Monday, January 12, 2009

DING! rice is done!

Over the course of our marriage, I have at times, stumbled upon dishes that my wife thinks are great. Much more numerous are the times where she looked at me after trying/smelling it as if to ask me if I truly believed she would eat that. She might insinuate it's from me not measuring, (I use my palm to measure things, and experienced cooks/chefs will tell you if you've done it for a long time, it's accurate!) My personal belief is that this stems from a profound difference in our food upbringing, as well as a difference in taste buds. She is much more sensitive to spices that I grew up eating (namely Italian ones) and finds things much more "spiced" than I do in general, particularly if one of the aforementioned (YES!!!) spices is used. Her mother didn't cook with salt or much in the way of spices, so the first few things I made for her blew her taste buds out of the water, to say the least. Over the course of time, she's become less sensitive, but I still make many mistakes here and there.

When I used to make sauce for example (yes, I mean tomato), it was heavily laden with Basil and Oregano, with a shot of Thyme thrown in for good measure. When making it now, I have to tone down the spices quite a bit, so it tastes different than what I remember; still good, but different. I've gotten to the point now that I try and make sure to let her taste it after I've waved the spice jar over the stuff before I add too much. I will say that since going vegan again, she's eating onion in things, a feat I never thought possible.

Being a former professional cook (not chef.. cook, I don't have a culinary degree), this was, suffice it to say, disappointing and frustrating for both of us. You never want to be the cook that makes food no one else will eat but you. While that's certainly a good way to keep yourself fed, it's not a good way to keep your family happy. Thankfully, this is not one of those dishes. It's actually painfully simple, made even more simple by the fact that half the work is usually done for me before I get home.

Fried Rice

Ingredients: (Yes that is a cast iron wok, thanks for asking!)

This makes enough for 2 if it's all you're eating, 4 if it's a side.
  • 3-4 TBS Canola, Peanut or other light tasting "saute friendly" oil. You could also use Coconut oil if you like that taste in your rice
  • 2 Cups frozen peas
  • 4 cups cooked rice (we use organic brown rice, cooked to perfection on the Gaba cycle of our Zojirushi Rice Maker)
  • 1 tsp Sesame seed oil (regular or toasted)
  • 2 tsp Garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Onion powder
  • 1 tsp Mustard seed powder
  • 1/4 Cup Low Sodium Tamari, Shoyu or Soy Sauce
A bit on the powder. You could certainly use "real" garlic and onion (in fact I would use whole onion, but my wife is opposed to it in rice), but I find that the lack of other things in this simple rice makes it feel more, I dunno, clean.

Over high heat, cook the peas in 2 TBS oil for 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and add cooked rice, and add a little more canola oil and the sesame oil. I find that damp starchy foods (read: freshly cooked rice) stick to that pan on high heat, despite my attempts to season it over and over again. Stir the rice for a few minutes, then add the spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the Tamari. Stir through and serve hot.

Feel free to add any veggies you find to your liking. Any long cooking or frozen veggies would need to go in before hand (alternatively you could steam them first, then toss them around at first just to give them a little color.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

weekend vittles

I look forward to the weekends and the opportunity to spend a little more time on food. With my wonder husband present for baby distractionary maneuvers, I have a few more moments to work on my veggie slice and dice skills and put together a meal that maybe has a side dish instead of being just a big pot of soup.

Of course, first the chrisasaurus needs to whip up waffles for breakfast! We use the pancake recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, doubled for waffle batter.
What you see before you is the king of waffle makers, the All Clad Waffler 9000. (The number is discretionary, I just sort of threw that in.) This was a Christmas gift to our clan and is a ten thousand point improvement over our old waffle maker, the Bamalator, which took about ten minutes to churn out two waffles (and a real let down in the BAM! department as well).
My husband will tell you I have no patience for that sort of lollygagging when it comes to my breakfast foods. This waffler contraption makes all my waffles in large sheets and in 1/4 the time it used to take for us to make them total. That's what I call progress. Above is my daughter's as the rest of them did not last long enough for photos.

Oh and then there was a soup. It was based on the Southern New Year's Day soup from this month's Vegetarian Times. I didn't see it on their website. So if you have the mag, check out that photo because it looks much better.

