Summer is by far my favorite season here in Flagstaff. The weather is practically perfect, I have most of it off or easy, everything is green and gorgeous, and monsoon season is enchanting.
One of the strange things about summer is that even though I have all this extra time, it’s so hot that turning on the oven to do some baking sounds really unpleasant. Besides that, I usually give most of my baked goods to my coworkers. Without them, it’s up to me and my husband, essentially, to eat all of my treats. Believe it or not, we’re kind of terrible at that.
So instead I’ve been experimenting with other things — mostly dinner. I wanted to share a recipe I’ve made twice now. It’s Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma. Okay, yeah, it doesn’t taste like actual real shawarma, but it’s oven-roasted, not grilled, and I’m not actually of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean descent, so I’m willing to take this. It’s still got that delightful Middle Eastern/Mediterranean flavor that I crave. Combine it with a Quick and Easy Homemade Tzatziki Sauce, and you have a super easy and tasty meal that for us usually lasts quite a while. I just had some for lunch. That was meal #3 and we still have one thigh left. Heck. Yes.
Another thing I’m super excited about is homemade sangria. I love sangria. Don’t get me wrong, I love regular wine, too. I like a big red. Fat and bold on the tongue. When I’m feeling nostalgic for my aunt, I’ll drink a Pinot Grigio or when I’m feeling fancy I’ll have some moscato. Tonight, it shall be red wine sangria.
I was first properly introduced to sangria at this cute little restaurant in Flagstaff called Tapas y Sangria. It was the latest in a long line of restaurants to have inhabited that space and subsequently failed, for whatever reason, but all of which I’ve loved. When I was here for college, that space was The Black Bean, whose Thai burrito was a revelation to a freshman living away from home for the first time. When we came back to live here, it had been transformed into Tapas y Sangria. Now, it’s a ramen noodle place. Like, real ramen, not that disgusting staple of collegiate life.
Out of all the places it’s been, I’ve liked Tapas y Sangria the best. When it was the tapas place, it had a beautiful, intricate Moorish-style mural of a castle painted on one of the walls, and I remember staring at it every time we went to eat there. I loved the food, too. It was traditional Spanish tapas. You could get such interesting things. We got some truly excellent calamari (even I liked it), fried pigs’ ears, tortilla espanola, olives, jambon, everything Spanish and delicious. The portions were perfect for tasting and sharing. When I’m exploring a new cuisine, that’s exactly what I want — small portions of everything so that I can try everything and explore to my palate’s content. But perhaps my favorite thing was the sangria. It was so fresh and not overly sweet and like nothing I had ever had before.
Much to my chagrin, I’ve tried making sangria in the past and had very little luck in having it turn out exactly how I want. I’m trying it again tonight and I’m not cutting any corners! I bought a cabernet sauvignon recently that didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted, so I’ve put that in with a little apple juice and triple sec, and filled with strawberry and nectarine chunks, and orange slices. To top it off, I’m going to put some champagne in it to achieve that bubbly quality. I have big plans for the evening. Bath, book, sangria. I’m pretty dang excited, even if I do say so myself.
If you have the patience for it, I’d like to take the time to talk about the other big thing I’ve been doing this summer: reading! Wonderfully, I am in reading mode. Sometimes it’s hard for me to sit down and read. When I finished college, I barely read for a year because I had read so much for four years my brain got saturated. This summer, apparently, is the summer of reading. Other summers, I’ll do a fair amount of reading but I’ll also use the time to catch up on my TV. This summer, I’ve barely watched any TV (except old reruns of Frasier because, let’s face it, what a great show). I’ve just been reading. Mostly fantasy and YA because that’s who I am. Favorites so far? The Tin Box, a book about a super-closeted gay man who becomes the caretaker for an old insane asylum. Sweet, romantic, compelling…I cried my eyes out. Warning, though, definitely rated R. Also, the Alanna series. I just finished reading Graceling by Kristen Cashore, and I was thoroughly disappointed in it. It tried so hard to have a strong, independent, interesting heroine. Sadly, she was none of these and the whole book left me cold. Immediately after, though, by sheer happenstance, I chanced upon Alanna: The First Adventure. From the first page, it was what Graceling was going for: an intriguing world of magic and marvels, adventure and intrigue, and a female protagonist that I could really get behind. I’ve been waiting patiently for the next book to come to me via digital library downloads, and it’s finally here! Hooray! Lastly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by The Alloy of Law, Shadows of Self, and now The Bands of Mourning, a Mistborn-style set of novels by favorite author Brandon Sanderson. These are set in the same world as the Mistborn trilogy (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages, all three mind-boggingly enjoyable high fantasy), so I didn’t have to learn any new world-building stuff (that gets very trying). Having said taht, they’re so much more light-hearted than Mistborn. The world isn’t ending any time soon (I think, I still don’t know what’s up with this Trell fellow but it can’t be anything good), and the whole tone of the books is pleasantly jaunty. I find myself laughing quite often and shaking my head in that affectionate way you do when you watch your dog chase its tail. Sigh. I love reading.
But I’ve also been working my way through a reading challenge.
I’m even almost done! I’ve got about 15 books left. I’ve managed to fit most of my books that I’ve just read on my own into the categories, somehow. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to travel? Why, The Hollow Hills, by Mary Stewart, of course, since I’ve always wanted to travel to rural England! Never mind that I would have been reading that one anyway. The toughest ones are going to be the one set in my hometown (who writes about Phoenix, for god’s sake??) and a book written by an author with my same initials: K.K. I really don’t care to read any more Ken Kesey, thank you, so if y’all have a good suggestion of an author whose initials are KK and whose book doesn’t totally suck or have to do with lobotomies, I’m all ears.
Hit me up on Goodreads: PrudenceDear and give me some awesome recommendations, please!