Forgive me, Dreamwidth, it has been a long damn time since my last substantive entry. Two weeks? Two weeks, I think, because it was a week of not letting that goddamn cold turn into a sinus infection and then I immediately came down with ANOTHER cold that I am just getting over. This has been the summer of sick and I am heartily tired of it.
But pretty much as soon as August ended, things felt calmer and happier in our house, even with all of us fighting off germs. Cooler weather helped, and I've been getting a walk in nearly every day, which is so good for my mental health. Getting an air conditioner for the living room/dining room/kitchen helped immensely; three years ago some ignoramus at P.C. Richard's told J that the room couldn't be air conditioned without ruinous expense because it's so big and the ceiling's so high, so we put up with three summers of not being able to cook in the kitchen or eat at the dining table or sit on the couch, but it turns out that 15,000 BTUs is enough to get it genuinely pleasant in here. We keep it set at 70F so as not to wreck our budget, and fortunately the weather's cooled off recently—what an atypical August it's been, with temperatures and humidity both well below the 90s—so we haven't even needed it much. But when it's warm out, it's cool in here, and that is delightful.
We've been spending a ruinous amount on ordering in over the past few months, because we've been too sick and tired to cook and the kitchen has been too hot, so the a/c will pay for itself that way anyway. J's cooked dinner twice in the last week! We've all been eating at the table and hanging out in the living room! It's been absolutely lovely. I think the next step will be going through our cookbooks to find appealing new cook-in-bulk dishes, because even after a summer off we're all kind of bored of the ones we've been relying on for the past five years. (No advice, please; our culinary needs are too specific for general advice to be useful.)
Kit's easy walking and improved communication have been fantastic for all of us. We really feel like a family of four now, rather than a family of three and a half. And they're so much happier and more relaxed; being able to exert independence a lot of the time means they're a lot more willing to tolerate being stopped or redirected now and again. The incidence of screaming meltdowns has dropped considerably. They've been home all week, their daycare's intersession break, and I've been doing a lot of afternoon childcare because I can work at night, and it's just been a delicious amount of time with them. We'll be glad to get back to the regular daycare routine, but in the meantime I'm cherishing all the hugs and cuddles and books and walks and meals. Even with work every night it's felt like a real vacation.
I'd hoped that getting up at 11 every day to do childcare would help push my body clock earlier, but nope, I'm right back to going to bed at 4 or 5. I think I really am stuck there. I don't like being stuck there. Maybe I should try for two weeks, or a month, of enforcing bedtime between 2 and 3 and wake time at 11.
We've gotten to see some friends this week, despite our various illnesses. I did have to cancel one date, but the rest have gone well, including a four-baby playdate and a friend's Labor Day weekend BBQ. J and I went to the BBQ on our own and it was amazing to be social without a toddler to keep an eye on. Of course I immediately leapt up to keep another person's toddler away from the grill, but I caught myself and managed to have a good conversation with other adults that had nothing to do with kids or parenting at all.
A local friend told us that she's pregnant, and I'm looking forward to gleefully passing all our remaining small-baby and postpartum gear along to her. Have a car seat! Have a shower stool! Have a bouncy chair! Have a baby backpack! Yay, more room in our hall closet!
With September comes a sudden awareness of how much is happening in the fall that we need to plan for: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (I may actually see if I can go to Yom Kippur services this year, for what I think is the first time in my life; it's conveniently on a weekend and I am feeling really extremely Jewish and in want of Jewish companionship these days) later this month, Sheep and Wool Festival in October, for which we're planning a big weekend trip with friends, my anniversary with X in November. My "best books of the year" picks are due in six weeks or something totally absurd like that. We should make sure to schedule in plenty of downtime, especially if Kit keeps bringing home daycare colds, which of course they will.
It's Labor Day and that means J'Ouvert. NYPD tried to get people to start it at 6 a.m. this year but of course lots of folks are ignoring them. I swear we're going to go out of town next year. So far Kit hasn't woken up, but the revving motorcycles keep setting off the monitor, so I can't imagine X is sleeping too well. I hope my room is quieter and I can sleep. I think I'm finally well enough to skip the 20 minutes of cold-fighting efforts and just go to bed.
Poor Kit had night terrors last night, or something like it—sudden screaming, out of nowhere, red-faced, inconsolable. X and I were quite shaken by it. Eventually Kit came out of it and then played with their hairbrush for a bit and went back to sleep. Babies. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For the last few weeks they've been coughing in their sleep sometimes. It's not a productive cough, they haven't had a fever at any point, and it only happens at night, so we figure it's from accidentally inhaling their copious teething-drool (that molar is taking its sweet time coming in). The first couple of nights they'd wake up but now they sleep right through it, which is a little disconcerting. How quickly children adapt. It seems like a strength at first but I see it as a vulnerability too; they can adapt to things that aren't okay and shouldn't be normal, and adaptation can take a toll. Nothing I can do about the coughing, but it's a reminder to be mindful about the other ways I shape Kit's experiences and teach them what "normal" is.
I'm going to try to post more slice-of-life things here that aren't baby anecdotes. X and I sat down together tonight and wrote things by hand! The timing didn't work out for us to do it by candlelight, as the Hanukkah candles had already burned down, but I still felt very old-fashioned using my lovely antique lap desk. The angled surface made writing much easier on my arm, even using a skinny pen. I wrote the last of my notes and cards for holiday_wishes
, and X wrote thank-you notes to people who'd given Kit birthday presents.
One of the people on holiday_wishes wanted cross-stitch supplies for teaching Ukrainian embroidery. I have a TON of evenweave fabric, some of which I've had 20 years or more. I also have a lot of unfinished and unstarted cross-stitch kits, and if my arms ever heal and strengthen to the point where I can do embroidery again—which I'm kind of skeptical about, though it's a good goal to have—I'd start with the kits rather than designing my own. And I'm pretty sure I'll never have the arms for doing knotwork with silk floss again; that was hard even before I developed the tendinitis. So I took all the silk I bought back when I thought I could make money making jewelry (what was I thinking
) (well, okay, my head wasn't very clear at the time), and all the fabric, and put it in a box that I will ship off this week. An immigrant will get to preserve her culture and heritage, and there's more room in my crafting dresser for
all the yarn I keep buying and not knitting with. Everyone wins!
I just left this comment for a friend who made her first LJ post in a year and a half, about needing a refuge from Twitter:It's good to see you here again.
A lot of us are looking for the same thing, and looking for it here (or on Dreamwidth). Twitter seems to have hit a toxicity tipping point, and the recent political news has sharpened our ideas of where we put our effort. Even for those of us who still have the wherewithal to shrug off trolls, we've got more important things to do with our energy and attention than fritter it away on shrug after shrug after shrug.
I locked my Twitter account for unrelated reasons and I'm really glad I did. The one time I unlocked it recently, within 24 hours I needed to flee back to privacy.
Back in the day when LJ was booming, I would compulsively refresh and refresh and refresh until it was late at night and for a little while no one was posting and I could free myself from it and sleep. Before that I did the same with Usenet, and before that with IRC. Twitter doesn't feel very different to me, except that, like IRC, it refreshes itself. But I suspect my usage patterns are unusual and most people get more of a dopamine firehose from Twitter than they ever did from other sources. Having been drinking from dopamine firehoses for a long time, I can tell you with some authority that they are really, really bad for you. And Twitter is unique in what you so beautifully call its "kaleidoscope of contexts"—where one rapidly scrolling IRC channel still only contained maybe two or three conversations, Twitter has dozens all happening at once. It's utterly wretchedly exhausting.
I hope we see a return to longer-form thought, threaded conversations, more order, less chaos. LJ or DW or Wordpress or Medium, doesn't much matter to me, but something better than the noise machine.
There's been lots of talk about LJ's servers moving to Russia
. I will continue crossposting from DW, as I have been. If I were still giving money to LJ I would stop, but I've had a permanent account since forever, so there's not much I can do there. I suppose I'm actually a net drain on their resources. I don't have the sense that they make money off my data. I don't think I'm putting myself in danger or making anyone else more vulnerable by continuing to use LJ. So I'll continue to use it for now, and see what happens. If you're aware of reasons I should discontinue crossposting or delete my data from LJ altogether, please do share.
I was looking for a book tonight and realized a friend had borrowed it. So I checked my "borrowed books" list and ended up emailing a whole bunch of folks to say "You borrowed books from us ages ago, can we have them back?". Many of them have moved house and gone through other upheavals and I will be pleasantly surprised if they even still have the books or remembered that they got them from us, but it'd be nice if it happens.
I immediately got an email back from one person saying (very nicely) "Didn't I already give those back?" so apparently I have not been so diligent about updating that spreadsheet. I'm pretty sure most of the books I emailed about weren't stealth-returned, though. Pretty
sure. We'll see. At any rate, it's an excuse to get in touch with some folks I haven't been in touch with for a while, maybe make some lunch dates with the local ones, and that's no bad thing.
Vosges finally started making a dark chocolate version of their bacon bar and tonight the stars were right for me to have
half of it (oops). I'm impressed with the crunchiness of the bacon bits. The smoky flavor is very strong, which somehow I wasn't expecting; it's the first thing you smell when you open the package and the last note of the aftertaste. It's good.
Of course, having had that much chocolate, I now shouldn't have hot chocolate before bed. I'm tired enough that it probably wouldn't wind me up too far, but better not to take chances. It's so annoying to have to make these calculations. But it could have been one of those nights when I can't have any chocolate at all, so I will count blessings etc. and maybe make some mulled cider for a hot bedtime drink instead. Or ginger honey drink; my mother brought me ginger cookies from England and they are the sort of thick hard cookies that are intended to be dipped into tea or equivalent, and if I can't dip them into hot chocolate (which would be awesome) then ginger honey drink is the next best option.
Or I could just go to bed. But I want to write up Kit's 12-month post (!) (!!!) so I'll be up for a little while yet.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.arms, food, food.candy, livejournal, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.groups, people.groups.dreamwidth, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, projects.crafts, stuff, stuff.books, stuff.gifts, words.letters
Now that we're starting Kit on solid foods, I'm trying to figure out when to give them food, and how to include them in mealtimes. I don't think they've ever really seen us eat! J and X leave work at 6 and have ~45-minute commutes, so usually J cooks while X and I put the baby to bed, and then the adults have dinner around 8 after Kit's asleep. And mornings are such a rush; I'm not awake then, but I think J and X usually grab a quick breakfast during Kit's morning nap. So I think for now, solid food will have to happen on the baby's schedule, and I guess once they're old enough to stay up until 9, they can have dinner with us at 8. (I was always a night owl and perfectly comfortable eating on an adult schedule, so the whole "kids have early dinner" thing totally baffles me.)
Parent-type friends, what do/did your young kids' mealtime schedules look like? How did you manage this transition?
There's a Twitter meme going around of "for every person who likes/faves this tweet, I will post one thing that makes me happy". I got 61 likes and added the 62nd myself. :) My list:
1) Dozing on the rocking chair with the baby asleep on me.
2) The first post-travel snuggle with Sam after she's forgiven me for abandoning her.
3) Sitting at the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate at 1 a.m. when the dishwasher and washing machine are humming in the quiet house.
