May 30th, 2011

More from Me

A few other blog postings about town from yours truly:

On Kerry Clare‘s estimable Wild Libraries I Have Known series, I contribute a bit of bookish (well, semi-bookish) nostalgia, about my very first library, Binbrook Library.

On Biblioasis‘s Devil’s Engine series, Cathy Stonehouse and I talk about that pesky stories to novels career arc rumour.

It’s a good thing I’ve got these otherwhere blog posts to send you to, as I have nothing much of my own to say right now. Oh, except that if you have overripe bananas, put them in the freezer (peel them first), then chop up the frozen bananas and each them with a spoon–like banana ice-cream!

January 21st, 2011

Rice Pudding

I have been thinking about gender lately, mainly because I’ve run into a number of books and movies that make some unfortunate generalizations. Then last night’s meeting of the ever-excellent Women’s Writing Salon touched on smallness in the context of domestic and quotidian detail, and are those things either trivialized or thought of as “women’s” in the public consciousness? And if so, do we care?

I left early for my three-bus trip home, but I believe we were arriving at “meh” (anyone who stayed later should correct me if I’m wrong): You have to write about what you care enough to write about, and it’s the skill and sensitivity of the writer that makes the text “big” or “small.”

Anyway, that’s about as far as I can get with the issue, and this blog is pink and I haven’t worn pants in public in 3 years, so if you were going to judge me for being too “feminine,” you probably already have (and stopped reading the blog??) So here’s a really good recipe for rice pudding:

Into a big, deep greased casserole dish, put
4 cups skim milk
3 tablespoons brown rice
1/3 cup brown sugar (or less)
1/2 teaspoon salt
nutmeg if you’re into nutmeg

Stir, then put into a 300 F oven. Stir every 20 minutes for the first hour, then every hour or so until you’ve either reached a total of 3.5 hours, or it looks about the consistency you’d like to eat. Then do so.

This is a great writer’s recipe, because it’s barely any work but it forces you to stay home and write for an entire afternoon, instead of say, getting bored and wandering off to the movies. Of course, there might be some people who leave the house with the oven on if they know they’ll be back before it’s done, but I always worry I’ll get hit by a bus and then not only will I be in the hospital but my building will burn down.

Anyway, you stay home, you stir occasionally, you get lots of work done, and then you are rewarded with the best rice pudding in the world. The only probably is that it boils down to only about 2 cups, so though the recipe says serves 4-6 (I’ve adapted this from Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook), only if most of those 6 don’t really like rice pudding. You get either four small lunch-sized portions, or two generous ones. Not that most people think that a romantic dinner-a-deux should be capped off with rice pudding–but I do. Actually, I’ve never suceeded in sharing my rice pudding with anyone; I always eat it all before anyone worthy shows up!

January 13th, 2011

Idiot

Note: this is probably one of those posts that I need to write but you don’t need to read.

So Thursdays are my writing-at-home day, and today I am allegedly finishing up the last edits on *The Big Dream*. So I decided that while I was working, I would cook some stuff that doesn’t require a lot of attention, and then when I was finished with the manuscript and very depressed and anxious at having nothing further to do (this is what happens to me) I would at least have things to eat.

On the menu were roasted chickpeas and a baked rice pudding. I put the chickpeas on to boil (which is the first step on that project) and the pudding casserole in the oven. Last time I boiled chickpeas they foamed all over, so this time I put in a little vegetable oil so they’d behave. You’re supposed to stir the pudding 3x in the first hour, so the rice doesn’t clump together, and on one of the stirs I spilled a little milk on the floor of the oven. I couldn’t figure out how to clean it up, the oven being hot and all, so I just thought I’d let it burn off. The chickpeas were merrily steaming in their pot, not foaming at all. Genius, that vegetable oil trick.

I got back to work and noticed that the apartment was getting a little smoky. “There goes that milk!” I thought. I worked more. The apartment was wreathed in smoke, a lot more than you’d think for just a few drops of milk. Just as I was considering this, the smoke alarm went off.

