Comfort Food (and other ramblings)

As I write this post tonight, it is a stormy mess outside in Western Kansas.  Thinking about it, this sort of represents my day.  I work in what I consider a fairly high-stress environment, and sometimes the stress almost gets to be too much, and the littlest things can put a person in a (to put it delicately) “sour” mood.  This morning, that person was me.  However, always trying to be the professional and never show my irritations and frustrations (at least to those who are causing those feelings!), I worked on a customer’s laptop through the morning…  And then, an epiphany!  It was time for lunch.

Lunch…  An epiphany??  You betcha!  (Those who know me well will know this is not outside the realm of everyday reality.)  My coworker/best friend and I often go to lunch together, but since she was leaving early from work today, we decided to pick up some Mexican food from Tacos El Torito, a taco wagon/food truck not far from our office.

Once we picked up our lunches, we headed back to our desks for a quick lunch.  One of my other, more colorful and bardish (is that a word?  It is now.) coworkers starting going on and on about what I had ordered, how much he liked that particular item, and his eagerness to hear how it was.  I ordered a gringa, which is basically a quesadilla of sorts – a grilled tortilla with pork, cheese and onions.  I put some delicious, mild salsa verde (green salsa) over the top and my, oh my, I was in foodie heaven.  The ooey-gooey cheese, the partially-hardened tortilla and the tender pork made for a truly delicious feast, which totally turned my morning around.  Honestly!  It was so moving to the bard coworker that he decided to get a gringa for himself, and I begged him to bring me back a horchata (rice water spiced with cinnamon and other yummies).  As if that wasn’t enough, my “neighbor” Russ’s wife baked a Coca-Cola Cake with homemade chocolate icing, showing that sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic, moist sheet cake.  I wish I had taken pictures of my meal today, but it was so tantalizing I didn’t hesitate before digging in!

It could be a sign of a problem that I get so excited and that my mood changes so drastically with the right foods.  Regardless, after thinking about it this evening after work, I realized that, as a citizen of an actually fairly urban and diverse city, “comfort food” has assumed a new dynamic in our city of ~30,000.  With the various industries and jobs we have here, we (well, some of us, anyway) have welcomed a variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds.  Thanks to them, we have some of the best Asian and Mexican food I’ve ever tasted.  Dodge City doesn’t have a decent steakhouse or BBQ joint (sorry to those of you who think we do), but we have amazing taco wagons and hole-in-the-wall, wow-that-was-unexpected restaurants.

Now, I should interject here – I often complain about the dining options in this town.  It seems that even when we do get a promising new restaurant in town, they are rarely consistent and end up leaving shortly thereafter.  We don’t have much in the way of large chain restaurants; seemingly, we can only attract fat food restaurants (no typo there).  However, when I realize how truly blessed we are to enjoy the new “American foods” – Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese and other ethnic offerings – I see some hope, a light at the end of a sometimes very desolate tunnel.

Back on track…  Comfort food…  It means many things to different people.  I used to think my comfort food was mac and cheese, the staple childhood favorite for millions of children in this country (although my “epiphany” came in my teenage years).  And, when done right (read: with bacon), it can put you at that place.  But with so many ethnic foods done right in this little town, it’s hard to ignore that those cravings are indeed answers, answers to emotions and feelings, and answers that satisfy memories and moments of reminiscence.  We often associate food and drink with highlights and downturns, celebrations and friendships, and with coming back from the edge of illness of both the physical and mental varieties.  It’s no surprise that with these strong connections comes sometimes-scary risks, but that’s another post for another time that I’ll likely never write.

But, today, I have a question for you as my rambling starts to get boring even to me…  What is your true comfort food?  Please share in the comment section below!

