Crispy Leek Greens, Sunflower Seed & Arugula Salad

Not sure what to do with those leek tops? It takes a few minutes, but fry them up and throw them in this salad with spicy arugula and nutty seeds! It’s a perfect spring side dish.


I’ve started “cooking on Instagram” on Sundays (and some Fridays). The idea is to “clean out my fridge before the next week starts”, and what that really means is that “I’m taking all the disenfranchised vegetables and meat scraps I’ve accumulated throughout the week and trying to make them look attractive and redeemable, for Instagram.”

It’s been a fun and sort of free-associating cooking experience, and rather delightful to publish into my stories and let the universe (YES THE UNIVERSE) have a reaction. Friends I haven’t chatted with in awhile keep reaching out and want to talk about dinner or weird vegetables with me – and that alone makes it WORTH IT. Who said social media never did nothing for the peoples.

Anyhoosies, I was really pleased with how this scraps-from-the-fridge salad turned out, and thought it deserved it’s own published recipe.

Congratulations baby salad, you’re going to college.



The finished version had parmigiano reggiano, but the salad packs a flavor punch enough on its own it’s not needed (and if there’s a vegan homie getting in on this salad.) But cheese is nice. Choose your own adventure. 

Crispy Leek Greens, Sunflower Seeds & Arugula Salad

Yield: 4 side salads

For Salad:

  • Tops of 2 leeks
  • About 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • Neutral frying oil, like vegetable oil or canola oil
  •  1 1/2 cups loosely packed arugula, washed and dried
  • 2 T toasted sunflower seeds
  • Grated parmiagiano reggiano, to taste

For Dressing:

  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or microplaned
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste


  • pan for deep-frying (like cast iron, or other thick-bottomed pan)
  • slotted spoon
  • thermometer
  1. Thoroughly wash leek tops by submerging in cold water, agitating, then removing from cold water. Check for dirt. Let dry.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice leeks into 1/8″ shoe strings. Place into shallow bowl, and sprinkle evenly with salt. It’ll look like a lot of salt – you’ll be rinsing it off.344659353-1
  3. Set bowl aside while you make the dressing.
  4. Whisk together vinegar, sugar, garlic, mustard & black pepper. Drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. Add salt, pinchful at a time, checking for seasoning. Once it tastes perky, a little sweet, and very flavorful, you’re there. Set dressing aside.
  5. Rinse off leeks and let dry on paper towels, dabbing to help remove moisture.
  6. Heat oil in large cast iron pan to 300 degrees. Once oil is heated, add about 1/4 of the leeks (you’ll probably need to fry them in about 3 or 4 batches.) There might be some water cooking off the leeks for the first few seconds, so stand back to avoid spatter.


    Did a pretty crap job of editing the text on this one – probably because I was distracted by hot oil? Hooray for paying attention! 

  7. Fry until just starting to brown. Use slotted spoon to remove leeks from oil, and place on paper towel to drain.
  8. Once all leeks are fried and starting to cool, dress the salad. Toss arugula, sunflower seeds and dressing in a large bowl (remember, use the amount of dressing that YOU like. You might want more or less dressing on the leaves. Start with a little bit, taste, and add more as feels right.)
  9. Place dressed greens and seeds on serving plate, and add crispy leeks to top. By using crispy leeks as a garnish, they’ll stay crispy longer.
  10. Finish with grated parmigiano reggiano to finish, if desired.
  11. EAT IT.
This salad is *exceptional* when you get hearty, spicy arugula from a farmer. It blows the common grocery store fodder out of the water – however, the conventional stuff will get the job done. 



Mandarin Orange Upside Down Cake Recipe

Follow @olrikitiki on instagram for #cleaningoutthefridge posts. Most Sundays.

Have a weird amount of mandarin oranges leftover from your Imperfect Produce box? Ready to end the winter citrus orgy in your fridge? Time to make THIS CAKE, GUYS. Sticky and delicious mandarin oranges with just a hint of a molasses from the brown sugar on top of the most tender and delicate pound cake. Oh my gosh.

Giving the oranges a quick blanch helps soften the rind, and makes the whole orange easy to chew and perfect for topping a cake. Don’t skip that step.


Yield: 1 9×5 loaf pan. Serves 8 hearty slices.


For Fruity Topping:

  • 3 Mandarin Oranges
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) soft butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, loosely packed
  • Pan spray

For Cake:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) soft butter
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temp
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Orange zest from 1/2 orange
  • Lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 2 mandarin oranges
  •  1 1/4 cup All-purpose flour
  •  1/4 tsp baking soda
This recipe was converted from grams. Let me know in the comments if you’d like a copy of it in grams! Here’s why baking in grams is awesome. 


