Thursday, November 22, 2012

Some Thanks and a Recipe I am Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving all!  Ah, I love holidays and all the joys and excitement it brings.  Despite it being a pretty busy day, I think we all need to slow down and take a moment in our day to think about all the things we are thankful for.  My rolls are rising in the oven, so this is my perfect time.

This year has been a particularly thank-full year.  I am thankful for the lovely situation that came about and put us into our new cozy home.  I am thankful for all the little birdies outside who are currently enjoying a Thanksgiving feast from the recently refilled bird feeder.  Chickadees eat hastily, before the juncos shove them aside, finches take a bite here and there, while the nuthatches hang upside down and feast.  All movement and flitting about is temporarily disturbed when the big guns show up: Stellers Jays and Flickers scare the little ones away for a bit, but their sheer number gives them the courage to hold their own.  This lovely scene is simply topped off by the pair of hummingbirds that come daily to visit our hanging fuchsia plant.  (Sigh.)

I am also thankful for the ladies getting their feathers back.  Frannie looks better then ever, and both her and Elsa are back to their normal selves.  Also, I, as well as the chickens I assume, am thankful for the awesome chicken coop that we built this year that is impervious to large rains.  Gone are the days of coop flooding!

I am thankful that I live in a household where we both have jobs, considering the struggles that so many people are still going through in finding employment.  What we have might not be much, but it brings us satisfaction and sometimes you just have to be glad for that.

I am thankful for my Gus and Nikolai, and even Skipper for welcoming me home each day, keeping me warm while on the couch and giving me unconditional love and affection daily.  They may be a pain in the ass at times and prevent us from going on any trips, but they are my babies and I wouldn't know what to do without them. 

I am thankful for my friends and family, who I can always count on to make me laugh, keep me grounded, and who's presence will never allow me to feel the pangs of loneliness.

Finally, I am thankful for my Shawn.  I am thankful for the amazing epic day we shared called our wedding that I still look back on with excitement.  I am thankful for his "stepping up" that suddenly happened after the wedding and all the hard work he puts into our household and keeping our home feeling warm and cozy.  I am thankful for his daily dealings with my crazy and reminding me it's ok to be myself.  But most of all, I am thankful for the love that he shows me each day, I only hope that I am able to reciprocate in a way that makes him as happy as he makes me.

May we be this jolly for ever and ever.
Now back to those rolls.

This is a recipe that my family has been making for as long as I remember, and since they are SO DELICIOUS, naturally, they only get made for the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.  Though I would like to make them more often since they are SO DELICIOUS, they would probably lose their charm so I painfully await them each year.  I've taken them to many a Thanksgiving feast outside of our family and I get rave reviews each time.  I've heard people call them Firecracker Rolls, Orange Rolls, or just "those amazing rolls."  Seriously, you'll be thankful for this recipe.

Holiday Citrus Rolls

One large orange
1 1/2 tsp. Lemon or Orange Zest
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cardamom
1 packet yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
5+ cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbs. butter (plus 2 more for later)
2 eggs

First, zest the lemon or orange.  Then squeeze all the juice out of the orange into a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup.  Add one cup of water and the butter to the juice and heat until the butter is half melted.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together a cup of flour, the yeast, the cardamom, the sugar, and the salt.  Add the warmed mixture and stir till smooth.  Then add the eggs and zest, stir until smooth again.  Now add the rest of the flour until the dough gets to kneading consistency.  Turn out onto floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.  Place into greased bowl and let rise for about an hour or two.  (I did it overnight since I wouldn't have time to make it and bake it the next morning and it rose really well.)

After first rise, punch down and knead for another couple minutes.  Cut them into the size of your choice and shape them into balls.  Place them into a greased casserole dish or a high sided jelly roll pan about a half an inch apart and let rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a dish.  Paint the tops of each roll with the butter then sprinkle with some sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden.  Enjoy.  The fluffiness, the crunchy sweetness of the sugar, and the citrus/cardamom combination is to die for.  Try not to eat them all before dinner.  I've eaten two already.  You know, for poison testing.  But don't worry, I made a batch and a half so there's plenty left... as long as I don't eat them all on the ferry to our dinner destination.

I am so lucky to have so many things to be thankful for.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

No 'Poo: The Conclusion

Before I get started, I have a challenge for you.  What is this a picture of?  Hint: it came from the kitchen.  (Don't scroll down if you don't want the answer right away.)

So it's been five weeks since I started my no shampoo experiment.  Last time you heard from me at the end of week two, I was feeling a little disappointed in how little my hair had improved and the stickiness that was lingering.  I was also noticing dandruff that I didn't notice before, which just about made me quit the whole thing altogether.

Luckily, things have gotten a ton better since.  First, I experimented with the amount of vinegar I was using, and found that it really doesn't make too much difference.  I think using less worked better for me, and I focus spraying to the ends of my hair to help with de-tangling.

At the end of week 4, my hair went through a breakthrough.  The stickiness I was feeling, which made it feel like my hair wasn't clean at all, suddenly went away.  It still gets too greasy to go more than 2 days without washings, but now, each time it's been washed it feels just like it did when I was using shampoo. 

I've also begun using baking soda to wash my face.  It's got great exfoliating powers, and it rinses away much easier than face soap.  And my face feels super clean.  I use it every other day.

To top it all, I'm so used to the hair washing proecss now that I don't even think twice about it.

