Tag Archives: food

Food, the good and the bad

First the bad: a week ago the power went out (transformer blew, judging from the sound). Only for around five hours but that’s enough that we had to throw out all dairy products and leftovers in the refrigerator. That’s Earth Balance, yogurt, feta, tofu, Parmesan, hummus and dog food. And cheddar. We don’t eat that much cheese per week, but given the unpredictability of what’s available in the pandemic I try to stock up. All wasted. I spent an extra hundred dollars replacing all that. Bummer.

The good. Some time back I read The Woman’s Own Book of the Home, a 1930s household management guide passed down from my grandmother. The recipes are a little intimidating to modern eyes as they say things like “place in the middle of a hot oven until done,” which isn’t very precise. However you can find translation guides online (“hot” in this context is 400 to 450 F) so I decided I’d try one of the bread recipes. I scaled it down by half — it’s the kind of thing you’d make for a farm family of six — and gave it a shot. Despite the lack of detail (no suggestion how long to knead it for, for instance), I had no trouble following it. Perhaps not surprising as I’ve been baking bread for around forty years, but I was actually surprised it came out well.It’s a basic whole wheat bread, nothing fancy, but satisfying. And as a translation of the recipe, an accomplishment I’m proud of.

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The refrigerator didn’t use to be this crowded

But the Trump Virus fridge is another story. It’s difficult to find space when our latest deliveries arrive. Even with sliding shelves, it’s often difficult to get stuff out.It didn’t use to be like this. The fridge would be packed Friday night or Saturday morning when we made our shopping trip to Whole Foods or Sprouts. Then it would slowly open up during the week. Now, though, I keep slightly more milk, kefir and cheese on hand, among other things, just in case there’s a shortage. Which isn’t being overly cautious either — things I expect to buy sometimes turn up unavailable from Amazon or Target. TYG loves grated Parmesan and eats a lot of it on pasta, so we need a lot of it on hand (ditto feta, which is behind some of the items on top).

Another factor is that TYG is cooking quite a bit. She’s whipped up her own recipe for marinated grilled veggies with tofu, and so there’s always a big container in the fridge either marinating or grilled. Plus I cook my stuff, which TYG sometimes eats, but not always (depends on her schedule). The aluminum foil covers an apple pie, for instance.

Plus we both put in food orders rather than make one weekly shopping trip, so that sometimes leads to excess. Even with the pantry holding a lot of extra food, we’re almost at capacity. I may give some thought this weekend to seeing how we can rearrange things for better use of space.

But yes, this is a trivial problem to have these days.

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I’m not planning to make this a weekly food post, but …

But I don’t have much to talk about this morning (let’s face it, I’m not traveling much), so here’s a photo of the maple oat bread I made last week.I’ve no idea how I stumbled across this online recipe because with a dozen bread books, I don’t usually go looking unless there’s something specific I want to bake with and don’t have recipes for. But this one turned out well. It’s a no-knead bread which made it easy: mix, leave it to rise, then dump it into a pot heated to 450 degrees in the oven. It came out great, though the maple isn’t as strong as I’d expected; the baked flavor of the crust drowns a lot of the sweetness. Toasting it, however, amplifies the maple taste a lot. So does eating it with cheese. I also tried eating it with something spicy but that didn’t enhance the flavor.

It’s also quite a large loaf, which is good as I go through my homemade bread very fast. Or bad, because when I have a huge loaf I often wind up eating that much more.

I think for my next loaf I’ll try something more demanding, with kneading, before I get too lazy.

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Thanksgiving was … different

Not the food. Eating at Café Parizade’s big vegan banquet, we found it delicious, as always. Here’s one of my dessert plates. Why yes, we did eat a lot. And enjoyed every mouthful. And they have some neat little figures outside the restaurant too.

But it was the first time in god knows how long that I’d had a day where I didn’t feel the need to do anything. It was a holiday. We didn’t have any errands to run Thanksgiving morning, nowhere to be until lunch, so I just lay around, read, petted dogs, took a walk … it felt fantastic. Even when I’m not writing, I structure (and sometimes overstructure) my time; when I give myself a day off from work, I usually use it to clean or something.