4) When I come into the nursery and Kit carefully sizes me up, checks the inner roster of favorite people, and then gives me a huge smile.
5) Walking in the Botanic Gardens and Prospect Park today, watching spring reclaim the frozen earth from winter.
6) Reading a wonderful book with a powerful, satisfying ending.
7) My regular Skype dates with beloved friends who live far away.
8) Animated conversations with J and X where our ideas and desires are all in perfect harmony.
9) Learning new things, especially new skills and techniques.
10) When something works the way it's supposed to, the very first time I try it.
11) Homemade food I can just enjoy without having to wonder whether it's safe for me to eat.
12) Having the perfect outfit in my closet for whatever my gender is today.
13) Helping teenagers feel good about themselves.
14) Being called on my shit by my honest, loving friends.
15) Feeling good today because I was awesome with self-care yesterday.
16) Rereading an old favorite book and finding that it's still terrific. Take that, Suck Fairy!
17) Making a tight deadline.
18) Living in NYC.
19) Feeling that good post-exercise muscle burn.
20) Walking into an event where lots of people are happy to see me.
21) The fierceness of marginalized people reclaiming the center.
22) The unbearable cuteness of baby-size versions of adult clothes.
23) Having just enough alcohol to get a nice gentle buzz.
24) Having just enough caffeine to be really productive.
25) Catching our usually argumentative cats hanging out together or even snuggling.
26) Family cuddles with the baby.
27) Driving on my own and knowing that I could go anywhere.
28) Steph Curry Vines.
29) Being a parent.
30) The way the top of Kit's head sometimes smells like whiskey.
You know I could easily have made all 30 of these about the baby. I feel I have been very restrained.
31) Pictures of turtles.
32) Being a generally healthy, financially independent adult in charge of my own life.
33) My very different but equally wonderful date nights with X and J.
34) Freshly baked or toasted bread with butter and jam.
35) The kindness and support of other parents and kid-carers as we figure out this parenting thing. You're all wonderful.
36) Eating ice cream outside while it's snowing. I haven't gotten to do this in 2015/2016--maybe on Friday, if the promised snow happens.
37) The number 37. I just like it. I like 17 too, and powers of 2.
Conveniently, I'm 37. And not old.
38) Imagining Kit at different ages.
39) When I wake up and open the curtain and light floods in.
40) Potato chips.
41) Hot showers.
42) The diligence and persistence of people trying to make fandom and conventions safer and more welcoming and more accessible.
43) The times when my brain tries to have anxiety dreams and I make them have happy endings.
"Oh, I left all my luggage on the train? My traveling companion was on the train and must have brought it to our hotel."
44) Beaches in winter.
45) My sturdy little basil plant that started out as stems supertailz
brought me from the grocery store months and months ago.
46) Tax refunds.
47) Our awesome little ungentrified corner of Crown Heights.
48) Friends who are diligent about protecting our baby from their germs. <3
49) Medium-rare steak frites at Les Halles.
50) Our awesome landlords, who are also our awesome downstairs neighbors.
51) All our silly nicknames for Kit.
52) The way I look in my gorgeous Frye boots.
53) Balancing our checkbook every month and feeling all the numbers click into place.
's goal-driven persistence.
57) The vast improvement to our kitchen vibe just from moving one baker's rack. Can't wait to complete our rearrangement!
58) Watching our friends build the lives they want.
59) The scent of petrichor after a summer thunderstorm.
60) Mole de pavo.
61) My cat's tiny squeaky meow. vine.co/v/iWuOWtelEI3
62) Spending a whole day thinking about things that make me happy! Thank you all for the faves. 💕
(I had NO IDEA I could put emoji in LJ/DW posts. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.)
- thinking about:
behavior.kindness, behavior.parenting, experiences.driving, experiences.joy, experiences.kindness, experiences.reading, food, mind.dreamtime, people.cats, people.friends, people.groups.fandom, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, places.us.ny.new york, places.us.ny.new york.brooklyn, stuff.clothes, stuff.money
Inspired by yhlee
's post here
, ten things that make me happy:
* Cuddling the baby. Which I am doing right now. (After every feeding we need to prop Kit up for better digestion, and the easiest way to do that is in one's lap, so I have developed a way of arranging pillow and legs and baby and table and laptop such that I can type while Kit snoozes.) Having the baby in my lap makes the world infinitely better. I don't even know why. I mean, yes, oxytocin, but that's not all there is to it. It's just warm and cozy and wonderful.
* How well the three of us work together as parents. I'm especially glad that we've been making time for family snuggles, even when we're all so tired that we can barely stay awake to enjoy them. This week we start having date nights again, which is such an amazing thought I don't even know what to do with it.
* The warm welcome back I got from my colleagues and reviewers when I returned to work. It's so nice to be appreciated.
* Cooking, and homemade food. This weekend J and I made pot roast and roast beef, and X and I baked bread in the bread machine (such magic!). Fresh bread with homemade pot roast gravy, oh YES.
* Thoughtful family members who give us wonderfully appropriate baby gifts.
* Delightful friends. Today we introduced Kit to vschanoes
and her son and godchildren, and spent a lovely few hours hanging out at their house. I can't wait for the babies to get old enough to properly enjoy spending time together.
* Getting the dermatologist's approval to take baths, now that my lipoma removal incision has fully healed up. I CAN TAKE A BATH. I just need to find the time. Maybe this weekend.
* I got to read books for fun while I was on leave! That was great! I'd missed just reading for fun. I mostly reread old favorites, with one new-to-me book for variety.
* I bought sleeping caps from headcovers.com and now my head isn't cold at night.
* The heartstopping adorableness
of Kit yawning, and the little squeaking noise at the end of the yawn. Someday I will get video of this but of course it's hard to anticipate. It's just devastating
If you decide to make your own post of ten things that make you happy, leave me a link. :)
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.health, body.skin, experiences.reading, experiences.surgery, experiences.work, food, food.baking, food.baking.bread, food.cooking, food.cooking.beef, people.family, people.friends, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, stuff.clothes
Here it is mid-October already. The time, it does fly.
This is what we've done so far in October:( Long list is long )
Not included on there is all of us having day jobs (including big projects/crunch time on all fronts), date nights, hobbies, chores, constantly working on being a better family (improving conflict resolution, practicing asking for things we want and need, supporting one another through our various anxieties around pregnancy and birth and parenthood), etc. Fortunately the list for the second half of October is slightly less daunting.
is on my lower back, about 5 cm by 2.5 cm, and totally benign. It's been there for years and years. I wouldn't even bother having it removed except that it does get a very little bit bigger every year and is starting to occasionally ache a little, which means I'm going to have to have it out eventually. Better to do that now while it's moderate-size (which means a quicker procedure and faster healing) and while I'm not picking up a baby all the time (stitches on my lower back = no lifting heavy things for a couple of weeks). So there will probably be an outpatient procedure for that sometime in November, whee.
On the hobby front, I've been obsessing over annotating the Hamilton lyrics on Genius
; just putting the subject line on this post reminded me of an annotation I'd wanted to make and suddenly it's half an hour later. (I've so far resisted the siren song of annotating every TMBG song ever, because a) I do not have time and b) no, really, I don't have time. I permitted myself to mark up "Vestibule"
and that is it.) (For now.) I've also been growing some nice virtual succulent gardens in Viridi
I finally finished knitting a pair of baby booties, and I'd like to try making a blanket or sleep sack next. The booties were pretty tough on my arms but I'm hoping working with larger needles will be easier. Now I just have to survive the rampant gendering in the comments of every single Ravelry pattern for babies. THE BABY DOES NOT CARE WHAT COLOR THE SLEEP SACK IS. Anyway, this looks cute
and I might try to make it, maybe using this technique
for ribbing to see whether it makes me hate ribbing any less.
I've turned in my Best Books list for 2015, which in theory means I can read for fun now, but I have no idea what I actually want to read. Maybe I'll reread some old favorites.
It's very firmly fall now. Right now it's 40F outside. Inside, the heat's come on, but I haven't put plastic over my window or taken out my air conditioner yet, so there's still a bit of a draft in my room. The cats think this is the best weather ever, and have been super cuddly. Sam keeps walking all over me. Alex usually avoids X's bed, which is Sophie's territory, but the other day X woke up from a nap to find all three cats hanging out on the bed together (though all carefully positioned at the maximum possible distance from one another). Even the usually aloof Sophie sat on J tonight while X and J and I were cuddling! We were all completely astonished.
Our early wintergift to ourselves was heaps of warm clothing from L.L. Bean: robes, slippers, flannel shirts, insulating undershirts, a fits-over-the-bump winter coat for X, all that lovely stuff. I got a Black Watch plaid flannel nightshirt that goes down to my knees and it's the best thing ever. I think I'm going to snuggle up in it and go get lots of good sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, body, body.health, body.skin, experiences.books, experiences.reading, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, experiences.theatre, experiences.theatre.hamilton, experiences.work, food, food.cooking, people.cats, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, projects.crafts, projects.crafts.knitting, stuff.books, stuff.clothes
I did my week of not reading Twitter, with the exception of my mentions and the very small group of people I follow from my private account. It was awesome.
In fact, it was so awesome that I locked my main Twitter account.
Everyone who was following me still has access to my tweets. If I post something, people see it and respond. But I don't get followed by spammers, and I don't get trolled, and I don't hover over my RT and fave counts, and people can't embed my tweets in their blog posts and articles. It's everything I like about Twitter without everything I don't like. It's perfect
With 5300+ followers, I still think of it as public; of course anything I tweet can be screenshotted and passed around, and I have no idea who many of those followers even are. But I can still relax and unwind a little. I also took my professional affiliation out of my bio. That account is just for me now. In theory it always was, but in practice it was very hard to separate personal and professional. Locking it makes that separation clear.
I'm still not reading most of Twitter. (I glimpse it occasionally via my phone's Twitter app, because Tweetdeck on Chrome for Android is deadly slow and checking my mentions on the app is much faster.) I know there are things I'm missing. For example, I didn't hear about Ferguson Is the Future
until after the fact, and it sounds incredible. But even if I had heard about it well in advance, I wouldn't have been able to go. So I mostly don't feel bad about missing the news and gossip, because I wouldn't be able to do much with it anyway. And when I'm itching for a conversation, I start one.
I am sad about missing milestones in my friends' lives. But there's no way to filter Twitter for only those things, unfortunately, and I can't really expect people to remember to tell me everything individually in addition to broadcasting it. I guess I'll just have a lot of catching up to do once I'm ready to be social again.
What I'm doing with all this free time and brainspace:
Catching up on work. I'm taking a week off from work in October, which means I need to start working ahead now. And our annual Best Books feature is coming up alarmingly soon.
Reading books! I read a book last week and another one last night and another one tonight. I don't think I read three books in the entire month of August. It feels so wonderful to be gulping down books again.
Thinking a lot about my own book, and tentatively moving toward working on it again. I figured out how it ends! That was a huge relief, and knowing the ending removes a lot of my hesitation and anxiety around the actual writing.
Snuggling with J and X and X's belly (there are very definitely 3.5 of us now). Doing relationship maintenance, and savoring our last months of adults-only time. Getting the house ready for the baby. Being cozily domestic.
Cooking. It's cooking weather and I can't wait to cook up lots of soups and stews to freeze for January, when we'll have a tiny baby and be too exhausted to safely handle knives or fire.
