Friday, April 30, 2010

Rice cookers work for oatmeal

Yes, that's this morning's TRUTH BOMB: you can use your rice cooker to make oatmeal. It turned out denser but less clumpy (smoother) than my stovetop method. I used "cook in 3 minutes!" rolled oats but used the "Steam for 10 minutes" option on the rice cooker because that's the least it can do.
Add whatever you want at the end (dried cherries, cinnamon, raisins, a blurp of honey, and a splash of coconut milk), stir, and serve.
The rice cooker is officially along for the ride to the marathon this weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

QUINOA- It's What's For Dinner

Going full-vegan again tonight for dinner, with mexican-style quinoa. That's what I'm calling quinoa cooked with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, some more of my new dried sweet banana peppers (NOT the fiery ones!), black beans, cumin, chile powder, and tomato paste, then topped with cilantro. Maybe there should be some corn, too? That will be my leftover-stretching strategy. On the side tonight, tortillas with homemade guacamole. Ole!

The kind of break you can't wait to end

Usually, a break from work never lasts long enough. But for today's break, I didn't have anything to read* or anything to eat. So sad. Good thing work's a pleasure to get back to!

(*OK, I work in a book store, so I was actually surrounded by things to read, but I had left MY book at home, and I didn't want to risk spilling water or doing something else unintentionally destructive to any of the store's fine reading materials. Quibble, quibble. Plus it's just funnier to be without anything to read or eat just days after starting this blog, right?)

(Full disclosure: I also had a lovely text conversation with my husband on my smartphone, so maybe I could have waited longer for my break to end. But then where's my dramatic title?)

Wolves and Step-fathers and Sichuan Peppers, oh my!

Dinner Tuesday wound up being Greek pasta (garlic, olives, green peppers, onions, more garlic, some tomato, diced zucchini, lots of fresh oregano, white wine, and olive oil) served with whole wheat pita and spicy hummus, in case you were wondering.

Reading: I finished "Dust City" by Weston yesterday, and ooooh, it was so good! I really enjoyed the fairy tale connections (there was one that I didn't catch until a climatic scene-- smacking myself in the forehead for not catching on earlier!), but I think my favorite thing was the gritty noir atmosphere, and how it somehow worked perfectly with the dark fairy tale fantasy elements. I hope adults will give this a read, even though it's being published for teens. The novel is so smart and entertaining! I ordered a big pile for the store.

I also got a respectable length into "Family Man" by Lipman. It is fun! I've been trying to cast it in my head because it reads like a delightful movie. I haven't figured out who I see as the main character (Henry-- just realized both books I read yesterday have Henrys as protagonists!)yet, but his ex-wife, Denise, reminds me of the fabulous Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth in "Arrested Development"), and I imagine funny, loveable step-daughter Thalia as Alexis Bledel (just a little older). The New York setting, likeable characters (and a few we can all agree to love to hate)and sweet, gentle tone have me reading along quite happily. I think this would be a great vacation book or what I call a "palate cleanser"-- the kind of book you turn to after something particularly momentous or challenging. You know, a "nice" book. (And I don't mean that in a snarky way or a belittling way... Can't we all use more "nice" in our lives?)

Eating: Yesterday was another oatmeal morning (with dried cherries and almonds, and plenty of cinnamon.
For lunch, I had leftovers of the greek pasta. I was considering using one of my stretch-the-leftover tricks of adding frozen green peas before reheating, but I still had so much leftovers that I didn't have to do any doctoring.
I only snacked on ONE piece of Colleen's toffee. I still can't believe I was that good.

Then we come to dinner! Big excitement: I tried out my sichuan cooking skills! When we were in Beijing recently, we did a cooking class in a hutong, and we made fabulous chicken with chiles and sichuan peppers. I used my newish wok, my new peanut oil, and my new straight-from-Chengdu sichuan peppers and some super-fiery dried peppers from the University District farmers market to make what we will call Dragon Breath Tofu.
DRAGON BREATH TOFU sounds kind of like a new form of kung fu, doesn't it?