I kinda made substitutions and additions based on what I had in the pantry. You should know I am a newb at cooking and am usually not confident enough to stray from a recipe. So if I can, you can. I wanted to use up the last bit of black eyed peas I had, so I decided to roll with it. I threw in a pot:

The last glug of olive oil in my bottle into the pot. About 2 Tbs.
Chopped up half an onion
4 cloves of garlic minced
Random dash of assorted spices: Marjoram, Thyme, Sage.
Half a bunch of curly leaf kale, stems removed, and chopped into largish pieces
28 oz can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup dried black eyed peas
1 cup squiggly pasta
Less than 1 qt of veg broth (I believe about 1 cup was used from it, then I used the rest in this soup)
7 cups of water

Heat up the oil, saute the onion and garlic, add the kale and cook for a bit until it starts wilting. Add veg broth, water, tomatoes and black eyed peas. This needs to simmer about an hour. Then I added the pasta, let it cook through about ten minutes and we ate it with Vegan Parm (recipe from Yellow Rose Recipes) and the last bit of homemade bread we had. Yum!

Besides the large hunks of tomato in the soup (neither of us are fans of eating chunks of warm tomato) it turned out really well, sort of a spin on a minestrone. The other thing I might try doing is adding less water or more broth. I really need to make some broth, we are out, and I need to freeze it so I have it on hand. I never seem to get from putting it in the fridge to cool to putting it in the freezer for storage. Any tips out there? I am always open to your experiences and suggestions.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I drank WHAT?!

I just came to the gruesome realization that I made that entire last post without using aforementioned, quite possible my most favorite word in the english language. DO not ask why, and do NOT add water. The results would be far more severe than any old chinese antiquities shop keeper would have you believe.

I am both shamed and disappointed.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Does anyone need anything moistened?

So it seems that I have been granted access... I thought a long time about how exactly I would form my first post, a smorgasbord of tiny pearls of what little wisdom I have at my disposal. No doubt, my wife would tell you that she would fully expect me to post something that was entirely composed of smart alec comments. While I see no need to disappoint, I will struggle to contain myself. As she reminds me, "Our children will be reading this blog at some point." I sleep soundly knowing they will eventually come to know their father (and my father) as having a derriere that attended only the finest clown schools. I suppose a place of sanctity from that is not such a bad thing, a place where a more serious side can come to the forefront. I am, if nothing else, a creature of reason. Besides, any man with a functioning brain cell dare not wake the ire of a mother. Those of you who do not understand would do well to learn. I have reason to believe a simple search through Google would reveal all you need to know and more.

Being a techie type of person, I find it most amusing that this is in fact, my first ever post on a blog. Oh sure I had a web site here and there, but truly, I have never delved into the goodness that is the modern web site. I stopped posting web pages at home many moons ago, and I haven't been on IRC, AIM or any other messenger for years. I do not twitter, nor will I, unless there is some sort of situation occurring that would require medical intervention. I do not own cool tech gadgets, mostly because I can't afford them, but also mostly because I just don't feel the wanton need for them. I do not see the sense in buying the latest new gadget, nor do I get caught up in the fervor for them. I can barely stand to wait in exceedingly long lines in a grocery store, why would I wait overnight to get THIS new phone, because it has more memory than the last? Keep in mind that I need the things at the grocery store to LIVE. Indeed, I am quite technologically naked, as it were. I do enjoy a good gaming machine though, so I supposed I'm not totally without substance. Some might suggest that my nerd self is weak, or is some ghoulish shell lurking for it's next morsel. I do spend a lot of time reading hardware reviews, in the vain hope that someday, I too will own that video card. Eventually I probably will, I just won't pay 600$ for it. My Frugality beats up your nerd. Sho'nuff.

It would also appear that my wife is a closet blogger. While I knew she spent a good deal of time doing ridiculous things on the interwebs, I had no idea the DEPTH. Gandalf himself has no comprehension of the magnitude I tell you. If he did, I can assure you his robe would not have been white; perhaps variegated. (Did I mention that I've picked up on knitting terms?) Being lost in a sea of blogs and chat windows has to be worse than a Balrog, right? Fly you fools indeed.

By the way, I'm not being paid by the word for this, so I have no contractual obligation to type a long winded post. Having said that, I believe this will be a long winded post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

On a more serious note, and hearkening back to my earlier statement about our children reading this, I would be remiss if I didn't say SOMETHING regarding just that. Being a father is all at once scary, thrilling, intimidating, humbling, stressful, full of wonder and perhaps most importantly, fun. I could have gone on there, but I didn't. See how I've grown? I could also type out everything about me all in one run on post, but that would be a web site wouldn't it? Perhaps someone who is up on this new fangled interweb can enlighten me. I'm still stuck in the html/asp era, and yes, notepad is god for web design.