Walking all over the city, loving the cool breezes. (Autumn at last, at last.) Going to PT. Trying to get back in the exercise groove.
Spending time with family and close friends. It's the high holidays and there's a baby shower coming up and J's mother is in town and lots of other people are visiting in the next few weeks. I don't lack for socialness right now, which makes it much easier to step away from social media.
I might even start knitting again. Today at work I spotted a book of one-skein knitting projects for babies. It literally had not occurred to me until that moment that the entire vast realm of cute baby knitting projects is open to me now. So that could be a huge timesink if I let it. I'm very tempted to let it.
There are definitely times when I feel like I ought to feel guilty for the way I'm using Twitter now. It's arguably very selfish of me to tweet things and hope for replies while not even reading most other people. But I don't feel guilty at all about this generally being a very inward-facing time for me. Everyone needs to focus on self and/or home sometimes. I'll come back when the pendulum swings the other way. By then some folks may have unfollowed me or otherwise moved on; that happens. And other folks will say "welcome back!" and pick up where we left off; that happens too. It's all fine.
- thinking about:
body.exercise, experiences.reading, experiences.work, food, food.cooking, mind.wiring, people, people.groups, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, places.home, projects.crafts, projects.crafts.knitting, words.books.valour advances, words.writing
Yesterday was a wonderful wonderful day and I only cried once (though that once was not very much fun). Today was a wonderful wonderful day and I didn't cry at all
. I think my hormones are finally fucking off and leaving me in peace. I swear my PMS has been way worse since X got pregnant. They're offgassing hormones or something.
I got the crying over with early in the day yesterday, so X and I had most of the afternoon and the entire evening to spend on more enjoyable pursuits. (J was upstate visiting his mother.) X took a two-hour nap. I took a long soothing shower, got dressed, started a load of laundry, decided what to make for dinner, shopped, and cooked
. I also pasteurized a jarful of honey for X, using my awesome ThermoClamp
thermometer holder. It was cool enough in our kitchen that when X woke up they came out to hang out at the table and keep me company while I was cooking. HELLO AUTUMN I MISSED YOU.
I made a very mild coconut curry
that we both really liked, so that's a new thing on the list of known-good meals, which is always nice. I did the dishes and then we snuggled up and watched The Aristocats
, because we noticed that Alex had struck a pose that was 100% pure O'Malley, and once we identified it we agreed that watching the movie was required. If you want to know what Alex is like, just watch O'Malley strut around while singing about how great he is. All the body language is exactly the same.
After that, X went to bed, and I did... something. Read a book, maybe? Or maybe that was Friday. I can't even remember now. Anyway, I toddled off to bed around 4 with earplugs in.
I slept a full 7.5 hours, the longest sleep I've had in ages, and didn't remember my dreams at all. X and I had a leisurely early afternoon at home and then went out and got haircuts. On the train we read a couple of RIE parenting books and talked about the parts we liked and didn't; I think there's enough useful stuff in there to be worth inflicting on J so we can all discuss together.
Our barber has been on vacation for five weeks, so we had gotten very shaggy. It feels so good to be shorn again, especially on a gloriously breezy day. We exclaimed constantly about the weather. It was cool and cloudy and just perfect. We got rained on slightly, but didn't mind at all.
We decided to walk up to Bed Bath & Beyond, and on the way we passed the new outpost of Dylan's Candy Bar at Union Square. Half an hour and a shocking amount of money later, we staggered out, clutching sticks of rock candy and mentally apologizing to our dentists. That place is dangerous
. I'm pretty sure we should not ever bring our child there. (We probably will anyway.)
We eventually made it up to BB&B and got the one thing we were shopping for and the inevitable dozen other things we realized we needed. About halfway through, X started getting tired and achy, so they sat in the cafe while I went through the checkout line. By the time I was done, they were ready to go home, but I could feel my blood sugar crashing post–rock candy, so we ducked into a nearby Pain Quotidien and had a lovely quiet early dinner, aided by a charming but slightly addled (or bored) server named Titus who said things like "I hope I've been able to serve your needs" and "I can acquiesce that for you".
J texted that he had arrived at Penn Station just as we were finishing up, and we hoped we'd run into him on the 3 train, but we got home just a few minutes ahead of him. He heated up and ate some leftovers while we put away the things we'd bought, and then we all snuggled up together like it was going out of style. With the window open just a crack, my room was almost too cold. It was marvelous.
X and J went to bed; I did dishes and got some work done and snuggled Sam. I snacked on baguette with butter and honey, my own private little Rosh Hashanah observance. Eventually I had to close my window--it's all the way down to 59 degrees outside. Today might have been the last shorts-wearing day of the year. I've kind of forgotten what it's like to wear layers and have my legs covered, but if the weather stays like this I'll remember pretty quickly.
More like this, please. Lots more. Lots and lots and lots. May this be the beginning of a sweet, sweet new year.
- thinking about:
behavior.love, body.hair, body.reproductive system, body.sleep, events.holidays, events.holidays.rosh hashanah, experiences.joy, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, experiences.weather, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.curry, food.cooking.curry.coconut, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.cats, people.josh, people.xtina
"My arms aren't that
sore, I can totally go to the gym and work with a new personal trainer," I said on Monday.
"Ow, ow ow
ow," I said on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.( Arms blah )
Other than my perennially cranky limbs, my health's been very good. I've been moving around enough to keep my knees happy. I don't remember the last time anyone in the house had so much as a cold. My ears are being very well behaved. I have a weird ongoing thing where it sometimes feels like food is caught in my throat, but my ENT checked it out and says it's just congestion.
I finally went to a decent allergist (after years of thinking I should) and learned that I'm allergic to roaches and dust mites; we don't have roaches but we do have a lot of dust, given all the books and all the cats, so I guess that's a good reason to change my sheets weekly, have the sainted Angela over to clean the house monthly, and maybe get an air purifier for my room. I could also get allergy shots but there's no guarantee they'll help, I hate injections, and it just seems like more than I can emotionally cope with right now. Ask me again when I've slept.
Still not caught up on sleep post-RWA. Hoping to fix that this week.
=====( Being good partners )
J went out of town for a week. Every day he was gone, Alex got more and more vocal and unhappy and lonely and affectionate. When he came back Alex glued himself to J and would not leave his side until J went to bed and shut the door. Then Alex plunked down sadly outside J's room, looking woefully at me every time I walked by. Apparently he has decided that he's J's cat. J wasn't consulted about this but doesn't appear to be displeased. He still gets to pick our next cat. :)
The cats are generally getting along very well. There's still occasional chasing and swatting and hissing, but you know, they're cats. Sam and Sophie generally hang out on X's bed all day, grudgingly managing to get within a foot or two of each other. Alex sleeps in my room at night, up on top of the dresser; Sam sleeps on my bed or windowsill.
We still have no idea how they'll all react to the appearance of a baby. We'll figure that out when it happens, I guess.
=====( Baby prep )
And because I totally needed a new side gig while all this is going on:
Introducing Reading While Cooking
and I are collaborating on this literary and culinary advice column. Submit a request with your preferences and restrictions, and we'll recommend books and recipes for you. The first post went up today
and we plan to do at least one a month, maybe more.
We're very grateful to the people who have put requests in our queue, since we couldn't really do an advice column without people who want advice. If you want some tasty things to read and eat, send us a request
It's the first time I've tried using Patreon; so far we have one backer who's pledging a whole $2 per post. :) But it's a start. If we're not profitable by the end of the year, we'll probably consider the project a glorious failed experiment--as so many books and recipes are--and move on to something else. In the meantime, we're having fun.
- thinking about:
behavior.being useful, behavior.love, behavior.planning, body.allergies, body.arms, body.exercise, body.hands, body.health, body.pain, body.sleep, body.strength, experiences.annoyances, experiences.marriage, experiences.work.freelance, food, food.cooking, people.cats, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, projects, projects.reading while cooking, stuff.books, stuff.tech
Readercon is like my New Year's, in that I say "After Readercon I will totally go low-carb again/get to bed on time/start going to the gym/start meditating again/stick to my daily and weekly schedule". So far I've been doing pretty well on the sleep, and Wednesday and today I went to the gym (trying to get in the M/W/F habit), and yesterday I started Headspace over from day one. I'm still catching up on work but determined to really get and stay on track, and good sleep at good hours is helping with the scheduling. I also ate pasta for dinner and half a bar of chocolate for dessert, so I remain an imperfect human being. It was really tasty and I regret nothing.( Pumping iron, with numbers )
I'm doing Headspace as walking meditation, or on the exercise bike on gym days, so that gets me out of the house and moving around every day. The three of us are also going to try to get in the habit of post-dinner walks on family dinner nights. Yay, solidarity in fitness. :)
So far I think the exercise and meditation is making it a lot easier to calmly wind things down and go to bed when it's bedtime. I have not played a video game in over a week, which is pretty major. I've only had a couple instances of opening Twitter or leaving it open well after I'm supposed to be asleep. Setting up my new phone led to a couple of days of my alarm not waking me (my "sleep" profile in Profile Scheduler+ was blocking alarms, oops), so I've been very well rested if also somewhat late. :) I just need to stay on track.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, body, body.arms, body.body clock, body.exercise, body.legs, body.pain, body.sleep, body.strength, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, food, food.nutrition, food.nutrition.carbohydrates, stuff.games, stuff.games.video games
Very important info for people who eat a lot of rice and rice-based products, especially celiac/GF folks:In January 2015, Consumer Reports put together a major report on arsenic in rice
, including recommended consumption quantities for adults and children.
1) Eat grains other than rice (CR
's report includes info on arsenic content in various grains); if you really want to eat rice, eat rice grown outside the U.S.; if you really want to eat rice from the U.S., eat basmati rice from California.
2) For once, white rice is healthier than brown rice.
3) Rinse rice before cooking it, and cook it like pasta: use lots of water, and drain the excess water when the rice is cooked.
4) If you eat products made with rice, like GF pasta or rice crackers, check the manufacturer's website for a statement about arsenic testing and/or rice sourcing. There's a good compilation of manufacturer statements here
I strongly encourage reading the entire report; it's pretty sobering stuff. Please share this info widely.
Ever since I was a wee child, my mother's traditional cake for my birthday has been a vanilla or marble cake with chocolate ganache and "roses" made from raspberries and sugar-frosted mint leaves. I have so many memories of coming upstairs on my birthday morning to see her hovering over wire racks covered with mint leaves, fretting about whether it's too humid and hoping they'll dry in time. (Of course they always do.) There have been variations--square cakes and round cakes, semicircle cakes for my half-birthday, cupcakes the year I had a picnic party, dairy-free cakes (with dairy-free ganache!) after my pernicious allergy developed--but the soul of the cake has always been the same.
This year we're upstate visiting J's mom, so I made sure to buy raspberries while we were shopping for the weekend, and then tonight after dinner I mixed up a vanilla mug cake and dropped in chocolate chips and decorated it with a raspberry and two fresh leaves from the mint plant on the windowsill.