I ran to the mysterious clump of alarms in my hallway–3 of them, one I think possibly for carbon monoxide. I tried turning off all three, but nothing changed. I got down of my chair and turned off the oven, opened the window a little (it’s *cold* out) and got back on my chair. The alarms are REALLY REALLY LOUD so I I alternate one finger in one ear while trying to pry open an alarm to get the batteries out with the other. I finally get one open; it doesn’t have a battery. Good to know.

My neighbour comes over to see if I’m ok. I apologize, say I’m fine. I try waving a pillow at the smoke (saw it in a movie once) and give up on being warm and open the window all the way. Still like being inside a police siren. I put on my shoes and run downstairs to look for the super, but she is absent. I go back up (you can hear my alarm from the basement), prop the door open with the chair and go back to waving my pillow. The neighbour comes back (poor guy) to suggest I try a hair dryer. I think this is brilliant, run to get it, then realize there is no power outlet near the alarm. Then I try to move the couch to expose a socket, and wrench my shoulder extremely painfully. Then I lie on the couch and think about crying, or else about abandoning my home. Except I’m really in too much pain to get far, so I plug in the hair dryer and realize I’m still too far away. So I got try plugging it in in the kitchen, and turn off the chickpeas while I’m there. Perhaps the alarm is confusing their steam with smoke?

I blow-dry for awhile, and finally the damn thing stops. So I shut the door, and go to stir the chickpeas before I turn them back on. You probably guessed it before I did–the chickpeas were black because somehow all their water had boiled off, so that *was* smoke, not steam. Apparently, my olfactory sensors, so keen on other matters (“Did you change shampoo?”) cannot detect burning chickpeas. I am giant idiot, and will not be getting roast chickpeas this evening. Also, my apartment is freezing and smelly, and my shoulder hurts, and my neighbour probably hates me.

I will think of the silver lining tomorrow.

January 9th, 2011

Good things to do

Some helpful suggestions you might want to consider:

Nathalie says back up your beloved blog and she’s right–if you don’t understand how the internet works (and I believe that would be most of us here in the blogsphere) you need to protect yourself against it doing something you don’t understand and eating your blog. If you follow the instructions on the site Nathalie links you to, it’ll seriously take less than 2 minutes, and then you can email the file to yourself and sleep better. I know I will.

My friend R. says do the Ontario Health Survey (if you live in Ontario) and she’s right too! It’s a little weird to be telling all this personal stuff to the internets, but it is helping medical scholars to have this huge bank of data, and don’t you want your personal medical quirks to be counted? There is one depressing question about how many hours in a day you spend sitting, but I’ve moved past it.

I say roast some chickpeas! They are nice crunchy snack full of protein, and you can put whatever spices you want on them. I can’t find online the exact recipe I used as my new recipe of the week, but this one’s close–

December 26th, 2010

Reverb 26

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

I ate pretty well this year, and I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff that mattered. My very favourite, I’m pretty sure, was the pasta and chicken Mark made for me one afternoon while I lay in bed reading. There’s something about being able to smell food cooking from another room that’s so sweet. I know I’m not alone in this, because I see it people’s FB statuses all the time, what they smell cooking from beyond the door or down the stairs, and how happy it makes them. Even the best cook in the world (not me) I think would enjoy just wandering out to discover a meal prepared just for him/her.

December 13th, 2010

Reverb 11

What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson) (www.reverb10.com)

Oh, I don’t like this one at all–eleven things I don’t like in my life? I love my life; I don’t want to dwell on 11 things that are wrong with it!! So I’m not really going to do this one, but a half-assed variation instead.

I’ve just finished a detox program that I totally did not following properly–it’s really socially limiting, for one thing, to look at the labels on the bottles to see if anything has wheat in it and refuse to have milk in your decaf tea unless it’s almond milk. I think it has been beneficial for me in a few ways. But on the other hand, this sort of obsessive scrutiny of tasty foods and insistence on my own special purity when eating socially, and also the buying of insanely expensive hard-to-find weird foods, is basically an excuse to be self-obsessed for 2 weeks. I don’t really recommend it, but I did learn some stuff. So here’s 11 foods I’ve taken out of my life the past 2 weeks, and whether these are truly things I don’t need.

