It’s been a pretty epic week around here. Good things are happening at work and my job is evolving a bit, which will not only keep things interesting and challenging, but hopefully also help us kick cancer to the curb in some new ways using social media, web and video.
And then on Thursday, my brother, Mike, flew in from Denver for a long weekend. But not just any old weekend with the bro – this was the Gathering of the American Gods at House on the Rock. If you’re not a geek like us, this likely means nothing to you, so let me break it down. American Gods is my very favorite book in the whole world written by the creative genius Neil Gaiman. If you haven’t read it, put it on your “to read” list. A pivotal part of the book takes place at the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin. For the 10th anniversary of the book’s publication, Neil and the House hosted a fan celebration on Halloween. What a gloriously geeky weekend!
Neil spoke for a couple of hours on Friday evening to 1,000 rapt nerds. We had free run of the attractions all weekend and there were discussion panels as well. If you’re not familiar with House on the Rock, simply ponder the worst case of hoarding/collecting you’ve ever seen and multiply that by 1000, and you might have the tip of what is contained in the House on the Rock. The collections cover everything from the largest carousel in the world to a caverous room full of organ pipes and organs, to Asian swords, fake British crowns and armour and a vast collection of animatronic orchestras producing a tinny, clangy mix of slightly off classics.
All this gaudy grandeur is displayed in creepy, dimly lit collections that weave a miles-long winding path through warehouses on the property with absolutely no interpretive plaques to tell you anything about the collections. It is this lack of narrative regarding the collections that make it so wonderful. You’re left to imagine anything you like about how the collections came to be.
The weekend concluded with author book signings (Neil signed my beloved Kindle) and the greatest Halloween costume party ever, with most guests dressing up as characters from one of Neil’s many novels. The care and creativity of the fans was breathtaking – you can see some of the costumes on our Flickr page and on Cat’s blog. The best part of it all, though – sharing the weekend with my big brother, who I don’t get to see nearly enough, and who shares our love of American Gods.
After a non-stop on-the-go weekend, my body and stomach returned fairly wrecked. In spite of being careful with my eating and bringing my cooler full of gluten-free food, I managed to get glutened on the way home, eating the only meal I did not provide for myself. So this week I’m focusing on eating simple, gentle foods that will be easy on my belly as it heals. And this herbed millet pilaf was just the ticket for my first recovery meal.
If millet is new to you, hold off on judging it as birdseed and give it a try. It’s a very neutral-tasting grain and is ripe for soaking up any flavor you toss into the pot. For my fellow gluten-free folks who have been missing couscous – millet is your new best friend. It can be eaten warm or cooled and fluffed with a fork like couscous. I loved this dish right out of the pot, with a generous side of roasted delicata squash and sweet potatoes, but I have to say – it’s even better as leftovers – all mixed together with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Once cooled, the millet is easier to fluff up, and it remains in perfect little separate grains when you reheat it later. This is healing autumnal comfort food at its finest. I also made a pot of Indian Spiced Red Lentil Soup for the week as well – it’s another one of my favorite things to heal a glutened body.
How did you spend your Halloween? Any spooky treats to share? Or, if you’re in the millet fan club, share your favorite millet recipe in the comments below…
Herbed Millet Pilaf
1 cup millet
3/4 cup white wine (I used a vihno verde)
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley for garnish.
- Cooking the millet: Heat a pan over medium heat and add olive oil and onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until onions have softened. Add the garlic and saute for one more minute. Scrape the onion garlic mixture into a medium sized saucepan (or rice cooker bowl as I do). Add the white wine, water and salt to the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Stir the millet into the boiling water, then cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the millet has soaked up all the water – about 25 minutes (or one full cycle of the rice cooker). The millet will become fluffy when gently scraped with a fork. Cover the fluffed millet and move it off the hot burner – it will stay warm if covered for a few minutes. Fold in the minced parsley right before serving.
Herb Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Delicata Squash
Serves 5 (with pilaf above)
2 delicata squash, peeled, gutted and sliced into 1” cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2” thick wedges
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 T fresh oregano, minced (or 1 tsp dried)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Feta cheese & chopped, toasted pecans for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees on convection setting if you have it. Slip a sheet pan into the oven while it preheats.
- Scoop the chopped squash and sweet potato into a mixing bowl and add the black pepper, rosemary, oregano, garlic, salt & olive oil. Stir with a spatula to mix it all up to evenly distribute the herbs and oil.
- Remove the preheated sheet pan from the oven, and lightly spray with olive oil. Spread the squash and sweet potatoes on the pan in one even layer, and roast for 40 minutes, gently turning with a metal spatula after the first 20 minutes of roasting.
- When the squash is done, serve it alongside a scoop of the pilaf, and garnish both with a few crumbles of feta and some toasted pecans.
Leftover notes: I had a good amount of both squash and pilaf left over after dinner for 2. I allowed everything to cool on the counter while we ate dinner, then moved the pilaf into a mixing bowl and used a fork to fluff it up even more into individual grains. I added the squash to the bowl along with more crumbled feta and pecans and mixed it all together, adding a drizzle of good quality olive oil to keep it a bit moist. The leftovers are perfect when reheated for lunches.
As Neil was signing my Kindle, I thanked him for allowing our local community theater to do the first-ever stage production of Neverwhere, which was a truly extraordinary production. Neil then drew one of the Neverwhere rats on my Kindle. My Kindle is now even more special.