  1. Preheat oven to 325. Place rack in center of oven. Thoroughly spray loaf pan with pan spray.
  2. Prepare the fruit topping: Thickly apply 1/4 cup soft butter to bottom of greased loaf pan. Sprinkle in brown sugar, and pat down.
  3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. While you’re waiting for it to boil, get a sharp knife, and thinly slice mandarin oranges into rounds. (If you want to make it easier on yourself, cut mandarins in half, then slice into half wheels. It’s easier to slice them when they have a flat edge to rest on your cutting board.) Once water is boiling, put your slices into the pot, and lower temperature to a very gentle simmer. Poach slices for 3 minutes, making sure they don’t get jostled too hard in the pan.
  4. Remove slices from pot using a spider or slotted spoon, and place in flat layer on a plate. Put plate into freezer just for a few minutes – this is to stop the cooking process of the oranges AND to make them a touch-able temperature.
  5. Once your oranges are cool to the touch, pull them out of the freezer. Place mandarin slices on top of brown sugar, gently overlapping. Keep in mind fruit will shrink up while cooking. (If you look at the cake in my pics, there’s quite a few gaps in fruit. It’s no biggie, but y’know…) Depending on how many slices you get, you may not need all your fruit. Make it pretty. Make it nice. Set aside loaf pan and start making the cake.
  6. Make the cake: cream together butter and white sugar. Use either a standing mixer or a hand mixer.
  7. Crack eggs into medium bowl. Into the same bowl, put your sour cream, vanilla extract, orange zest, lemon zest, and orange juice.
  8. In a small bowl, place your flour and baking soda. Whisk together.
  9. With mixer going, alternate adding small amounts of sour cream/egg mixture and dry ingredient mixture. Make sure you have an even mix before adding more.
  10. Once fully mixed, place cake mix into prepared loaf pan. Smooth out with spatula.
  11. Bake in oven, checking after 40 minutes – but it will probably take about 50 minutes. Cake is done when springy to the touch, and wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.
  12. Pull cake from the oven, and let cool 5 minutes. Run a thin knife or offset spatula around the edges of the cake to help loosen the sides. Then, carefully invert pan onto serving platter, removing pan slowly. Ta da! Your beautiful cake!
  13. Allow to cool more before serving. It’s best slightly warm with a slap of freshly whipped cream with loads of vanilla (or RUM!) in it.



[RECIPE] Ham, Parsnip & Mushroom Soup with Pennsylvania Dutch Dumplings

Click here for full article & pictures


What makes this recipe work so well is cooking the dumplings in a separate pot, and building up levels of flavor by browning your meat and vegetables. Everything is timed out rather well, in which your soup meats and vegetables will finish at the same time as your dumplings. A rich & gelatinous roasted ham stock really makes this soup sing, but it’ll work well with a variety of stocks.


Note about the ham: I can’t recommend more highly buying a ham for this recipe, roasting the whole thing off, and freezing what you don’t use for this recipe (I think ham is the easiest meat to find uses for). After roasting and carving, take that delicious, brown ham bone, and make a stock with it, along with some carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf, parsley & any other herbs you have kicking around. It’ll be such a lovely stock, you’ll probably start screaming, and it’s super okay to scream about ham. My secret is to wait until after Christmas, when everyone else is trying to forget about ham , and buy a big ol’ shank portion for half price. (The butt is absolutely delicious and more tender, but the shank is usually cheaper and gives a bit more flavor to the stock.) I know Christmas only comes once a year, so this can be a problem for some folks who aren’t able to time travel. (I guess just hold out til post-Easter?)

However – this whole ham roasting situation is NOT necessary to make a delicious soup! Use store bought chicken stock, or even vegetable stock, if that is what is convenient to you! You can easily go to the butcher counter and ask them to slice up the smoked deli ham to a ½” thickness, and dice it up for the recipe. It’ll be delicious, and won’t make this soup a 3-day process.

I also work into the recipe extra browning steps to ensure that your soup is rich & delicious, no matter what broth you use.


Yield: 4 people who aren’t greedy for dumplings, or 2 people who are very greedy for dumplings.