It was exactly as good as it should be: delicious and satisfying, while manifestly not a patch on the original. It'll last me the weekend. Maybe next week she'll make me the real thing. :)
Also, I got the BEST birthday present: getting to watch our proto-baby squirm and flail around on the 11-week ultrasound yesterday. "This one will play sports," the ultrasound tech said as she patiently waited for the wriggler to wriggle around in the correct way so measurements could be taken. X has been superstitiously waiting to use our chosen name for the proto-baby until it felt right (we've been calling them "Kiddo" in the meantime), and apparently seeing them so magnificently manifestly indubitably alive
was sufficient to flip the "it felt right" switch. So now I get to call them by their name and that is making me very happy. (We haven't decided how to handle name stuff online yet, so for now they're still FutureKid in tweets and blog posts and so on. Hopefully we'll figure that out before FutureKid becomes ActualKid. :) )
If anyone wants to do anything in honor of my birthday, I ask that you do what you can to make the world safer and kinder for my child and everyone's children. Every little bit helps.
Having meticulously assembled those possible daily schedules, I realized that they were only suitable for days when I work from home. Now that I've got the Wertheim Study space at NYPL, I'd like to use it at least a couple of times a week.
Food and drink are absolutely NOT allowed in the library, so I have to be very disciplined about eating before I go, taking a lunch break, and getting home in time for dinner--no snacking, no eating at my desk (which is what I do on office days). And if I'm eating lunch out in the world, I don't want to spend a lot of additional money on breakfasts. That means eating breakfast at home, or on the train in a pinch.
How do I breakfast? I am not good at breakfast at ALL.
* Dairy-free; dairy substitutes are fine but nothing soured (no yogurt, buttermilk, etc.)
* Something I can eat on the train if I'm late leaving the house
* Eaten cold or nuked in its own container--nothing I have to actually cook in the morning, not even something as simple as blending up a smoothie (because then I have to wash the blender, etc.)
* High protein
* Low sodium (so nothing that relies on sausage or bacon)
* Sufficient to get me through a one-hour commute and three hours of good work before I break for lunch
* It's fine if it contains eggs but it can't just be
eggs or quiche or other things where the egg flavor is central
* No raw fruit or veg other than very ripe bananas; cooked fruit and jam are fine
* Not super sweet
Foods that taste lunch-ish rather than breakfast-ish are fine; I'll probably default to peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate milk, which was my childhood school lunch for years and years and years. (Just peanut butter, no jelly--I didn't like jelly or jam when I was a kid, and I've never really learned to like peanut butter and jelly together.)
I'm also going to try making overnight oats
, probably with peanut butter for extra protein and bananas because bananas.
I'd really appreciate other suggestions.
I was going to call this "how not to make a pumpkin pie" but that title is taken
, so I stole a phrase from that story--which is wonderful, and you should all go read it--for my subject line instead.
Tonight's gluten-free dairy-free pumpkin pie recipe:
0) Assemble all ingredients. Preheat oven.
1) Put dough ingredients in freezer to chill.
2) Make filling. Taste filling. Make a face like this:
Determine that the store-brand tinned pumpkin had soaked up too much metal flavor from the tin. Regretfully throw out the filling. Turn off the oven.
3) Go out to dinner. While out, buy organic pumpkin in a box (not a tin).
4) Assemble all ingredients. Preheat oven to 450F.
5) Make filling. Taste filling. Approve.
6) Attempt to make dough even though the coconut oil has now frozen entirely solid. Manage it with the help of the trusty Cuisinart food processor.
7) Grease the pie plate with a bit more coconut oil, since yesterday's quiche (made with the same dough recipe) stuck to it a little. Roll out the dough. Attempt to neatly transfer the dough to the plate. Mostly succeed. Patch up the holes.
8) Pour the filling into the plate. Put it in the oven. Set timer for 15 minutes, after which you intend to reduce the heat.
9) Notice that smoke is filling the kitchen. Quickly determine that the coconut oil used to grease the pie plate bubbled over the edge and is now burning on the floor of the oven.
10) Shake baking soda over the oil and see whether that does any good. Learn what burning baking soda smells like. (Spoiler: terrible
11) Remove pie from oven. Turn oven off. Start toaster oven heating at 350F, since it was more or less 15 minutes. Give up all hope of the custard setting properly. When the toaster oven has heated, put the pie in the toaster oven--on top of a foil-lined baking sheet, since you are capable of learning.
12) Clean the oven floor.
13) Timer goes off. Pie is not remotely done. Heat the oven to 350F and confirm that there is no more smoke. Put the pie in the oven. Belatedly remember to turn the toaster oven off.
14) Ten minutes later: pie not done, according to a toothpick, although the top is dark brown. Also bubbly, in a fizzy-tiny-bubbles sort of way. You have no idea why.
15) Ten minutes after that: declare the pie as done as it's going to get. Put it on the windowsill to cool. The filling almost immediately breaks away from the crust. Of course.
16) Chase the cat off the windowsill. "Trust me, kitty," you say, "you don't want this pie. Probably no one wants this pie."
17) After a suitable amount of time, cut into the pie. The filling resembles
autumn pudding in taste, texture, and color; it has the classic curdled consistency of a broken custard. The crust is soggy and mealy on the bottom and overcooked around the edge. A puddle of coconut oil rapidly fills the gap left by the "slice" of pie.
18) Decide to put the pie in the fridge, mostly for a sense of closure. Lift it up and discover that the cork trivet is glued to the bottom of the pie by coconut oil. Reach for paper towels and realize you never replaced them after using up the roll cleaning the oven. Get more paper towels. Wipe off the bottom of the pie plate, put a sheet of paper towel in the fridge, and put the pie in the fridge.
19) Write up a version of the recipe that you think will actually work
. Vow to try it... tomorrow.
20) Go to bed.
I actually don't remember how long it's been since the last time I had dairy products. As a long-established dairy-defier, I frequently give advice to people who are reducing or eliminating dairy, and I figure it makes sense to have that info all in one place. Last updated 2017-05-22.Allergen note
Almost all of my preferred creamy/buttery dairy substitutes are nut-based. I've done my best to make non-nut suggestions for those with nut allergies, but I'm not really an expert on that front. In addition, I don't distinguish between products made without dairy and products that are kept free of dairy cross-contamination; if you are extremely sensitive, check labels for warnings about "may contain traces of".Equipment note
If you're going to go fully dairy-free, I highly recommend investing in two kitchen tools: a high-speed blender and a food processor. Mine are made by Vitamix and Cuisinart respectively, and I don't know what I'd do without them. These tools will let you easily make dairy substitutes that are tastier and usually cheaper than the storebought ones. A less essential but still useful third tool is an ice cream maker, which will let you experiment with sorbets and non-dairy ice creams.Shopping note
When buying packaged prepared foods, look for the word "parve" or "pareve" under a kosher symbol. Keeping kosher requires separating milk from meat; "parve" means that something contains neither milk nor meat and can therefore be eaten with either. This will save you a lot of time checking ingredient labels for sneaky things like whey in sandwich bread, casein in shredded fake cheese, etc. Note that parve things may still contain eggs, honey, and other non-vegan ingredients.Essential readingThe Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook
has amazing recipes for butter, cheese, whipped cream, and other dairy substitutes. Throughout this piece, I'll be referring to NDEC recipes. I've read and used a lot of non-dairy cookbooks, and NDEC is by far the best. That said, note that almost all their recipes call for either nuts or soy as a base.
Now, on to the substitutions!Milk (for drinking, cereal, smoothies, etc.)
This is totally a matter of taste. Quality can vary a lot even within brands; I like Silk chocolate milk if it's in shelf-stable Tetrapaks but not the variety in the refrigerated half-gallon carton. Try a bunch of different store-bought milks and see what you like. I prefer almond milk for cereal and soy or hazelnut milk for drinking. Hazelnut milk can be used to make amazing Nutella-like hot chocolate! You can also make your own nut milks in a high-speed blender. I use the NDEC recipe for almond milk, which is just almond meal (aka almond flour) and water, and it's intensely almondy and delicious. Coconut milk (the sort intended for drinking, not the sort that comes in a can) is the best non-nut non-soy option, in my opinion, but some people prefer rice milk. I do like making my own horchata, and should really try it again now that I have a Vitamix.
Proportions for almond milk: 3.75 c water to 1 packed cup almond meal/flour or 5 oz. blanched almonds
Proportions for almond cream: 4.5 c water to 1 POUND (one full bag) almond meal or blanched almondsButter (spread)
Earth Balance is the standout spreadable butter substitute. There are many varieties, including soy-free. Don't get it confused with Smart Balance margarine, which contains dairy. NDEC has a butter recipe but I haven't tried it yet. Butter (sticks)
In baking, melted butter can be replaced 1:1 with canola oil or melted REFINED coconut oil. (Unrefined coconut oil tastes like coconut. Refined tastes like nothing.) For butter-like sticks, try Earth Balance sticks, but be warned that they are pre-salted; if you use them, you'll probably want to reduce or omit any salt you usually put in your recipes. Fleischmann's unsalted margarine, which is kosher parve, is reportedly very good for baking, but I'm allergic to another ingredient in it so I can't personally vouch for it. Miyoko's Kitchen makes cultured butter
that is phenomenally good, but it's extremely hard to find in stores, and it goes off faster than other vegan butters because of the culturing agents. Soooo good though.Cream
NDEC has an excellent almond cream recipe that substitutes well for heavy cream, including whipping up into schlag. Coconut cream—the thick stuff at the top of a can of coconut milk, not to be confused with pre-sweetened cream of coconut for cocktails—can also be put in coffee or whipped. There does exist canned non-dairy whipped cream, but it's quite hard to find outside of hippie specialty groceries, and it mostly tastes like sweetened air with a hint of plastic.Crème anglaiseMy four-ingredient vegan recipe is here.
You can also use melted non-dairy vanilla ice cream.Sauce HollandaiseMy recipe is here.
(Contains egg yolks, so not vegan.)Sour cream and buttermilk
The easy way for making ingredients to use in recipes: add 1 Tbsp cider vinegar per cup of vegan cream to make sour cream; add 1 tsp cider vinegar per cup of vegan milk and let stand 5 minutes to make buttermilk. NDEC also has recipes for sour cream and buttermilk that stand well on their own.Cream cheese
I never liked it, so I couldn't tell you which substitute is best, but NDEC has a recipe and there are a few packaged vegan cream cheese varieties available.Yogurt
There are many, many soy and coconut and almond yogurts out there. WholeSoy unflavored unsweetened yogurt is the best for cooking, and can be used as a starter if you want to make your own yogurt. I've never been a fan of eating yogurt qua yogurt, but I expect brands etc. are mostly a matter of taste anyway, so try some and see what you like.Cheese
Cashew ricotta was one of the first substitute dairy products I ever made, and it was life-changing. Soak raw, unsalted cashews for four hours, pour out the water, put the cashews in your food processor, and drizzle in fresh cold water as you process them until the texture becomes creamy and ricotta-like. Add salt to taste. When I use it for lasagna, I process in fresh basil and nutmeg.
Regal Vegan makes a basil cashew ricotta called Basilicotta that's out of this world. Unfortunately, it goes off very quickly. If you buy it, make sure there's still plenty of time before the expiration date, and use it up as soon as you can.
