Monday, December 29, 2008

Peanut Gallery

It was back to work after an extraordinarily light previous week, so I did it in style and put in 12 hours and three meals. Surprisingly easy, probably because I was so rested and, quite frankly, ready to return to my sometimes maddening but always entertaining residents and staff. Immediately following my shift, I donned my workout gear and headed to a vinyasa yoga class that I've been frequenting. Luckily, my yoga high didn't get me lost this time, and I came home afterward to a quiet, albeit crumby house (the kids apparently heated up last night's waffles for breakfast). (Is it exhausting how I can always make a short story long?)

I poked around the kitchen a bit, not particularly hungry, but always game for an inspired snack or salad, then gave up, lit a few candles and sat in my Chair of Fabulosity with a cookbook. This evening's cookbook was one I'd used for the first time just a few nights ago. Not without hesitation, I prepared a Spiced Peanut and Sweet Potato Soup for myself and the kids. Usually when I venture into less commonplace fare, I can win over one, maybe two of them. But this was a huge hit with all three. (I'm holding back the recipe for just a few days. I'll explain later.) I wanted to see what other secrets this magnificent manual might hold, so I began flipping through it, but was unable to get the peanut soup out of my mind.

So I did what any girl would do. I ran a bath. Quiet, cool night. No errands, no children. And shortly after I started the water, I looked in the fridge at the peanut butter. Inspiration was tickling my tastebuds. It was time to create. I checked the pantry and was elated to see a can of coconut milk. I knew I was onto something. And while the tub filled, I created a delightful peanut sauce for my broccoli. Sure, it could go on any number of foods, but I was craving something green and at hand.
Ginger's Peanut Sauce
1 c. lite coconut milk
1/3 c. natural peanut butter
1 t. Sriracha chile sauce
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. lime juice
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. grated ginger
1/2 t. salt

Combine over low heat. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

The only problem was that my bath was ruined. I soaked, impatiently waiting for the opportunity to devour my beautiful broccoli, lightly tossed in the nutty, spicy sauce. I'd hate to know the carbon footprint of my gallons of hot water and its impact on the environment since I didn't even enjoy it.

A couple of important details. . .I didn't measure anything -- as usual. Just giving you fair warning. I'm likely pretty close, but if you find it to be disgusting, please let me know and I'll tweak my measurements. Also, unless you have a use for the other half of your can of coconut milk, I'd go ahead and double this baby. As I was experimenting, I was somewhat conservative in my quantities. I'll probably whip up the rest of this tomorrow. Hey, maybe I'll even measure!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ginger's Bread House

Sure, I did it again. I'm amazed at how I can ramp up my posts with several in a row and then disappear as if I've been locked in my Closet of Eternal Joy and Happiness (it happened to Emily, by the way).

So though it might seem obvious that I update you on my first Solstice at the new house or provide an update on my adventures, I think I'll make my grand return with tales of two baking enterprises.

I'd suppose it's been two weeks ago that I invited Billy, Sparky (formerly known as Activities Assistant Josh) and Christina (she blogged about this too!) to the house for bread baking lessons. I'll admit, I'm not the best of teachers as I took over as they sat at the bar while I occasionally blurted out a tip or trick. First we made my regular everyday sandwich loaf, along with a cinnamon raisin one, then a potato bread that was handed down from Christina's grandmother. The first loaves were mixed, kneaded, raised, baked and eaten without pause. From the outside, we must've appeared as a band of starving refugees. Between four adults and three kids, we devoured three pounds of bread in about 45 minutes. And it was all worth it.

Christina's loaf didn't fare as well, it was reported. We started it here, but sent it home to bake and the results were not phenomenal. Sometimes, as hard as it is to admit, freshly ground whole wheat flour isn't the perfect ingredient. There I said it. But don't expect to hear it from me again.

And as six Decembers have come and gone since moving from L.A., the same number have passed since I've ventured into gingerbread house making. I'd guess that we made them with the Pusateris, Andersens and Charests for two or three years and it was always a delightful event. I'd spend the better part of a day baking house parts while others would gather candy for decorating and actual nutritious food to sustain us through the backbreaking process of house assembly and adorning. It was a perfect holiday tradition that I couldn't bear to continue once we relocated in the Midwest. I'd considered it a few times but I could feel the return of the heartbreak that was leaving our hand-picked family from the West Coast.