IN any case I suppose an explanation is in order. I don't mean any of those adjectives in a negative way, or at least not in any serious way. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact I have a child, much less that she is about to be a year old. Perhaps I can sum it up this way. Those of you who are parents will no doubt remember that every time someone talked to you about your fears as a first time parent, they always said, "You'll do fine, just be the best father/mother you can be." (This is assuming of course they didn't tell you exactly what to do...) At the time, you probably rolled your eyes and thought that you had just been given the most corny advice ever. "Being the best parent I can be isn't GOOD enough" you said, "I have to be better than that." A year in, I can safely say that I have come to understand what they meant. It isn't that being the best you can be isn't good enough, it's the only way to be.

It's often said that you should never stop learning, and this is doubly true for a parent. Doing anything less is a disservice to your child, as well as yourself. I have learned things about myself that I never imagined I would learn, and felt things I never fully understood. While it has most assuredly made me a better person, it has also showed me that I am woefully inadequate. You struggle mightily with the fact that NO ONE can be the perfect parent, and it is a constant source of inner turmoil. The fact of the matter is, no matter what you do, there is most likely always a way to do it better, you just didn't think of it at the time (and if you're "lucky", someone else made sure to take the time to tell you).

Having said all that, it is also important that your child understand WHY you do things the way you do. Because I said so is definitely not going to cut it in our house, and I hope it doesn't in yours either. You should never shut out your children, as doing so will only result in bitterness and resentment. While you have to lay down ground rules for your kids, I believe that having them involved with the decisions cannot be a bad thing. I'm not suggesting that you let them run their lives (at least not till they are older), but is it so bad that they want to wear THAT outfit with two different shoes and your sweater? I guess what I'm trying to say is that being flexible makes things a lot less stressful. Here's to hoping that I remember that in the future.

Take note however, that this rule does not apply to boys attempting to date my daughter. I have a foot, and I knew where to put it, so you just keep that in mind, eh? Also, I will be teaching her karate, so in case I'm too old to lift my leg that high lest I break a hip, she can do it for me. Again, don't say I didn't warn you...

Until next time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Reason: Gardening.

I am a bit of a transplant. Born in New England, I have lived in several different states and overseas while my military family followed my dad around the world. It was good times and gave me life experiences that some kids my age will never have.

A predominant chunk of my childhood and life was spent in the Pacific Northwest, and it is there that I realize now I truly feel at home. I am a lush green forest kind of girl. But one of the biggest things I remember from my home in Washington was the garden my parents tended. I have pictures somewhere, and I'd love to share them someday. This backyard has super status in my memory as the coolest backyard ever (well, until we moved to California... then I had a naval base for a backyard and that was pretty cool too).

Lately I have felt disconnected and removed from things like my community and the passage of time, particularly the seasons. I realize now that gardening has a lot to offer me besides heavy sweaty work in the buggy, humid summers. It can offer me a new outlook on the life that I sometimes think of as drudgery. It can help me reconnect to the girl that used to hike alone in the woods without fear of spiders, bears, or snakes. It can help me be a better mother to my daughter, wife to my husband, and steward to my land.

Long story short, I want to give my daughter the gift of garden related memories, like the kind I remember with such fondness. As part of this, I'm signing up for the Growing Challenge from Seed to Seed over at One Green Generation. I had already planned to start a basic veg garden this year, and the idea that I can then save the seeds from successful plants and use them next year will motivate me. Also, having to answer to someone else about what I'm doing will keep me honest. So, I suppose I should get to planning what seeds I should buy this year...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


So here it is, the first post in yet another blog I contribute towards. Since 1997, I have been "blogging" in some way or another... my interests, from the X-Files to Ronin Warriors to knitting have always kept me on the internet in some way or another. The most recent one, fiberjinx, has lost my interest by no fault of its own. Simply, between the advent of Ravelry and the lack of knitting time I have had since my daughter's birth, it has fallen out of my realm of upkeep.

So, another blog you ask? Well, I want to do this for a number of reasons, not least of all holding myself accountable for things I plan to do, finding some kindred spirits in the world, and keeping my mind healthy and active. That makes me sound like I'm senile, but I'm only 25, yet the "mommy brain" syndrome has been dulling my wit like an old pearl eraser. Does that even make sense? I am in no shape to know!

What I don't want to happen is for this to become a chore to me again-and that takes the joy out of things. I'm not going to expect myself to blog daily, or even weekly necessarily. But I do want to keep some record of this family's events, not least of all because someday this can be a well kept record for my daughter to look back and say, "Wow. My mom was kinda weird. But in a good way?"

So. Deep breath, close eyes, dive in. Here goes!