1. Milk–I have always been (touch wood) lactose tolerant, and I enjoy milk in tea, coffee and instant pudding, as well as on it’s own. However, according to certain dieticians, no one is lactose tolerant, and I have been deluding myself. I tried doing without dairy milk by using almond milk. It hadn’t occured to me that something with two such healthy words to describe it would be nutritionally worthless–almond milk has barely any calcium or protein, almost no other vitamins, practically no calories. It tastes ok, in tea anyway, but not all that great. I also didn’t feel any better for being lactose-free, and almond milk is expensive. Back to the cow for me.

2. Cow yoghurt–same premise as above–all that lactose is killing me softly. So I got goat yoghurt–apparently goat’s milk doesn’t have lactose in it?? Not really sure how that works, but anyway, goat’s milk yoghurt is delicious–nice and creamy, and full of useful vitamins and 35% of your daily calcium. It’s a bit sour, but you can put stuff in it–fruit or sunflower seeds or sweetner (see below). It’s expensive, of course, so I’ll maybe alternate it with also-delicious cow yoghurt.

3. Most sweetners–On this particular detox, I was permitted neither sugar nor aspertame nor sucrolose. To the healthfood store, to buy a $10 box (don’t laugh at me–it was an experiment) of stevia. I could also have had something called agave syrup, but you have to adminster that with an eyedropper, which look like a lot of work, and that cost $10 too. As far as I can tell, Stevia tastes pretty much like sugar or sucrolose (aspertame, as we all know, tastes like a combination of sugar and pennies). However, if you don’t stir your tea right away, it forms little Stevia clots and, as mentioned, it costs $10. Fine, but I am happy to return to my old forms of sweetening.

4. Wheat–Again, I consider myself happily wheat-tolerant, but apparently I am just self-deluded. I didn’t replace wheat with anything, I just didn’t eat it. I didn’t feel healthier (but I didn’t feel bad before) but I did feel like a social loser. Not eating delicious bread and cookies gave me less to talk about with people at dinners and parties (“This cookie is so delicious!” is a great opener, in my opinion) and often the wheat was blended into whatever was being served, so I couldn’t eat anything at all. I wonder if that’s what the point was, to remove the social joys from eating?? But why? Why? I do not think my life was improved by eliminating wheat.

5. Caffeine–Ok, this one was a point well-taken; I consume too much caffeine. My only defense is that a) so does everyone else and b) it’s because my life is so difficult that I need the artificial energy. And b) isn’t even entirely true, my life isn’t that difficult. I just happen to find caffeinated beverages coincidentally delicious. I believe I wrote on Rose-coloured about the last time I tried to quit caffeine, cold-turkey, which reduced me to nauseus migraines and lying on the couch for two days. This time I did it gradually over the course of several days, and the withdrawal symptoms didn’t crop up once. In fact, I think I had fewer headaches over the past two weeks, and I attribute that to the caffinelessness. However, herbal tea is no fun, and decaf green tea (at least I could put milk in it, albeit almond milk) not much better–so I’m going back to at least some caffeine some of the time, but will try to keep it at least sorta moderate.

6. Dried fruit–I don’t even care about dried fruit, really, but with so many other things denied to me, it was pretty annoying to pick all dried cranberries out of trail mix. I don’t think I’d miss them that much if they were the *only* thing I was giving up, though, so now I will go back to eating dried fruit almost never, but sometimes–I always like it well enough when I bother with it.

7. Canned meat–Well, it sounds gross when you call it “canned meat” but in truth, I pretty much live on cereal, pop, apples and pears, and tuna. Not being able to eat tuna for lunch every other day posed a very major protein problem for me, even though I do appreciate it was healthy from a mercury and salt point of view. I started having eggs for breakfast to supplement the protein, and that was fairly nice. I felt like I was eating weekend breakfast every day, and the amount of energy to pour eggs into a pan and stir until cooked is fairly minimal. For lunch I had veggies and hummus and other random things, and it was fine, but I still missed tuna. Probably this one was a good reduction and I should try to at least partly maintain it.

8. Oranges–I’m guessing this one was eliminated because they have a lot of natural sugar, but I don’t really know–I always thought oranges were healthy. I replaced them with pears, which was fine, except the tiny “Christmas oranges” came into stores during my cleanse, and it was torture! I bought a big crate of them tonight and I was pretty excited.

