the Texans say- nobody can beat our chili.

And our goetta is a special treasure I secretly want to keep for ourselves.

But (this is the bad part) if you want the best ice cream in Ohio, I'm afraid you have to head two hours north of The River.

Ms. 5chw4r7z and I are taking a round-trip jaunt to Akron as I type, and she was kind enough to offer a restroom break in Columbus.

The restroom happened to be at Jeni's Ice Cream in the Short North.

No complaints on my end.

This place is amazing.

Lambic Cherry. Grapefruit Hibiscus. Riesling Pear. A lavender flavored concoction. This place really pushes the envelope where ice cream flavors are concerned.

And it works.

I went with a trio of half scoops - Goat cheese with roasted red cherries, Thai chili and Queen City Cayenne.

The first was like a cheesecake made with Wisconsin cherries. Fantastic. Very summery and refreshing on a day when you feel like you could sweat the equivalent of your body weight.

The second involved toasted coconut, a locally made peanut butter and a hint of chili powder. Again - score. It tasted like my favorite Bangkok Bistro dish minus the noodles and whopping bill.

The third - a tribute to Ohio's southern most city (and our chili). Chocolate, cinnamon and lots of cayenne kick. The heat on this one was a slow burn- only after you swallow do you realize your tongue is burning. The only other ice cream I had that was this "hot" was a wasabe version that once came to the newsroom. Everyone was afraid but me.

What can I say - I'll try anything once.

Including Ohio's best ice cream.

Can't wait to see what the next bathroom break offers.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The One

She made a request for two sparkly gloves.

Not really knowing the magnitude of the pop star's talent or celebrity, Nana asked her neighbor to stitch up the two gloves because she wanted to make her granddaughters happy.

We were children of the 80s - Brig and I.

We wore Jams (never brand name - always some generic version my mom picked up at a junky outlet mall in Kings Mills) and jelly shoes (don't know if those had a brand name version - any version dished out blisters). We liked drinking juice boxes and eating Chicken McNuggets.

Michael Jackson was a part of our soundtrack.

I had a "Ken" doll of MJ, complete with the glove and a red, sparkly jacket adorned in gold rope and other militaryesque elements. Brigid got a MJ tape one year for Christmas - I think it was the same year I got Madonna's Like a Virgin.

I would stand in my bathing suit, home after a hot summer day at the pool, desperate to get in a few minutes of MTV before my parents made me change the channel (they weren't too fond of some of the more provocative videos on the "new" network), loving any chance I could get to see Beat It, Thriller and the rest of what would come to make an A List playlist on any iPod.

Thriller was the best selling album of all time - and you only have to listen once to know why.

The beat that can induce a racing heart. Dance moves ingrained in our collective memory. The quasi-falsetto voice that imparts sensitivity and gentleness.

Every girl loved Michael Jackson, and every boy wanted to be him.

Kids our generation bought clothes that looked like Michael Jackson's. We practiced the moonwalk in the full length mirror until our moves were good enough to display at the school dance. We wore high waders and white socks.

Michael made us switch to Pepsi - if for even a brief, shimmering moment.

Ask anyone and they'll have a favorite Michael Jackson song. For some it's the obvious Thriller. Others love PYT, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough or even Man in The Mirror. I am a Billie Jean kind of girl. That hot drum action, synthesizer and Michael's background wailing is enough to get me to be the one, "who would dance, on the floor, in the round."

Over time, things changed.

Michael became ever more eccentric, picking up pet monkeys, Elephant Man bones and friendships with Macaulay Culkin. He slept in pressurized oxygen chambers and married the daughter of the King of Rock 'n Roll. His fashion sense swayed to the other side of the pendulum.

Wacko Jacko dove head first into plastic surgery.

Through it all, many of us held on to hope he would muddle through the chaos and crank out the next Rock With You or Black Or White.

His days turned dark - mired with accusations of child molestation, child endangerment (for the dangling-the-baby-on-the-balcony episode in Berlin), and financial woes. MJ's nose started falling off. Some wondered if all these troubles were the product of a stolen childhood and the pressure of success and carrying the family's burdens at such a young age.

We will never really know the truth behind some of Michael Jackson's struggles.

Part of me wonders whether we really even need to know in the first place.

Michael Jackson is a legendary musician of unparalleled talent. Michael Jackson is a father. His spirit surpasses his earthly existence, made indelible through vinyl, cassette, CD and iPod playlist.

Michael Jackson will continue to make girls (8 to 48 and beyond) squeal on dance floors at school dances and bat mitzvahs and weddings and nightclubs.

Michael Jackson will live on forever in many hearts. Mine chooses to remember him as a music icon, a man who stacked the deck with classics for the 80s.

Regardless of your opinion of Michael Jackson or your age, it's hard for anyone to disagree with his talent and sheer star wattage.

