Saturday, August 28, 2010

What goes with carrot sticks?

Even I wouldn't want to live on pastrycream alone. I'd miss out on too many other things. Here's a plate of bits an pieces. I had carrots, I wanted something else after I'd polished off the ranch dip. Hummus goes with carrots! And whaddaya know, the sesame paste I'd been using for my chinese noodle salad workd just dandy for making hummus. But you need something texturally as well as visually interesting to eat with hummus, carrots or no carrots. So I made taboulli. I know you're supposed to make it with bulghur, but I didn't have any of that, so I used a little quinoa. Homemade wheat toast triangles is pretty pretty good with hummus too, if you don't have any pita. Plus olives and yogurt of course, while you got the whole mediterranean thing going.


half a can of garbanzo beans, with the bean water
juice of one lemon
a dash of cayenne
2 tablespoons of tahini aka sesame paste
a small clove of garlic
a couple tablespoons of olive oil
salt to taste

Put everything in a food processor and puree it. Washing the processor is the hardest part of the recipe; it is, to be perfectly honest, the reason I don't make hummus very often. Now you know just how lazy I am.


1/4 cup quinoa

1/2 cup parsley before chopping
a dozen small mint leaves
1 small tomato
olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
dash of cumin
dash of cayenne
pinch of ground coriander

Bring the quinoa to a boil in about a cup of water. After it has boiled for about a minute, drain the water off, put in fresh water and cook as you would pasta. Drain the quinoa and let it cool completely. It helps to have a pretty fine sieve. Once the grains are cool, mince the parsley and mint, dice the tomato and toss all the ingredients together.

Now that I think about it, that's a lot of fuss just to eat my carrot sticks.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The ill-fated dress

The ill-fated dress, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.

I made this dress from a pattern dating from, at a guess, the late fifties. For such a simple looking thing, it took me forever to make, and then the fabric was some cheap stuff that I think one of my parents pulled out of the trash back in the early nineties and the red dye bleeds out of those flowers every time I wash it. I swear this thing has bad luck, something happens to it every time I wear it that makes it look worse. I figured I better get a picture of it before it self-destructs.

Originally, I wanted to make a self-fabric belt with a little rhinestone buckle, but now I'm so irritated with the thing I don't think I'll bother. If I ever use this pattern again, I'm going to make it up in some nice, modern fabric, something that wont bleed, sag or stain. Something with a little stretch, too. That below the knee length makes me walk funny, and I'm afraid I'm going to pull the kick pleat out of it before long.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

There is no excuse for pastry cream

Because well, duh, you should enjoy it without needing an excuse. I revisited my recipe from last July, and found it worth a second shot. Here is version 2, with a few alterations in procedure. If anything, this is even simpler than my last attempt.

1 recipe of pastry crust, your choice. I like a slightly sweet crust. You need to pre-bake the crust and have it cooled and ready to fill with the cream and whatever decorations you want.

1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 plus 1/3 cups white sugar
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons cold butter

Put the cream, half and half, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Thoroughly mix everything else except the butter in a bowl. When the milk mix is steaming, slowly dribble about half of it into the bowl with the eggs while stirring to prevent the eggs from curdling by accident. Return the milk to the heat, mix up the warmed eggs pretty well, then dump them in with the milk on the stove. Whisk constantly until the mixture boils very gently. It will get quite thick, so it'll really just spit a few bubbles of steam rather than actually boiling. Take it off the stove, whisk in the butter and then put it in the fridge with a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper right on the surface of the pastry cream. When the cream is mostly cool, you can fill your crust with it. I put figs on mine, because that's just what I had.

Something worth noting is that the starch really does have a function in this recipe. It gives the cream its texture and glossy appearance. Because it is a starch, it does have to be brought to a boil in order to do that. Also, because you are relying on starch, not egg protein, for the custardy effect, it is almost impossible to cause the cream to "break". If you've ever overheated a cream sauce, you've seen this happen- you get a grainy textured mass of curds in a thin liquid. Starch actually likes to be boiled. I think what happens is that the starch forms a gel in which the protein and fat molecules are evenly suspended, but I'd have to look it up to make sure.

I bet this would taste really good if you sweetened it with molasses.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hey Jej! Here's your noodles!

Every time I make this, I forget to take a picture. I don't know how many times this year I've had this, but here's the recipe. I usually consume it so fast, there doesn't seem to be time for photos. This was the only  cold noodle salad in our house when I was a kid, and it took me many years to realize that there was a kinship between this stuff and those gooshy, pasty, bland, miracle whip-and-macaroni things that would turn up at potluck reunions. Setting aside my loathing for miracle whip, the important thing is to eat a noodle salad at the right phase of its lifespan. For this, that time is At Once.

Meat of choice- about half a cup. Ham matchsticks were the thing that usually went in it when I was a kid, but I have used cold chicken shreds of various flavors and it is pretty good with that. Another traditional variant is to use bits of marinated tofu.