I think I need more days like yesterday. I’ll have Christmas and New Year’s Day, but I definitely need to find space for more truly lazy days in the coming year.

As for the rest of the week, it went fairly well. I got started on the next draft of Sexist Myths, did several Leaf articles and got a couple of thousand worlds on Oh the Places You’ll Go. I also sent in a revised proposal for Space Invaders to McFarland to see if they like it better (it’s tweaked to their specifications, so maybe). I submitted two short stories. And I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to accomplish next year.

Oh, and once again I had to work my schedule around contractor visits due to a plumbing problem. Not as disastrous or expensive as I’d feared though. But Plushie was exceptionally discomfited at having to be caged in with me so he couldn’t interfere with the work.

And here we are at December. Fingers crossed, I will wrap up the year with a productive bang.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, any rights to figures remain with current holders.

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Would you like some cheese with that wine?

I have to drink red wine to boost my good cholesterol. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I do like some of the labels:

Names too. What’s not to love about calling your vintage Banshee wine (though I don’t see where that bird image represents a banshee at all) or, like Gnarly Head (totally!)?

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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My goodness, this looks good. And it was, too.

So last weekend I got out 100 Great Breads and made an English recipe called farl bread, or bottom bread (because it’s made on the bottom shelf of the oven). It’s a simple white bread recipe with the top slashed so that as it rises, you get deep cuts in the loaf.

I think it came out looking good, yes?

I’m pleasantly surprised by the results. I bake a lot of breads that have some sort of slash on the top (irish soda bread traditionally gets a cross), but they rarely shape up this well in baking. I don’t know if it’s the recipe, or the solidity (it was a very firm dough) or just random chance, but I’m quite pleased with myself. Tastes good too; just a basic white bread, but the texture is distinctive.

I shall make another bread with slashes soon; if I’m actually getting better, I should be able to do it again, right? Wish me luck.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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A cute photo of a puppy, then my week in review.

Here’s the puppy, a corgi I met at Petco last weekend:

Now, the week. It’s part of a two week stretch with no Leaf to write, and it went well, despite the dental visit Tuesday and some extra dog-walking.

I submitted three stories to various markets.

I found an artist (my friend Samantha Collins) for the cover of my soon-to-be-self-published Questionable Minds.

I heavily reworked Chapter Three and Four in Sexist Myths (I’m also considering Lies That Sexists Tell as an alternative title), lumping “Feminists hate men” and “feminists won’t let men be chivalrous heroes” into one chapter (the latter was my original chapter four) and other “feminists destroy society/families/the government” in another. I think it works. However Chapter Four (feminists destroying stuff) needs a lot more information and examples than I’ve provided so far. Doable, but it’ll take work.

I didn’t get as much fiction done as I’d hoped, but I got quite a bit. I reworked The Schloss and the Switchblade yet again before submitting it to a movie-themed anthology. I did another draft of Death is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s really showing some improvement now. And I finally took a second look at one of my older stories, Oh, the Places You’ll Go. When I read it for the writers’ group, the reactions were that I needed to explore the concept (people being able to time travel via antique maps) more and give it a stronger plot. They were good criticisms though I didn’t want to give up the core of the original short story, which was the family dynamic. After giving it some thought yesterday while the dogs were in day care (as I’ve mentioned before, having dogs on my lap is too distracting to just think or outline or brainstorm), I came up with a tentative outline, some ideas about the “traveling” community and various ideas to give it more plot. I don’t know how long this revised version will be (several people said I should make it a novel, but I don’t know if that’s the right length) but I’ll let the story play out and see.

Overall nothing earthshaking, and nothing actually finished (sigh), but a week to be pleased with nonetheless.

To wrap up, here’s a blackberry goat cheese tart that I made last week. Very tasty.

#SFWApro. Images are mine

 

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No, that isn’t blood clots in my freezer

It’s tomato paste.

I never use up all the paste before it goes bad. Searching for a solution online I found a recommendation I freeze the paste in one-tablespoon blobs. That way I know exactly how much I have. After bringing it up on FB, several friends of mine said they’ve tried it and it works.

That may have been my big accomplishment for the week.

The sad collapse of my work schedule began around 12:30 Sunday morning when Trixie fidgeted to go out. She didn’t need to relieve herself, she just though it would be fun, but I had no way to know until after we got outside. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep so I was zonked most of the day.

