Serena’s been wanting cake.
Let me back up. In about three months I’m going to have a lot less stuff and I figure that includes things like 4 cans of organic pumpkin and every kind of dried bean known to man and an astoundingly lot of saffron, something I use about once a year when I remember I have it. So I’m kind of on a mission to use up everything that I’ve hauled from one side of the continent, almost, to the other and then back again, especially since I figure that with moving and storage costs, those cans of organic pumpkin have cost me about $18 each and I am damned well going to use them.
And somewhere I found some boxes of cake mix that may have come from the Clinton Administration but that stuff never goes bad, I’m pretty sure.
And I also found a can of crushed pineapple, which sounds like what’s leftover at the pineapple-canning factory after they’re done stamping out all those identical round disks and sliding tubes of them into cans. But I can’t let anything go to waste and from some dim memory I pulled out something that used a box of cake mix, a can of crushed pineapple and a can of cherry pie filling.
Sounds awful, but I made the mistake of mentioning it to Serena and before I knew it I was in the cherry pie filling aisle noticing how many different types of cherry filling there are. Who knew?
So Serena, the new cook, mixed up the cake batter using the pineapple juice as the liquid and using melted butter instead of oil. This was looking pretty good. I was visualizing yellow cake with bits of fruit in it here and there.
Then she added the cherries, and by “cherries” I actually mean “glutinous wet purple mass with some darker wetter bits in it,” along with the pineapple sludge and we spread the whole thing in the cake pan and into the oven.
By that time I was pretty prepared for what came out but still held out hope.
But no, what we have is a dense, moist purple brick.
I keep making everybody’s pieces larger and larger in the hope that the purple mass of denseness will soon disappear before it spawns but it’s not going away.
You know how when you build up anticipation for something, it makes you want it all the more?
It all started with ice cream. I don’t eat much ice cream. Maybe once a year. It just isn’t my thing. Salty-crunchy, yes. Sweet and dairy, no. So no ice cream, not much anyway. Hardly ever.
But not long ago Matthew asked me, in a sort of intense (in a good way) moment, what I wanted. Just answering that question unloosed all sorts of things within me, since I don’t know when the last time was that I ever felt so free to say what I wanted. It could have been anything. Anything at all. It was one of those intense (in a good way) moments that you know you will remember for the rest of your life. I could have anything I wanted. I just had to say what it was. Anything. Several things! As many things as I wanted. Only…what did I want?
“Ice cream,” I heard myself say.
Wait. Ice cream? Did I just say that? And indeed, all I could think about then was ice cream, sweet, melty. The thought of ice cream was all wrapped up in that incredibly intense (in a good way) and intimate moment.
So ever since, I’ve been thinking about ice cream.
The Indian store I frequent (I love being the only non-Indian shopping there) has ice cream. Huge vats of it, with indecipherable writing on the side. I did manage once to identify a picture of a mango on one and we brought home delicious mango ice cream instantly devoured by everyone. Even me, in the kitchen surreptitiously licking the spoon after shoveling it into bowls for everyone else.
But this time I wanted pineapple. Surely the Indian store would stock pineapple ice cream, would they not?
Serena went in with me. She also had a taste for ice cream. Pineapple. We looked inquiringly at the containers. One had a picture of several fruits on the side, including a pineapple. The name was “tutti-frutti”. I figured it was a mixture of flavors, including pineapple. Sure, I could live with that. So we bought a vat of it the size of Wisconsin and trundled it into the back of the car where the weight of it immediately caused the two back tires to go flat. But no matter. We had ice cream.
I amped up the anticipation factor by leaving the thing in the freezer for a couple of days while we all thought slaveringly of pineapple ice cream.
Finally, it was time.
The color of this product is best described as Fluorescent Terra Cotta. And the flavor? Recycled Cotton Candy. And, worse, somebody left bits and pieces, chunks really, of leftover dried fruit pits and skins in it. Or… something.
Even Serena, who has been known to force her way through many a (to me) disgusting thing simply to soak up its sugar content, could not be paid enough to eat a second bowl of tutti-frutti ice cream.