10” skillet

3 quart (or larger) sauce pan with lid

Slotted spoon


  • 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups (about a ½ lb, 240g) smoked ham, diced into ½” chunks (see note about ham above)
  • 1 cup parsnip (about 1 large parsnip, 190g), peeled & diced into ½” chunks
  • ¾ cup button mushrooms (about 4, including stalks, 95g), diced into ½” chunks
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion, diced in ½” pieces (about 1 small onion, 150g)
  • 1 tsp for vegetables (you may need more salt, based on what stock you use)
  • 2 quarts stock, preferably roasted ham bone stock, but chicken or vegetable is also fine.
  • ¾ cups (4.25 ounces/120g) All-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon (0.18 ounce/6g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon (20g) butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces/42g) whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped


  1. Pour about 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil in your skillet, and put over medium high heat. (You want the oil pretty hot and zesty, since you want everything getting brown and delicious.) Once hot, put your ham into the skillet, making sure the pan isn’t too crowded. Let sit, untouched for at least 30 seconds. It should smell like hog heaven, and be sizzling. Stir it around the pan, trying to get as many parts of the hams brown. Once you’ve done a great job at this, use a slotted spoon to remove hams onto a plate or bowl, leaving behind any excess oil in the pan.
  2. You’re going to repeat the same process with all of the remaining vegetables. Make sure you have a hot, thin layer of oil in your pan (your skillet might need a few seconds to heat back up between browning), and add your parsnips. Just like with the ham, wait at least 30 seconds before moving around to make sure they’re getting nice and brown, and DEFINITELY don’t crowd the pan. Things don’t get brown when they’re crowded – it’s the way of the universe. Once sufficiently brown, add a pinch of salt to parsnips, stir them about again, then use the slotted spoon to take them out of the pan, and put them on whatever bowl or plate you stashed the ham.
  3. Repeat exactly the same process with the mushrooms & onions, making sure to add a pinch of salt to them at the end of cooking.
  4. Once all your meat and vegetables are browned – put them all back in the skillet! The skillet will be pretty full, and this time it’s okay. Add 2 cups of your stock, and bring to a gentle simmer. Let this simmer away and get delicious as you make your dumplings. Do remember to stir it every once in awhile, and check the parsnips for doneness – they will have softened quite a bit during the browning process, but they usually need a little more cooking in the liquid. If they’re getting mushy, turn down your heat, if they’re a little under, turn up your heat.
  5. Now let’s have you make those dumplings. Put the remaining stock into your 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  6. Get a small bowl, and whisk together the flour, the baking powder, ½ tsp salt, and your chopped thyme. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, the egg & milk. For your final whisking accomplishment, whisk the two mixtures together. The batter will be pretty thick and dough-y.
  7. Use a tablespoon measure to drop portions of the batter into the simmering stock. Definitely make sure that your stock isn’t bubbling too hard – your dumplings shouldn’t be too jostled, as they will break apart into little chunks (though this batter is pretty sturdy, so don’t get too paranoid). You should get about 9 dumplings, which is convenient amount because it has that one odd-numbered dumpling for you to test for doneness.
  8. Once all dumplings are in the pan, cover with the lid, and resist the urge to lift the lid for 15 minutes. You might need to watch the heat a little bit. I’ve found things can get a bit steamy and want to boil over, in which case I turn down the heat a bit, and use a towel to hold lid in place and liquid inside pot.
  9. After 15 minutes of good behavior, check your dumplings!They will have grown significantly, and look like big, beautiful wet biscuits. I like to let them sit with the lid off for a few minutes, and sort of let them firm up and tops dry slightly before serving. Some of your dumplings may have separated slightly, and their might be disenfranchised chunks of dough floating about – it’ll be fine.
  10. Now check for salt, add more if needed, then get ready to eat it! I like to serve at least ¾ cup of meat and vegetables per portion, along with some of the liquid they’re sitting in (that broth will be the most flavorsome…flavorous?), at least 2 dumplings (I can eat 4, actually, thank you), and then a little more broth poured over the top. Everyone likes it a little different, so cater to their needs, or ignore them entirely. Use a slotted spoon to remove dumplings from the pot.
  11. Garnish with a few grinds of fresh ground pepper, and some fresh thyme. Enjoy!


Click here for full article on Ham, Parsnip & Mushroom Soup with Pennsylvania Dutch Dumplings 

Ham, Parsnip & Mushroom Soup with Pennsylvania Dutch Dumplings


Click for Recipe only 


I’ve been going through old American cookbooks to find various dumpling soup recipes with a bit of history behind them (shout out to my homies at the Multnomah County Library! May you live forever.) I’ve found five or six different soup dumpling traditions that I want to explore & share with the world. I’ll be recreating the dumplings per the older recipes, and then making any necessary tweaks from there.


I knew I wanted to make my first soup a Pennsylvania Dutch soup since their dumpling recipes were the first I ever encountered, as I was gifted a big stack of Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks in my early 20s.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are such an interesting pocket of American culture.

parsnip knife

The Pennsylvania Dutch are the descendants of Protestant German immigrants, and there’s nothing actually Dutch about them. The “Dutch” in Pennsylvania Dutch is actually a mutation of the word Deutsch, which means German.