Buckwheat udon or soba. I use the dry kind. Dad would never have used these- buckwheat being for "those countryside people" and "not even pigs eat". Plus, soba is japanese. He always stuck to plain white noodles, but I like the texture and color of soba better.

a cucumber or two, cut in matchsticks. Or some shredded napa cabbage. I use cucumbers because napa doesn't usually come in single person sizes.
green onion or chives, finely chopped- I don't remember if this is just me, or of dad put them in too.
minced cilantro- optional
toasted sesame seeds

a generous tablespoon of sesame paste, aka tahini. If you buy it at a chinese grocery though, it may just say "sesame paste".
the same amount each of peanut butter, sesame oil, & soy sauce. You can do without the peanut butter, if you want.
2-4 tablespoons rice vinegar, depending on how tart you want it. I like a lot.
hoisin sauce- maybe a teaspoon. Dad used a little char siu, but I like hoisin better.
dash of cayenne, optional

If you buy most brands of japanese noodles, they come in plastic packages of several bundles of noodles wrapped in paper bands. One bunch of noodles is usually good for 2 servings for me, unless I am famished. I can do some damage to a noodle salad. Boil the noodles in salted water until they are al dente, then drain and run a lot of cold water over them to rinse off the extra starch and keep them from getting  gummy.

Mix all the other ingredients thoroughly to make a dressing. If it's not sweet enough, add a little hoisin. If you want it a little saltier, add soysauce. It's all about how you like it. Toss in the noodles, and sprinkle a little extra cilantro and seeds on if you feel fancy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good Lord, it's too hot to eat lunch

I'm glad I bothered to take a quick shot of this, because it turned out to be a very tasty thing. I might even enjoy the weather, at this rate.

ham slivers
bell peppers
herbed goat cheese
pine nuts
cheap balsamic vinegar
pretty decent olive oil
really good sherry vineagar

I think it was the vinegar combination that did it. The sherry vinegar has lots of personality, but I think I would find it overpowering if I put it on there by itself. It's a little bitey. The cheap balsamic adds sweetness, the olive oil is a medium-peppery kind, and it goes really well with the cheese.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pardon the crap image quality...

Sailor jeans and halter top, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.
But it is so bloody hot out that I was afraid I would be burnt to a frizzle if I tried to take any photos outdoors. I really just wanted to get some pictures of these things because both items are projects I began and abandoned last year. Last year, damnit! The pants at least are complicated, so I'll let that stand as my excuse, but I have no good reason for not having finished the top before now. I wish I had a better picture of the back of the trousers. I like the way they turned out, even though the pocket welts are a bit uneven. These are really my attempt to find a pair of pants that will conform to the conflicting dress codes of my 2 jobs so that I only have to pack a spare shirt when I have to go to both places in the same day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some things are alright

Riding MAX every day is usually an eye opener of one kind or another. I believe it is a salutary experience, but not always enjoyable. I have a grim determination to believe that human nature is basically neutral, if not good. Sometimes I have to fall back on statistics to convince myself of this. I think something like "Look at this train full of people. I find some of them obnoxious, or repulsive, or think they smell bad, but look at them: none of them are biting each other, threatening each other with death or bodily harm, and none of them know each other. If this was a room full of strange baboons, the carnage would be indescribable. Humans really are pretty nice, for primates."

So there I was on the Red Line from downtown. Usual assortment of people, usual assortment of critical-overshare types of converations buzzing around. At Lloyd Center, a little black girl, about seven, gets on the train with a white lady who is clearly kin to her, but it isn't clear in what relationship. The lady is totally unremarkable, and since I'm not at all motherly, the girl is pretty uninteresting too, except that she's wearing a plaid skirt I kind of like, and looks cleaner than most children that age do by 6:30 pm. They take a seat, facing this sullen looking late thirties-ish white dude with his black T-shirt, messenger bag, head and chin shaved to an identical stubble, 1-inch ear plugs and giant lip ring. He's reading a book.

The train starts moving, and I overhear the little girl say "Want to see my new earrings?" A man says "I would, please!" I look around, and it's Earplugs dude, who has happily put his book down, and is watching her pull several cards of cheap earrings out of a plastic bag. The train is noisy, so I don't hear everything they say, but I got the impression that she'd just had her ears pierced. He is clearly a guy who likes kids, and hangs out with them a lot. They compare the size of her dangley earbobs with the size of his earplugs, I hear her say "We were shopping at Claire's, and they were buy 2 get one free!" and he says "Claire's is good- I've bought earrings there too. Not in a long time, but, I have."  I decided not to stare at them, because I was grinning like an idiot, and then it was time to get off the train. They were talking about how how far it was to Gresham when I left.

There are so many things right about those 2 minutes on the train that it's hard to even think them all out.  But yes, it seems to be true that humans are really pretty nice, for primates.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Somebody asked me what Chinkypin means, which was a surprise, because I am always surprised when somebody who is neither close blood kin nor an acquaintance of such long standing as to make no difference, asks me about this blog. I mean, I like to think random people read this, but mostly I don't think they do.

