I am feeling…dare I say it?…happy in Texas these days.
This discovery is rather remarkable because I am feeling happy despite the rain, the unpacked boxes, the lack of sidewalks, and moving away from all my friends. I think I’m doing really well, having arrived here just over two weeks ago: I’ve got my commute figured out, I now bring an umbrella with me every day, and I’ve decided that I love Texas A & M’s campus, even though it is massive and imposing. It has rained a lot, but sometimes the sun comes out and makes me feel like there is no other place I’d rather be. Texas, I may have a crush on you.
My apartment, I’m sure, would be in better shape if I weren’t going off to work every day and then coming home and pretending that there aren’t boxes in every room waiting for me to unpack them. My living space is functional but not beautiful. I can cook in the kitchen, but most of my teas are still in boxes. I can sleep in my bed, but in the morning I hop over piles of things that are waiting for permanent new homes. If I want to listen to a CD, I may have to locate the box in which that CD is still sitting. It turns out that it’s taking me far longer to unpack in Texas than it took me to pack in Evanston.
But I don’t really mind any of the reasons why I’m not unpacked yet. Matt’s visit made me wonderfully happy, and his presence felt like a bridge between my old life in the North and my new life in Texas. Plus he did an excellent job explaining some of the oddities around here, like why there is so little sidewalk. (Answers: 1) Until recently builders were not required to put in sidewalk. 2) Everyone drives everywhere. But I already knew about that second reason and think it is very unfortunate. I love walking!)
My new job is good, too. Every day I go off to work and read read read about flies and food, which is fine with me. There is so much to read! It’s nice to be easing back into a routine. It is also nice to know that along with my PhD comes a nice raise and the end of my student days. I’ve been a student since I was four years old! That means I’ve been in school for 23 years! I just hope I have something to show for all that formal education, all those years of sacrifice in order to “better” myself. Am I better? Am I somehow different now that I’ve obtained this degree from an elite university? I don’t know. But I do know I wanted that PhD, and now I feel relief that it’s done.
With that level of relief still fresh in my memory, it’s hard for me to get too worked up about unpacking. There are, however, certain issues about unpacking which I have yet to resolve. My spices, for example, need a home. But where? I did a bottle count, and it turns out I own 37 spice jars, 11 spice bags, and 4 bottles of flavor extracts. My spice collection makes me happy, but it would make me even happier if most of it were not in boxes. A select few have made it out of the box, including:
* sea salt and black pepper, which I packed in my carry-on and almost had confiscated at the airport(!)
* cinnamon (my favorite everyday spice)
* cumin seed, ground cumin, tumeric, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, cinnamon sticks, and curry powder for a stew and Matt’s okra dish. We love seriously spicy food.
* vanilla extract for oatmeal and oatmeal cookies
* smoked paprika and chili powder for Smokehouse Almonds
These spices are living next to the stove right now, on a narrow strip of counter. I suppose that makes them elite spices! But what am I going to do with my collection? I have run out of cabinet and drawer space in the kitchen. Should I buy a spice rack? A spice cabinet? I’m thinking about buying some piece of freestanding furniture that would let me store my spices and my tea in the same place. There’s a corner just off of the kitchen, in the “dining room,” if you will, which I think would be perfect as a little pantry spot. It’s big enough to put a piece of furniture there and close enough to the kitchen that I could do a spice grab right before I start cooking—even as the oil is heating in the skillet. What do you think? Dear readers, how do you store your spice collections?
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Adapted from Vegetarian Times
Makes about 1 cup
This recipe was one of the first I made in my new kitchen. I even went out and bought new bottles of smoked paprika and chili powder for it because my old bottles were still on their way to Texas. These almonds were totally worth the spice splurge. They are easy to make and even easier to eat. I find them especially tasty paired with raisins or cheese, both of which complement the rich, roasted spicy flavor. They are also great coarsely chopped and sprinkled over a salad.
I tried this recipe using honey or dark brown sugar as the sweetener. The spice mixture is clumpier with honey, but I think the flavor is better. And the clumps are pretty tasty too! Try these almonds both ways and see which one you like.
1/2 tsp. honey or 1 tsp. dark brown sugar (see headnote above)
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup whole raw almonds
1) Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sweetener, paprika, and chili powder. Add the olive oil and stir together. Pour in the almonds and stir to coat the nuts in the spice mixture. Pour the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet.
3) Bake the nuts for 20 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant. Sprinkle them with a bit of salt if you like. Allow them to cool and then store them in an airtight container at room temperature.