Their dialect is also called Pennsylvania Dutch or sometimes Pennsylvania German. At one point one third of Pennsylvania’s population spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, but it’s more a rarity now. I knew an Amish family at the farmer’s market who still spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, so I’ve heard it a few times, and to me it sounded like German Spanglish…if you’re willing to go there with me.

all ingredients in skillet


I’ve always associated Pennsylvania Dutch food and culture with the Amish, but that’s not terribly accurate. Most Pennsylvania Dutch descendants are Lutheran and various sects of Protestantism, as well as Amish & Mennonite peoples.


Their food is very practical and economical, but made by people who love eating and spend  their time living near their food supply. I’ve found lots of recipes for cheaper cuts of meat, as well as wild game – like squirrel! Delicious squirrel recipes that I am…scared to try…given the state of the squirrels I see in trees these days. (They are large and they eat pizza and pizza boxes.)


A few famous Pennsylvania Dutch recipes you might have heard of:

  • Scrapple, a sort of terrine spectrum meatloaf, made from a mixture of meat scraps and grains, often served for breakfast, hot & with maple syrup
  • Shoofly pie, a thick, molasses filling pie with crumbly top.
  • Rivel soup, which is a cousin of a dumpling soup. Rivels are more like thick noodles, where these dumplings are more like floating biscuits. They serve the same function of making soup more hearty and filling. Chicken & Corn soup with Rivels is the most famous version of a rivel soup that I’ve found.


Anyhow, let’s talk about this particular dumpling soup now.

sprinkle salt pic


I adapted a dumpling recipe from Betty Groff’s Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook. I changed her recipe just a scootch to make an ever so slightly drier dumpling that stays together in the soup better (AND can withstand a reheating the next day.) The rest of the recipe is similar in style to a few other recipes I found, but is mostly my own invention. Any opportunity to make a soup with parsnips & mushrooms I will take, and I will make. 

starting dumplings


Over and over, what ends up being the tricky part of dumpling soups is the ratio of STUFF. Getting the dumpling to soup to meat/vegetable ratios takes a bit of goosing, and a lot of pandering to the crowd. Everybody wants enough to dumplings, but also enough soup fillings. Some people want lots of broth, and some people want just enough for a wet dumpling. You also want to make sure that your dumplings are perfectly cooked, and that your soup vegetables aren’t complete mush.


The trick ends up being, of course, cooking your dumplings separate from the rest of your soup fillings. I know – this immediately sounds like a LOT of dishes.

pan pic

10″ skillet and a 3 quart saucier, but any 3 qt or larger pot with a lid will work perfect.


I promise that in this recipe I attempt to minimize the amount of dishes you need to make, and also get the perfectly cooked dumpling, deliciously cooked meats and vegetables, and enough flexibility with broth to suit anyone’s broth to solids ratio needs…though with that said, every home-cook should reserve the right to tell their beloved friends and family to “shut up and eat it.”

don't crowd the pan


There aren’t a whole lot of ingredients in this soup, but it packs a real savory punch. From tweaking this recipe, there are a few details I found that really make a difference:


Here’s your best situation: You decide to make this soup in three days. You find a ham at the grocery store. It’s on sale. It’s a butt portion, or maybe it’s shank portion. You roast that puppy up. You carve off the meat, freeze what you aren’t using for this soup, and dice up a half pound of ham for the soup that you’ll finish making in a few days.

You take that brown, succulent ham bone that is probably leaking it’s marrow out at this point, put it in a stock pot with onions, with carrots, with celery, some bay leaves, heck, some parsley stems and thyme, and you make that rich, delicious, roasted ham stock. The next day your stock is ready.

You then proceed to make the soup because the pieces of your puzzle have come together. Also you have a house filled with ham smells and ham product.

Here’s a pretty cool situation: You find ham stock in your grocery store. I honestly never see it in stores, but it could certainly exist and also be delicious. Probably not as delicious as the one you could make at home, but y’know.

Here’s another good situation: You decide to make this soup later today. You go to the grocery store and buy 2 quarts of chicken stock.

You go to the deli counter and say “hey hey, can I get half a pound of smoked ham, sliced a 1/2 inch thick?” and they’ll be like:

“you makin’ soup or somethin’,”

…and you can choose how you answer, because maybe you wanna talk about it or maybe you don’t. Can’t anyone have privacy these days? Maybe you’ve building a moat made out of ham – they don’t need to know. Anyway, you take your stock, and your ham, and you go home, dice up the ham, and make the soup. It’s delicious.

Here’s a bad situation: You decide to not make the soup.