"Authentic German Potato Salad"

Tomorrow night, we will be having our Bon Voyage party for the upcoming trip – which also marks that we have only one week before we’re off on a too-long flight bound for Berlin!  For this party, we were encouraged to bring a dish that could possibly be served in one of the countries we are visiting (meaning Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland or France).  I must admit that when I first read this, I googled “easy German recipes” and was like, “There is NO way this is going to happen!”  I soon contemplated heading to Walmart or Kroger for a quick fix.  However, I thought some more (and Mom – who hardly ever lets me cook because I “dirty too many dishes!!”- is out of town, so when the cat’s away, the mice will play!!) and thought I would try my hand at…

Authentic German Potato Salad

Link to Recipe on AllRecipes – Thanks, SCHOOLBEE123!!
Since I don’t know the etiquette of blogging recipes if it’s not your own creation, I’ll just include some pictures (taken with my iPad and not the best – I was cooking, what can I say…) and hopefully you can get an idea of the sweet  (literally; however, I substituted Truvia in for the sugar), heavenly, and flavorful/aromatic stuff that this is!  I haven’t edited them or anything as I am in the mood to post at 11:48 at night before potentially the longest week of the summer and didn’t want to let that mood pass – so don’t judge!
I made a smaller batch first because I wasn’t sure if it would taste good, and since it’s a potluck, I didn’t think I needed to bring much.  However, I did end up liking it quite a bit and ran to the store to get provisions for a second (yet mushier) batch so I could share with family and a friend/coworker who I talked to about this adventure.
Semi-conclusion:  I haven’t had a lot of German food, even though I am part German on my mother’s side, but if the rest of their food is like this, they have a new fan – and a very curious one at that – to try more in its native land.
Las papas are resting until they are called on for action… Which will be soon! 
Why, hello, Bacon! As far as I know (morning will tell),I only splattered once, and not even on my clothes!!
Only one small finger burn, but it doesn’t hurt yet, which
I’ll take as a good sign. 
Yes, bacon deserves two pictures.  YUM!
Onions swimming in bacon grease??  Yeah, I suppose
I can handle that.  🙂
The finishing part of the first batch when everything
comes together for a little part. This was the first batch.
Second Batch – all done! Now, to cool down, throw in the fridge
so it can do it’s dancing all night long for the awaiting beasts
(OK, fellow party guests) tomorrow night!   This house

has NEVER smelled so good.

So, you’re probably wondering why this potato salad is such a big deal and why I took pictures of it…  Is it incredibly hard to make???  Well, not so much.  BUT, it is (to my recollection) the only dish I have created from a recipe that I didn’t just throw together or learn how to make from watching my mom cook.  And I did it all by myself.  I’m pretty proud of my efforts and even washed the dishes after I was done.  Mom will be proud, too.  🙂
Gut essen und “Bon voyage!!”
L

Happy Easter!

I hope this Easter finds everyone in happiness and good health. We enjoyed a pretty quiet day today (it was my first church-less Easter, also). We watched “We Bought A Zoo” – a truly wonderful, awesome, positive, inspiring film that I recommend everyone watch with their families – movies like this, including making me teary-eyed, don’t come along often!

We also enjoyed steaks grilled by Dad and me, a salad I made (picture and “recipe” included), and strawberries with whipped cream. To top things off, we’re even getting to enjoy a few hours with my precious niece, who turns 9 months old today! It’s amazing how many things can change in that time – I’ve successfully completed one semester of college and am about to complete another, had a great trip to Arizona, and taken more time for myself. Can’t wait to see what the next nine months wil bring!

Happy Easter,
Luke

Via Flickr:
Private Selection Organic Baby Spring Mix (from Kroger, about 1/2-1/3 of the container, eyeball it!)
1 whole Hass Avocado, rusticly chopped
Tablespoon or two of Hendrickson’s Sweet Vinegar & Olive Oil dressing
A few chunks of Oaxaca Mexican or other cheese
Multigrain Club crackers, crumbled to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the spring mix, avocado, salt/pepper and dressing into a large mixing bowl. Then, serve on each plate with desired amount of cheese and crackers for topping. Serves three comfortably but add more of each if serving a crowd. Simple, easy and yummy!