Thank you random people. I don't want to sound facetious, I'm actually very happy you're here- the thing is that I'm just kind of socially awkward. That's why I hang out in cyberspace.

Just in case anybody else was wondering, I have a pink fuzzy hat with ears on it, I wear it in the winter and am very fond of it. When I was choosing a name, pinkychin had already been taken. I don't like having my email handle clunked up with a bunch of numbers, so Chinkypin was what seemed to follow naturally as a second choice.

A chinkypin is a nut, and the tree it grows on. They are native to the appalachians, which is where my mom is from. The correct spelling is chinquapin, but I spell it the way she says it. I always think of the story she tells, which is that the native american name for the locality of her home was hanatuskee, which meant something like "a place where there are a lot of nuts" or maybe "a good place to find nuts". Which, given the populace both then and in all likelihood, now, is extremely humorous.

Also, my dad was chinese, and I have an inappropriate sense of humor. I suppose a more easily interpreted racial joke would have been "Listen To The Banana" but that has a different something or other to it. Har har.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ok, I confess

I really love ranch dip. I always have- even in kindergarten, when my introduction to the stuff came from school cafeteria lunch. That really says a lot, huh? That's got to be the only thing I remember liking enough at school lunch to come home and ask a) what it was and b) could we have it. I may have had trouble describing it, since it is totally unlike any food substance I had ever encountered up until that time. It was white. It had specks in it. It was not milk, cheese, or yogurt. It was not sweet, not sour, not oily or watery, but a little bit of all those things, and since I didn't learn the word umami until college, I didn't have the vocabulary to say just what it was that made me want it. Except that from my chinese-traditional-diet perspective, it was deliciously unusual. Exotic, even, but not in a nasty way like everything else to be found at school lunch. I don't remember what I ate it with, probably a spoon. Possibly carrot sticks, but I doubt it, because I hated carrots in any form until high school, or nearly. I bet I was that awful weirdo who licked ranch dressing off her carrot sticks. Yow. In my defense, when the first americans were introduced to sushi there had to have been some incidents that would cause any japanese person to shudder. Same kind of situation, right? It's damned peculiar stuff, you can't figure out what it is by looking at it, it doesn't come with instructions because everybody else assumes you know what to do with it, so you just kinda put your tongue on it to see if you like it.

I remember mom saying "Oh. Well that's just ranch dressing," in this disparaging why-do-you-want-that tone. She may even have asked me what I wanted to do with it, because for one thing, salads were not usually eaten in our house, and for another, chinese salads do not go with ranch dressing.  Like, AT ALL. I thought the name was stupid, it made no sense to me since there were no ranches anywhere on earth, as far as I could tell- I was six. But I wanted ranch dressing anyway.

Later I became disaffected with ranch flavor. It was on everything from shrink wrapped deli trays to wings and pizza. (Pizza!?? Seriously? Bleagh...) Not only had it become ubiquitous, but it had lost any trace of food-like characteristics. There is nothing to recommend Hidden Valley and its ilk except that they have fat and salt in them, and such a whacking great dose of preservatives and additives that it is doubtful that they are capable of spoiling. And most recipes for making your own call for heaps of sour cream and mayonnaise, and buttermilk, 2 out of 3 of which, I don't keep around. Even worse are the recipes that call for opening a package of sour cream, and dumping in a pre-mixed packet of dehydrated adulterants.

But, I still get ranch dip cravings. Especially in the summer when I don't want to cook anything, but I still want to eat things that have fat and salt in them. Plus, I have acquired a taste for raw carrots and cauliflower as an adult, which are ideal media for consuming ranch dip. While I no longer lick dip off my carrots, I will admit to eating a spoon of this by itself. Maybe two. They were little.

Ranch Dip Fix

1 cup full fat greek yogurt. For this, you really need greek style yogurt. Fage is best, it's mildest.

Fresh herbs, minced. I used:
4 mint leaves
2 large basil leaves
a 3-inch sprig of tarragon
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
4 or 5 small oregano leaves
a 2-inch piece of rosemary
half a dozen chives

salt &pepper
dash of cayenne

secret ingredients:
a tablespoon of good quality olive oil
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of garlic powder

The olive oil improves texture and sugar balances the tartness of the yogurt. The powdered garlic is key, though. You may think, well, isn't fresh better? In this case, no. Garlic powder has a mellow sweetness to it, unlike the bitey quality fresh garlic can have, and it doesn't give you quite as persistent a case of garlic mouth. Being strongly against garlic mouth, for a long time I tried to do without garlic altogether, until I read that the sulfur compounds in garlic will accentuate the taste of protein and fermentation in the yogurt, creating a more deeply satisfying flavor profile. Garlic powder: another of the 20th century's small miracles.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Thimbles, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.
I needed some instant gratification last week or so, and made these. I saw some pictures on Burdastyle that had been posted by a japanese lady who makes these traditional asian style thimbles. Hers are much better executed than mine, but these only took me about a morning apiece, and I got it out of my system. I don't really use them, since I don't do any hand sewing if I can help it, but I do enjoy having them around to fiddle with.