Travel Theme: Motion

This week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack? is: motion!  As luck or fate or my enviable location in central PA would have it, family is in from out of town.  And it’s family with small kiddos.  Which, of course, means that Knoebel’s is on the agenda for any summer, G-rated daytime adventure.  Knoebel’s, for the uninitiated, is only (really!) Travel Channel’s #2 amusement park in the country…the country, people, and as far as countries go this is a big’un.  Admission is free.  Parking is free.  You buy books of tickets or do an all-day wristband.  And it looks a little like a throwback to some gauzy, nostalgic era that never really existed except in magical places people invent to bestow a sense of gauzy nostalgia.

It’s fantastic.

But enough of me spinning my wheels here, yapping away.  You want motion?  You got it.

The Power Surge is one of my favorite rides.  It flings you about like crazy, but it’s a great shortcut to getting zen and contemplating the impermanence of our mortal existence.  Plus, you spin around a lot and it’s reallyreally cool.

The Power Surge. Surging.

The Power Surge. Surging.

Meanwhile, my niece rocks it out in a bouncy moon walk.

You would never get me out of this.

You would never get me out of this.

The Twister is a giant wooden roller coaster with lots of dips and twists and turns.  Here’s a car going down one of the first–but by no means the highest–drops.

Hands up or it's not a real ride.

Hands up or it’s not a real ride.

Saaaay…is that a pirate ship emerging through the tops of the trees?

No, I'm just happy to see you.

No, I’m just happy to see you.

When I stop and think about all ways our bodies are being enacted on by various forces at work in an amusement park–some of us are being swung sideways at great heights, while others spend their time in the air being tumbled around inside what looks like a giant time-release capsule–I can’t help but be grateful.  I’m so glad science works.  Engineers rule!

Obey gravity. It's the law.

Obey gravity. It’s the law.

And finally: third car back, bald dude mugging for the camera, throwing his hands up in the air to party hearty like he jus’ don’t care?  Yeah, that’s my brother.  The little flame of red hair next to him is my niece.

See I am Wonder Garz and I'd like to say hello.

See I am Wonder Garz and I’d like to say hello.

Go to Knoebel’s.  I’ll meet you there.


Nosh: Chilled Cucumber Soup

It was way too hot to cook yesterday.  I mean, really cook, like hunkered down in the kitchen for hours to do anything that involved pans and extreme amounts of chopping and flame-type of cooking.  I’m sure you’re all aware of this by now, but I don’t like hot weather.  I (currently) joke that it’s because I lived in Texas for a few years and I’ve had enough hot weather to last a lifetime, but that’s putting too much of the blame on the great state of Texas.  Sorry, Texas.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I just don’t like summer; never have, never will.  So when the mercury rises and it’s like walking into a wet dishrag full of humidity, I want easy easy easy and refreshing things to cook.

This soup?  Is one of those things.  In the past I’ve had difficulty finding cucumber soup recipes I’ve been happy with, as they are often little more than buttermilk and/or sour cream with cucumbers and some scallions.  If I wanted to eat that, I’d dip some cucumbers in ranch dressing and be done with it.  But this recipe is different.  It’s light and creamy, not fatty and glunky.  And it’s got some added spark to it thanks to mint leaves and lemon juice.  Easy, highly recommended, and delicious.

It calls for a little bit of lemon oil at the end as a garnish, which can be kind of spendy if you buy a bottle at the store.  The first thing I did was make it myself.  Sure, sure, you’re thinking, “Hey, you said this was easy!  And now you’re making gourmet oil?  What gives, Ms. Bait & Switch?”


Zest your lemon before you cut it in half to juice it.  Take the zest and put it in some kind of receptacle (saucer? Pyrex? small storage containter?) and add some mild oil to it.

Congratulations! You’ve just made lemon oil.

Cover your oil and put it off to the side.  You’re done with it until you’re ready to eat.

Not surprisingly, the main ingredient in cucumber soup is cucumbers.  You’ll need about two pounds, and then you peel and seed them.  Tip: if you don’t want to pull out a second utensil to seed the cucumbers (which, as my regular readers know, would in all likelihood be the magnificently multitasking teaspoon) because of whatever reason–it’s all the way across the kitchen and who wants to walk, or it violates your austerity principles because more than one utensil is flashy, or your kitchen drawers are being guarded by wild dogs–then I have an easy solution.  Take your handy, old-timey, had-it-in-the-family-for-a-thousand-years-because-grandma-gave-me-hers vegetable peeler that you think you know everything about, and flip it around to use the handle as a de-seeder.

Yes, way.

Wanna see it again?  Check it out.

OMG Shut up!