Even my 70-something grandmother could recognize the international phenomenon that was Michael.

Brig and I never did get those gloves Nana asked the neighbor to make for us.

No matter.

I have plenty of memories.

The kid is not my son, indeed.

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Bad Blogger

I've been a bad, bad girl.

Not only do I rip lines from Fiona Apple songs to set up a blog post, but I also have apparently forgotten to blog.

My heart, my soul and my neighbor's unlocked wifi greatly regret this discrepancy.

The Blogging Gods have offered up sizeable window of free time this Thursday evening, and I intend on giving you all a little more of what you've been dying to read.


You know you want it.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wealth is alive in Cincinnati

Spotted: Carl Lindner on his way home.

Wonder if he was just as impressed by my '01 Saab.

PS everyone cool has a vanity plate.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Note: Apologies for calling Carl "Charles" when I first posted this... Something got lost between my blogging-via-BlackBerry and downshifting onto the ramp at Smith Edwards. I guess the brain can process only so many functions...

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Take A Good, Hard Look At The Mother Fucking Boat

I must have won the "Good Time Lottery."

The day after my vacation, I'm set to ride on a 36-person yacht cruise on the Ohio River. My friends and I are sailing to Riverbend to enjoy the sounds of the Symphony and dine on tantalizing treats created by Chef Sean Daly of Hugo, who be on the boat to prepare dinner-by-the-bite.

As Andy Sanburg has suggested, I'm bringing a pashmina and my flippy floppies with me.

T-Pain will not, however, be joining me for this junket.

No doubt, next week will be tomato soup and Netflix.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ristorante Tuscany - Desert Springs Resort

Someday I will go to Italy.

I will have a boyfriend/fiance/husband/lover who will join me on an adventure to discover frescoes, fine wine and the romantic songs made for gondola rides. We will labor over hours-long meals punctuated by the fruits of the earth, all while watching the sun go down into the sea.

Until that time comes, though, I am just as happy to go to "Tuscany" with dear friends.

Sweet and I decided to enjoy a leisurely meal Saturday evening at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs resort in Palm Desert, CA. The resort comes with all of the trappings you'd expect at a luxurious, sprawling complex complete with golf courses, pools (there are nearly 20 of 'em on the property) and other luxurious amenities. We decided to take advantage of the gondola ride to make the "long" journey from the hotel to the Ristorante Tuscany.

(editor's note: this photo shows me this strapless dress needs far more minding than I realized).

I did a bit of recon on the restaurant prior to our reservation and discovered it was Restaurant Week in Palm Desert/Palm Springs. Score! I was anxious to sink my teeth into some top rate dishes for (not quite) a pauper's price.

We were ushered to a beautifully appointed table in the middle of a dining room complete with trickling fountains, beautiful drapery and windows looking out onto the "lake," swaying palm trees and expansive golf course. The walls are covered in trompe l'oil, depicting frescoes and other luxurious painting.

The tricked out surroundings were just a taste of what was to come.

The dining room was staffed by a fleet of people who were charged with appeasing our every whim. More prosecco? Coming right up. Another slice of the black olive bread? But of course. The bread was dense with a hard crust and full of bits of black olives, a spot-on flavor to enjoy when sopping up the EVOO and 25-year-old aged balsamic vinegar.

Both Candace, er, Sweet and I chose the fresh mozzarella starter for our Restaurant Week 3-course meal.

A huge piece of fresh mozz was drizzled in Tuscan EVOO and the same aged balsamic vinegar we enjoyed with our bread. Heirloom tomatoes and micro basil greens sat atop two slivers of crustini. In the photo above, Hawaiian Pineapple on the left, and Cherokee Purple on the right. The tomatoes popped with the salty, seasonal flavor you expect during the height of summer.

But, wait! You say. Summer's not even here yet. It's still spring.

Well, yes. But in So Cal, summer and it's sweltering heat have definitely arrived.

I went back to Tuscany to dine a second night and ordered the same fresh mozz appetizer, discovering the crustini wasn't as crisp as I enjoyed the first time around, making me wonder whether these tomato/crustini pieces are pre-assembled during the kitchen's afternoon prep time. If that's the case, it's a bit disappointing as tomatoes-and-crustini is a simple thing to make as each diner orders.

When it came time to choose our entree, I ordered something I'd almost NEVER choose. Chicken. To me, chicken is pedestrian, bland, the-dish-on-the-menu-for-picky-people-who-never-order-anything-exotic. Knowing my dining companion was going to choose the salmon, and also knowing I had absolutely no interest in the third option (a glorified spaghetti bolognese), I decided to pick the chicken and pray I'd find a surprise on the plate.