I applied elements of our "Three Treasures" recipe from Beijing (cooking sliced potatoes in a wok in peanut oil, then splashing water on to cook them through), Chinese cooking ideas from the other dishes (heating the peppers in a hot wok with peanut oil, adding splashes of soy sauce with sugar and splashes of rice wine around the wok during cooking, and some of my own mad kitchen creativity (broccoli's great with sichuan peppers because those little suckers get stuck in the branches). It was tingly, spicy, and fun. I put ginger and garlic in for flavor. I think next time I would heat the peppers alone in oil for longer (these peppers tasted a little bitter), and I would add more water to the rice cooker so my rice would be stickier, but otherwise, things went well. J. brought added his own super-fiery pepper to his plate as needed throughout the meal so he could get it hiccuping hot(the Chinese "la" heat) while I enjoyed the tingle ("ma") and fragrant spice of the sichuan peppers.

Oatmeal again this morning, testing out an instant "Oats and flax" variety from Natural Directions. It was a little too sweet for my taste, so we just may bring the rice cooker to Canada as an oatmeal cooker for pre-marathon routine. We'll test that theory tomorrow.

I think it's time to finish up the Greek pasta leftovers for lunch. For tonight, I'm thinking quinoa.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Eat, Read, Sleep

The Indie Bound bags have one side with the slogan "Eat, Read, Sleep." That's the inspiration-- now, GO!

What I'm reading:
Family Man by Elinor Lipman (she's coming for an event May 8)-- literally just opened to the first page so far, but I have a feeling it's going to be a fun spring read.

Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (ARC-- publication date 11/10). Halfway into this (and several other teen or kids' books for the Penguin fall season, since I just had my rep meeting today) and I'm LOVING it! Weston's debut, Zorgamazoo, was my favorite kids' chapter book for 2008, and his second novel is blowing me away. This one is for teens (and adults), and it's a noir/fantasy/fairy tale, featuring Arthur Whelp, the teenaged son of Little Red Riding Hood's murderer, as the main character. It's not just a witty reimagining of fairy tales (although the kick-ass Snow White had me giggling out loud)-- it is a great, gritty coming of age story, a mystery, and even social commentary. Fantastic! I wish I could start selling it right now. Oh, wait-- PREORDERS! I guess I can!

What I'm eating:
Since New Year's, we've been vaguely vegan. After convincing arguments against animal protein from The China Study (and our annual post-holiday detox), we have been cooking vegan at home (mostly) and eating vegan or vegetarian/pescatarian for the most part. The reason is health-- personal health and environmental health. But we're staying flexible and listening to our bodies. (We were total omnivores during our China trip, and we will eat whatever our friends serve us!)

Today's menu thus far is a good example.

We started off with one of our favorite breakfasts: oatmeal! Yes, it warrants the exclamation point. Today's was a mix of steel cut oats and rolled oats because I was down to oat dregs since I need to go to the grocery store. No matter-- it cooked up tasty and delicious with dried dates, sliced almonds, cinnamon, a little bit of flax seed, and a splash of coconut milk. Banana on the side, and OJ, too.

Then I was feeling peckish and almost broke into some age-old graham crackers in the pantry. Instead, I made chamomile tea for myself and Colleen, my sales rep who was coming for our fall appointment. Lucky, lucky me, Colleen brought a bag of homemade amazing graham cracker toffee! She coated graham crackers in boiled brown sugar/butter toffee mixture and nuts (hazelnuts and pecans), then cooked all at 350 for about 8 minutes. When she took it out of the oven, she sprinkled chocolate chips on top. Then this morning, she brought some to me. It's like she read my craving mind! Not so vegan or so healthy, but that's OK-- it is so delicious, I'm sure the endorphins I got from the toffee must be beneficial.

Lunch was "raid the fridge while working," so it was a little weird, but still good. I had some leftover rice from Indian food, leftover sweet potato (with a hint of cardamom), and a fried egg. Yes, an egg. Again, not so vegan. But I had two eggs left over from baking for a store event, so I thought I might as well eat one. I probably should have had some more veggies, so I'm thinking about some broccoli or a carrot for snack when I get hungry later.

Who knows what dinner will hold? I'm thinking some sort of pasta, since Sunday is J's marathon, but I'm also in the mood to make some soup. Why not both?