Saturday, December 26, 2009


Tabi, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.
Socks with toes! Finally! Next time , I'll make them smaller to account for the surprising amount of stretch that even a firmly woven fabric will have when worn on the feet. Also, I will do them properly, with a lining.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh my god! I made English Muffins!

There are days when I feel like I have totally lost my mojo. And usually it means that I just have to go to bed and say the hell with it. But sometimes I can't do that, and sometimes, I am rewarded. For no good reason, I decided that I needed to make english muffins. I thought it would get me out of my funk, and boy was I right. I don't have enough superlatives for these little guys.

Rather than write out the recipe, I'll just post the link, which is from food network, and tell you what else I think is useful.

1. Follow the recipe. Duh, right? Well, this is me, remember. But I really did this time!
2. Read the comments. 
3. I did the folded bits of tinfoil thing. No cardboard, just enough foil to stay moderately rigid. Make the rings about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch tall.
4. The recipe says heat the griddle to 300. That means medium-low on a stove top.
5. I used my trusty cast-iron skillet. If I hadn't run out of staples to make rings, I could have fit 3 rings in it. Remember to leave room for flipping them over.
6. After the recipe says to stir in the last 1/2 teaspoon of salt, let the batter rest again for about 5 minutes or the first couple muffins will be significantly heavier than the rest of the batch.
7. If you are only making them 2 at a time as I did, you will need to stir the batter back down a couple times or the muffins at the end will be predominately composed of holes.
8. Do sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the pan and the tops of the raw muffins.
9. Do take the time to brush the crumbs out of the skillet and re-grease the rings between each batch.
10. A scant 1/3 cup of batter is about right for each muffin. This will make around 8-10 muffins, depending on how thick you like them.

And to those of you who said "What? Muffins! But those are put in bags and left in grocery stores by the Muffin Fairy!" I say: Be the Muffin Fairy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Solstice!

 Hooray! The darkest day of the year has passed, and it is time to celebrate by putting a pomelo skin on your head. Or a grapefruit. I didn't think I was ever gonna eat a whole pomelo by myself- they're the size of a volleyball. Does anybody but me remember dad wearing one of these distinctive chapeaux to go practice tai chi one time in the summer? Worn at a rakish angle, perhaps?

This, re-posted from facebook, (thanks, Ms. T)  has nothing to do with anything, but it is high-larious! May you snort with laughter in the new year. Also, don't be fooled: the internets are very small. This is the guy who trained me at trader joe's.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Odds an' Ends

Because I have no car, and it is winter, I am more than usually averse to shlepping myself to and from the grocery store. I hate dragging my ass home with a load of heavy soggy bags at the end of a day. This leaves me with some strange combinatons sometimes. The good ones end up here, the other stuff I pretend never happened.

Delicata Squash with Tofu and Spinach Stuffing
(served with some other stuff to make it interesting, like.)

On the right there is the cous-wa again, that's old hat. The raddiccio is mostly for color, although the bitter crunchyness goes well with the rest of the stuff.

The tofu stuffing came about because I have these enthusiasms for an ingredient, and have to go and get some to see what its like. The peedan was one I actually knew what to do with; those blessed tomatillos were another story... This time it was bacon salt.  Somebody (Dawn) mentioned it and I thought, wow, bacony goodness without having to cook any bacon! Yep, I am that lazy.

Well, I found one thing to do with it: I put it in my do chang. But then what? Attempt to make fake bacon out of tofu, obviously. Not a success, obviously. But I did get a curiously satisfying marinated tofu good for sandwiches. Then I ran out of bread, and besides, I was bored of sandwiches. Some time ago, Cynthia gave me a dinky little squash, and there was pretty much nothing else left in the kitchen when I got home today. This gave me a reason to have the oven on for an extra hour, which is a good thing around the solstice.

1 block super-firm tofu
bacon salt
nutritional yeast
olive oil
some ground toasted flax seeds
bear with me.

Cut the tofu into strips about 1 inch wide and at most 1/2 inch thick. Coat them generously with a mix of the dry ingredients. You can go moderately heavy with the bacon salt, it seems to be mostly composed of garlic powder and paprika. Put it in a tupperware thing and add a slosh of olive oil and shake it around to get the oil distributed. Then leave it in the fridge until you feel guilty about not eating it, which was about 5 days for me. Maybe longer. Then decide that you might as well combine it with that other thing you feel guilty about not eating, and locate your squash.

Mine was a particularly small squash, definitely a one-person size. To fill it, I used:

2 strips marinated tofu
2/3 cups frozen chopped spinach
a toasted heel of bread, torn up very small
salt and pepper

To assemble the squash, cut the squash in half to form 2 little cups, and scoop out the seeds. Put the tofu and spinach in a bowl and microwave it just until it's all hot, then smash up the tofu with a fork. Stir in the bread bits, taste for salt and pepper, and if it is very dry add a spoon of water. Mine had all the leftover olive oil from the bottom of the tofu batch, so it was pretty moist. Cram the stuffing into the squash cups, put them in a pan with a little water in the bottom to keep them from utterly drying out, and bake them for about an hour. The time will vary depending on how big your squash is, and if it's very large, you may want to cover it for the first half of the baking or it will burn on the outside before it gets done through.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Eating Like an American

...or Dude! What is going on here?!?

It's a rhetorical question, yah, got it.

Here's what got me going: a $50 gift certificate to any of the Darden SV Inc. restaurants nationwide. Which, really, is a damn generous company holiday gift. It really is. And I know why they did it too- there aren't that many things that you can give the same thing to 300-some-odd people and have it be even vaguely appropriate. So, restaurant gift cards= free food an booze= cool.