The chicken far exceeded my considerably lowered expectations. Topped with oyster mushrooms, alba clamshell mushrooms and shitakii mushrooms in a marsala demi glace, served with gorgonzola polenta and two asparagus stalks, the chicken pulled apart easily - releasing its juices upon the first bite.

I typically find chicken to be pretty bland, but was quite impressed this piece of organic meat soaked up the wine-y flavors of the marsala glaze and paired mushrooms. The star of the plate, though, was the gorgonzola polenta. Creamy and refined, it didn't have the gritty consistency of other polenta I've enjoyed. The gorgonzola flavor subtly punctuated each bite, not overpowering the corn, cream and other ingredients in the dish.

Candace went with the salmon dish -slightly crusted in semolina and topped with the most delicious tomato marmalade. The fish was centered on steamed spinach and arugula, the entire dish awash in a lemon goat cheese sauce and ringed with yellow and red grape tomatoes.

After her first bite of one of the tomatoes, Candace said she thought it tasted like squirts of ketchup. I enjoyed this dish during my second go-around at Tuscany, and agreed the grape tomatoes packed the sweetness they promise to deliver. The salmon carried though with the sweetness theme - I swear mint was used at one point during its preparation. The lemon goat cheese sauce was gentle on flavor, but a perfect accompaniment to the already-moist fish.

For dessert, I went with the classic tiramisu.

The marscapone mousse and pistachio creme anglaise were served up in a huge martini glass, dusted with cocoa powder and topped with candied pistachios. Light, creamy, it was heavy on the cheese/cream flavor but was a little light on the espresso flavor I prefer with my lady fingered cake.

Candace went with an assortment of gelattos, served in a cup made of sugar and with fresh, seasonal berries.

I didn't get a taste of the gelatto, but on my second night at the restaurant, I went with a trio of creme brulees - banana, nutella and vanilla. To say that I was tasting heaven would not be an overstatement.

I came to love creme brulee while spending several years working at The Wharf Restaurant in Madison, CT. I loved firing up the blow torch and melting the sugar granules into a glassy, caramelized layer coating the custard. The creme brulees at Tuscany didn't have the thick layer I've come to love, but the outstanding flavors more than compensated for that shortcoming. I am now determined to find a recipe for nutella creme brulee, knowing full well I won't be able to reproduce the flavors and the moments of our "time in Tuscany."

But like I said, Italy is for another time and another place in life.


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Friday, June 12, 2009

If I were a battery, there would be a red flashing light warning my user about the impending doom of my collapse.

My body, my brain and my heart are exhausted, and I am desperate for a little break from reality.

Thankfully, the desert beckons - promising to recharge with rest, relaxation and a little fun.

As I type, I'm embarking on a journey to Palm Desert for a girls' trip. The vacation promises lots of sunshine, dining and fun nightlife.

That sounds great to me.

My dad tried to discourage me from blogging during my vacation. I don't know that I'll have any problems with that request, though I may feel compelled to share with you all some photos of our antics in So Cal.

I'm sure you all won't mind.
In all, I think there are nine girls setting out for this journey.

We will certainly miss our family and friends, and may even grow a bit homesick. But please don't feel too bad for us. We'll be be staying in 2.5 villas that look just like this:

Life is rough sometimes.

Then it dishes out beautiful moments that make it all worth it.

I plan on savoring every second.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hot Mess


It's a word I don't say frequently, so I thought it best we get it out in the open before we go any further.


Just saying those consonants and vowels has the power to make grown, surly men blush and squirm. The scientific term compels old ladies to purse their lips and shake their heads in disapproval and little boys to grow wild and manic and full of giddy, taunting contempt for the "fairer sex."


Like I said, it's not a word I say frequently, so even I need some getting used to seeing the word splayed out there for all the world to see.

I became intimately familiar with vagina, actually many of them, thanks to the most recent show put on by Falcon Theatre in Newport.

The Vagina Monologues is a deep exploration in the many feelings women experience in connection with their most special, secret, private, personal part of their anatomy. The seven performers share a variety of scenarios related to their womanhood - first orgasms, self discovery, rape, lesbianism, love and sex. The play also covers the many words society uses in place of the V Word and the collection of emotions women encounter when they have their first period.

For the faint of heart - this is not.

The company does a good job of holding the audience's hand - letting us ease in to the subject matter, because let's be frank, this isn't dinner party conversation for most folks.

We laugh. We empathize. Bits of anger bubble in our blood and then we are rewarded with a moment that makes us reflect on our own experiences - and we discover we are more alike than we realize.

The most surprising moment of the evening was when one actor roused the audience (including Yours Truly) to begin yelling out the C Word with reckless abandon.

I typically don't say the C Word - but I made an exception in this case, as it was a moment of audience participation and a polite way to affirm the actor's performance.

Whether you are a bra burner, a white gloves-and-pearls kind of lady or a man born with that other body part, I suggest you give The Vagina Monologues a chance.