This year, however, I could stomach it. If ever there was a time for me to reinvent an old tradition, it was now. New house. Nickname: Ginger. Not much else holiday-ish going on. So I did it. I hit the bulk bins at the grocery store for a reasonable assortment of candies, baked the house and let the kids have at it. They loved it and I loved watching them. I can be quite a curmudgeon this time of year, but they make me remember that I need to step out of my own self and let them have some joy. Which in turn gives me joy.

Joy to the World.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Cheer?

Imagine my surprise when I returned a call to my divorce attorney and was immediately put on hold. No. . .that part wasn't surprising. In this season of incessant holiday sing-alongs, jingles and carols, one might anticipate a chirpy (albeit politically incorrect) Musak version of Angels We Have Heard on High while waiting to be patched through to the correct office, but I was stunned by this haunting pipe organ. A bit ominous, no?

Toccata and Fugue in D minor - Bach

Only YOU Can Prevent Syrup Abuse

I'm picturing Smokey the Bear pointing his index finger at you while tapping a maple for sap.

A couple of nights ago, Em put in a special request for waffles the following morning. I couldn't come up with a valid excuse to avoid the task, so early Friday, I thumbed through a couple of cookbooks and picked a new recipe. The twist on these was one I've used in the past. Sweeten the waffles (or pancakes) with maple syrup (oh please-for-the-love-of-baked-goods, don't consider anything but the real stuff). I've had varying degrees of luck with the last few recipes, as well as my dear iron. Sure, it's 50 years old, but it's still got some kick left. Anyway, I made said waffles and by the second bite, they had been declared The Best Ever. I'm happy to take each culinary victory as it comes. Even in the shape of a grid.

That afternoon, the kids called me at work asking if there were leftovers. They enjoyed the last two and promptly begged for another batch for Saturday. So this morning (after I got my arse kicked at spinning class. Woot!), I doubled my quantity. As of now, I have less than a dozen small waffles that will potentially hit the freezer, but by the afternoon, that number might drop significantly. Even if they nosh all afternoon long, the best part is that there will be no drippy syrup mess about my kitchen. They are all completely satisfied to eat them just as they are.

And on that note, I return to my food blogging ways and pass this gem to you. . .

Maple Waffles (from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes)
Makes 12 4-inch waffles; serves 4-6

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla extract
3 egg whites
butter or oil for greasing iron

Preheat the waffle iron. In a large bowl, stir together flour, powder and salt. In another bowl, combine milk, syrup, oil and vanilla. Stir the maple mixture into the dry ingredients until well combines. In a clean medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into batter. Grease waffle iron and spread batter into it. Cook until the iron no longer steams (about five minutes) or until the waffle is browned. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sit and/or Spin

Twice this week my exercise plans have been blown out of the water by circumstances completely beyond my control. Hmmm. That might be a exaggeration. But really. I'm desperately seeking a place for the blame, and I'd prefer it not be my own shoulders.

So Monday I woke well before the sun and gleefully headed to my class. It was a fair morning, probably already 40 degrees, and after leaving the house, realized it would probably be a good day to run. But I had missed that class for almost three weeks due to work (and perhaps a bit of play), so I faithfully drove toward the gym. And then Hot Red Speed's idle slowed a bit, and just as quickly as it had started a few minutes prior, the engine stalled. And I knew what had happened. I had run out of gas. I had run out of gas. What 38 year old runs out of gas? Ok. Please listen to my excuse. Please! I had just come off my long working weekend. You know, the one where I go to work at 6 a.m. both days and return after 6 p.m. both days. The little gas light made itself known over the weekend but I continually ignored it. Before dawn, it hardly seemed prudent. After my days ended, I was rushing home to get to the kids. Sure, I typically have some down time on those days, but why on earth would I consider buying gasoline when I could be reading a cookbook? Anyway. A kind young man stopped to help (I didn't feel comfortable leaving my van unattended in the left turn lane of Ward Parkway at Gregory), brought me a couple gallons and I made it home. . .but not before stopping for petrol.

And then today. My Friday class involves a speedy drive from dropping the kids at school to the gym. I typically make it there very shortly before it starts. Which is fine, except I don't get one of the "good" bikes for those classes. But I was ready to go nonetheless. And as I pulled up to the elementary, Audrey sadly realized she'd forgotten her backpack (though she had remembered her treasured unicorn, Pretty). So I dutifully headed home to retrieve her schoolwork and took it back to her, knowing yet another plan to enjoy my spinning buzz had been foiled.

Now, sure. I could've gone on in and run on the treadmill or lifted weights, or both. . .but I know you've been missing my ramblings. Right?