Like any soup – the more delicious the stock, the more delicious the soup. Be aware that if you do indeed make a broth from a roasted ham bone, it will probably be much saltier than any chicken stock. The ham has already been cured, and that will effect the seasoning of your soup – which isn’t a bad problem at all. What it means is that you’ll probably need to add more seasoning if you’re using a chicken or vegetable stock.


chopped ingredients


This recipe is really pretty simple, without very many ingredients, but it packs REAL flavor…and a lot of it is because you take the time to brown each vegetable separately. Could you just chop everything up, throw it into the pot, stir it around and add some stock? Absolutely, but you’d be missing out on a lot of complex flavor and opportunities to season the vegetables properly. The dish really doesn’t sparkle without the browning.

There are three important things to remember when you’re browning anything.

  1. Get your pan hot. For smaller cuts like these, it really only has to be medium or medium-high heat. You don’t want anything to burn, it doesn’t have to be 100% brown, and you don’t need to make sure the vegetables are cooked through 100% since they’re about to simmer in stock.
  2. Don’t crowd your pan. Whenever you start frying something, the water inside evaporates into steam. This happens at a lower temperature than browning, so this will be one of the first changes you see happen in the food. This steam needs space to release into the air, otherwise the water vapor will start cooking your food. If your vegetables are packed into the pan, the steam will just sort of pass around the vegetables, and start making them mushy before they have a chance to get brown. This is sort of a classic cooking mistake I wish people talked about more, because it’s easy to have happen, but it’s also an easy fix.
  3. Don’t move it right away. If you want something to brown, let it sit there and brown for awhile. Your food is about to go through a lot of chemical changes, and it can’t happen instantaneously. When you throw your ham into that hot pan, let it stay still for at least 30 seconds, check a piece to see how brown it’s getting, then move them around and let it sit again.
browned parsnips

Parsnips mid-browning.


I adapted the recipe to make the dumpling a little firmer, and just ever so slightly eggy. You want a lovely, light dumpling, but I also liked the dumpling not being quite so soggy, and feel like this is a happy medium. I recommend cooking the dumplings for 15 minutes, with zero lifting the lid, and zero peeking, but then let them sit with the lid off and the heat off for a few minutes. Doing this helps the dumplings firm up and make it easier to scoop.

dumpling dough

The dumpling dough.

dumpling pot

Dumplings right after simmering.


Click for Recipe for Ham, Parsnip & Mushroom Soup with Pennsylvania Dutch Dumplings


finished dumpin 2 with filter

If you’re thinking to yourself, “hey, that looks like parsley! and the recipe calls for thyme!” You’re right. I ran out of thyme, and ran out of time to get thyme. So there you have it. Use thyme. It’s great.

Identifying Agaricus xanthodermus (yellow stainer mushrooms)

“Are you going to write about mushrooms that look good or mushrooms that taste good? Or both?” asked my boyfriend.
“Errhhh…neither.” I responded. “They look boring and are usually poisonous.”



I recently ran into these mushrooms down the street from my house, and since they are so easy to mix-up with edible varieties, I figured I could help spread info on how to ID these fellas. If you have any more helpful info or experience with these mushrooms – I’d love to hear it! As a hobbyist, I hope to only contribute info that would help others as much as it has helped me, and put out helpful data to the universe.

Say hello to Agaricus xanthodermus, commonly called “yellow stainer,” and for a great reason!

Also in the family Agaricus are common button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporous) and field or meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris). These mushrooms are widely cultivated, and the kind you are most likely to buy in a grocery store. 

Most of the specimens I have pictures of are more mature, so they look a lot like what’s sold as portabella mushrooms.

I thought I had found either the button or the meadow mushroom branch of the family, but I found some helpful information that helped me ID that I, in fact, had the poisonous branch of the Agaricus family: Rub the mushroom. 

When Agaricus xanthodermus are rubbed on the stem or cap, they soon develop a yellow stain. After reading this info, I was confused by it and didn’t think the staining would be so obvious, but it absolutely is. This is a great tip for beginning mushroom hunters like me, and can easily be done in the field before you harvest too many mushrooms.


Agaricus xanthodermus. Yellow staining quite visible around edge of cap. 


(To make matters slightly more confusing, just because your mushrooms stains yellow doesn’t necessarily mean it will give you an upset stomach. Yellow stainers are sometimes not poisonous mushrooms. If you have yellow staining as well as a strong chemical smell coming from the mushroom, then it’s probably not a safe mushroom to eat. However, I don’t feel confident enough in my ID skills yet, so if I have an Agaricus mushroom staining yellow, I wouldn’t risk eating it.)

Here’s a video of me rubbing up on a mushroom. I was struggling to find good enough lighting to show the yellow stain, but I think this will be helpful:


Here are some great links if you’re interested in IDing these and other members of the Agaricus family:

Phineas the Pig Skull Goes to a New Home

phineas head on

About two months ago, the butchers gave me another pig skull. I couldn’t say no to the skull, and I also decided I couldn’t have more than three pig skulls in my tiny Portland apartment (that I share with a very patient and cool roommate.) So I decided that if I was going to preserve this piggy, that I needed to give him a new home beyond my shelves.

alex and phineas

Alex and Phineas, perched on the artsy stump outside my apartment that I take pictures on. Duh.