NDEC has superb recipes for a wide variety of cheeses: some for slicing, some for shredding, some for eating by the fistful. I made NDEC's mozzarella with homemade almond milk and it was incredible; the texture wasn't quite perfect, but it was splendid on pasta and pizza, and yes, it melts! It doesn't get gooey, but next time I might add a bit of xanthan gum to help with that. The cheese melts best in steamy/liquid environments, such as when stirred into a pasta sauce. Under direct heat, it will brown but hold its shape. To get an effect like near-liquid melted mozzarella on pizza or lasagna, I recommend either making the cheese without any carrageenan or shredding pre-made cheese, melting it in the microwave, and pouring it onto the dish. Then bake until browned and bubbly.Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese
isn't quite as good a cookbook as NDEC, but I do really like her gruyère recipe; it makes killer fondue and croque monsieur. Schinner's recipes frequently call for rejuvelac, which is made by soaking and fermenting grains. It's very easy to mess up rejuvelac and get a jar full of mold. My usual substitute for 1 cup of rejuvelac is 1 capsule (1/8 tsp.) of vegan probiotic powder in 1 cup distilled water (tap water, even filtered, has too much chlorine in it). It's not quite as live-culture-y as rejuvelac but it works well enough.
Cheesemaking does take a bit of time and effort; if you're not up for that, try the many packaged shredded cheese substitutes. Lots of people like tapioca-based Daiya cheeses. My personal favorite packaged vegan mozzarella is Follow Your Heart (the shreds, not the block cheese). But homemade cheese is always the best.
As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as non-nut non-soy vegan cheese. If I were to try to make some, I'd probably make my own rice milk and then try it in a cheese recipe, but I don't know how well it would work without the soy/nut protein.Frozen pizza
My preferred brands are Daiya and Amy's, not least because their pizzas are gluten-free. Udi's and Schär pizza crusts are also GF and DF.Pre-sliced sandwich bread
Stroehmann Dutch Country whole wheat bread is my preferred brand, but any brand that's kosher parve will do.Milk powder
If a recipe calls for both milk powder and water, replace the water with your preferred non-dairy milk. I haven't tried powdered non-dairy milk but apparently it exists
I recommend exploring homemade sorbets and granitas before you try tackling homemade non-dairy ice cream. Williams-Sonoma has some good recipes.
A Vitamix blender can also be used to turn frozen fruit into frozen desserts; there are instructions for this in the manual.
Once you're ready to make your own ice cream, check out the recipes in Mark Foy's Desserts of Vitality
. Almost all of them call for lecithin, an emulsifier that's extremely useful for making smooth, creamy ice cream; you can get liquid or granulated lecithin (and many other useful ingredients, especially for cheesemaking) at Modernist Pantry
. Those with soy allergies can look for sunflower lecithin.
For store-bought ice cream, Turtle Mountain brands—Soy Delicious, So Delicious, Purely Delicious, etc.—are consistently excellent. Almond Dream is a lot better than it used to be, and Almond Dream Bites (bonbons) are amazing. In my experience, all coconut-based vegan ice cream tastes basically like coconut, no matter what else it's supposed to taste like, but that works just fine for chocolate, almond, and other flavors that go well with coconut. As a rule I prefer nut-based ice creams over soy-based ice creams, but tastes vary a lot. Try things and see what you like.Chocolate and sweets
King Arthur Flour sells superb high-end chocolate chips
that are dairy-free. A wide variety of vegan and non-dairy chocolates are available. Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups are dairy-free but made on shared equipment and some people have reported dairy reactions (they used to be labeled vegan and aren't anymore for this reason). If you miss Mounds bars, try Ocho vegan chocolate coconut bars. Not all dark chocolate is dairy-free! Read labels carefully.Natural Candy Store
is a great resource for *-free sweets. Feed Your Face
has amaaaaazing vegan caramels.Cookies
Oreos are dairy-free. Many brands of gluten-free cookies are also vegan, but not all (Tate's Bake Shop GF cookies are not DF); my favorite brand is Enjoy Life, especially the gingerbread cookies. Newman's Own cookies are also pretty good. If there's a Jewish bakery near you, gorge happily on all their parve cookies.Medications and supplements
Back before lactose intolerance and dairy sensitivity became commonly known things, lactose was used as a filler for medications—and still is, because they can't change formulations without going through the FDA approval process all over again. If you regularly take medication, check whether it contains lactose. You may need to change brands/manufacturers (every generic has its own recipe) or get medication compounded at a specialty pharmacy.
As a general rule, tablets often contain lactose; capsules of powder sometimes do; gels and liquids generally don't. Read labels and talk with pharmacists.
Many probiotics are grown on dairy cultures. Culturelle and GNC Ultra 35 are both labeled lactose-free; I'm sensitive to dairy proteins as well as lactose and I haven't had any issues with them.
What did I miss? Is anything unclear? Ask all the questions you like!
, who accused me of cruelty after tweeting about eating apple crumble at 12:45 a.m., an untested but theoretically workable mug-size version that's vegan and GF-able:
0.5 c apple pieces (half-inch cubes work well)
1.25 tsp sugar
0.25 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch ground cinnamon
barest sprinkling of salt
2 tsp flour (any gluten-free flour blend will do fine if you're GF)
2 tsp almond meal
2.75 tsp (1 scant Tbsp) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground ginger
1 Tbsp melted refined coconut oil or canola oil
Put a bit of oil on a paper towel and use it to grease the inside of a microwave-safe mug or ramekin. Mix the coating ingredients, thoroughly coat the apples, and pour them into the mug. Mix the dry topping ingredients VERY WELL, making sure to break up all the lumps of brown sugar or they will burn in the microwave. Add the oil, mix the topping until it resembles wet sand, and spoon it over the apples. Drape a piece of paper towel loosely over the mug to catch any spatters and microwave on Medium power in 30-second increments, checking for scorching, until the coating is molten and the apples are tender with just a bit of crunch. (This should take 1 to 2 minutes depending on your microwave.) Drop in a scoop of vanilla ice cream and eat immediately.
You can mix all the dry topping ingredients together in advance and add the oil at the last minute. If you do this, I recommend using the amounts from the original recipe
, minus the oats. Then take 7 tsp of the topping mix (that's 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp), mix with oil, put on top of the coated apples, and you're good to go.
Tonight we hosted a Rosh Hashanah dinner for my mother, her inamorato, and my brother (who ended up working late and didn't arrive until dessert--his loss). It was the first my-family holiday dinner hosted by someone of my generation, so we wanted to make it extra special.
The menu:Pomegranate sangrias.
Alcoholic: Sauvignon Blanc + pomegranate juice + honey. Non-alcoholic: white grape juice + pomegranate juice. I just happened to have frozen pomegranate arils*, so I put them in an ice cube tray, filled it with pomegranate juice, and made ice cubes that wouldn't dilute the sangria as they melted. These were a big hit.* Having written this, I think I am no longer allowed to tease my mother about the time she said, "Of course you can come over for dinner, I just happen to have roasted a turkey."Apples and honeys.
This was set out for people to nosh on while we finished cooking. The Ginger Gold apples, from our local greenmarket, were peeled and cut into thick circular slices, and the core sections removed with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. We had dishes of pohutukawa and blue borage honey from New Zealand (brought to us by auntyglory
), buckwheat honey from New England, and Brooklyn wildflower honey from regyt
, whose hive has supplied our Rosh Hashanah honey for years now. We served the apple slices and honey on small dishes laid out on a carved wooden tray, all filched from J's stepfather's apartment in Osaka.
Dinner was served with dishes passed at the table, very comfortable and cozy and informal.Chicken stewed with apricots and autumn spices.
We based this on the Moroccan chicken stew that was such a hit at Arisia. Six pounds of chicken thigh filets from the neighborhood butcher, one yellow onion, a great many quartered apricots, homemade chicken stock flavored with Balinese long pepper and dosed with honey and lemon juice, and a spice mix of sweet paprika, za'atar, cumin, ginger, urfa-biber, ground coriander seed, and cinnamon. We cooked it all together until the chicken was falling apart, and then I shredded the meat by hand and returned it to the pot, where it happily soaked up all the broth. The texture was very similar to pulled pork. We served it garnished with toasted silvered almonds and chopped parsley, with lemon wedges for those who felt like lemoning it a bit more. It was incredibly rich and delicious.Sweet noodle kugel.
A very basic recipe, with cashew ricotta and almond cream + cider vinegar and coconut oil substituting for cottage cheese and sour cream and butter, and Jovial gluten-free egg noodles. It was mostly custard and raisins, with noodles more for the sake of tradition than for flavor or texture. My mother arrived while it was baking and said the house smelled like Cinnabon; I'm pretty sure this was a compliment.Maple-glazed carrots.
Carrot coins with a glaze of maple syrup, Earth Balance, cinnamon (this was a very cinnamon-heavy meal), and fresh thyme (though not NEARLY enough of it; I blame myself). I love this recipe, but it was completely drowned out by the considerably more complex flavors of the chicken. Oh well. It'll be great to snack on.Cruciferous vegetables.
Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, roasted for half an hour, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. Simple and perfect.Greenmarket salad.
My mother contributed this: long beans, watermelon, pears, micro greens, picked watermelon rind, some other delicious things. It was a lovely refreshing finish to the meal.
Dessert was delayed while we waited for my brother to arrive, and it's just as well because we all ate a whole lot of dinner and needed some time to digest it. Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream.
More Ginger Golds, tossed with cornstarch and sugar and (all together now) cinnamon, topped with chopped oats and gluten-free flour and almond meal and brown sugar and a bit more cinnamon because why not. The directions say "Mix topping with coconut oil until it resembles wet sand" and that's basically what it was still like when it came out of the oven with syrup bubbling up all around it: delicious, delicious sand. Of course we do make twice as much topping as the original recipe called for. Anyway, it was phenomenal, and we had Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean for the dairy-eaters and Soy Delicious Purely Vanilla for me and X, and I had a second helping even though I was super intensely full.
Our agenda looked basically like this:
08:00: X and J get up.
09:00: J goes to the farmer's market. X lets in Angela, our superb house cleaner.
11:00: R gets up.
12:00: EVERYONE EATS LUNCH. NO EXCEPTIONS. (Cooking while hungry is a bad, bad idea.)
13:00: R and J start cooking. X naps.
14:00: Angela leaves.
15:00: R and J take a break. X cleans up.
16:00: R and J go back to cooking. X sets the table.
18:00: R and J take turns showering and getting dressed while cooking continues.
19:00: Guests arrive.
20:00: Dinner is served.
22:00: Everyone go hoooome.
We didn't stick to it precisely--we started cooking at 12:30 because we were all energized, and for a while we were way ahead of schedule so we took more breaks--but dinner was on the table at 20:02. I am very, very proud of that.
My mother and D left at about 22:30; my brother stayed and chatted with me for another hour or so.
I think X ran the dishwasher four or five times. Maybe six, counting the current load. J and I cooked together splendidly, as we always do, and whenever we sat down for a bit, X whisked in, tidied up, and whisked away again. The three of us are such a phenomenal team. We were relaxed and happy the whole time, joking and smooching and smoothly navigating around one another. I don't think a single cross word was spoken all day.
My mother was thrilled and impressed, and she stayed at the table the whole time--no bustling in the kitchen!
My feet hurt and my back hurts and I ate too much and I'm basking in the glow of getting exactly the holiday dinner I wanted.