9. Pop–I know, I know–pop has no known nutrients, contains either tonnes of sugar or tonnes of aspertame, it’s acidic enough to eat through tooth enamel and stomach lining…but I love it! I replaced this one with water with lime juice in it, with the expected lack of excitement. It’s good to know I *can* quit the bubbly stuff…if I have to. Again, I am going back to it, but will try to be more moderate.

10. Oats–yes, even boring oatmeal is a devil food. I tried rice cereals instead, which are actually quite nice–the organic ones taste exactly like the non-organic ones, FYI, and cost 4x the price, but I enjoyed them all. I may continue to dally with them occasionally in future.

11. Shellfish–I had shrimp curry for supper tonight, and was happy. But actually, this another of the injunctions that I believe–shellfish can have some strange stuff in it, and I probably should cut down…the detox was a good demonstration that I can.

So, uh, more than you ever wanted to know about what I ate in the first half of December, eh? Of these eleven things, I’m going to make an ongoing effort to reduce my intake of 4 of them–caffeine, canned meat, shellfish, pop, and maybe make another attempt to legitimately detox in January. I’m still not sure I believe in all this stuff, but due to encountering a giant box made of chocolate and other sundry wonders of the holiday season, I feel I did not give detoxing a fair shake. In fairness to myself, however, I must point out that detoxing is really annoying.

December 6th, 2010

Reverb Day 6

Another prompt for ReverbWhat was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

Cookies!! I love baking, and I’ve practiced enough to even be mildly good at it. My oatmeal cookies are my own favourite to eat–I’ve changed the recipe a little, timed the baking precisely, etc.–and thus my favourite cookie to bake. They did not sell veryw ell at the bakesale I made them for, but I enjoyed the process, so…

I grew up in a place and with friends who could make a lot of things: they could knit and sew, crochet and quilt, decorate cakes and build bookcases, grow corn and paint their own walls. They’re still my friends, and still wildly talented in all these matters. I on the other hand, once crocheted a scarf, and that’s as far as the needle arts have taken me. Woodworking didn’t even go to that extent. I think in this our division-of-labour, highly specialized world, in order to make something, you have to love the process. Otherwise it’s much easier–and probably even cheaper–to go buy the cookie or the sweater or the birthday cake at a store. It might not be as good as homemade, but then again it might be.

The scarf I crocheted is beautiful–I get a lot of compliments, and encouragement to make more. But I didn’t enjoy doing it, and it took me almost a year to make–I had to focus and concentrate so hard, because it is in my nature to be a terrible crochet-er. I’m not a natural, and more importantly, not an enthusiast–if I’m going to struggle with something, I want it to be my actual work (ie., a story) not something I do for pleasure.

But I like to bake and cook, so even when I try something hard, it doesn’t exactly feel like a struggle–a new recipe is a fun afternoon’s challenge. But I also really enjoy baking simple things, for the ease and joy of doing it and giving them to folks (and eating them). If you need any oatmeal cookies, please let me know!

December 5th, 2010

Reverb day 3

More from Reverb (yep, I’m behind now):

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
(Author: Ali Edwards)

Oh, I do *not* like superlatives. I remember being quite annoyed in grade 9 when I was assigned to write a paragraph about the “happiest day of my life” in English class. Who knows the answer to that–hopefully one has enough happy days and alive moments that it would be too complicated to classify them as “first best” “most alive” etc. For the record, for that assignment, I picked a lovely day when I was about 10 or so, and my great-aunt babysat my bro and I in Queens while my folks attended a conference in Manhattan. We went shopping at a small plaza, and ate some pizza. It was very sunny, and I really liked my great aunt–I stand my that choice.

And now, a moment when I felt *quite* alive in 2010:

I went to Montreal for my birthday (Montreal and my birthday being two of my favourite things), and this was the evening before it. I was walking up Union with my travelling companion, around 9 or so at night. We’d been out for a very nice dinner with cool Francophones (I lived in Montreal long enough to feel dramatically inferior to Francophones–whenever one is nice to me, I’m thrilled).