I asked the butcher if he would like the finished skull and he responded that while he would personally love it, his girlfriend would probably scream…which is a pretty common response (either people are fanatical about pig skulls or they start screaming, I’ve found.)

My friend & co-worker Sarah was more than excited to give Phineas a new home, and especially when she found out his name was going to be Phineas. I try to not push a name onto a skull, and instead wait for the name to arrive organically for the skull (whatever the hell that actually means. When it feels right to me, it  feels right to me). The name Phineas came to me rather quickly – on the way into his first soak, actually.

All of the pigs I’ve received have holes in their skulls. I was originally told they were bullet holes, though I’ve had a lot of people also suggest that they are air compression holes. Either way, it can be pretty intense to look at, and Phineas’ hole was quite brutal. The shattering in his skull really resonated with me, and I became fixated on the hole (yeah yeah, “that’s the name of my porno.”)

phineas profile

It made me think of the story of Phineas Gage, a railroad construction foreman, who survived getting a large iron rod through his skull. SAY WHAT.

phineas gagePhineas_gage_-_1868_skull_diagram


I asked some friends of mine who tend to have more access to railroad spikes if I could forever-borrow one to pop into Phineas’ hole. While I received resounding “Oh yeses!”, it turns out these friends don’t have great follow-through (love you both though.) I’m still in the market for a small railroad spike or “small iron rod”, in case anyone else has something they’d like to offer me.


Anyhow, Sarah came and picked up Phineas the other day, and I’m so happy he got to go to such a loving home.

sarah and pigs

Phineas’ new mother, Sarah, who I believe is demonstrating here the proper technique for opening up a plastic bag. You can also see in this pic what a great color Phineas is. Hooray for long hydrogen peroxide soaks!


Honestly, it felt pretty weird having a skull to share with another person. The first time I took a skull home, I felt like it was a strange and dirty secret. I had to hide it from my weird landlord at the time, and I kept it soaking in hot, soapy water in a mop bucket (don’t do that, BTW) up in my apartment for a day – too scared to take it out or look at it. I woke up one morning, and freaked out about it –

“I have a skull just sitting in my room. I’ve gone off the deep end.”

Though it was a weird thing, it was mine. After a big move across the country, I had very few possessions, very few things I could really call my own, and no decoration at all in my apartment. Just this skull. It’s become a totem of a time in my life, a reminder of where things were at, and something I’m happy now to talk about with people, but also never would want to give away. Sadly, he’s not in fabulous condition, but hopefully he’ll survive quite some years.

phineas all pigs

Here’s the whole Skull Family Robinson, spending some quality time together before sending Phineas off to his new home. Left to Right: Wifi, Piggy Stardust, Lucretia & Phineas.

I’ve really had no idea how to clean skulls this whole time, and Phineas is the first skull that I’ve preserved correctly (and it shows! He looks so beautiful!). If you’re interested in preserving skulls, and you’ve read my other blog posts on preserving Lucretia – you shouldn’t follow my methods (but you should read the blog post anyway, because I am so fun!). What you should do is go over to  the Bonelust Blog that Jana Miller runs and get advice from her. She recently commented on one of my posts and gave me some great advice, and a well-deserved tsk-ing.

I’m more than happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability, and direct you to any info that might be helpful.

Cooking Carbonara from Google Translate: 5 Mistakes to Avoid Absolute

Just in case you thought cooking wasn’t very tricky, try cooking from translated recipes on the internet.

OF course, Google translate is doing a great job, but it still opens up a rather surreal universe of language.

I’m drinking wine and eating scones. Humm dee dum. Having a bit of a hysterical joy ride on the internet tonight, (which, I suppose that is my disclaimer: hysterics) and decided to start researching Eastern European dessert recipes, most of which I have no idea what they’re talking about.

And then I stumbled on an article titled

“Carbonara do not fear: here are five mistakes to avoid absolute”

and I said “yes yes yes! Give me the mistakes to avoid absolute!”

Here are my favorite bits, copied and pasted, with some commentary:


1. We start from fried . A moment, which fried?” WHICH FRIED INDEED??!! I believe it’s saying to not bother with onions or garlic, which honestly skipping garlic on carbonara seems like bad news to me, but who am I. Who the crap am I. Who am I? I start from fried.

