Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese Recipe

First, I shall ramble for a while with thoughts on cooking. If you want to skip to the recipe, scroll down to “Cranberry Salsa Recipe.”

Rambling Thoughts on Cooking

Bursting with holiday flavor! BAM!

Bursting with holiday flavor! BAM!

If you know me in person at all, you’ve probably heard me express a certain level of dislike for cooking.

This is a strange paradox, because I love food, I love homecooked food, I consider myself a foodie. I took pictures of my food before it became uncool. Growing up in Europe and traveling a lot have given me ample opportunity to discover new-to-me foods, the recipes of which I’ve happily stockpiled in my kitchen.

I love them. I love having them. They warm the cockles of my gooey foodie heart. I just don’t seem to get around to using most of them.

Recently, I finally figured out that the main reason I don’t enjoy cooking is that it wears me out, and the main reason it wears me out is neurocardiogenic syncope. Even though standing in the kitchen for long periods of time doesn’t make me pass out, it does cause my blood pressure to drop, leaving me weak and sluggish and blah. A few weeks ago, I went through a phase where every evening after cooking, I’d have to skip most of supper and lie down for the rest of the evening. Meh.

(And yes, I would sit down while cooking, but we have a narrow kitchen and if I’m sitting, there’s no walking through it.)

On top of that, in the back of my mind is always the thought that the time I spend cooking, I could be spending playing with my daughter or writing or doing something else artsy. Yes, there is an artistry and creativity to food prep, but it’s not the primary means by which my creativity likes to burst or trickle or schlupp out of me. I do have fun cooking, but I don’t want to do it every day.

So. All of that to say this: I don’t always enjoy cooking, but I do have some favorite recipes. And one of them is the reason for this post.

The good news is, this one doesn’t require standing in the kitchen for a long time. BOOYA.

Lookit the yummies!!!

Lookit the yummies!!!

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese Recipe

I’ve been using this recipe for years and have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it’s delicious. Like the tinkly laughter of small children. And the purrs of a hundred kittens. And like chocolate. Except that it’s salsa, not chocolate. Make of that what you will.

Mmmmm…chocolate….

*ahem*

This is really the only thing I ever “cook” that people actually ask me to make again.

So, without further ado or adon’t, here it is:

CRANBERRY SALSA RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. or 3 cups fresh cranberries, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 tbsp minced jalapeños
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup minced cilantro
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
16 oz. cream cheese
crackers

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients except cream cheese.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours so flavors develop.

Place cream cheese on a plate; form it into a ball-ish; cover with salsa.
Serve with crackers.
By all the gods of galvanized whisk lickers THAT’S GOOD.

VARIATIONS

I’ve experimented with this recipe and discovered the following:

Chop the cranberries by hand or use a food processor; food processor is easier.
You can use canned cranberries (gross), but the salsa won’t taste good.
You can use dried cranberries, but the salsa won’t taste as good.
Honey will work as a sugar substitute, but the salsa will be runny.
An additional 2 tbsp of lime juice adds yumminess, but more than that is too much.
If you have a cramazingly powerful blender or food processor, you can shove all the ingredients into it and process the blurglemamjufloobelschnitzen right out of that puppy.
Your best option is to come be my cook, and I will pay you in cranberry salsa. EVERYBODY WINS.

Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell

How to Burn a Pitiful Omelette

Burnt Omelette in 10 Easy Steps

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 tbsp canola oil
1 skillet
1 stove burner, heated

Directions

1. Place skillet on heated burner.

2. Crack both eggs into skillet. Add canola oil.

3. Scramble eggs (because scrambled eggs are what you intended to cook in the first place).

4. Walk away.

5. Sit down at computer and look at Twitter.

6. Smell something funny.

7. “Run” to kitchen (except that you can’t run because you’re 39 weeks pregnant and everything hurts).

8. Observe “pitiful omelette” smoking in skillet in place of scrambled eggs.

9. Scrape pitiful omelette into trash can.

10. Repeat from Step 1, omitting Steps 4-10.

In Which I Play with Sharp Objects

Me: I really shouldn’t be allowed to use knives at all.

Ed: Why do you say that?

Me: Well, if I’d been using the Cutco or a Pampered Chef knife, I would’ve sliced my finger wide open just now.

Ed: You really shouldn’t do things like that.

Me: I know. It’s like my life isn’t already interesting enough or something.