After dinner, I tried to figure out how to get some Bilboquet ice-cream, which is a Montreal-only delight. I had worked in an ice-cream place when I lived there, which has since gone under, and I knew of only one other place who sold it at that time, very far north. Our French friends new of more, but they were all way west, too far to walk at that hour. Though it was very tempting. Also, satisfying to learn that the Bilboquet brand was expanding.

So we were just walking up Union, on this dark warm pretty evening in Montreal, and I was feeling so happy to be back in the city and that it was almost summer and to be with Mark and that I was about to turn 2x2x2x2x2, and then on Sherbrooke, we passed a cafe with a little Bilboquet sign in the window.

It was like the universe saying, “I love you”–because I was already so happy and didn’t need the ice-cream, but what the hell, why not throw all the good stuff we can? I got raspberry and it was divine, and Mark got some chocolatey thing, and we went up to Prince Arthur and there were so many other happy people, and I felt I could have walked a hundred thousand miles.

November 2nd, 2010

My favourite condiments (numbered list)

So Stuart at Create Me This has created me the ability to make properly formatted lists on Rose-coloured. I am celebrating this gift by making a list of my favourite condiments, which I realize some will say is a truly inane thing to do.

Fair ’nuff. But I think about condiments all the time, and like them far more than most foods they go on. I even have theories of condimentality, and I’m dying to share, and the list is such a handy format (I’ve learned from the list-making greats, after all).

First thing you will notice: this list does not contain ketchup, a condiment that I do respect very much for it’s endurance and cheerful colour and ability to get an enormous amount of sugar into a non-dessert food. However, I don’t put it in the top ten due to lack of versitility–I can put ketchup on hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and, in certain moods, eggs. That’s it. Ketchup on chicken or fish just sounds disgusting to me, and on a melted cheese product=beyond abhorrent (I have a gooey-on-gooey horror–melted cheese *is* the condiment). Also, ketchup can’t be in my condiment hall of fame because I have never had any desire to eat it unaccompanied (unlike the items listed below, which all pass the spoon test). So ketchup loses points, and I guess I am slightly more mature than we thought. Who knew?

Onward!

  1. Hoisin sauce just got even better in my eyes because when I went to that Wikipedia article linked above, i found out it contains sweet potatoes, another one of my favourite (non-condiment) foods. It tastes like a sweet, sticky soy sauce and goes well on basically anything Asian or just plain meat and vegetables. Or a spoon.
  2. Everyone knows what soy sauce is, but that doesn’t stop it from being awesome. It is like liquid salt, but with a dilute and slightly smokey taste. It is also one of the few condiments that can be accessorized well with another–delicious delicious wasabi paste can blend into soy sauce, disappearing while making it delightfully spicy.
  3. Balsamic vinegar is dark and sweet, yet tangy and definitely vinegar–some of the fruity vinegars have a lot of sugar in them and taste a bit like Koolaid, but balsamic is the real deal. Delicious on sliced tomatoes or any kind of salad, especially green bean, plus on all kinds of unexpected foods like perogies and bread (as a provincial kid, I was thrilled when a waiter in an Italian restaurant suggested we put oil and vinegar on our plates and dip our bread into it–I skipped the oil).
  4. I’m a little torn about peanut butter, because in some contexts it’s actually a food, not a condiment–ie., in a peanut butter and jam sandwich, the peanut butter is clearly the dress and jam’s the accessory, but in ants on a log, it’s the peanut butter that accessorizes (if you make ants on a log with Cheez Whiz I can’t talk to you). In all honestly, I like my peanut butter unadulterated–on a spoon or maybe licked off a cracker. Sorry, was that too much info? Anyway, I find it safer not the keep peanut butter in the house except for special occasions–it’s kind of protein heroin.
  5. Swiss Chalet sauce doesn’t sound like a multi-use condiment, but it is. You can pretty much put it on everything available at Swiss Chalet except the desserts and salads–in fact, I’ve tried it on the occasional radish and it’s not bad. I’ve never had Swiss Chalet sauce outside of the restaurant, but I imagine it would go nicely on most meats and potatoes, plus steamed or boiled vegetables. I know, there’s such a thing as powdered Swiss Chalet sauce that I could buy at the grocery store, but it scares me–what if it’s not as good?
  6. Barbeque sauce is the bomb! I like it on everything–makes a good salad dressing in a pinch. My dad makes a really good one, but if he’s not available, most of the bottled sauces in the store are just fine. Not for the *Fast Food Nation* faint of heart, but I actually really like the McNugget BBQ sauce. Even better is to eat some of the BBQ sauce, then once there’s space in the little tub, pour in a bit of the McNugget sweet-n-sour sauce. You can stir it with a fry!
  7. Honey mustard also makes a good emergency salad dressing. For a mad condiment lover, I don’t really like most salad dressings–they are too greasy for me. Even the totally fake non-oil dressings are starting to squick me a bit, and in the sugar versus fat contest, I MUCH prefer sugar. Honey mustard has a nice little hit of sugar, while still being slightly spicy. Mix it with a little soy and some sriracha sauce (not on this list because it’s too spicy to pass the spoon test) and you have yourself an awesome stir-fry sauce! Also, by far my favourite condiment option at Subway.
  8. Marinara sauce is not strictly a condiment–if you have it on pasta I guess it’s sort of part of the meal. But if you have it in a little plastic cup for dipping pizza crust or bread sticks or vegetables (I’m an extrapolator), it’s definitely a condiment, and a delightful one. Just watch out for chain pizzerias that dump a lot of sugar in their marinara, I think in an effort to remind children of ketchup. Marinara should be savoury, and a little spicy! That is all.
  9. Frosting. Obiviously.