Because whether you are a woman or a man, chances are you love your body - or someone else's.


The Falcon Theatre will perform The Vagina Monologues at the Monmouth Theater at 636 Monmouth in Newport June 12, 13, 19, and 20 at 8 pm. Tickets $15, $12 for students and seniors. You can make a reservation or buy tickets online.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's Alright... Because I'm Saved By The Bell

My sister and I LOVED watching Zack Morris et al on SBTB every Saturday morning.

I can't believe Mark Paul Gosselaar is humble enough to go through with this Zack Morris schtick as an adult.

I'm really hoping Fallon can make this reunion happen.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Savoring Summer

Don't even think about looking at the calendar.

Archivists will technically catalog this Sunday as one of spring - what with its balmy but relenting temperatures and gentle breezes - but nature's colors and the season's flavors may tease you into thinking we're thick into summer's sway.

Should you decide to cheat and look at your Microsoft Outlook, your Day Timer or some other scheduling system, you'll notice the summer solstice is two weeks away.

"Pshaw," you say.

For me, rhubarb is one of the most Pavlovian flavors of summer. I see rhubarb, what with it's glistening ruby and fuchsia ribs and chartreuse leaves, and memory sends me reeling to a time when my hands were sweaty/sticky and freckles covered my face.

Growing up for a time outside Minneapolis, I remember rhubarb prospering with reckless abandon, and neighbors offering it up freely, those cherry jello-colored stalks ready to release the tart punch my taste buds longed for.

Mom would always take those rhubarb ribs, boil them down, pour in a heap of sugar and spices and mix the concoction with fresh strawberries. The slice of pie that waited for me at the end of the day was a sweet reward for all my toiling while playing Capture the Flag and Hide and Seek with the neighborhood horde, as my dad called them.

I'm not the only (quasi) Minnesotan thick in the middle of a love affair with rhubarb.

Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion fame waxes poetic on NPR about the partially poisonous plant.

He quips and sings about the pinky-red speckled vegetable (yes, vegetable) during his radio broadcast, and has even written a collection of short stories entitled Rhubarb, four monologues from "Lake Wobegon" about a time and place where life's a little slower and sweeter.

How apropos, considering one can pull out rhubarb's sweeter flavors if you slowly, lovingly prepare those crimson stalks.

The sight of rhubarb makes me want to throw on a gingham apron and pre-heat the oven, ready for silent reverence in the cathedral that is my kitchen. In this fantasy, the trinity and I (okay- butter, flour and Crisco) silently meditate as I swiftly and carefully blend them into what's destined to become light and flaky pastry. After some careful fluting, I'd pour in my strawberry-rhubarb concoction (maybe some raspberries, too?) and wait for the oven to bake my communion.

Making strawberry-rhubarb pie is almost spiritual in nature, and tasting it is treating your palate to pastry nirvana.

I'm looking forward to my next "Come to Jesus Moment." This is what I'm thinking about baking:

Summer Sway Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

deep dish, nine inch pie plate
Pie crust (you're on your own with this one - I've got a killer recipe that I'm not giving up)
5 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
3 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
2 cups berries (raspberries or blueberries, or mixed if you prefer)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon salt
  • Preheat oven to 375* and place rack in lower third of oven.
  • Put the butter aside. Toss fruit and other ingredients in large bowl.
  • Pour fruit mixture onto unbaked pie crust. Cut butter into small bits and sprinkle over the filling. Cover with another layer of pie dough.
  • Brush pastry top with water and then sprinkle sugar atop dough. Cut slits in top to allow for ventilation.
  • Bake for about two hours - until pie filling is bubbling out of the slits.
  • Cover edge of pie with foil if crust begins to over-brown.
  • Allow to cool at room temperature for 4-5 hours before serving.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Analog to Digital

Did you get your converter box?

Kate the Great has been blogging for days, but you likely couldn't keep up on the latest information if you never got a digital converter box.

You need to immediately get a converter box, or suffer the wrath that is a life without my Random Musings.

I wish my excuse was that creative.

My life became a whirlwind within the past week (two nights in Nashville, one night in Louisville and a sick day due to a horribly bad back), but I am doing my damnedest to get back on the saddle and entertain you with something silly, something serious and something irreverent.

Hold tight, my friends.

Hell or high water, I intend on posting this evening.

In the meantime... come out to the latest incarnation of the #OTRTweetup. As I've said before, you don't have to be on Twitter to hang out with the best friends you've never met - you just have to be open to the idea of meeting some cool, new people.

That's you, right? Cool?

This month's #OTRTweetup is TONIGHT at Mixx Ultralounge on Main St. in Over-the-Rhine. The revelry kicks off at 7 PM, though I don't think the manager, Packer, will leave you standing outside if you happen to show up early.

Tweet you there.

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