Then chop, and assemble the rest of your ingredients.  I didn’t have eight large mint leaves as the bugs have kind of had their way with my mint this year, so I just assembled a handful of small ones.  And I used two garlic cloves instead of the proscribed one because it is a sickness that I can’t help but you’ll end up with a cutting board that looks something like this:

Cukes, mint, de-seeded jalapeno, garlic, red onion. Yes!

To make things even easier, this beautiful recipe goes in a food processor, so even the chopping is kept to a bare minimum (if you don’t have a food processor, then do please cut them a little smaller–though it won’t have to be too much–and use your blender.  If you don’t have a blender, then I don’t know what to tell you except they’re usually on sale and a reliable one can be had pretty inexpensively).  Toss your veggies and lemon juice and some water in there…

Cooking like this = awesome.

…and give them a whirl to break them down a little and create space for the yogurt, if you have a smallish processor bowl (like I have) and don’t want to fill it to the tippy-top so that it’s pushed against the lid and not mixing correctly.  If you’ve got a large processor bowl, by all means, add the yogurt now.

You’ll want to use a good, thick Greek-style yogurt for this.  We eat a lot of yogurt and buy it by the giant bucketsful, so I had to measure mine out.

So what if it’s a little bit more than six ounces? That means once the yogurt is in with the veggies, I get to lick the spatula without concern that I’m cheating the recipe. 🙂 Yes, I planned it that way.

But the individual cups you get at the grocery store are usually six ounce servings, so just get one of those.  See?  Once again, easy.

Add the yogurt if you haven’t done so already along with the rest of the spices.  Salt.  Maple syrup.  At first I wasn’t sure if I was down with the maple syrup but then I thought, well, it’s going to add a slight bit of depth to a soup that has an incredibly bright flavor profile.  So yeah, I came on board, and it was perfect.  I also added fresh ground black pepper (again, because the flavor is so bright, I wanted something to add some contrast) and cayenne.  Yes, cayenne.  That was entirely my improvisation and you don’t have to do this at all, but I adore the combination of foods that are physically cold, but spicy.  Chilled hot salsa.  Ginger beer.  So why not?  I couldn’t think of a reason why not.  And it was goooooooood.

Blend it all together and put it in the fridge.  Normally I don’t make a fuss about what you should store things in, but I will offer this caveat: plastics can absorb tastes and odors, especially if they’re sort of old.  Glass and stainless do not.  This soup only has its own innate goodness to rely on and won’t be further cooked or prodded, and is going to spend at least two hours interacting with itself.  Do yourself a favor and stash the soup in the fridge in glass or stainless so it doesn’t absorb any inadvertent smells hanging around in your plastic containers.  Keep it pure and beautiful.

At the end of at least two hours, after you’ve lazed in your air conditioning and beaten the heat with a cocktail and a good book, take your soup out and check for seasonings.  More salt?  No?  Yes?   Bueno.  Then top it with a drizzle of your beautiful, pre-made lemon oil and a few more slivers of mint, and enjoy a cool, refreshing, simple, non-glunky, light, gorgeous summer soup.

Om nom nom.

Have a salad and some grilled eggplant, if you really want to get crazy.  That’s what we did.  It was a total vegetarian feast, and it was gooooooooood.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

I’m not a summertime gal.  My family ancestry is Irish, Danish and Russian, so to steal a joke from Billy Connolly, I’m not white, I’m pale blue. (Unforch, I can’t find that exact joke in a clip, so enjoy his NSFW take here on aromatherapy.)  I’m so fair I practically ignite in the sun and I’m the person that bugs adore.  More often than not when the weather turns sunny and hot I spend a tremendous amount of time defending myself against the outdoors.  But there are things about the summer that I love.

I live in a small town.  No, no, don’t cue the John Mellencamp music (oh, OK, I’ll do it) but nevertheless, it’s true.  I grew up and then lived in more densely-populated parts of the US, where people in glittery costume sunglasses compete for who can be the loudest “Woo!”-er at the party, where people pack together ridiculously tightly in the pursuit of fun but don’t talk to the person standing next to them.  I was a little nervous about moving to a small town because I thought…small town, everyone knows everyone, right?  I’m the stranger, I’m only going to know my sister here, for the rest of my life.  I thought I’d be here for six months, collect my bearings and take off for Boston or some other metropolis.  That was eight years ago.  Since then I’ve found a wonderful group of friends with whom I’ve made some awesome memories.  Among these are memories of a summer night in a nearby park, watching miniature hot air balloons and fireworks, celebrating the Fourth of July.  This story will take more than one picture to tell, but nevertheless, for me, this is summer.

No more posts.