Maybe next year we’ll try the flavor called “custard apple.”
This morning I made coffee, as usual.Â I was up most of the night and I needed coffee.Â Really, really needed it.Â I boiled water in my electric kettle.Â I ground my lovely light-roast beans and poured the ground coffee into my french press.Â I poured some maple syrup into my cup to sweeten the eventual coffee I’d pour in there after it brewed.Â The water was boiling, so I poured it.
Into the coffee cup with the maple syrup.
That coffee wasn’t nearly strong enough.
Ever-conscious of your delicate sensibilities, I have been sparing you the details of my ongoing search for coffee beans that aren’t burned to a smoking black crisp, rendering them devoid of taste other than of the charred dead remains of what was (presumably) once an actual coffee bean.
Once upon a time, I got my coffee from Whole Foods. This was after a 12-year Coffee-Free-Phase, punctuated by the carefree caffeine-free taint of Several Small Children Inhabiting Parts of My Body for Months At A Time. So after 12 years of this self-denial, I decided to sow a wild oat or two and start drinking coffee again. That’ll teach ‘em! Caffeine denial, PAH! So I went to Whole Foods, got the least-blackened beans they had, went home and ground them and poured hot water over them in my French press, then added sugar and cream and went ahhhh.
That’s the sound of satisfied self-indulgence.
And life was good.
So about a year ago, picking up where I left off but now not as close to Whole Foods, I searched online for Not Burnt Beans and found some. Sumatran! Himalayan! Coffee bliss!
Except, not organic. Not free trade. Not shade-grown. Not guilt-free.
I kept drinking what I had, though, eliminating the sugar and the cream and using rice milk. Still good. Still not burnt.
But the guilt.
So the search.
Undoubtedly you know of at least 11 purveyors of organic free trade shade grown coffees that aren’t burnt to the point of tasting like ass (why is this so hard?), but they are few and far between in my experience.
First place: Yes! We have “light” roast! Give us your money! We are enticing! Look!
Result: ass. Blackened, burnt ass. Liars.
Second place: Yes! Look! Mmm, the aroma, the flavor! “Light”! We can tell you anything as long as we qualify it in quotation marks! Entice! Spend! Give us money!
Result: ass. As a kid, this is what I thought coffee tasted like. Is this what most people drink, this murky bitterness?
Desperate run to the [non-Whole Foods] grocery store: Why? Why do I bother?
So yesterday I tricked Serena into a Food Procurement Foray, and we stopped at Whole Foods to get chocolate for Nathaniel, organic cream cheese to go with smoked salmon for Matthew, and crackers that are only sold at Whole Foods and why why why do I buy them for Eric.
And at the last minute I remembered that they have coffee there.
This morning, then, this was the sound:
There’s a story about Nathaniel and time, but I have no time to tell it tonight.
I do, however, have both time and impulse to relate a little tale about ice cream (Serena was craving ice cream today and may have mentioned it a few hundred times).
Whwn I was about 7 or 8 I accompanied my parents on some expedition to the local small shopping center, the one in the middle of town that had the movie theater (2 screens), the Baskin-Robbins, and about 5 or 6 shops. A jeweler’s. Don’t remember the rest.
I was allowed to purchase an ice cream cone and consume it, alone, while my parents conducted whatever business they had.
Baskin-Robbins was a semi-annual or so treat. My dad will tell you that the black cherry was best, but I preferred to try various flavors depending on my mood. Choosing among all those colorful and delicious-looking flavors was often difficult and it seemed like it took hours each time to make a choice.
On this particular day I chose an old standby, a deep and dark chocolate. I felt quite grown up paying for it myself and then slowly walking under the colonnade, peering in the shop windows and eating my ice cream. I had quite a while to wait for my parents, and had to make the circuit more than once, but I enjoyed imagining what it would be like to want the jewelry in the window, for instance, and I read all the posted signs more than once. People passed by me from time to time, and I could imagine them thinking how well-behaved I was, how grown up. I was a little like them, those people, even though they were so much older than I, but we shared this experience of being in the same place at the same time. Some smiled at me encouragingly.
