Beer Battered Fish Tacos with Creamy Cilantro Slaw

There are two types of people in this world: those who have had a proper Wisconsin fish fry and those who haven’t.

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

Today, I’m appealing to both of those camps.

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

We’re doing a traditional beer battered fish (my fave, seriously. Forever and ever.), but we’re changing it up a bit. Instead of a slice of buttered rye bread and pickle on the side, we’re turning them into killer tacos paired with tangy coleslaw and tender microgreens.

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

They’re delightful.

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

They’re delectable.

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

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Chicken & Veggie Stir Fry (& planning)

I bought a planner. It’s pink with gold embossing and a thin ribbon to mark the page. It’s got a monthly overview and a weekly to-do. Very chic, very millennial.

I also got the color-coded pens – blue, black, red, green, pink, orange. All assigned to a specific sector of my life – finance, work, Ernessi, social.

It’s my hope/belief/misguided delusion that by making lists and filling out schedules and trying to be a better planner that I will somehow get my life in order.

And yet…I’ve missed weeks, I’ve missed paying bills, I’ve missed opportunities to get posts up in a timely manner.

There’s a small bit of solace in knowing that this isn’t uncommon for creative types. There’s some reassurance that my spastic scheduling and mediocre time management are byproducts of the artistic juices flowing through my veins! See? It’s not that I’m a bad person – I’m a great person – I just didn’t respond to an email for two weeks because I’m an artiste! I can’t help it, it’s how I’m wired. I can’t be expected to create masterpieces under the shackles of a schedule!

At least, that’s what I tell myself so I don’t dissolve into a heap of tears over not meeting the actual deadlines created by credit card companies or the personal ones I’ve set for myself. In reality, I know it’s a load of bull and I have to really commit to and work on sticking to a schedule if I’m ever going to get where I want to be, doing what I want to be doing.

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Coffee & Cola Pulled Pork (& strangers)

My grandma has never met a stranger.

Do you know someone like that? Can meet anyone, anywhere and find some common ground, some topic to discuss, or a mutual acquaintance.

It happened two weekends ago when my grandma finally met Seth. I knew immediately they would hit it off – as Seth also has a touch of that gift. He’s open and welcoming, able to hold a conversation with anyone (including the befuddled bartender who thinks he’s dreamy and sheepishly slides him her number ahem.)

They sat and chatted in the sunshine, eventually coming to realize they had mutual friends in common – decades apart and separated by miles. I drifted in and out of the conversation – remembering a story my grandma had told me.

She had been at the grocery store, surveying the pork butts that were on sale. She selected hers; put it in her cart, ready to head for the checkout. A woman stopped her, “Um, excuse me? But…how do I cook this?” Gesturing toward the roasts, at a complete loss, looking for guidance.

My grandma explained her routine, the different seasonings and a bit of liquid in a crockpot.

“I like to use a nice dark soda or a cup of coffee,” my grandma told her.

Listening intently, the woman nodded and asked, honestly, “With cream and sugar?”

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Pork Belly Bibimbap (& frustration)

Things haven’t been going right this week.

Pork Belly Bibimbap

Four recipes have flopped. Photos haven’t been great. Posts haven’t gone up.

Now’s the time where I can either focus on those missteps, those mess-ups and throw in the towel. Or, I can focus on what has gone right. I can go to bed before 9pm, take Edgar for a nice long walk, and eat another bowl of bibimbap.

Pork Belly Bibimbap

Because this turned out. Beautifully. Deliciously.

This was the first time I ever cured and roasted a pork belly, the first time I ever attempted bibimbap. I sent many texts to my former coworker, Kris, who is a master at pork belly (among other things), pleading and pestering. For months I watched him cure and roast pork belly (and smoke chicken wings and braise chicken thighs and cook perfect grits) but never paid enough attention to the exact process. I was busy baking burger buns.

Pork Belly Bibimbap

Turns out, it’s way easier than I thought! All it takes is a little bit of time and a willingness to have 5 pounds of perfectly cooked and undeniably juicy pork belly on hand.

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Melba’s Lasagna (& intuition)

Apparently your stomach has more nerve endings than your spinal chord. When people talk about “gut feelings” or “butterflies” or a “sinking feeling” – they’re actually talking about those nerve endings.

Melba's Lasagna

I think a mom’s stomach has even more. And they’re far more sensitive than a regular human’s.

At least, that’s how my mom is. For months before I decided to move back to Wisconsin, she would drop suggestions for my return, consistently and constantly. She knew her child wasn’t happy, she could feel it in her gut.

“You know…you can always move back home…”

“Mom. No. I’m fine.”

Round and round we went. Until my brain finally caught up to her gut, and I came home. Even after my return to Wisconsin I was unsettled, unsure. She could tell. She offered the spare room to me time and time again. Eventually, I conceded. And I’ve been happier at home with her than I would’ve been willing to admit.

My mom is a special lady. Friends in South Carolina thought I was making her up when I would describe her. The penchant for tie-dye, the affection for unicorns, the unhealthy reliance on Mountain Dew. While I didn’t inherit any of those traits, I did get her fierce independence (some would say stubbornness) and sensitive heart. As I get older, and my parents do too, I see them more as people and realize the affect they’ve had on me (for better or for worse).

Melba's Lasagna

My mom is an original – take her or leave her, she’s not going to conform to what other’s think she should be or do or say. This quality is rarified in people, women especially. To be honest, when I was little all I wanted was a mom who looked like all the other moms, who acted like all the other moms. One who didn’t have purple hair or her head half-shaved, one who wore khakis instead of Crocs, one who hired a repairman instead of buying a roll of duct tape. It took me a long time to appreciate who she was, how she was. It took me even longer to realize she was teaching me a very valuable lesson – about being myself, no matter what. About pursuing my happiness, my fulfillment, no matter what. That being comfortable in my own skin was more important than being how others thought I should be.

I’m grateful for that lesson, even if it took me a long time to learn it. My gut gets more attention, its voice is louder. And it sounds a little bit like my momma.Read More »