Ok, so what restaurants are those? In Portland, those would be Red Lobster, and Olive Garden. Neither of which actually have locations in Portland. Well, I lie, there's an Olive Garden in Mall 205. And from where I live, it's just as far to Vancouver to get to Red Lobster, but probably more of a pain in the neck.

But that's totally irrellevant! In the process of locating a venue for spending my lucre, of course I looked at the menus on the websites, and of course I opened the link to the...dun-dun...nutrition facts.

They still use 2000 calories per day as a benchmark for calculating a person's nutritional
needs. I probably do all right on about that, maybe less, say about 1800 on a slothful Saturday. I'm 35, I'm female and not built on heroic lines. I don't work out, but on the other hand, I spend a lot of time riding Shank's Mare. Super fit I am not. Where am I going with this...

Oh, the Nutrition Facts! Yay for hyperlinks. How often do people eat at restaurants? Hopefully, not often. When I was 22, I could eat an entree of chicken alfredo without batting an eye. Or maybe some Calamari?
How many grams of saturated fat are you supposed to stay under in a day? We haven't even got to the desserts yet, I think that would just get depressing. I love dessert, it's supposed to be chock full of saturated fats.

So why does the menu at Olive garden bug me? Well, for one thing, all the portions are in these feasting-for-a-special-occasion sizes, and for another, because everything on it looks the same. It's all the same cream sauce, all the same noodles, all the same piece of chicken meat, all the same piece of cow parts. Don't even get me started on the fact that vegetables are only mentioned in a roundabout way. Red Lobster too. You can have broccoli or asparagus. Asparagus only sometimes, and broccoli you have to ask for especially. I like my broccoli, but that it? Mountains of food, all the same. You could close your eyes and point 3 or 4 different times and get exactly the same meal, but with some rather irrational price differences. They have taken the natural human joy of feasting and turned it into a process for maximizing calories per dollar. All the things that make food more than just consumption have been jettisoned, and the only index of value is how much stuff you get. Evidently, lots of people agree with them. You don't get chain restaurants by having complex criteria for what you want to serve. You get hot cart pods.

So, am I gonna use my gift certificate? Yeah, sure.There was a short period a few years back when I ate at restaurants regularly. I gained weight, duh. But the thing that in retrospect seems particularly sad to me is how boring it was. I could have spent less time, eaten better, and enjoyed myself more if I had been cooking. It would have cost less too, by a long shot. But there was the convenience of a predictable restaurant. Sometimes it is nice just to have someone else clear up the stupid dishes. Sometimes I do want a cocktail, and not being the kind of gal who keeps a full bar (or even an empty one) at home, a drink at a restaurant is always kinda nice. It's the middle of the winter, and going somewhere warm, that is not my house, where I can have my peck and booze and neither I nor my friends have to clear away the debris after dinner, is pleasant. The food will not be special, but since my employer has already paid for it, it would be silly not to use the certificate.

Here's the thing though: eating at a restaurant should be a treat. It should be indulgent, and you should be able to get things you don't get at home, and they should be tasty and interesting, and sometimes even remarkable, to eat. And dangit, there should be dessert. And on special occasions, sure, maybe that dessert could have enough calories in it to last you a whole day. But the quantity, and the calories, and the fat or sodium or whatever should be secondary. Eat things than make you go 'Hm. I'll be darned.' Eat things that make you feel giddy with excitement. Eat things made by people you love, eat in the company of people who care about you. Feed your friends things they won't cook for themselves, things that are crunchy, or spicy, or bitter, or fishy, or just anything interesting. It's December, the weather is crap, and if ever there is a time of year when we need food to be more than just calories, this is it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Absolutely nothing to do with food

Unless you count the popcorn and hot chocolate consumed at zoolights. But I don't think I do, because that's not food. Not really. I mean, there's plenty of things that are delicious and that we eat, but that aren't food. Twinkies. Asparagus. But that's beside the point.

I had a great time at zoolights a while back, and only just now got around to posting the pictures on my flickr photostream. Lots of pictures. I even put descriptions on some of them, so you should go over there, and check 'em out. Silly fun.

A joyous Christmakwanzaakha to you all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More about pastry tools

I've made more pies this year than at any time before in my life. Maybe more than the previous lifetime total. It's the crust. I have a new favorite tool:

it's a really fancy pastry cutter. It's made out of a solid piece of really heavy stainless steel, and the handle is stuck onto the blade with these big screws and rubber gaskets. It cost me a whole $1.99 at Goodwill.

I have another one, the usual sort. Wooden handle, a bunch of curvey wire loops. Also $1.99 at Goodwill. It's perfectly adequate, I recommend one for occasional or desultory pastry-makers, because it beats the heck out of a fork. I almost passed up my fancy one, because I had one of the regular kind already, but I picked it up and went oooOOo...

The handle doesn't swivel, for one thing, so when you're bashing away at a pile of hard butter and flour, the blades never flip out sideways. And the blades are rigid. They don't spread apart, leaving unevenly large chunks of fat. And the solid parts of the blade above the cutters make a nice ergonomic grippy place for your thumb to go.

Since I got this thing last month or so, it has chewed through 2 big batches of chocolate shortbread cookies, and 2 pie crusts with incredible ease. I love it. Now all I need is a french rolling pin. My current one got called out yesterday morning.

"Was your rolling pin part of a broom handle?"  uh, mm-hm. I think Dad made it...