On top of which, in the morning Trixie developed a major tummy upset. No puking, she just became very restless, refusing to sit still for more than a second, frequently hiding under chairs in hopes whatever was hurting her would go away. This was, of course, a major distraction, plus we had the inevitable vet visit (some painkillers, some stomach soothers and she was fine). So my Sunday work was shot to heck.

Monday morning TYG asked me to walk the dogs, which took another chunk of time, and I wasn’t able to get back on-focus afterwards. Wednesday I had a dental cleaning and checkup (teeth doing great, thanks). And Thursday I took one of my work days off. Just too many little tasks piling up and distracting me (paperwork, trip planning, contractors) that needed to be dealt with. Plus some extra cleaning. And quite simply needing a break. My mind was really balking at work Monday – Wednesday (and even before that) which is a sure sign I need a change of pace and a day to relax. And while I do not find cleaning fun, doing it without having to squeeze it into my schedule was strangely calming. Plus I watched a DVD and did some schedule planning for the rest of the year.

So not much actual writing done. Some Leaf, a little on Undead Sexist Cliches. But I don’t feel bad about it, and I think I’ll be back in top form next week.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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So recently I made a sandwich, but I didn’t photograph it

Because while it was tasty, a sandwich on a baguette just looks like every other sandwich on a baguette (the photograph below is from Wikimedia). But it got me thinking about the way I change recipes when I cook.

I found this one in an issue of Vegetarian Times. It looked tasty but it included three ingredients I hate: olive tapenade, eggplant and green beans (okay, I don’t hate them, but I’m kind of “meh” on them). So I substituted, respectively, mango chutney, portobello and peas (the vinegar-based marinade, garlic powder, hard-boiled eggs and red peppers in the recipe stayed the same). Obviously the taste was very different than the original concept, but it was still tasty. And I liked it a lot, as did TYG.

Mushroom for eggplant is a standard change in my cooking. So is swapping either peas or some sort of bean for corn, because I loathe corn. As TYG hates yogurt, I find substitutes for that, too, which is trickier; if it’s just a topping rather than a sauce, I’ll use goat cheese, which we both like.

The thing is I don’t need to do any of that. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a lot of cookbooks. There’s more than enough recipes with no “problem” ingredients that I could save myself any efforts to swap stuff out this way (the exception being when I run out of ingredient A and have to dig up something that will work as an alternative). Yet some recipes just click with me when I read them in the cookbook or recipe magazine or wherever, even though they have an ingredient that makes me go “yuck!” Not all recipes; some just don’t substitute naturally. I can’t stand sauerkraut but I can’t think of a good substitute, so vegetarian Reuben recipes are a no go.

I honestly don’t know why I can look at a recipe and see it as something different that I’ll like better (not that it is better — it’s a matter of personal taste, nothing more). But it expands my range of options and gives me some delicious meals, like the baguette. So why not?

#SFWApro. Image by Nicola taken from Wikimedia under Creative Commons license

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So last weekend I made a pie

It was my friend and fellow writer Ada Milenkovic Brown’s 65th birthday party. As it happened, I’d bought ricotta for something else, then not used it; looking through Vegetarian Epicure I found a recipe for torta di ricotta. Way high on butter and (obviously) cheese, but I figured it was a good way to use up the ricotta. And it actually came out looking good.

Tasted good too. I had a great time at the party and learned Ada’s actually mentioned by name in Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice (second edition and all subsequent ones). It’s in the “Looking Glass Insects” chapter, in one of the footnotes, as Ada Brown. Dang I have cool friends!

I also walked our friend Celena’s dogs Lily and Tito as her family were out for the day. They were very excited to see me, especially Tito the toy poodle. Lily likes me too but she’s way more laid back and Tito’s a bundle of energy.

Saturday, after completing a ton of shopping errands (dog meds, dog and cat food, other useful items) I got a call that the replacement battery for my laptop was in. Out to the mall! And happily the Apple Store got it fixed that evening, so I picked it up Sunday. It’s sooooo nice having a full twelve hours of power again, and not worrying about whether it’s going to run down before my writing wraps up.

#SFWApro. Images are mine.

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