Thursday, December 4, 2008

For the Love of Music

This the last part of a six part traditional music series called "Dim Oma" or "My Beautiful/Good Husband". All six videos together tell a whole story of love, marriage and disappointment. I happen to like the sixth video the most so that's why I'm sharing it today.

My Most Essential Kitchen Tool?

Okay, I have quite a few drafts of posts saved but such limited time to post the way I want to. Anyway, here's one that's been languishing but that, of course, I'm excited to post because, well, it's about what I do the most (besides taking care of my babies): cooking.
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About a year ago, I finally got frustrated enough with my $10 flea market knife (that needed to be sharpened every two minutes). It took double the time to cut everything and I could never do precision/fine dicing without resorting to using my food processor. So with the encouragement of the hubby (because, it seems, I can tolerate nonsense a whole lot longer than he can), I started to do the research/learn about knives. I wanted a knife that was strong and that would last. Something that could get really sharp and hold that sharp for some time. I wanted something that was versatile and that felt good in my hand. So I looked all over, read all kinds of articles, asked on some message boards and finally decided to purchase a
Henckels Professional ''S'' 8" Chef's Knife

How it's described
Sturdy, heavy knife with broad, strong blade and fine cutting edge. The all-around for professionals and hobby chefs cleans vegetables, minces herbs and chops anything. Also known as the cook's knife, it's the workhorse of all kitchen knives. Knife handle is rocked up and down with one hand while the fingers of the other hand rests lightly on the back of the blade.

Designed for professional chefs with a forged blade of high-carbon stainless steel that resists stains, rust and corrosion. Henckels products, hand-crafted in Solingen, Germany since 1731, set the world standard for appeal, function and style. The trustworthy quality and tradition of these riveted knives is easily visible by the full tang and the full length of solid steel. Classical styling and state-of-the-art technology in blade manufacturing combine to form the TWIN Pro-S Series.

Oh, yes, ya'll, I love this knife. It is indeed the most essential of all my kitchen tools. I can go from slicing carrots to finely dicing onions, to chopping tomatoes and grapes. It makes short work of even the tallest mountain of food preparation.

The fact that the blade is eight inches allows me to use the knife to carve and skin things with ease. I'm very happy I didn't get a longer blade. In the beginning, though, I had problems getting a good sharp on the knife's blade. I fumbled around a bit before I decided to just go on ahead and get an electric knife sharpener. I purchased the PrestoPro EverSharp at Amazon.com and it sharpens the knife flawlessly. As a bonus, the hubby also sharpens all the knives in his collection (which include some passed on to him from his grandfather). Look, when this sharpener gets done with a knife, it is truly a lethal weapon.

I bought the knife itself at Bed, Bath and Beyond and with a coupon I had, I don't think I paid more than $80. But in terms of the efficiency that it has brought to my life in the kitchen and now that I know how valuable a good knife is to a serious cook, I would have easily paid double.

So, I'd like to know, what is your most essential kitchen tool (not appliance but tool)?

The Friendship Award

You know, it's always nice when someone else enjoys/cares about what you write/your ramblings. I find it so encouraging. :)

A few weeks ago, I was so happy to have found a blog called SupremeUltimate by Ensayn. I was drawn in by the keen observations and insight. I have thoroughly enjoyed every post I have read so far. So I was very honored when Ensayn nominated me for this award. Thank you!

So now as the rules state, I should nominate 8 other bloggers. But I won't do that just yet. I have subscribed to quite a few blogs over the last few weeks and I'm slowly, slowly getting through them. Many of them I find fascinating. So I'll hold off on nominating for a while.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chocolate Chip Macaroons--A work in Progress

Yesterday was a tough day. Tuesdays are generally the hubby's day off but he picked up an extra shift. So I was on my own for the majority of the day. After finally getting the boys ready, we set off to the library and then to get Z2's blood drawn. The phlebotomist was perhaps the most unprofessional professional I've ever met in my life. When we came into the lab, she didn't even get off the phone or tell whoever she was speaking to to hold on while she attended us. To make matters worse, she missed my baby's vein and was poking around trying to find it while he wailed. I told her to stop and try again. Luckily, she got it on the second go round. Poor Z2. And Z1 was just cranky all day long. I made him take a nap after I couldn't take the whining and poor behavior anymore. He passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow. So I took the opportunity to put Z2 on my back in the Asian Baby Carrier (ABC) carrier and set about to make something sweet.

A few weeks ago we went to Muscoot Farm and there my friend shared with me a very not vegan chocolate dipped chocolate chip macaroon. It was delicious. I wanted to try to replicate it. I came up with the following recipe (based very loosely on a cookie recipe found in Dreena Burton's book):

Chocolate Chip Macaroons
1 1/4 spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup shredded coconut
3/4cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted almonds (stick raw almonds in a preheated 400 degree oven for 5-8 mins until the smell fragrant)
2 egg substitutes (I use Ener-G egg replacer)

Bake at 350 degrees fro 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 2-3 minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack.

