Archive for the ‘Food Glorious Food’ Category

I don’t have a specific agenda today.  I just wanted to show up, in part because I was struck this morning–for no particular reason–by my die-hard readers who show up themselves from time to time just in case I’ve written anything, even if I haven’t written in a long time.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given my own habits (I STILL click on AfrindieMum at least once a month) but I’m still a little surprised that someone would bother for this particular blog.  So that makes me feel good, and it makes me want to show up once in a while.  Here I am!

Re: adoption…there isn’t much to write right now.  It still bothers me that we can’t adopt right now and won’t be able to for quite some time, but I’ve been able to find some peace about that.  Partly it’s because we have so much to do with raising the one we have and finishing school so we can actually get jobs that adoption gets crowded out on a regular basis.  But my heart still melts when I see babies, like it did last night at the Snapper’s early birthday party, and I pretty much cannot watch any adoption shows on Mommy channels.  They remind me that I have a huge adoption-sized hole in my heart.  I’ve stopped researching specific avenues, because I think we have to see where we’re going to settle first, and that will have to wait until we get jobs.  Between the economy and the tightness (tightitude?) of my field, it would be foolish to put more strictures on a search.  The right thing to do, the only thing to do, really, is to see what kind of home and community we will be working with and choose a mode of adoption based on those circumstances.

Otherwise, I’m still baking bread and loving it, the Snapper is alternately delightful and tantrummy, I have too many friends to count here (so grateful…), the first snow is flying…


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Today I am soaking chick peas, waiting for bread to rise, waiting for laundry loads to wash and dry, waiting for a child to go to sleep and waiting for him to wake up again, waiting for Attic Man to come home and waiting for my mother-in-law’s visit.

So much of domestic work is about patience.  I am experimenting with low-yeasted breads in a cool house and am finding longer rise times–three hours or more!–yield better-tasting loaves.  I am learning that chick peas make snapping sounds as they soak, which one only learns in a quiet house during naptime.

I learned about the chick peas while I was paying bills, and it occured to me as I very happily for the first time in months was able to pay everything in full, on time, that so much patience is required, and that what happens while bread is rising and chick peas are snapping and checks are en route is faith.  It can be worry, too, and anguish, but it can be quiet faith.  That is hard.  I am not there yet.  Being able to pay those bills and pulling a beautiful loaf out of the oven can help future waits fill up with faith rather than anxiety, but each time it is as if the world is starting over again and it can be hard to remember that yeast can be trusted.

so can therapy.  so can friends.  so can water in chick peas.

when will I learn?

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One of the most enjoyable parts of ADHD is the pairing of the unpredictable, whimsicle, serendipidous direction of one’s interests and the ability to hyperfocus.  The result, at least in my life, is that I am what I call a “serial hobbiest.”  (Lest you think we hyperactive sorts have the market share, Attic Man is the world’s most hard-core serial hobbiest).  All it takes is accidentally stumbling upon a website you went to for one reason but started reading for another (like my affair with Size Acceptance after finding Kate Harding), or hearing a great lecture, or in the latest case, having to tighten the budget.

We love having pizza on Friday nights, but there is no good pizza in IC.  There is kinda sorta passable pizza, but nothing that is worth the wait and the price.  We went the frozen route for a few weeks, but after suffering through overcooked crusts, soggy centers, and weird-tasting sauce, we became deeply depressed about the situation.  Around the same time Attic Man’s foot-tapping about the fact that the bread machine had been sitting unused on our kitchen counter taking up lots of precious space since we moved in became deafening.  So I started hunting the internet for a good bread machine recipe.  I tried one, had great results the first time, then six mediocre loaves later, I realized that the only way to get consistently good results was to chuck the machine and do it myself.  I’m home all day at least three days a week (short trips to the park and the library notwithstanding, which one can do between rises) so bread-making fits well into our schedule.  But I was more depressed about the pizza.  I did what my mother taught me to do, except with the internet, and read and read and read and read about how to make a good pizza.  I poured over recipes, discussions of oven temperature, pizza stones, breaking your oven’s safety latch (really!) to get it up to 800 degrees, brick ovens, how not to make sauce (don’t cook it; it will cook nicely on the pizza and taste much better)…on and on for a couple of weeks.  The first attempt was passable, the second reasonable, and tonight’s?  Well, I still have a long way to go–it didn’t get the nice oven spring I was looking for and was too chewy by far–but we gobbled it up in ten minutes flat with no leftovers.  It was a sorry sight, misshapen with uneven thickness.  But the flavor was amazing.  I’d have pictures if it hadn’t gone so fast!