The subject line is what jamessacorey
said when I claimed that J and I had made almond mozzarella. But we did! Here's photographic proof:
And here's what it looked like on pizza:
Yes, it shreds and melts, thanks to the magic of kappa carrageenan, though it doesn't get stretchy (I'd have to add xanthan gum for that) and it doesn't love direct heat. I made that pizza with 10 minutes in the toaster oven preheated to 450F followed by 4 minutes under the broiler, and it came out fine. But when I put slices of the cheese (not shreds) on top of bread and toasted it, with the toaster oven starting out cold and heating the toast from both above and below, the cheese got an odd sort of thin crinkly skin on top, though it was lovely and melty underneath. It had only started to brown slightly when I took the toast out, but I'm sure it would brown well if given the chance.
It is far FAR better than any storebought vegan mozzarella I've ever had. The flavor is perfect, milky and mild. The texture is a little solid, almost rubbery; it would be perfect for something like deep-fried cheese sticks but it's not quite right for eating on crackers. There's a "buffalo mozzarella" recipe that cuts the carrageenan from 4 tsp to 3 with all other proportions the same, and I might try that next, since I still have some almond milk in the fridge.
Oh yes, this is made from homemade almond milk: almond meal + water + Vitamix + 2 minutes. (I love the Vitamix so so so much; very grateful to auntyglory
for that housewarming present.) So the complete and total ingredient list for the cheese:
Tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour)
Refined coconut oil
Lactic acid powder (lemon juice can be substituted)
That's it. And making it was pretty simple, though it required some elbow grease (provided by the mighty sinboy
): blend the non-acid ingredients*, heat in a nonstick pot over medium-low, stir frequently until it goes through the curdled stage and becomes glossy and goopy and thick (and reaches 175F internal temperature), remove from heat, rapidly mix in acids, pour into a mold and let cool, put in the fridge to set. I keep it wrapped in paper towels to absorb excess moisture that gradually rises to the surface, so the cheese gets firmer over time.* The recipe recommends blending everything except the acid and the oil and adding in the oil in the pan. This doesn't make sense to me, since the Vitamix can emulsify the mixture far better than a person could manage by hand. Maybe the oil becoming fully incorporated into the mixture would be a sign of cooking progress? Still, I should probably try it the way the recipe recommends, to see whether that affects the cheese's texture in some way.
In short: chemistry is pretty incredible. And delicious.
The recipe is from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook
, which is nonstop amazingness from cover to cover. The book is inexplicably self-published; I don't know why it isn't being brought out by a trad publisher and marketed the way Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese
was, but the only place to buy it is from the author's website
. So if you're interested in making your own vegan cheese (and butter and whipped cream and sour cream and all sorts of other fake dairy products), please support awesome queer vegan self-publishing chefs and buy a copy. I recommend the PDF edition, which is full of seriously impressive photos.
Now to decide what to make next: mild cheddar or Swiss. The Swiss calls for extra-dry vermouth, and I'm not sure we have any... must check with J, who's in charge of the liquor cabinet.
Fun things, Feb 9: cooked a whopping great dinner and invited Tea over to share it. We had pot roast for the omnis and pan-fried chicken thighs for the pollotarian, plus mashed potatoes and maple thyme carrots. Dessert was a splendid vegan GF apple crumble with various ice creams.( Pot roast )
Pan-fried chicken thighs: salt and pepper skinless boneless thigh filets, heat oil in pan, fry chicken a few minutes on each side until cooked through.
Mashed potatoes: cook potatoes, mash with lots of Earth Balance and unsweetened almond milk.
Maple thyme carrot recipe here
.( Apple crumble )
- thinking about:
experiences.2014, experiences.2014.fun, food, food.baking, food.baking.apples, food.cooking, food.cooking.beef, food.cooking.beef.pot roast, food.cooking.carrots, food.cooking.chicken, food.cooking.potatoes, food.recipes
A freelance check came in, so I bought men's pants! Men's Wearhouse was having a two-for-one sale and the 31–30 slim fit 100% cotton slacks fit me perfectly. Another gap in my wardrobe has been filled.
Tonight J and I made lentil soup and then I made mint chocolate chip ice. Both came out reasonably well but could have been better. ( Recipes behind the cut. )
Ever wonder whether something is really as awful as you remember? X and I watched Blues Brothers 2000
tonight. It is actually more
awful than we remember. Considerably more. That said, we're now very inspired to hunt down some good live music when we're in New Orleans for World Horror/Stokers Weekend next month. (Will you be there?) And it turned out she hadn't seen the video for "Q.U.E.E.N." so we rectified that as soon as the movie was done, and that made the world considerably better.
Last weekend I got both my inboxes down to zero, and I've kept them there all week. I have also been way WAY more productive at work and more relaxed at home. (I read a book--no, two books! I watched two episodes of DS9
!) I don't think this is coincidence. I really had no idea how much stress I felt looking at unanswered things in my inbox until they weren't there anymore. Now I tab to my inbox, smile, and feel like I really get to choose what I do next--no pressure, no stress. I recommend this highly. (I explain my process in the comments on the DW version of this entry
After consulting with my therp, I'm tentatively planning to go off the Zoloft once Readercon is done. (The timing is not coincidence.) I'll wait a month to make sure I'm doing okay without it, and then try very carefully drinking some flavored tea and see what happens.
Readercon stuff is not actually that stressful right now, because we're in the part I love best: collecting data and building the program. I'm also organizing a really exciting thing for Saturday night that I hope will be stupendously awesome. Yay for friends who know what they're doing and can reassure me that my plans are feasible and unlikely to become "a clusterwhentwopeopleloveeachotherverymuc
h". Yay for feeling much better about trying this new-to-me thing now that I've actually got the ball rolling.
I wonder what I will do with all my free time and energy once Readercon is done. I'll still be on the concom and progcom and safecom, but I'm stepping down as program chair, and that's a huge weight off my shoulders. I don't go dancing anymore, and even if I took it up again, I wouldn't volunteer to nearly the extent that I used to (if at all). I don't cook for Arisia anymore. I have Long Hidden
to co-edit, but that's a freelance project and I'll do it in freelance time. For the first time in a long long while, I will have no unpaid volunteer gigs to occupy me.
Maybe domesticity will be my next thing. It's what I most love doing right now: bustling around the house, talking with X and J about household projects, cooking, building and buying things, having people over, family time. More of that would be really nice.
Maybe I'll knit more, read more, do a better job of keeping up with the rewatch.
Or maybe I'll just improvise, be spontaneous, do whatever I feel like doing. I'm not very good at spontaneity, but the only way to get better at it is to make space for it.
Augh, is it really getting light out? I am not doing very well with sticking to anything resembling my sleep schedule. Having a week off from work isn't going to help with this. Oh well.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.organization, behavior.planning, behavior.volunteering, body.body clock, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, experiences.drugs, experiences.drugs.zoloft, experiences.movies, experiences.music, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.ice cream, food.cooking.soup, food.cooking.soup.lentil, food.recipes, stuff.clothes, stuff.tech
I spent a fair amount of yesterday looking up various soup recipes. They led me to conclude that you can make vegetable soup pretty much any way you want. So I improvised with what we had on hand, and I encourage you to likewise adjust this recipe to your own tastes and supplies. It's very flexible because you don't have to worry about different cooking times for different ingredients: it's all cooked into mush and then pureed.
You'll need a big pot for this. Our medium pot (5 quarts, I think?) barely handled it. Makes about nine 2-cup servings depending on how you adjust the quantities given.
The following are the ingredients I used, with suggestions for alternatives in parentheses.
1 onion, chopped
(could be two, plus a crushed clove of garlic or two; or add miso to taste at the "season to taste" step)
a few shakes/grinds each of ground cumin, powdered ginger, and black pepper
(you could also try curry powder, turmeric, mustard powder, ras al hanout, whole mustard or cumin seeds, paprika, cayenne, etc.)
1 enormous turnip, peeled and chopped--seriously, it was bigger than the onion!
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
.5 cup tomato puree
(could also include other root vegetables, zucchini, squash, peppers; for the tomato puree, you can substitute canned diced tomatoes or peeled and de-seeded fresh tomatoes if you have good ones on hand)
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked through (or beans, chickpeas, or raw nuts)
2 cups cooked white rice (or .5 cup uncooked rice and 1 additional cup water)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
(and/or any other fresh or dried herbs you like; parsley or cilantro would be particularly good, or dried bay leaves, or you could be adventurous and try marjoram or sage)
4 cups (one 32-oz. box) vegetable broth
3 to 4 cups water
In your big pot, heat oil and a few drops of water over medium heat until the water sizzles. Add a dash of salt. Sauté aromatics 10 minutes until softened. Add and sauté spices 1 minute or until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to keep things from sticking to the bottom. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed so the liquid just covers the solids.
Adjust seasonings to taste (I usually add a splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, miso paste for extra umami, and/or salt and pepper) and simmer 15 more minutes or until all the solids are soft and mushy. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes. Remove thyme stems; if the leaves haven't already fallen off them, strip the leaves off and stir them into the soup, discarding the stems. (If using bay leaves, take those out too.) Puree the soup with a stick blender or in batches in a regular blender. At this point, if you're not eating it right away, you can distribute the soup into containers, let it cool to room temp, and store in fridge or freezer.
Before serving, return to pot and heat; add a splash of red wine vinegar or a squeeze of lemon or lime if you like; serve garnished with fresh thyme or parsley.
Lentils + rice = complete protein, hooray! There's probably a ton of fiber in there too. This is definitely Good For You as well as being tasty. And it's easy.
Most of the flavor in the soup comes from the broth and the spices and herbs; don't expect the vegetables to flavor it much unless you want to go to the trouble of roasting them beforehand. If your soup isn't very flavorful, add some vegetable boullion, or increase the spices at the 30-minute flavor-adjusting mark. The vinegar or citrus juice will punch it up too. Enjoy!
We're upstate for Thanksgiving, which is splendid. I got a whim to bake a vanilla chocolate chip cake tonight, but I didn't want to fuss with the hand mixer. As usual, I rambled about this to Twitter, and muppetk
said, "What about a mug cake?"
And I exclaimed "GENIUS!" because the upstate house has a working microwave! (And soon, very soon, our apartment will too... in theory... only
ten months after we moved in...) So off I went a-Googling and found this recipe
, which I herewith present modified to my tastes.
4 Tbsp flour
5 tsp sugar
.5 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt (or omit entirely)
4 Tbsp unsweetened non-dairy milk (or use vanilla-flavored for LOTS of vanillaness)
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix dry ingredients in your microwave-safe mug with a fork, add wet ingredients, mix well until smooth (making sure to get in all the flour around the bottom edge), add add-ins. I dropped 2 tsp of really good raspberry jam into the middle and semi-sweet chocolate chips around the edge
(about twice as many chips as shown in that photo because I wanted to be thorough), just covering them all with batter before I stuck it in the microwave for 60 seconds at level 9. It probably could have used another 10 seconds but I was impatient.
I used the original amount of sugar, which of course made it too sweet. I should know by now not to trust most people's cake recipes regarding sweetness levels. The raspberry jam and chocolate chips were perfect. I might start prepping dry ingredients for this as well as my chocolate mug cake to make at work.