September 23rd, 2010

Rose-coloured and Mark reviews Lucky Stars Candy

We taped this review ages ago–the candy has long since been eaten–but I forgot to transcribe it until today, when Mark and were discussing the *next* item we might review. So better late than never!

RR: Lucky Stars candy come in a little tin Chinese takeout container. It’s red…

MS: There are pictures of roses on it and a Hello-Kitty-esque cat.

RR: I’m pretty sure that’s Hello Kitty.

MS: Is that Hello Kitty? Ok.

RR: I think…yes, that’s the [same] brand–it’s made by Saurio and the “o” is shaped like a heart. In the tin are red and white stars. (surprisingly loud sound of crunching) They’re crunchy. Maybe you’re supposed to suck on them.

MS: I think you are. I think they’re a bit too hard to bite through right away.

RR: Well, I can do it, but I’m not sure I’m supposed to do it.

MS: It’s quite a bit of flavour there if you…sit there and suck.

RR: So they’re red and they’re white…is there a difference?

MS: Mmm, I don’t know. (crunching)

RR: These were a gift to me from a friend who went to Vancouver island where apparently you can get a lot more Asian stuff than you can in Toronto. I mean, the writing on this is in English but

MS: there are some Chinese characters on the side.

RR: I wonder where it was manufactured. Hold the recorder?

MS: Certainly.

RR: Made in China, but distributed by Boston America Corp.

MS: Well, that is something. Yeah, I think the white ones do taste different.

RR: They kind of remind me of a SweeTart. Yknow, compressed dextrose?

MS: Yeah.

RR: It’s *cool*. Like, instead of sugar, which is gritty, when you finally bite into these it’s a very soft cool powder.

MS: Yup, you’re right.

RR: I’ve had this forever, I had like 2 when I opened it, but they haven’t gone stale.

MS: I wonder who the target audience is for these. They seem a bit small to give to a young child.

RR: I think that probably the target audience is people who love adorable boxes and are willing to buy them and eat whatever’s inside, in order to later put paperclips or jewellery in this box.

MS: Yeah.

RR: I mean, the candy’s nice enough, but most candy makes me want to eat all of it immediately, and this does not make me want to do that.

MS: No, this is a candy that you just sort of take little nips at and savour.

RR: It’s really just sweet, and a little tiny bit of flavour. And it’s more adorable than anything. It’s designer candy. I shudder to think what this cost.

MS: I think it should also be noted that the candies themselves actually have a little bit of design to them. The stars have little raised edges on their arms.

RR: They’re really pretty. Good to decorate a cake or something. I’m not not enjoying them, but I’m kinda done now. I’ll have more later, or next week.

MS: Yeah, I think we’re done.

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