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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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
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's dinner recipe:
1) Plan to make broiled chicken thighs, mashed potatoes, and spinach. Go shopping just before store closes. Get home. Realize you have bought chicken wings instead of thighs. Panic.
2) Look up a "Japanese" chicken wings recipe
online. Think this looks pretty easy. Drink grappa. Slowly stop panicking.
3) Mix up a very basic sauce: 3 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp water, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup vinegar. Discover that the bowl you used was too small. Pour the sauce into a bigger bowl. Discover that most of the sugar remained in the smaller bowl. Scrape it out a lot.
4) Dredge chicken wings in egg and then in flour. Lay them out on a foil-covered baking sheet. Stick them under the under-oven broiler.
5) Realize you forgot something and immediately pull the sheet out from under the broiler. Spray the wings with cooking oil. Put them back under the broiler.
6) After broiling 3 minutes, discover that the sheet is wider than the heat source. Swap the center and edge wings and broil another 2 minutes. Flip wings over. Put them back under the broiler.
7) After broiling 3 minutes, attempt to pull sheet out from under broiler. Discover that the pointy bits of the wings have gotten stuck in the broiler. Laugh hysterically because it's that or panic again. Use a wooden spoon to extricate the wings. Count them to make sure you got them all because the last thing you want is to find one of them under the stove two weeks from now.
8) Put the wings in the oven at 350F. Baste with sauce. Set timer for 30 minutes. Whenever you smell the sauce turning into carbon, baste the wings again. Meanwhile, make mashed potatoes and sauté spinach.
9) Timer goes off just as your partner decides she wants to get beer. Turn the oven off and let the wings sit in there to stay hot while she goes out to the store. Spoon the carbonized sauce over the wings so they look like you actually managed to brown them. Attempt to find a place on a chicken wing to stick a thermometer to see whether they're done; give up and assume they'll be fine.
10) Partner comes back and reports that the supermarket is closed because it's after 10 p.m. Realize you knew that. Realize it's a bit late to be having dinner. Decide not to care.
11) Have delicious chicken wings, mashed potatoes, and spinach for dinner.
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.
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
I have been remiss in my foodblogging! Tragic!( Pasta with sausage, spinach, and bell peppers )
We attempted to use beer for the pan sauce instead of wine. It was bitter and awful. Don't try it. We ended up just tossing everything with a little olive oil, which worked fine.( Self-carving chicken and smashed potatoes )
I want a Cook's Illustrated
/Dutch oven OTP userpic.( Soy-based vanilla ice cream )
Despite all this culinary joy, possibly the best thing I've eaten all week was a meltingly ripe pear. I was sitting at the dining table today, doing a puzzle, and I realized I smelled something sweet. I looked up and realized it came from one of the pears we bought two days ago; the Bartlett had reached perfection. sinboy
sliced it up and we devoured it. I'm so glad I caught it when I did, because by tomorrow it would have been brown mush, but today it was exquisite, slurpy and candy-sweet without being cloying. Maybe tomorrow I'll have the other Bosc, or one of the Comices. Maybe Saturday I'll get pear cider at the farmer's market. Pears make winter bearable.
Now this post has fulfilled its real purpose, which was to give me something to do while icing my arm (I washed dishes a little too aggressively after dinner), and I go sleep.
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.
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.