(crossposted to omnomnom
Recipes, as promised!( Vegan gruyère )( Vegan béchamel sauce )( Greek meatballs in olive tomato sauce )( Chocolate mug cake )
Tonight I started a batch of fresh mozzarella and a half-batch of sharp cheddar. (Note to self: half-batches do not have enough mass for the blender to work.) Wednesday my lovely nearby natural grocery will get in unsweetened unflavored soy yogurt and then I can make meltable mozzarella! I was never this excited about cheese back when I could have dairy, but right now it seems like the most exciting thing in the world. That croque monsieur made my week.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, food, food.baking, food.baking.cake, food.baking.cake.chocolate, food.baking.cake.mug cake, food.cooking, food.cooking.cheese, food.cooking.meatballs, food.cooking.sandwiches, food.cooking.sauce, food.cooking.sauce.bechamel, food.cuisine.vegan, food.nutrition.dairy, food.recipes, stuff.books
We're on day 4 of working from home, which makes me all fidgety. Today that meant baking a cake, based on this vegan gluten-free Earl Grey tea cake
recipe. I don't have Earl Grey, but I do have lapsang souchong, and I think smoky + maple is one of the more awesome flavor combinations in the world (I sweeten lapsang tea with maple syrup), so I gave it a shot. My version produced what my mother would call a "noble failure", but I think it can still be modified to make a great cake.
Here's what I did (which was not entirely successful, so see below for future adjustments):
3.25 C all-purpose flour (for GF flour types and quantities, see original recipe)
1.5 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp sea salt
.67 C canola oil
1.5 C lapsang souchong (boil 1.5 C water, let sit 3 minutes, steep with 1 level tsp loose tea leaves for 5 minutes--brewed to drinking strength, in other words)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 C maple syrup
Mix dry, mix wet, add wet to dry, mix until just combined. Bake in parchment-lined loaf pan at 375F to internal temp of 212F.
Results and modifications:
* The original recipe calls for an 8.5" loaf pan. I filled mine and it looked ready to overflow, so I transferred the batter into my 9.25" pan to be on the safe side.
* It needed to bake for 1.5 hours, way longer than I was expecting--especially given that I used a larger pan than the one called for--and the top and bottom scorched a bit. I blame the guesswork of converting between wheat and GF flours. The batter also seemed quite wet to me. Possible ways to try to get around this:
-- use only one cup of tea (brewed with the same amount of tea leaves)
-- bake it at 350F
for 2 hours or until thermometer says it's done
-- divide the batter between two smaller loaf pans
-- use a square or round cake pan
For the next iteration I'll probably break out my lovely 9" round springform pan. The batter could even be divided into two square or round pans, baked, and then layered with an appropriate filling; I'd suggest orange marmalade for the original Earl Grey recipe, or if you want to be really daring, a sea salt and black pepper vegan buttercream for the lapsang souchong version. (Has anyone tried the buttercream recipes in Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale
? I'm skeptical of anything that calls for shortening but would love to find one that really works, especially since I cannot find salt-free vegan butter anywhere.)
* Regardless of modifications, USE THE THERMOMETER. Going by my nose, I would have taken the cake out of the oven nearly half an hour before it was actually baked through. Going by the thermometer, the outside is slightly scorched (bah), but the middle is perfect.
* The cake is quite dense, almost heavy. I suspect the lapsang isn't as acidic as the Earl Grey, so I might change to 1 tsp baking powder and .5 tsp baking soda, and/or add a splash of cider vinegar.
* Once I get the burnt crust out of the way and dig into the middle of the cake, I can really taste both the maple and the lapsang! Delicious. I don't think it needs to be smokier, but you could go up to 1.5 tsp tea leaves (or one heaping teaspoon) if you want more intense flavor. It is quite sweet, but not cloying.
Time to buy more maple syrup and see if I can make a version that works!
Today was a fucking epic rockstar day.
1) I slept. Not a ton, but it was good sleep and I got up feeling well-rested.
2) I did every single thing on my to-do list plus two things I had forgotten to list, and every part of the day that was about timing went like clockwork.
3) I bought plane tickets for the London trip!
4) I went to lunch with zia_narratora
, and ate spicy curry, and my ear unblocked! And the curry was yummy and the conversation was too. Tea is such a lovely person.
5) I had exactly enough time for a haircut between lunch and workout, and Yelp led me to a great barbershop. My head is finally fuzzy again! Five weeks between haircuts is really way too long.
6) At my workout I did PUSH-UPS. And TRICEPS DIPS. And they felt so good that I did them again. And I still had enough arm afterwards to high-five Chelsea, the awesome trainer I've been working with. (I also had a less fun moment when I was doing a lot of core work, which means tensing my abs--those very same abs that I have carefully taught myself to deliberately relax as an antidote to panic attacks--while leaning against a balance ball. Being literally wobbly amplified the emotional wobbly and I had to take a breather. Chelsea was lovely and brought me water and then stepped out of the room so I could center myself. I sat there and thought, Well, I have paid $85 to have this studio for an hour, and if I want to spend 20 minutes of that hour crying I can do that. But I don't think that's how I want or need to spend that money and time, so let's keep going.
We did and it was just fine. So I call that a net win.) Chelsea even gave me homework, so I can keep working out my arms in between sessions. I cannot even explain how exciting this all is. I never thought I would do another push-up, ever. Today I did thirty of them! From the waist, not full-plank, but still. Tremendous.
7) I edited 4000 words of the book I'm working on.
8) "At some point I must try Julia Child's chicken waterzooi," I said
, and tonight I did, since J and X and I were dining with friends who weren't interested in fish. The creaminess of it reminded me of many years ago when Mi Cucina on Hudson & Jane was a good restaurant and served utterly sublime pollo y rajas con crema with wonderful crispy cubes of potato (if there's a name for those in Spanish, I don't know it), so crispy potatoes became our side dish. We drank Thomas Henry chardonnay
, with which I promptly fell in love--glorious notes of caramel!--and sopped our bowls with French bread and it was very, very good.( Crispy potatoes )( Chicken waterzooi )
Both recipes supposedly serve four, so we doubled them. They just barely served six. Fortunately the waterzooi is intensely rich and we had bread as well as potatoes, so no one went hungry.
(recipes crossposted to omnomnom
Afterwards we went out for gelato. I am so full, my goodness.
Many thanks to our hosts d_aulnoy
(who shopped) and schrodingersgnu
(who helped with cooking) and our dining companion vschanoes
(who cleaned), all of whom made delightful conversation as we stuffed ourselves. What a marvelous evening.
9) I briefly entertained the Gnubaby and felt only somewhat awkward and at a loss. This is an improvement over my usual interactions with babies. I am not a native speaker of baby, but X is planning to have one in a couple of years, so I'm taking every opportunity to learn. (This is an extra reason why I'm really looking forward to hanging out with my friends in London who are parents, and especially the poly parents.) The Gnubaby was getting a bit tired-cranky, but I distracted him by tapping his shoulders in waltz time, which worked very well. d_aulnoy
says we can come over and practice baby anytime we like, and I think we may take her up on it once X is out of crunch mode at work and J and I are done traveling.
10) On the way home, J and X helped me sort out some of my feelings about charging for advice. More on that in another post.
11) I brushed the cats and now they are all sleek and soft. Well, Sam was already soft, but now she's softer. Java's getting lazy and arthritic in his old age and he doesn't always crane his neck all the way around to lick his back, so he gets mats there sometimes, and I like to brush them out. He tolerates it. Sam doesn't need the brushing, but she loves it and boofs the brush and purrs like a Harley and is all cuddly after. They are such good kitties.
And now I have stayed up far too late reading the archives of "Scandinavia and the World" because I sent the link to schrodingersgnu
, so I will feed the kitties and pass the out.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.planning, body.arms, body.ears, body.exercise, body.hair, experiences.joy, experiences.socializing, experiences.travel, experiences.work.freelance, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.potatoes, food.cooking.stew, food.cooking.stew.waterzooi, food.drinks, food.drinks.wine, food.recipes, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.cats, people.children
Maybe ten years ago, maybe more, I had a bowl of waterzooi at Markt, a Belgian restaurant that at the time was in the Meatpacking District. (It's moved up to Chelsea and they don't have waterzooi on the menu anymore.) It was one of those life-changing culinary experiences. I eat seafood very rarely; I'd never encountered fish cooked with milk before. The broth was silky, the fish delicate and flaky, the strands of julienned vegetables eminently slurpable. Since then I've had many a creamy chowder, but none came close to the sublime richness of waterzooi, which incorporates both egg yolks and heavy cream (and, in Markt's version, lobster--definitely not traditional, but so delicious!).
On Tuesday we inaugurated our fabulous new blender by making cashew cream (pour boiling water over cashews, soak for one hour, drain, blend with cold water to desired consistency; we blended in a sauteed diced shallot for extra flavor). We made it quite thick and had a lot left over after making a really excellent pasta alfredo, so I'd been thinking about how to use it. Today I mixed some with water, leftover mashed potatoes, nutmeg, and thyme for the best creamy potato soup I've ever had. That made me think of chowder, which made me think of waterzooi. I hunted up a recipe
that called for fish (though at some point I must try Julia Child's chicken waterzooi
) and we set about adapting it for my dairy-free, low-salt diet.( Ingredients and recipe )
This recipe has a great cooking rhythm. There's just the right amount of time for cubing the fish and chopping the parsley as the vegetables cook, and for loading the dishwasher and separating the eggs as the fish simmers. It smells fantastic while it cooks, and one bowlful is a perfect meal. Even though we used low-sodium broth, it needed just the barest touch of salt to make the flavors pop. The two of us had a serving each, and the third serving is sitting in the fridge, where I suspect the flavors will marry gloriously.
It would be very easy to veganize: no egg yolks, more cashew cream to compensate, veg broth instead of chicken broth, tofu and/or mushrooms instead of fish. Maybe some day I'll try that. The vegetables could also be varied from the classic mirepoix; as I recall, the dish at Markt had long strands of zucchini and red bell pepper. Lemongrass, ginger, and a dash of hot sauce would give it a lovely Thai flavor, perfect served over rice instead of bread. It's a superbly adaptable recipe. I look forward to playing around with it.
(crossposted to omnomnom
Tonight we made chicken stew for dinner. When Josh suggested it, I wasn't terribly enthused, because I think of chicken as bland-ish and stew as bland-ish and had no sense-memory of flavors attached to the concept of "chicken stew". But now I do! It tasted like chicken pot pie without the pie, and it was delicious
The recipe is straight from Cook's Illustrated
as usual. We didn't cut up the chicken thighs before stewing them; why bother? Once the stew was done, Josh encouraged them to finish falling apart into shreds. Neither of our local grocery stores had celery root, so we substituted turnip. The thighs came in packages of eight, so that's what we put in, and it did not feel insufficiently chickeny even though the recipe recommends using twelve. We cooked it on the stove for longer than suggested, as a loaf of bread was occupying the oven. (Homemade bread is an excellent accompaniment to this stew, incidentally.) The recipe as given below has half as much garlic (for my sake) and onion (for Xtina's) as the original recipe; adjust as you see fit.( Chicken stew with winter vegetables )
Their estimate is that this recipe makes six to eight servings; we added just a bit of rice to stretch it to eight. It is very, very filling even in small quantities. We will definitely be making it again.
