Perfect for a summer’s day..

It has been a while since I have ventured here.  I have been cooking a lot lately though. I just haven’t had time to put up photos. I have been constantly experimenting with tasty kolache recipes & have found a favorite, so that information will be here sometime soon I hope.

But probably the 2nd favorite thing I’ve made recently would be homemade ginger ale.  Perfect for this crazy heat. I really wish I would have had some last week when my A/C went out.

It is a surprisingly a simple recipe.

As you can see (if you clicked the link), there are actually 2 ways to do this. I chose the way of instant gratification & was satisfied. But you can ferment it yourself & let me know how that goes too.

Yum..ginger syrup & my scary looking thumb =/

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a tasty experiment..

Thursday night’s dinner was inspired by Dev, our friend from Trinidad.  He is always talking about the great food in his country.  Shark and bake, for instance sounds AMAZING.

So I did some google searching & came up with a recipe for Pelau.

I expected this dish to taste kind of spicy or something.  However, the recipe I used had no peppers (though I have since discovered that many do).  The recipe is comprised of common ingredients, most that I frequently use. However, for some reason I never imagined putting these things together.

Also, this dish is amazing because all of the flavors come through. I should explain –  Bryan hates stew.  Early in our relationship, I thought I would surprise him with a crock pot kind of stew comprised of pork roast, potatoes & carrots.  That’s a manly meal right? Meat and potatoes and all that. It is tasty stuff. However, in his opinion, stews are terrible because everything tastes the same. The potatoes taste like watered down meat…The meat tastes like watered down meat…You get the drift.

With the pelau, you still have tasty comfort food, but the flavors are complex. Every bite is different.  And the coconut milk doesn’t overpower it but adds even more deliciousness!   This is an easy, one-pot meal that makes a lot of food!  6 servings have been consumed so far…I’m guessing there’s about 4 servings left. =)

I am serious about the comfort food part. Consider all the carbs in this meal – There’s the rice, the carrots & the squash (I substituted acorn squash because I couldn’t find Hubbard squash this time of year).  My version of this recipe ended up not being very authentic though. I don’t know if Dev would approve!  One of distinctive things about pelau is that you burn or kind of caramelize sugar & coat the meat with it.   When I added the meat to the pot, the caramel started seizing  (probably because the meat was cold from just having been thawed out? or perhaps the heat was too high for the sugar? I don’t know). As a result, the sugar didn’t really coat the meat at all. Oh well!  I continued adding other ingredients & eventually the caramel melted back down into the pot. Next time, I will try & figure out how to make the caramelizing process work.

Pelau

adapted slightly from Callaloo, Calypso and Carnival: The Cuisines of Trinidad & Tobago by Dave DeWitt & Mary Jane Wilan

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar (light brown)
  • 1 chicken, cut up (about 2½ to 3 pounds), or substitute goat meat or beef (I used 4-5 thawed chicken breasts)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1½ cup pigeon peas, soaked overnight, or substitute black-eyed peas (canned pigeon peas are available from HEB so I didn’t have to soak them overnight)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cup Coconut Milk
  • 2 cups cubed fresh Hubbard squash (I substituted with 1 acorn squash)
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bunch scallions or green onion, chopped including the greens
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Method:
Heat the oil in a heavy pot or skillet. With the heat on high, add the sugar and let it caramelize until it is almost burned, stirring constantly. Add the chicken (or meat) and stir until all the pieces are covered with the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Drain the pigeon peas and add them to the pot along with the rice, water, and coconut milk. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, stir until well mixed, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. The 
pelau should be moist at the end of the cooking time.

Note: Other recipes for pelau call for marinating the meat the night before (with salt, pepper, thyme, limes & garlic) & adding a scotch bonnet pepper to the pot. I will have to try these variations next time, especially the pepper.

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Please witness my office being all clean & stuff. It may be very temporary!

My office got a makeover.

I’ve lived in the duplex a year now, so I figured it might finally be time to decorate =)

The desk area is still kind of messy. Most of those photos are of trees. I kind of have a thing for trees.

This is my favorite section.  The hippo art on the left is from Austin’s Art from the Streets, a volunteer-run program where homeless artists can take art classes & then each year, on a weekend in November, they can sell their creations.  It is pretty interestingl.  The cool  & kind of ominous painting on the top is an original by a friend from college, the very talented J. Ashley Greenwood. The painting on the bottom right is some sort of surrealist painting I did back in the day. The coffee can on top of the right book shelf is kind of hard to see. It is an old Folger’s metal coffee can. Back in the late 80’s these existed as some sort of special promotion.  I kept it under my bed & put all my secret treasures inside.  I used to have nightmares about the lion though. The lion seriously creeped me out.