I was skeptical there for a while, but I think this no 'poo thing is here to stay.  Yes.

Ok, now for the answer to our little riddle.

Eggs!  It happened when I was trying to oil them.  Usually when an egg cracks while boiling only the white comes out.  But for some reason, the yolk broke and all of it came out and solidified in ribbon form.  So cool and kind of gross at the same time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Korean Mac and Cheese.

It's cold.  I feel like summer just ended and winter hit us like a ton of bricks.  This calls for rich, hearty, soul food that warms from the inside.  Dduk Bok Ki, or as I like to call it, Korean Mac and Cheese, does just the trick. 

I was introduced to this delicious dish several years ago when a friend of mine brought it to our big family and friends Thanksgiving feast.  There was cheese, lots of carbs and a delicious spicy sauce.  It made me happy in just the same way mac and cheese does.  Thus, we dubbed it Korean Mac and Cheese.

So here we go.  First you need to go to an Asian or Korean food market and get a package of dduk and gochujang, a Korean hot chili paste.  Dduk are basically rods of rice gluten.  In addition to that, you are really free to add whatever you want.  To make it as healthy and wholesome as possible, I also included fried tofu, carrots, cabbage, onion, and red and green bell peppers.  (In the past, I've also made it with fish balls instead of tofu.)

First you have to make the sauce.  In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the gochujang with a tablespoon of sesame oil, 2 tablespoons or so of soy sauce, and a tablespoon of sugar.  Mince a clove of garlic very finely and add that to the sauce as well.  You can add salt and pepper of you want, but all those ingredients are really heavy on flavor so I don't think the salt is necessary.  Set aside.

Cut the dduk rods into 2 inch pieces and place in a bowl of cold water.  Set a separate pot of water to boil.

Now, saute onions for a few minutes in a large wok or saute pan.  Add the carrots, cabbage and peppers and cook for several minutes. 

Boil the dduk for about 5 minutes.  They will float and puff up when they're ready.  Add a tablespoon of the boiling water to the sauce that you made earlier.  This makes mixing it in at the end a little easier.

Before the dduk.
Once the dduk are boiled and the vegetables are cooked and heated through, add the dduk to the pan and pour on the sauce.  Stir to combine. 

After the dduk and sauce.
Now you're almost there.  At this point, I bet many of you are saying "Hey, where's my cheese?  How can it be called mac and cheese without any cheese?"  Trust me, I totally understand, I too feel very strongly about cheese.  Never fret, here it is:

Slice up some cheddar baby!
Layer the top of the whole pan with slices of cheddar and cover to let it melt all delicious-like. 

Now, you're finished.  Sprinkle on some sliced scallions and sesame seeds, and try not to eat the whole pan.  It's really easy.  But it's also really easy to get a major stomach ache because of it.  There are two things in this world that, never fail, I will eat until I am in complete pain.  Those two things are Popcorn and Korean Mac and Cheese.  Don't be like me.  Don't get a stomach ache.  But enjoy.  It'll keep you warm all over.

It's even prettier with the scallions and sesame seeds.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weekend Update

Remember my pumpuchinis?  So they totally grew to be a pretty decent size and for the most part turned orange.  We got three of them.  One was given to the neighbor kids who helped with the planting of the plant, one was carved into a Jack-o-Lantern, and one still sits awaiting its fate.  The reason we didn't carve the third one is because carving the first one was such a pain in the ass.  I don't know why, but the outermost skin of the pumpuchini was super duper hard.  It almost had a candy shell that broke when the knife was stuck into it.  My design I had in mind had to be simplified, but after just one injury to the palm of my hand that I acquired when my hand slipped down the knife, I was able to carve to completion.  So the moral of the story is: crossing zucchinis and pumpkins results in fruit that is more worthless that its parents.

Pumpuchini on the right, regular pumpkin on the left.
Now remember Frannie's poor feather affliction?  Well, it's gotten both better and worse.  It's gotten worse because now she's officially molting.  Like, Elsa style.  She has huge patches of baldness on her wings, but also has a ton of pin feathers.  She also has pin feathers on her belly where all of her previous baldness was, so once this is over, she should be as good as new.  Speaking of pin feathers, Elsa also has so many covering her whole body that she looks like a porcupine.  I apologize for the series of poor quality photos, but it's hard to take pictures of chickens when you can't hold them.

Porcupine.  One week ago.
Pin feathers slowly opening up.
She's so ugly it's cute.
Is this a bit much?  Sorry for the ass shot.
This is the first year we are letting the ladies have a winter.  For the past 2 winters, we've had lamps in their coop to keep their daylight hours up to maintain their laying.  Though it was nice to have fresh eggs all year round, I got to worrying about their health and their calcium levels.  If nature decides that they need a break, who am I to deny them their break?  Since the days have been getting shorter, their laying has really declined to the point where we get an egg every other day.  I'm sure it'll get to be zero here soon, and I'll have to buy my first dozen eggs in over 2 years.  I think this is why we haven't had a molt until now.  The moral of this story is: let your ladies rest in the winter.  That way their bodies won't get confused.

Now lastly, remember the peas that I planted at the end of summer?  I did it last year with not so good results, and this year, though much better, proved to still not be worth the seeds.  I think I harvested a total of 10 pea pods.  One last moral for ya: peas don't grow too good in the fall.

That's all I have for today.  Good night everyone.
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