Somewhere in all that reading I drifted over to bread-making blogs and websites and I am now a complete addict.  The sandwich loaf I made earlier this week was so good that Attic Man has decided store-bought bread is no longer necessary for his daily sandwich.  This is a big victory.  It was a pretty loaf and I do wish I had photographed it!  It had a lovely golden crust and a nice open crumb.  Not perfect, but far better than anything I’ve ever made.  I grew up learning to make bread the old wrestle-and-knead way, which does produce a nice bread, but artisan bread-making is just so much more fun and interesting.  It’s amazing what a little technique-tweaking can do for the flavor and texture of your bread.  A simple autolyse–letting your flour and water sit in the bowl for twenty minutes after mixing, but before kneading–develops the gluten without overworking the dough; creating a “mother dough” or sponge the night before yields a much better flavor (this is the best method of pizza-making, except that the mother dough is the whole dough, with nothing added the next day); cranking up the temperature of the oven and adding steam gives you a nice crust.  I am excited to try out some of these techniques working off the basic recipe.  The plan right now is to make the basic sandwich loaf on Saturday for sandwiches, then bake an experimental loaf on Wednesday, working on one new technique per week.  I am really looking forward to what comes out of the oven each week!

One modification I’ve made to my breadmaking is that I am no longer militant about it being 100% whole wheat.  It is very, very difficult to get a great loaf without having some white flour.  I would rather have a delicious bread with the added fiber and nutrition of a 50 or 33 percent whole wheat loaf than a sad, dense one with 100%.  I am going to be sparing about doing 100% white because that is straight sugar to your body, baby.

What are you experimenting with these days?

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Little updates: The Snapper is completely back to normal with no need for pain meds and eating normally (like a horse); little house has NO BASEMENT! In the midwest!; I am too sick to exercise, starting antibiotics this afternoon–we’ll start next week, and in the meantime, hide your scales!

On to present business. I am not politically active when it comes to my version of vegetarianism, though I am always happy to explain it to inquirers (who have been nothing but courteous and complimentary, by the way). What it comes down to for me is 1) I’m not pleased with the meat industry’s treatment of animals, however much my girl Temple Grandin has succeeded in improving it; and 2), most importantly, it is an ethical position relative to the world food supply: you can feed more people with grain than you can with meat. If we all ate less meat and were generous with what we didn’t eat fewer people would be hungry. I say it’s an ethical stance because I don’t believe for a second that I am lessening world hunger by not eating any meat but fish. It’s a lifestyle choice that keeps me close to my concerns with hunger and poverty and hopefully encourages other people to do the same.

Which is why I was on www.goveg.com* the other day–my food choices make me periodically curious about what PETA is up to and if there is any new and interesting research or thinking. Whereupon I clicked on “Fishing Hurts” and learned about a 2003 study that indicated fish feel pain, anxiety, and fear as they are being killed. I also read a number of articles on the site explaining that conditions in fisheries and farms are inhumane to fish, and that far from being brainless little nothings they have social structures and emotional relations to one another that are similar to mammals. I did some googling and found mention of another study from the University of Montana. I don’t fully understand the science, but a researcher there maintains that the physiological responses the 2003 study claims indicated fear were nothing more than reflexes of some sort and reasserted the long-held (by me, too) assumption that fish do not suffer in their deaths.  The 2003 study looks reputable but the Montana one is in a journal of a title that makes me suspect it is tied in with the fish industry.  So honestly I don’t know where to go with this one.  Do fish suffer or don’t they (and if they don’t feel pain, are there other issues with the dignity of their lives?)?  Then there’s also the issue of massive water pollution, chemicals, etc. that all make their way into our fish.

Attic Man suggested that if the fish industry bothers me I should also be looking to take dairy off the table, as the issues there are similar, and in that case, we know chickens and cattle don’t like being stuffed into small, airless spaces.  I responded that I feel my body needs dairy, but that fish is really optional (though very, very loved), and that I’ve made my peace with dairy because I am not able to afford free range, organic, etc. (I try to as often as I can, esp. because my body does better with hormone-free milk).  I am all about what people’s bodies seem to be telling them.  But I don’t know if this is a satisfactory position ethically or not.  I don’t know how much the fact that I LOVE fish and dairy plays into things.  I love poultry but gave up that…I even eventually gave up locally hunted venison (yum).

For the record I am not against killing animals as long as we need them (and we mostly don’t) and that the killing is done quickly, compassionately, and as painless as possible.

I’m thinking about giving up fish and seafood for Lent to enter a period of discernment about it.  Any thoughts?

*Yes, this woman is from my alma mater.

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The Snapper, ever eager to start solid food, samples some of Cousin Banana Girl’s Face

Is there anything better than the smell of cooked apples wafting through your house, carried on the breeze from an open kitchen window curtained in lace?

I just made 2 months’ worth of mashed bananas, avocado, and apple sauce for the freezer in about half an hour’s time. Yesterday morning I did two ice cube trays’ worth of sweet potatoes; minus the microwave time during which I did the dishes, it took about 5-10 minutes. This homemade baby food thing is cake. Well, it’s fruits, veggies, and whole grains, but it’s easy as pie. Pie without sugar. Anyway, I’m loving making the Snapper’s food. It’s all fresh and I love not giving any money to the baby industry (foodwise, that is). I love being in the kitchen anyway, and on a day like today, when the sky is blue, Quaker Oats is shut down for the holiday (which means our neighborhood is QUIET without the telltale roar across the river), it’s not-too-hot-not-too-cold and a nice breeze is blowing, it’s pure joy.