They were good but not as decadent at the one I had on the farm. I think to fix that I would add a tad bit more chocolate chips, switch out the maple syrup for a simple syrup (not to mention that I have serious guilt issues about baking with maple syrup as it is now seriously, I mean, seriously expensive) or use only a syrup to sweeten it (the one I had at the farm was sweetened with corn syrup only and I think a liquid sweetener lends a certain crispiness that I'd like out of a macaroon). I think more chocolate chips and a liquid sweetener would make the sweetness a little more in your face too. Right now the sweetness is mellow. Almost like you'd expect from a bread. I think I'd also use only on egg substitute. I've found that too much Ener-g egg replacer often achieves the opposite of the desired effect and the pastry (or pancake or bread) is too crumbly and falls apart too easily. I might also melt some chocolate chips in a double boiler and dip each one . . . although in that case I wouldn't add more chocolate chips to the batter. So, it's truly a work in progress.

As for pizza and making pizza dough, I've gotten so good at it, it's not even a project anymore. It's routine. And everyone loves it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crash Book Review

Because I don't have time to give an in-depth review of all the books I've read over the last couple of weeks, I'm going to do drive-by reviews and say that all these books are enjoyable and worth reading.

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

A futuristic book that imagines what the world is like after "The Great Change". This book was intriguing because it is set in and around present day Nigeria.








A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A classic book that documents the coming of age of a young poor girl. I think what intrigued me the most about the book was the father in that he was a series of contradictions--yet the protagonist loves him fiercely. It really made me think about how devoted children are to their fathers no matter how or what they are.






Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

This book is still making me shiver. It imagines the world in 2022 that has run out of oil (two and three car garages are to the main character a fascinating relic of the past) and where the economy has completely crashed. There's chaos, to say the least. The book is not very hopeful. It is gorey. But it is an excellent warning. Excellent read.





Dawn by Octavia Butler
Another post-apocalyptic read by the unmatched Octavia Butler. This one was a little out there . . . strange but delicious to read. It imagines a world that has been destroyed by nuclear warfare. A handful of humans are saved by an alien species (the Oankali). The main character, Lilith, tries to figure out why they have been saved and learns the disturbing truth: the Oankali plan to mix and cross-breed with humans as it is essential to their own survival. I want to read the next 2 books in the series but I'm trying hard to get my knitting/crochet on. So I think I'm going to take a break for a while.



Currently Reading
Angela's Ashes by James McCourt











I also found out that my little godson has learned to read. I am overjoyed. One of my best memories from childhood was hearing myself string letters together to make words and then those words clicking in my brain and making sense and then realizing I was reading. One of my most joyous moments was being able to walk into the library, sign my name on the back of my first library card and borrow books. What a joy and succor to my soul is reading!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Z1-isms

Z1 is a funny little dude. He's challenging at times because he's 3 and reasoning with him is often an exercise in futility. Case in point: I was putting the boys down to bed last night and he decided he wanted to blow bubbles (my friend bought him a little spill-less bubble thing so he's free to blow bubbles and I don't have to worry about the solution being all over the floor). Well, I explained to him that Z2 was very cranky and it was time for bed. He just kept repeating over and over again, "I want to blow bubbles" and I kept repeating what I was saying until I realized how pointless it was and stopped talking. Eventually, he just got into bed.

But what makes Z1 funny and brilliant are the things he says. Yesterday, it was snowing lightly outside. I said, "Z1, isn't it beautiful?" He said, "Yes, mom, it's boofillool. I going to go outside to ice skate." I was rolling. I made him repeat "beautiful" about 3 or 4 times. It's funny because he has no idea why I was laughing so hard and I was just thrilled that he made the connection between snow and ice skating.

A few weeks ago he's doing some silliness and me and my niece say, "Z1, you're so hilarious." He gets this stern look on his face, points with his finger and says, "I not hilarious . . . I serious." Oh, really now? No, son, you are indeed hilarious.

Two days or so ago he says, "I am angry indeed" although by now I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a good idea of what it means to be angry. And yesterday, since he woke up with a cough, he asked for coffee. Of course.

I think the Z1-ism that tickles me the most is when a few months ago he says, "Don't touch my two head" and I'm like, "Oh gosh, what is a two-head?" If you know 3 year olds, you know that you not being able to understand them can turn into an all-out meltdown. So I'm racking my brain trying to figure out what he's talking about. Then it hits me! His "two-head" is his "forehead" (you know, like four-head) and I learned that he doesn't liked to be kissed on his two-head. Only on his cheeks.

Look, Z1 is a strong boy with a big personality. Since I gave birth to him I knew that. He keeps me in stitches. He also frustrates me a lot (his standard response to any request I make is a curt "No!"). But he is a huge joy. He also surprises me a great deal with his insight and ability to observe. I enjoy both of my boys immensely. What a blessing they are!
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