 2. pillow or bacon? By the way are two different products. I understand why the pillow has a fat mass greater than that of the bacon and its flavor, then, will be decided. The fact is that I advise you to use the first, if you will be blameless. But woe, I say, woe to you if you dare to throw the bacon in a frying pan. As I said in the video recipe, I could pick you look under the house! Being always in chapter pillow, I would recommend: do not add oil in pan, there is no need. It is an ingredient that will release its fat (and especially its delicious aroma) in cooking, so why abound?😉

ok. This is really the whole reason I wanted to make this post. I’m guessing “pancetta” somehow translates into “pillow” and I find that absolutely hilarious. WHICH ONE DO WE CHOOSE?? SHALL WE DICE UP OUR PILLOWS FOR CARBONARA?? Is that a mistake to avoid absolute??

pillow pan

Here’s some original content for ya. That is actually my roommate’s Winnie the Pooh throw pillow inside of my roommate’s pan (the only pan reasonably sized to house a pillow in our apartment), and fortunately, not once did she catch me attempting to saute her pillow. Success is great absolute!!

Anyway, that was my favorite part. Keep reading if you want to look under the house.

3. The time of the eggs . Some will insist on adding them whole, creating a kind of pancake instead of a homogeneous and enveloping cream. So if it is the latter, the effect you want to create, divide the yolks from the whites and used only the first. The more correct proportion provides a head plus one whole egg yolk every three yolks: will this combination to give the right creaminess to the sauce, avoiding that too feel the taste of the eggs…” –
Fair. That’s all fair. I feel like I can follow that.

4. Cream, This Unknown . Oh no, I do not agree. Add it to the eggs is just a trick used by those who want to win easy.” Cream, This Unkown. That sounds more like a movie title to me.

Cream, This Unknown: The World Beyond the Teat

Or perhaps it’s more of a statement. Perhaps it’s a command: “Cream this unknown, Juniffer! We hate outsiders round these parts!! Now, cream them, then get me a pillow to crunch on! I’m hungry!”


Poor Juniffer.


The final mistake to Avoid Absolute:

5. Do not play with fire.” 

And finally, what pasta should we use?

“Long or short pasta? For me there is no game, I choose the classic spaghetti or those on guitar.”


via This wasn’t a very easy google image search, so I hope you appreciate the visual. #yourewelcome

So essentially, for a *classic carbonara, start from fried, add a pillow to the pan (sans oil, remember), time of the eggs, disagree with the unknown cream. Finally, don’t play with the fire, and add your cooked spaghetti noodles, or your cooked guitar strings. Enjoy.

“If you want to be sure not to make mistakes, here’s my version of the heart, of course, expect to know what is your😉





This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things





Operation Lucretia: The Stink



Lucretia is currently airing out on a towel in my living room. She doesn’t smell great, nor does the tub I had her soaking in, which is airing out outside. I honestly don’t have a very good reason for “airing her out” right now; I just sort of wanted to stare at her while I figure out what to do next.

She sat in plain water for nearly two weeks, with me changing out the water every few days. The first two times changing out the water I did a lot of manual cleaning of meat, tissue, and sinus cavity gunk. She was starting to smell pretty funky, and I feel like my fingers smelled like bone for the rest of the day (my boyfriend said I smelled like bones. I didn’t think that was very nice.)

My last time checking her before today she was looking pretty clean & fancy, but there was some pretty strange neon yellow coloring between her eye & ear cavity (I think it would be the zygomatic bone if it was a human. Maybe they have the same name if it’s on a pig? I might never know.)


I’d heard of bones becoming strange colors during maceration, but never of neon yellow, so I went ahead and hit up Jana at the Bone Lust Blog to see what she knew. I haven’t heard back yet (not sure how often she gets on that blog anymore, but it’s still a tome of info and worth checking out).

I figured hydrogen peroxide would get rid of the color, so I went ahead and soaked Lucretia in the tub filled with water again, but this time adding about a cup of hydrogen peroxide. I let her go for about a week, and then pulled her out today.

First – she looks so clean! I see a teeny bit of gunk still in her sinus cavity, but a lot of the tiny meat bits stuck in the mandible are gone. She’s definitely lighter in color as well.

I think my plan is to let her soak for a few more days in hydrogen peroxide, then kindly ask a friend of mine with a backyard patio if Lucretia can hang out there for a few days. At that point, I’ll decide if I’m happy with her color, and either soak her again in hydrogen peroxide, or call it quits.

lucretia on stump

And here she is looking god-damn classy on top of a tree stump. I figured a pig skull and a tree stump might have a thing or two in common they could chat about. #severedremains

Anyhow, I was really happy when I pulled her out of the tub today. She’s starting to look like a very beautiful dead thing that anyone would be happy to have around their house. Right? RIGHT??

Operation Lucretia: New Skull Preservation Project

wifi and chocolate cake

WiFi, my first skull. And chocolate cake.