If you say the word "clafouti"
to me or my brother, we will immediately start giggling. This is because my mother spent several months in a clafouti phase, making every possible type of clafouti: sweet, savory, small, large, for breakfast and lunch and dinner and dessert, clafouti unto forever. We eventually staged a revolt until she agreed to stop making clafouti.
There was similarly a homemade marshmallow phase. (The one I remember best was the savory basil marshmallow, served in a bowl of tomato soup.) And there have been several iterations of the monochromatic meal phase; that one is not so much a phase as an orientation, really. And there's the Simpsons
episode where Marge is hammering tiles on the roof and Homer says "Marge, it's three a.m.! ...shouldn't you be baking?" and yep, that's my mom. (And me. And my brother. And, I suspect, my uncle. In case anyone wondered whether this sort of thing was genetic.)
Anyway, I have been testing this horchata recipe, and recipe testing is perfectly fine and normal, nothing wrong with that, but then I looked up horchata on Wikipedia, and now I'm contemplating horchata cubana
and tigernut horchata
(I love the Spanglish on that page) and Puerto Rican sesame horchata
thinks would be gross and I think would be delicious, like a liquid version of one of those sesame and honey candies) and horchata cocktails and all these recipes
(FRIED HORCHATA ZOMG) and I want one of these machines
and oh god it's a horchata phase
and I'm turning into my mother
I suppose every woman has a moment like this at some point in her life. And at least I recognize the danger of entering into a horchata phase, and I can reassure myself that this is what tagging is for and I can always put the recipes away for a while and then come back and find them exactly as I left them. Which I will totally do. Right.
Unrelatedly, while looking through posts on various recipe blogs, I found the best spam comment ever
on a recipe for Guatemalan oatmeal horchata
. I am in awe.
By which I mean that we started cooking at 9 p.m. and had dinner at the astoundingly early hour of 10:30. This is not at all uncommon, and is why my food schedule is actually about nine hours offset from most people's despite my sleep schedule only being about six hours offset.
Yesterday our farmshare included hot peppers and basil. "Thai green curry!" I exclaimed, and today after work I headed to Chinatown to get kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and Thai fish sauce. (We already had a jar of pickled galangal in the fridge, of course. Doesn't everyone?) The lovely thing about curry is that you can put anything in it, so we threw in bok choy and turnips and potatoes from last week's farmshare, a purple pepper and green beans from this week's, and more store-bought potatoes and red bell pepper and broccoli and zucchini and chicken from the market.
There are two parts to making Thai green curry.( Step one: curry paste )( Step two: curry! )
The only mistake we made was using both a red bell pepper and the red hot peppers from the farmshare. Before we tucked in, we carefully went through our bowls and pulled out the pieces of hot pepper so we wouldn't eat them by mistake!
You can vary the spice levels to taste, of course. We ended up using six serrano chiles for the paste and four of the red peppers in the double batch of curry, and there was a bit of heat but not a lot.
I think we'll be getting a lot of mileage out of this recipe as the fall harvest comes in.
was thinking of coming over today to write with me for a couple of hours. I said we'd be happy to feed her cabbage soup for dinner. "I loathe cabbage soup!" she said, and we decided not to meet up today after all.
I'm not usually one to say "You just haven't met the right _____", but I do wonder whether she's had cabbage soup made with fresh organic Napa cabbage, which was so good that next time we get some from the farmshare we're planning on eating it raw or making coleslaw, and crumbled bacon and freshly grated Parmesan and fresh garlic from the farmer's market. We doubled this recipe
, substituting half vegetable broth and half chicken broth for the stock, and using the bacon grease instead of olive oil. (We crisped the bacon in the bottom of the pot and then set it aside to crumble in later. Mmm, bacon.) The cabbage was just barely softened, still crunchy and tender and flavorful. It was magnificent. I had no idea cabbage soup could be so good. ( Full original (single) recipe, since links go away sometimes )
Between the beans and the cabbage, sinboy
and I are very glad to have separate bedrooms. Worth it, though. And if pisicutsa
decides it sounds worth trying, we have five more servings in the fridge.
(crossposted to iron_chef_csa
came by to inaugurate our Thursday dinners, with much success. We made turkey chili, based off of ( this recipe from Cook's Illustrated. )
Half a cup of chili powder! Crazy! But it worked. We stuffed ourselves quite happily.
For dessert I melted some chocolate chips in a makeshift double boiler, drizzled the chocolate over pieces of banana, and sprinkled unflavored pop rocks on top. (Thanks for dropping them off at my office, novalis
!) They were, as expected, banana-y and chocolaty and fizzy. I have two banana pieces in the fridge right now--one with a single layer of chocolate and pop rocks, the other with a second layer of chocolate that will in theory protect the pop rocks from condensation--as well as a chocolate/pop rocks mixture that I simply spread out on a sheet of parchment paper to turn into chocolate breakup. If they do well refrigerated overnight, I'll make another batch tomorrow night to bring to the ball on Saturday. If not, I'll figure out something else.
This is a true one-pot meal. If you have a pot, a spoon, a knife, and a cutting board, you can make this. It's good for when you're sick, because a) soup is good for you, b) it doesn't take much brains or effort, and c) you can do it even if the sink is full of dishes that you're too tired to wash. It also makes easily reheated leftovers. We both wanted second helpings, so next time I should probably double this recipe if I want to have any left over!
If your chicken is fridged rather than frozen, you can skip the hot water bath and reduce the first boiling time by 5-10 minutes; or just leave it the way it is for falling-apart chicken shreds, which can be lovely.
Oh, and don't leave out the lemon and the capers. They really make the flavors all work together.( 'Too Sick to Wash Dishes' Chicken Soup )
(crossposted to cheap_cookin
The third quadruple batch of vegan chocolate cakes is in the oven. I am AWESOME.( Vegan chocolate cakes, four at a time )
This cake has a nice crust on top, almost brownie-like, and is fairly fluffy and very chocolatey. To my taste it's quite sweet; cutting the sugar by a third would do it no harm. It goes brilliantly with raspberry jam or other tangy fruit.
I suppose I should have something other than cake for dinner.
Doing four pans at once makes this super-quick! Managing a dozen batches of brownies tomorrow should be no problem. I heart my lovely DeLonghi mixer, I do. Now off to write up an ingredient list.
Tonight's dinner: pork stewed in beer.( Recipe from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook )
We fried up the trimmed-off bits of pork and a few scraps of onion in the leftover butter. They were amazing
and tided us over until 10 p.m. when dinner was finally ready. Now I remember why we used to shop in advance rather than attempting to shop and
cook after work.
The pork was tender and succulent; the sauce was thick and rich and perfect for sopping up with chunks of bread. (I do think it could have used a bit more depth of flavor and perhaps a little sweetness; I blame that partly on using a fairly nondescript ale and partly on our geriatric bay leaves, which really need to be replaced. Next time, might add a little sweetish white wine, or maybe some white balsamic vinegar.) We have four small or two large servings of leftovers, and I think they will make excellent lunches.
Incidentally, the meat at Whole Foods is vastly superior to that at Fairway. I still love Fairway for everything else, but for charcuterie Whole Foods definitely wins.
We also bought veggies--Brussels sprouts, carrots, red bell peppers, green beans, another Vidalia--and chicken* and coconut milk. A few of the carrots were sacrificed tonight for maple ginger thyme carrots
, since I didn't get to make them the other night. We'll turn the rest into curry on Thursday. Mmm, curry.* Specifically, chicken thigh.
(Spent on groceries today: $58. Total since 8/7/08: $150. That's about the weekly budget I was hoping for, which is excellent. Now to curtail day-to-day spending on other things. Fortunately, with plenty of leftovers for lunch and doing freelance work at the library rather than at cafes, I don't have much that I want to spend money on.)
Since the carrot recipe has since vanished, here it is:
GLAZED CARROTS WITH MAPLE SYRUP
contributed by Shady Maple Farm
1 lb carrots, cleaned and sliced thickly on diagonal
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons grade A maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
Cook the carrots in salted boiling water for 5–8 minutes, until tender-crisp. Drain thoroughly. Add the butter, maple syrup, ginger, and thyme to the carrots. Cook, uncovered, on medium heat until the syrup boils. Continue cooking uncovered until the syrup is reduced and thickened and the carrots are glazed, approximately five minutes.
*Ginger adds heat to this simple dish, while thyme adds flavor and visual appeal.
Stealthy Pepper Cookies
(adapted from this sugar cookie recipe
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons white pepper
Cracked black peppercorns
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs, milk, vanilla. Sift or whisk together dry ingredients except for peppercorns. (Be prepared for sneezing when you mix in the pepper.) Add dry to wet, mix until dough forms. If dough is very soft, add up to 1/4 cup additional flour. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log of about 2" diameter. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least an hour and preferably overnight. The dough is fairly soft, so after it has firmed up somewhat you may want to roll it around a little to keep it from getting flat on the bottom. Another option is to flatten four sides and make square cookies. For cookies that won't spread, freeze the dough for half an hour just before baking.
Heat oven to 400F. If dough has been frozen, let logs sit at room temperature for five minutes. Spread peppercorns over a flat surface and roll the logs in them to lightly coat. You may have to press down fairly hard to get the peppercorns to stick to the dough. Slice into 1/4"-thick rounds (or squares or whatever) and arrange on baking sheet, allowing an inch of spreading space. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden around the edges and on top. Transfer to cooling rack; enjoy while warm and soft or after cooling and crisping.
These are stealthy for two reasons:
1) The white pepper is completely invisible. Without the peppercorns, these would look like perfectly ordinary sugar cookies.
2) They taste like perfectly ordinary sugar cookies too, at first. Give it a moment... aha, there's the heat! Yum.
If you like them less spicy, reduce the white pepper, but don't leave off the peppercorns altogether; they add a lovely flavor as well as additional heat. You can always put in a teaspoon or two of white pepper, mix and taste the dough, and add more if you feel it's needed. I imagine green or pink peppercorns could be used instead of black, as long as they were crushed in some fashion first.
For those of you who said "rabbit rabbit"
when you woke up today, here are some carrots to feed that rabbit.( Carrot-ginger soup )
This soup is, for me, the perfect fall/winter food. The flavors are very rich, but only the ginger really jumps out at you. I deliberately restrained myself with the nutmeg, so it's subtle as nutmeg only rarely manages to be; the tarragon clearly adds something, but you don't find yourself thinking "oh, wow, tarragon". It's hard to tell where the spiciness of ginger ends and the chili powder begins. The soup was very flat when I first tasted it, and then I added the salt and bang! it popped up into three dimensions. The salt particularly brings out the smooth mellow notes of the cream and the sweetness of the carrots and tarragon. It's creamy enough that Java tried to lick the bowl (the ginger gave him a bit of a nasty shock), but not too rich, especially if your stock is well-skimmed.
If you use vegetable broth, it's vegetarian; the only non-vegan item is the cream, and that can probably be substituted for in some fashion. I used Imagine's "No-Chicken" stock because I like it, but I'm not a vegetarian or vegan, so I can't really comment on appropriate substitutions. Experiment! That's what a kitchen is for.