Here are some close up photos that other people have posted on flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neatocoolville/366368944/in/faves-katiskupcakes/

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/neatocoolville/366368942/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25692985@N07/4905423543/

Yay, a window!  This is the window from where I watch the squirrels & birds.  There are lots of both.

From left to right: dead or dying cactus (I am a murderer of plants & cause them to die slow, painful deaths), a wooden figurine thing of a traveler? that I scavenged from my last job -(On our last day, a guy cleaned out his office & left it in the hall),  photograph of my grandmother when she was young, rose thing I gave my grandmother for mother’s day when I was very young, photo of my sister – age 10 or something?, my space-dog! (created in college art class out of random parts I found in my parents’ shed),  spiritual icon thing my friend gave me, another photo of my sister. Let’s not forget the keyhole clock below the window. That thing is super cool, though it does need a new battery.

Also, a very awesome breakfast is on my desk here.  I promise that I did not eat all of those cookies for breakfast. Just a few. They are springerle & are dry cookies (but slightly softer & with just a hint of moistness in the middle) & they usually taste like licorice or anise. I’ve heard that sometimes people make them citrus flavored. That sounds good too but I have yet to try it.   No one I know likes these cookies because of the licorice flavor so that means more for me =)  They are perfect with a bit of Earl Grey tea. They are from here, Naeglin’s bakery, the oldest bakery in Texas.

That is all for now.

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Spring is here!

It is finally spring. I want to drink lots of iced tea (green or regular style) & spend all my time outside reading books or chasing the dog or watering the grass or just doing anything.

Instead, there is work & with work there is Tiredness.

Yesterday at work I had a prank caller that was trying to channel Charlie Sheen or something. Every statement was punctuated with “Ya Heard?!”  That left me at a loss of how to respond.  I wanted to say, “Yeah, I heard,” or something slightly mocking. I especially loved the part where he said he called me because of ‘Lil Wayne & just did not elaborate on this at all, even when I asked for clarification.

In what seemed like seriousness he stated that he had 3 questions for me. With that foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach I asked that he proceed. Long pauses happened instead.

So I asked again.  I knew better but I felt I had to continue. So he then asked very random questions, like, did I know when Kurt Cobain had died. Seriously?  As a child of the 90’s of course I know, but it’s a pretty redonkulus question to bring up during such a work conversation. Weird, weird, weird. Wannabe comedians wasting my time.

Enough ranting though. Today a southern lady called me honey & said I should get paid more because I am so very wonderful at what I do. =) So there are those moments too.

In other news, I am cooking up a storm this week.  There were the chocolate-chip cookies with wheat flour (because, dare I say it, I don’t actually like chocolate chip cookies that much & wanted to try an alternate version.) The
wheat flour did make them a more serious cookie. They were chewy & not too sweet.  Verdict?  They’re still not my favorite kind of cookie, but my very favorite version of chocolate chip cookies at least.

Also, Sunday night’s dinner consisted of sweet potato/buttermilk biscuits made into little biscuit sandwiches with ham & spicy mustard.  Next time I plan on eating them with just butter because they would be great by themselves too.  Oh, and these were my first ever homemade biscuits! I’m proud.  I never tried making biscuit dough before.  I had to use the 2 knives method because I don’t have a pastry thing.  So. That was kind of intense but fun!

Then, last night I stirred some pomegranate molasses for 1.5 hours so that it would become more syrupy.  I’m getting lots of  exercise just making food lately! I need to seriously be less clumsy & learn how to sterilize glass jars or do canning though so I can actually keep this stuff on hand for a while.

Oh & witness the scrumptiousness.  I’ve never made salmon taste so good before. Thanks to Magda for this recipe.


This week I’m trying to get better at what the enlightened hippies call “mindfulness”.

I think that means taking pleasure in the little things & in the moment. For me, I think that should mean being happy now, instead of thinking of “oh, when I have this bill paid off or can get a kitchen table or finally grow grass in my back yard or be able to afford a really schmancy DSLR…..I’ll be so happy.”  As clichéd as it sounds, I realize I need to be happy in the journey, that this is it, this is the fun part & I need to not take it for granted.