I finished my ice cream and carefully threw away my napkin in a trash container. So grown up. Finally my parents came and we drove back home.
It was not until later that I chanced to look in the mirror, seeing the very obvious after-effects of eating a very dark chocolate ice cream cone still on my face, surrounding my entire mouth.
When I was growing up, there was a phrase in our house: “baking cookies.”
Apparently, whenever there was something my mom didn’t want to do, she made cookies instead. Usually these were rock-hard chocolate-chip, but sometimes fork-tined peanut butter. Whatever. I didn’t care. It only happened a few times each year, but for whatever the reason, I was blissfully unaware yet eternally grateful.
I love how phrases arise in families that mean something other than originally intended. I am trying to think of how this applies to my own family but I’m just drawing blanks.
Procrastination, though, that’s something I can get behind.
My whole mind is a blank today. I’ve been unable to post at Strollerderby all day; everything I start writing just sounds trite. I’m totally into my NaNoWriMo project, though, and read an installment to everyone over dinner today.
Serena: You sound just like a real author!
Me: I am a real author.
Serena, astounded: Really? But you haven’t written anything.
Ooh. The bitter truth of a seven-year-old.
But I’m dealing with the-glass-is-half-empty-syndrome today. Which leads me to believe I have been deceiving myself all this time. And have bitten off more than I can handle. And this is only Day #2.
A long month.
I know, I promised this post days ago, and I’m finally just now getting to it. That’s the kind of week it’s been, though: I sat down here with the laptop 2 hours ago, wrote one measly post for Strollerderby, and suddenly it’s 2 hours later. How does that happen? Anybody else in a time warp lately?
So. Anyway. My fridge.
The thing is, for about the last, what, two weeks? Three? there’s been this smell wafting out every time someone opened it. Not a good smell. Which meant that I should take a look and see what’s in there that’s causing it, right? That’s what anyone would do.
Not if they are me.
No, I just ended up finding ways to avoid opening the fridge to begin with.
It’s harder to do much cooking that way, but I managed. By not doing much cooking.
And I’d leave stuff out longer. And avoid getting drinks of water from the weird filtered water dispenser that the manufacturer was too cheap to put on the outside of the door like everybody else and instead you have to open the door and reach in and hope your glass is close to the dispenser because unless you’re four feet tall you can’t actually see the dispenser.
But even with those techniques I’d find myself saying several times a day, to myself, Self? You should really see what’s making that smell!
And so today’s your lucky day. I think I found it. And it has been properly disposed of. And no animals or small children were harmed in the process.
A. Three-week old brown rice and vegetables with a coconut milk curry sauce that no one liked and therefore didn’t eat, stored in a ceramic bowl with foil haphazardly draped over it.
B. Three-week old broccoli that everyone requested that I cook one night and then hardly ate any of and that I forgot to include in a later meal and sort of then forgot about. Same thing with the foil. I have issues with plastic containers.
C. Ginseng root brought home from Vancouver which I keep forgetting to use the rest of to make tea (it makes rather a nice tea especially if you mix it with chamomile, but it works with other teas as well), still in its original not-really-sealed plastic bag-from-Vancouver.
D. Opened package of paneer, a fresh cheese in Indian cuisine that comes in rather tasteless white cubes that no one but me would eat except I’m not really doing dairy these days and they’re not bad on a salad actually, but then I forgot about them for, oh, like a month.
E. Carton containing a few dregs of buttermilk left over from making Irish brown bread way back in May, and also some great salad dressing when combined with plain yogurt and herbs. But again, back in May.
F. Jar containing remnants of kimchi I smuggled home illegally from Vancouver in June, which I am carefully meting out because I haven’t yet located a local source, and it’s fermented anyway so does it really go bad?
G. The old box of clementines that still had some in there that I covered up with the new box, the one that everyone has been taking from, leaving all those old clementines to do what old clementines do.
You’re going to blame the kimchi, I know it. It has a reputation.
But was it the kimchi? Or was it something else? Cast your vote below. Winner selected at random.
