All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016
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It has been an exciting few weeks. First of all – I attended Rewind Convention in Chicago for an 80’s-90’s TV & film thingy & lotsa the 90210 folks were there. It was great seeing them!
It was as cool as seeing the Child’s Play 2 cast – which I did in September. Coolest of all was seeing the 90210: The Musical in NYC! It runs thru Dec. 17 so – if you live near NYC & love 90210 – you MUST go see it. Here is a little peek:
Is that not BRILLIANT? I have to say – this homage was as surreal as it was flattering. Truly – a highlight of my career – to have a character I created recreated by others. REALLY fun.
Then I got to see & MEET Puddles!!! If you are unfamiliar – you are really missing out. He is a 6’8″ sad clown with a truly golden voice! See him if you ever get the opportunity.
So – it has been an incredible fall for me!
Oh! And there is more! I had a few lines on a new TV show! See above. Only a few lines but they were with Topher Grace (swoon!) and Ray Romano – so – that did not suck. Even the 5am call time was made OK because it was at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery! And Topher Grace was VERY generous & confessed to having been a big 90210 fan, back in the day. It is always comforting when other actors acknowledge being aware of you and your work. And I am a huge fan of Topher’s so – yeah. That was fun!
So – yeah – a fun-filled autumn.
So – I realized this week that I am becoming a hoarder. A food hoarder. I have moth issues so I like to keep all my dry goods (beans, rice, sugar, flour, pasta etc) in the fridge or freezer. Still – they keep putting that Di Martino pasta on sale for .79 cents a pound! I cannot afford NOT to buy it! So – as I was shoving my twentieth pound of overflow dry goods into my pantry – I saw my pantry. Really saw it.
Those drawers are DEEP. I have enough food in there to last years and I live ALONE! I have every condiment from American standards to those needed for Thai or Indian or whatever-the-fuck food. There are about 20 jars of Rao’s Arrabbiata pasta sauce and at least 20 pounds of dry pasta & every kind of canned bean & oil or vinegar of whatever you can think of. If you can name it – I probably have more than one container of it and if it comes in varieties – I will have several. I even have canned tuna & meats for my dogs. It is a fucking problem.
Another problem is that I recently watched the amazing Food Choices documentary. Click that to watch the trailer. I already eat about 90% vegan – with cheese being my final hurdle. The movie really drove home, for me, the idea that eating cheese is really no better than eating meat. It requires the same suffering & death (of baby calves) – making cheese consumption on par with veal. I would NEVER eat veal & even silently judge those I hear order it. Yet – cheese is still on my plate.
So – I went to the farmers’ market in Hollywood the past crisp & gorgeous Sunday morning hoping to find the Soledad Goat folks & buy vegan cheese from them. They were not there (but I discovered & purchased their cheezes online HERE this week & bought several) – but, like an asshole, I let myself be drawn to the local REAL cheese guy’s table. I have been longing to experiment with a poutine recipe but have never seen cheese curds anywhere. I was not even sure what they were. But – he had them. They are:
Cheese curds, in cuisine or cooking, are the solid parts of curdled milk either eaten alone or used in various regional dishes mostly in Canada and the northeastern and midwestern United States. They are sometimes referred to as “squeaky cheese“.
Cheese curds start off with fresh milk. The milk is pasteurized, much like in the process of creating cheese. During this process, rennet is added to clot the milk. After the milk has been pasteurized, the result is a mixture of whey and the early stages of the curd. This mixture is then cooked. Next, it is pressed to release the whey from the curd, thus creating the final product of cheese curd.
Their flavor is mild, but can differ in taste depending on the process in which it was made. It has about the same firmness and density as cheese, but with a springy or rubbery texture. Fresh curds squeak against the teeth when bitten into, a defining characteristic due to air trapped inside the porous material. This “squeak” has been described by the New York Times as sounding like “balloons trying to neck”. After 12 hours, even under refrigeration, cheese curds lose much of their “fresh” characteristic, particularly the “squeak”. Keeping them at room temperature can preserve the squeakiness.
While I debated buying those – he insisted I taste his sage-cheddar. I did. It was delicious. I caved & bought the sage cheese & the curds. Here are some of his other cheeses & some info on him.