So, this weekend, I spent lots of time just vegging out with my dog, taking naps & reading in the backyard while she sniffed out the squirrels.  I think we needed the rest. ( She got very sick last week – We almost lost her I think -had to get her an IV & I had to feed her baby food from a syringe every 2 hours.  I was covered in baby food & that was not fun. Things are better now though, thank goodness. She is back to her energetic & happy self).

But I was able to spend Sunday afternoon watching her chase squirrels for 20 minutes as they taunted her. I got to listen to the wind in the trees, my favorite sound ever. Of course, every time I sit outside & enjoy the sound of the wind, I immediately think of this song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arFhEWAArN8 because the lyrics are about listening to the wind.  It’s a nice song, so that part is cool too.

Today at work, I enjoyed what is my new & better version of  a stress ball – Silly Putty!  I did find out that Silly putty wears out though. It doesn’t have that snap after a few days. I also have some bright blue Play-Doh. It doesn’t smell the same though. Perhaps they changed the smell as a way to discourage kids from eating it. I admit, I’m kind of odd & tasted a tiny piece to see if that was different too.  Just so you know, it is. It kind of tastes soapier. Another deterrent for curious children! I miss the old smell though.

I am quite glad it is spring.  Look what I was able to have for breakfast because it is spring:

Hooray for strawberries!

I will stop bragging now about all the good food & all the peaceful moments I have been privileged to obtain lately =) I just wanted to take a moment to notice them myself.

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It’s going to be a great day..

I’m so playing hooky from work today. I just decided spur of the moment because I’m such a wimp.  I’m really liking my job lately but I forgot my asthma medication yesterday so I took the recommended dosage today (normally I use 1/2) & now my thoughts are racing, my head is spinning & I just really don’t want to conduct 10 more 25 min task-oriented conversations with strangers when I feel so icky. It would be a disservice to all the clients, not to mention it would intensify this nervous feeling.

Instead, I am going to try to do tons of job applications for Bryan & make a pizza tonight.  Seriously guys, making pizza is the easiest & best thing ever.  Homemade crust is AMAZING and you can get all creative.  Like the collard green & farmer’s cheese pizza a few wks ago for example. It is a chance to eat really tasty carbs & cheese but not feel bad because you’re eating tons of veggies too.  Tonight, I’m thinking mushroom & tomato pizza. Yep.

Anyhow.  Back to the grind. I’m not wasting these 5 hours off.  I feel craptastic but I think I can still do a few things right.   I’m going to crank up the music, some Sabrosa Purr, suggested by the wonderful Katt. I’m going to do some laundry for a change, figure out stuff about tech certifications for Bryan & maybe have a nice calming cup of tea later =) No more caffeine for me today though haha.

P.S. Linking those semi-related songs in this post was not at all intentional.

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trying something new..

Anyone ever roast a duck before?  I tried it out recently, using these very detailed instructions:

http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2009/02/11/the-best-way-to-roast-a-duck-hello-crispy-skin/

At first I was going to try a recipe w/ plum sauce or maybe the orange sauce that came with it. However, Bryan really loves Sriacha & I love honey – so Jessie’s recipe sounded better!  I was thinking of making it as a surprise on the anniversary of our first date. However, I forgot when that was.. I had to look up Bob Dylan’s archived tour dates & discovered that’s not until mid-April. I  didn’t want to wait until mid-April!  Plus, at some point, Bryan would probably notice the huge frozen duck in my freezer.

So, I decided to try it.

It was my first attempt so I didn’t get the skin as crispy as I would have liked. That was probably because my knives are all really dull & I didn’t score the skin as well as I should have.

The sauces was really good though so it more than made up for the lack of crispiness.  It was a fun experiment. It turns out, duck is not my favorite thing ever. Bryan really liked it so I’ll probably make it again.  I’ll definitely make the sauce again soon though. I will probably enjoy it more with chicken & some kind of stir fried dish. Yum.

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FINALLY! A plant survived. Shannon has eaten or torn apart all my cacti & soon the snails will destroy this hyacinth.  Still, I was very happy to see it bloom for the first time =)

It appears that my purple heart plants might survive  too.

We’re not planting a garden this year but hopefully we CAN grow some grass out back. The city took away our grass last year for some reason. We had just moved here & had actually mowed the day before. Our neighbors had not though & the city took their weed-eaters to all the yards on the block & destroyed the grass =/  Then they charged my landlord $200. Craziness.  So, the next project will be planting grass seed.   Fun!

 

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