Yesterday we had a nice trip to see the Snapper’s basically-same-age neice and had a lovely time (especially the Snapper; see above).

It’s great to be alive.

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This morning I had the most amazing breakfast: two-egg omelet with goat cheese, fresh basil, and baby spinach.  YUM.  Last night Attic Man man a Roulade of Chicken thing  (rolled up chicken with goat cheese and veggies inside; he made it in peppers for me) so there were some yummy leftover ingredients. I was more than happy to dispose of them.   We also walked the dogs, and I read half a Harper's article, in which the author appears to have actually read Foucault instead of just throwing his name around for attention (a rare treat), so it has been a splendid morning already.

I'm hoping this afternoon will follow suit.  Today I'm giving my lecture on The Bluest Eye.  On paper, it's a damn good lecture.  Here's an exerpt from a close reading of the prologue that is a brief snapshot of what I'm doing with the text: 

it’s not about one monster who does something awful to a child, but about a culture that creates monsters; the discourse of blame misses the point entirely—if we could put it all on Cholly we’d be able to dismiss the problem of the novel completely—but Morrison doesn’t want us to think that it’s a simple as there being ‘good’ and ‘evil’ people, but that there can be an evil we all participate in.  The whole culture, black and white, is implicated in her story.

I'm happy with what I have to say about TBE but I'm quite nervous about the lecture format.  Actually, it's the mixed format that I'm concerned about.  Straight lecture is nearly all performance; the way my professor has been teaching the course there is a lot of room for class discussion, which I like, and I'd like to continue it in this class.  The problem is that my own teaching technique is really just doing a careful reading of the text, making a list of what my concerns are, and beginning the class with, "so where do you want to start?"  Then it sort of goes where it goes.  This back-and-forth stuff is harder, as is the timing.  So I'm nervous.

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I've been perfecting classic beans and rice over the past few months to reflect our increasingly demanding taste buds and to keep us away from the old fallback, going out on a weeknight. Rice and beans at our house started out as a cheap dish made with white rice, canned beans, and a few sauteed veggies. It is still cheap (going from canned beans to cooking vast quanities of dried beans and freezing them more than makes up for the lime and fresh cilantro) but now it is healthier with brown rice and positively bursting with flavor. I almost never go a day without lime or lime zest in something. Our zester has been in constant use ever since I discovered the floral, aromatic, and lovely character of lemons, limes, and oranges. Lime zest is particularly good in home-made salsa, which you can make simply by omitting the beans in this recipe. In fact, I did the opposite tonight; I took the salsa I whipped up at lunch and turned it into rice and beans in the evening. I only had to clean the kitchen once and dinner came together quickly. Enjoy!

Black Beans and Rice (1 hr.)

If you're using white rice, simply begin the rest as soon as you put it on to cook.

1. Put one cup brown basmati rice, 1 3/4 cup water, a generous pinch of salt, the zest and juice of 1/2 lime, and 1 tsp. olive oil in a small pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for one minute. Then lower the heat to the lowest setting and put the lid on. Set the timer for 50 minutes.

2. Get the latest on Delay and Jolie.

3. When the timer says the rice has 20 minutes to go, chop and sautee the following in olive oil on medium heat: 1 medium onion, 1 large green pepper, 3 cloves garlic, and 1 jalapeno (remove seeds to control heat). Add 2 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. salt, and black pepper to taste to the sautee.

4. When the onions are translucent, add 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 tsp. dried oregano and either 1 15-oz can of black beans or 1 1/2 cups cooked beans. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer.

5. When the timer for the rice goes off, turn off the heat and let sit. Do not remove the lid. Set timer for 10 minutes.

6. Chop 1 tsp. fresh cilantro (or more, if you're like us) and 1 scallion, all parts. Add these with 1/2 cup frozen corn and the juice and zest of 1/2 lime to the black bean extravaganza. When the corn is heated through (only a minute or two!) take off heat.

7. When rice timer goes off again, mix rice and bean stuff together or serve separately.

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Sster's Orange Spice Cookies

Experimentation with cooking has led me to try my hand at a few innovations while baking. Since baking is a more exact science, I've been working on modifying existing recipes. Tonight I tried putting a twist on chocolate-chip cookie dough by omitting the chocolate chips, adding some spices, upping the vanilla, and putting our zester to good use. The result is a soft, sweet cookie that reminds me a lot of carrot cake. The cardamon really enhances the citrus flavor of the orange zest.

1. Cream together with mixer: 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter and 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice (or just refined sugar if you like) until fluffy, about five minutes.

2. Add 1 egg, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and beat for another minute or so.

3. In a separate bowl sift together 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. cardamom.

4. Add dry ingredients to wet one-third at a time. Switch to a spoon if your mixer gets cranky.  Fold in the zest of 1 medium orange.

5. Do not be like sster and add water to make the dough more workable. Your cookies will spread out too much.

6. Drop with spoons on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

7. Pour glass of milk and enjoy the smell of your kitchen as they're baking. These would be good ones to make if you were showing your house to prospective buyers.

Wishing you all a delicious evening.

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