I also headed to the Korean table because they make the MOST INSANELY DELICIOUS TEMPEH! I bough two of those. And a fennel bulb. Then I became overwhelmed by the choices, the number of vendors peddling produce and, frankly, the prices. These markets are not cheap. So – I scuttled home with the tempeh, the guilty cheese & the fennel.
Several years ago, I realized I had stockpiles of food that were getting out of control. I did an experiment & tried to ONLY eat what I already had, in an effort to spend ZERO on groceries in one month. I managed to almost do it but I had to spend a few dollars here and there for non-dairy creamer & stuff. But – I bought no produce so – after a week or so – I was fresh outta fresh produce & was reduced to eating pastas, rices & breads that I had frozen. As I state in my novel – and all beige diet has consequences. I will let you guess what I mean but let’s just say it is very different than, say, an all-BEET diet. My friends knew I was doing this and began panicking. Two different people delivered bags of produce to my door. When I attempted this pantry-emptying plan a second time – again – one of those friends delivered produce to my door. VERY VERY sweet! But – I was not on a hunger strike. I was just challenging myself to stop hoarding & being wasteful of perishables.
So – as I launch into my third effort to spend zero on groceries (wine being an exception – and eating in restaurants doesn’t count, either) – I will still allow myself my regular twice-monthly delivery of produce from Farm Fresh to You. That way – my friends won’t be wringing their hands, terrified that my bones are crumbling & my skin is falling off or whatever it is they fear. I will attempt to keep a log of what I eat & what money I spend. Yesterday – I spent just under $10 at Carneys. I had a Garden burger & fries. For dinner – a small salad.
Today’s breakfast. That is the best almond milk – in my opinion. And vegans, beware! Those Morning Star sausages are only vegetarian – not vegan! Bear with me – these posts will get more and more creative as I am forcing myself to eat what I have without buying anything – for a month! We will see how it goes.
OK – on to the POUTINE! I do not think I have ever had poutine but the idea appeals to me. You can use fresh cheese curds (as I did) or mozzarella or VEGAN cheese – like this amazing stuff below.
That little bag costs $8 but is the best & meltiest vegan mozzarella I have found – after my own homemade vegan mozzarella – seen below.
OK – so – you can make poutine using frozen fries & canned gravy & make this very easily. I opted to MAKE the fries as I describe HERE. And – I made a new vegan gravy because my other vegan gravy does not have the rich & dark color I wanted for the poutine.
So – first up – the
Vegan Mushroom, Leek & Sage Brown Gravy
5 TBS vegan butter
2 cups chopped mushrooms
ten or more sage leaves
1/2 cup flour
6 cups vegetable stock
2 TBS soy sauce (or tamari or liquid aminos)
2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet
Chives – chopped for garnish (optional)
Finely chop the mushrooms & leek. I pulsed them in my food processor. If you do not own one – maybe just blend the finished gravy to make it smooth.
Heat the stock in a soup pan. Add the soy sauce & kitchen bouquet. Simmer.
In another pan, melt FOUR of the five tablespoons of the butter & saute the vegetables until soft. Add the flour & stir to combine. Add the stock 1/2 to 1 cup at at time – over high heat – until the gravy thickens. If it is too thin once you add all the stock – just boil it down a bit.
Melt the remaining TBS of butter & fry the sage leaves a minute or two. Drain them on a paper towl & crumble. Add to the gravy. Add the leftover sage butter to the gravy. Voila!
Vegan or Vegetarian Poutine with Vegan Mushroom, Leek & Sage Brown Gravy
French fries – either THESE homemade, or your recipe or frozen ones
Gravy – either the recipe above or your favorite one
Cheese curds or grated cheese or vegan cheese
Chives or parsley as garnish
Once the fries are crispy & the gravy is warm – assemble the poutine: fries, cheese, gravy & some chives or parsley. Shove’m in your pie hole fast – before they get soggy. Or – you can just dip fries & cheese in gravy.
I attempt this pantry challenge every January as I tend to overspend during the holidays. I think it’s a good practice though and pantry items do have an expiration date. I think my freezer benefits the most though since I haven’t quite figured out meal planning very well yet. Good luck! I’m sure you’ll come up with great creations.
I love that you have done this, too! At a certain point – you just gotta get businesslike about food & costs!