Lucretia is the 3rd pig skull I’ve preserved, so it’s definitely starting to seem like a thing. I strongly believe that the 3rd time you’ve done a thing means it’s become a “thing you do,” and you owe the world an explanation when you stop doing it. OTHERWISE THEY’LL SHAME YOU FOREVER.

I’ve done slightly more research on how to process Lucretia then I did for my previous pig skulls (which was nearly “none whatsoever”). The Bonelust Blog has been the most helpful. Though, honestly, for sort of hacking my way through the process, both WiFi and Piggy Stardust have turned out and held up pretty well.

Piggy Stardust was probably the least stressful to process since I had the benefit of a huge sunny yard, and was able to just plop him outside when I got frustrated with picking tiny bits of meat out of his teeth. Nature worked wonders on cleaning out his skull. However, I’ve moved to a new apartment now, and putting Lucretia outside would certainly worry the neighbors, or even worse, entice the neighbors.

piggy stardust outside

Piggy Stardust, processing outside.

I got Lucretia from the restaurant just today – I believe her face meat was made into head cheese, so just about all of the meat and fat on her face are gone – looks like her brain (or at least parts of it are) is still inside, and plenty of tissue and other gunky stuff inside the nostrils. But the hard work has really been done for me already.


lucretia bucket 1

I’m soaking her skull and her mandible in just plain water, and letting bacteria work some magic before I get into  manually cleaning out the rest. I used a combination of chop sticks, a toothbrush, and a table knife previously, and those will probably be my go-to tools this time as well, because I’m a professional who plows into skulls with chopsticks at weird hours of the night. After I feel like I’ve gotten her sufficiently clean enough, I’ll soak her in a hydrogen peroxide & water solution, which is what I’ve used before with great results, and seems to be strongly recommended via the

lucretia bucket 2

Lucretia will be living in the bucket for awhile. Will update when she emerges.

Honestly, I’m lucky that she comes to me already so clean, though having a skull that’s gone through a braising process probably weakens it some (I think?) and definitely colors the skull. It’ll probably take a bit longer to lighten her up.

I’m still learning a lot of this as I go, so if you’re reading this and have any experience or tips in skull processing, I am more than happy to hear them, or get set straight in some assumption I’m making.


Cheeseburger Based Resolutions and Other Failures

home burger 1

My beautiful monster.

My resolution to eat 3 cheeseburgers a week (#3xbrgr1week) (#notreally) ended the beginning of February. I decided to change things up, and didn’t end up blogging about it in a timely manner because I was too busy wearing leather jackets and shooting dice in the alley to inform the internet of significant life changes.

But also, I failed my 2016 resolution. Quickly.

I definitely didn’t get tired of eating cheeseburgers, but I definitely was tired of going out to eat for cheeseburgers. So I ended January In the Year of Our Lord Cheeseburger 2016 by making burgers for myself at home.

home burger 2

1/4 pound burgers, about to get SMASHED in a PAN that’s HOT.

For February I resolved to only eat at home – and have mostly not failed, but have slightly failed in the way that I have occasionally gone out to eat but not quite as much as normal.


Valentine’s Day dinner at home: Food Lab’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes w/ paprika garlic gravy, and asparagus tossed in anchovy & parsley butter and topped with fried shallots.

Eating at home has been really wonderful, actually. I’ve been prioritizing different recipes I’ve been wanting to try, making bread again, and being more resourceful & experimental with the ingredients I have around.

If I’ve wanted to hang out with people in the evenings, I’ve had to convince them to come over for dinner, instead of meeting up for beers and snacks somewhere. I discovered that the best way to get rid of leftovers is to put them inside of wontons and deep-fry them, tricked my boyfriend into eating yogurt in a burrito, and helped a friend develop a pie recipe to use in his restaurant.

apple pies

Fried apple pie research & development.

Anyhow, life is really good, and I’ve really enjoyed how I’ve been eating. It’s cheaper and makes me feel productive. Also, and probably most importantly, if I’ve spent my day at work being angry at food and people making food, I can come home and remember that cooking food is wonderful, people are wonderful, and cooking can be an act of peace and community. There’s really nothing like watching a pot of soup reach a simmer to dissolve your anger at the world into a meaningless pile of goo.

You might also think to yourself “and yeah! She probably feels so much healthier because she isn’t eating 3chzbrgers/1week!” and You would be completely incorrect. I think I had more energy last month, and I’ve already put on a pound since January. So, I hope you walk away with this message: Cheeseburgers are Good for Your Health, Will Keep You Thin, and Are For Grown-Ups.

alex val day 2

Cheeseburger Power Couple is still deadlier than ever. In this picture, Alex is scrumpfing down a delicious Bar Bar burger.