Your Blog Is a Big, Friendly Dog

Once upon a time, blogger Judy Dunn and I had several exchanges concerning the concept of a blog as a lab.

Here we go again…

No, no, no. As you’ll see if you click through that link above, I don’t really mean that a blog is a big, friendly (and apparently put-upon) dog. What I mean is that a blog is a laboratory where you get to make a splendid mess in an effort to see what happens when you mix a bunch of stuff together that most people wouldn’t dream of mixing together.

My Latest Blogging Dog Experiment


          
I don’t know why this idea popped into my head.

Well, that’s sort of a lie. I’m pretty sure that this idea popped into my head because I subscribe to sci-fi writer John Scalzi’s blog “Whatever”. Mr. Scalzi blogs every day. This triggered in my head the thought:

Now, the part I honestly don’t know the because for is the part where I think I might be able to do this just because I see Mr. Scalzi doing it.

I guess it’s because of reasons, yet again.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Ooh aah. I deserve bananas.

So. I shall embark upon an experimental adventure: For the month of August, I shall attempt to blog every day.

Because I obviously don’t have enough to do and I am a crazy person.

I don’t know what shall come of this, if anything. Maybe it will result in things most glorious. Maybe it will serve only to highlight my lack of an inkling of a conceptual hypothesis of reality. Maybe it will break me forever of stringing together prepositional phrases.

Zounds.

So, we’ll see. Josh has indicated that he might consider joining me in this venture, though I have yet to hear from him a definite yea or nay. On Twitter, @AstridBryce has offered me incentive as follows (click to embiggen!):

My dearest, most darlingest readers, prepare yourselves for pulchritudinous cramazingness.

Or a zombie-ish apocalypse.

German Rye Bread Recipe

If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, you really should), you already know that yesterday was Bread-Baking Day.

I started baking my own bread about 3 years ago, when a two-fold realization struck me whap upside the noggin:

1. If I wanted to find good, dense, whole grain, healthy bread (read: not pasty-white-Wonderbread-ish-white-flour smooshiness), I was going to have to buy it at some kind of special bakery or something.

2. Buying bread at some kind of special bakery or something is expensive.

Thus: Woman, get thee to thy kitchen and start thee thy baking!

I’m not sure where I discovered the following recipe, so my apologies to the original baker for not attributing it here. But the fabulous and heart-warming Jennifer Bones (@JennyBBones) was so enthused about the breadal yumminess I posted on Twitter yesterday, I emailed her the recipe just a short while ago. And since I’d already typed it up, I thought ’twas a lovely opportunity to share it here, as well!

So, without further ado or adon’t, I give you:

German Rye Bread

INGREDIENTS

STEP ONE
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110-115ºF)
2 cups whole wheat or rye flour (I use rye.)

STEP TWO
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp sesame seeds (I will often add an additional 3 tbsp sunflower seeds or poppy seeds or nuts or all of the preceeding.)
2 tsp salt
5 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups warm water (110-115ºF)

1 egg

DIRECTIONS

STEP ONE
In a 4-quart (or 4-liter) bowl, dissolve yeast in 2 cups warm water. Whisk in 2 cups rye/wheat flour until smooth. Cover loosely with clean dishcloth and let stand in warm place for 4 hours or until dough falls about 1 inch and surface bubble activity lessens. (I pretty much go the 4 hours and call it done.) ; )

STEP TWO
Stir sugar, seeds, salt, 5 cups flour, and 2 cups warm water into prepared dough. Mix well. Add flour as needed to form a firm dough. Knead on floured surface for about 8 minutes (–> smooth, elastic consistency). Cover and let rest 15 minutes.

STEP THREE
Divide dough into 2 or 4 portions. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. (I just divide it in half.)

STEP FOUR
Shape portions into loaves. Grease two baking sheets with extra virgin olive oil; sprinkle each with corn meal. Place loaves on sheets. Cover and let rise 40-45 minutes. (I use two medium-sized loaf pans.)

STEP FIVE
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Brush loaves with lightly beaten egg. Sprinkle each loaf with more seeds (I use poppy, sesame, or sunflower.) Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating pans after 15 minutes or until browned. Cool on wire racks.

Store or refrigerate bread in airtight containers for 5-7 days or in airtight bags in freezer.

Makes spiffy sandwiches and tastes especially yummy warm with butter, cinnamon, and sweetness (I use Truvia.).