WINNER SHALL APPEAR HERE AS GUEST BLOGGER AT SOME FUTURE DATE!
[tags]sushi, food, mystifying things[/tags]
Tonight we had my belated birthday dinner, the one we did not have last night because I was temporarily paralyzed or maybe stuck to the PC monitor that stares at me now. Plus we did not have the dinner last night because we lacked an essential ingredient to make the kind of curry that the children like and will willingly consume: coconut milk.
Acquiring coconut milk in a place like Whole Foods is easy. You go to the asian foods section, which is large and covers easily half the length of an aisle, and there are several choices: organic, lite, regular, and various brands. However, Whole Foods was too far away and lacked the cheap grocery-store cat food that does not require ass-corkage in the cat who threw up twice yesterday in commemoration of my birthday because we were out of said food and apparently he does not like the expensive organic cat food. Whatever. I should be happy to pay $4.00 instead of $9.00 for a bag of cat food, but why is it that I am not making him expensive raw food that will prolong his life and make him a happy, gleaming, sleek little cat?
Never mind. Rhetorical question. We were talking about coconut milk. The asian foods section in the localish grocery store, the one that I can stand to go in and not the really funky one that made all of us long for a nice hot shower afterward the one time we were brave enough and desperate enough to go in and actually buy things that we were considering eating, is about 8 inches wide and crosses many borders: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and generically “asian”. Accordingly, although I did see some promising jars of Indian yummy goodness, there was no coconut milk to be had.
I combed the store, Eric’s protests and disinterest at what was in the cart becoming audibly evident. No such luck in Fruits, Vegetables, or Drink Mixers (although they did have coconut cream, which should not be confused with coconut milk, although it did make me long for a nice Pina Colada). Finally, bright idea! I will ask someone. I approached the diffident and likely bored women held hostage at the customer service counter.
“Yes?” one inquired.
“Coconut milk?” I asked brightly, trying not to look deranged. “It comes in a ca-”
“Aisle 15″ they answered, together. Astonished at the ease of which they knew the location of the obviously exotic food item I had combed the store unsuccessfully looking for, I turned and looked. Aisle 15 was the aisle I had already spent 11 minutes in looking at every jar and can in the asian foods section.
One left her post and I followed her dutifully. She reached up to the top shelf, just to the left of the asian foods section, over in Hispanic. Oh. Of course.
[Note: although it worked okay in a pinch, I don't recommend Goya brand coconut milk]
So. On the the food.
1 pkg. chicken breasts, about a pound
1 can coconut milk
1/2 onion, sliced
1 tb. red curry paste*
most of a sweet red pepper, or all, sliced in strips
brown rice, cooked. (Today I used Lundberg’s Golden Rose rice, which was wonderful. Also works well with Basmati rice.)
*I use a mild red curry paste. Use more or less to taste.
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Saute in olive oil until browned on one side; turn. Add onions and peppers. Saute until peppers are almost tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the curry paste and stir to coat everything. Add the can of coconut milk and stir. Let simmer, covered, about 10 minutes.
Serve with the rice. Seriously, could this be any easier?
Oops, I forgot the cilantro. I did while cooking tonight, too. Chop some and add it just before serving.
We had this with a salad of organic mixed baby greens (Nathaniel: “There’s something wrong with me. I don’t like all the kinds of salad.”), carrots, grape tomatoes, and garbanzo beans (Serena: “Is it okay if I eat around the garbanzo beans?”). I made a dressing as follows:
Put 1/2 teasp., less actually, Dijon mustard in a bowl. Splash in a little vinegar; add oil. Salt and herbs to taste. Mix. Makes a couple of tablespoons, maybe, or more than enough for 3 salads.
Cooking should be easy, fun, and taste good, being full of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Yum.
What’s on your plate tonight?
[tags] coconut milk, red curry, food, yummy[/tags]
This morning I ground my coffee beans, counting off …11-12-13 as usual. Then I poured the ground coffee directly into my cup.
That’s one way to do it, I guess.
(At least I didn’t put the cream in the dishwasher)