3.30.2007

Deep Fried Hummus

Growing up, my best friends mom was an incredible cook. Her lumpia and adobo were amazing treats, but actually spaghetti and meat ball nights were nearly as memorable. Her vegetarian "meat"balls were way better than any actual meatballs I've ever tasted.

I think it might have been falafel?

In any case, my falafel never turns out quite like that.

Come to think of it, my falafel just doesn't turn out at all.

I thought maybe it would improve matters if I slightly cooked the chickpeas, instead of merely soaking them overnight.

And then I thought maybe if I added more liquid, my blender wouldn't make such a dreadful racket.

My blender gladly pureed the whole thing in matter of seconds...

And I had a lovely batch of... hummus.

I should have just quit while I was ahead, and planned on making some pita chips tomorrow. But I'm stubborn, and I tried to go ahead with the original falafel plan.

Anyway, all this to say, if you happened to be wondering whether or not it's possible to deep-fry hummus...

...t isn't.

3.29.2007

Vegetarian thoughts

It's been a while since I've posted. =(

Partly because I've been just too busy grocery shopping, washing dishes and reading lots of really delightful books to my wuggies.

And also, partly because my creative energies have been directed elsewhere. I've been setting a lot of Christina Rossetti's poetry to music lately. I see so much of myself in her. In her early poems I see who I was, in her middle poems I see who I am, and in her later poems I see who I would like to become. So we work well together, so to speak.

I've also been working on a board book rendition of Genesis 1. Hebrew poetry just seems very well suited to toddlers. The rhythms of the creation account are rather reminiscent of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, actually.

So I've been spending a lot of time just soaking in Genesis I. That and trying to come up with a rhyme about the gathering of the waters.

Anyway, reading the creation account has got me thinking about the purpose and role of man, and that has got me thinking vegetarian thoughts. I'd always been under the impression that God pronounced everything he had made "good"---except for mankind, who he pronounced to be "very good."

Actually God pronounced the whole of creation to be very good, once man was there to cultivate it. The distinction between "good" and "very good" in this case doesn't imply that the rest of creation was created for our good, so much as that we were created for the good of the rest of creation.

So I've been thinking vegetarian thoughts. Not that eating meat is wrong... but eating fruit is just purely and wholly good, and anything else is a little bit bittersweet. We live in a fallen world, and in this fallen world, there is a place for cultivating and caring for animals for the purpose of killing them and eating them.

Yet I have a hard time reconciling current meat industry practices with the creation mandates. I don't think that was exactly what God meant when He commanded us to rule over all the creatures. At least I hope not, because He created us to be in His image.

Of course, for a price, you can buy meat from supposedly well-treated animals. I'm not sure how much of that is true, and how much of it's a ruse---I have heard that the free-range chicken thing is something of a joke. But whatever the case, we certainly cannot afford it.

The fact is, the only way we can afford to eat as much meat as we do is through the inhumane treatment of animals.

On the other hand, we are well supplied with lots and lots of wonderful and affordable plant foods that can meet all our nutritional needs. Foods that are clearly very much in keeping with man's role in the world.

So I've been experimenting around with vegetarian meals. Last night we had pinto beans boiled in chicken broth (like I said, I'm not entirely opposed to meat--I'd just like to eat less of it!) with a chopped leek, a chopped onion, a full bulb of whole garlic cloves, a whole dried New Mexico chili, a handful of peppercorns, a dash of salt, and a generous blop of olive oil. I served it on brown rice, topped with grated romano cheese. The resulting color scheme didn't look terribly appetizing, but the flavors were sublime.

At least, Andy and I enjoyed the meal. The wuggies wouldn't touch it.

Sigh.

I'm afraid the only vegetarian thoughts they're interested in thinking are the ones that involve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

3.21.2007

Works-for-me-Wednesday: Hundreds of Cooking Mentors

There are a lot of fabulous recipes floating around the internet.

There are also a lot of not-so-fabulous recipes floating around the internet, and sometimes it's hard to know the difference.

That's why I love recipezaar.com.

Thousands of recipes, all collected in one place. Anything you'd like to make, there's probably at least a dozen different versions right there.

Some of the recipes are good, some aren't... but with recipezaar you don't have to actually subject your family to them all in order to find out which are which. Anyone can rate the recipes, and add commentary on what did and didn't work, what changes they made, etc. So whenever I search for a recipe, I just sort my results by rating. If 100 people have thought this was a five star recipe... well, it's probably a pretty good risk.

But even if one stand-out recipe has 100 five star ratings, I usually read the first few recipes... AND the comments. Generally speaking, the folks who bother writing reviews are really good cooks, and I learn a lot from them. I can then take the best elements of each recipe, combined with the best alterations from reviewers, and try out a brand new recipe pretty confident of success.

And that's the best part. It's a great recipe resource, but really, you can get recipes anywhere. But all the reviews and comments have given me the skills I need to really make the most out of a recipe.

Reaping the benefits of everybody else's trial and error? Oh yes, it works for me!

3.20.2007

Wow!

Well, our neighborhood CVS/Pharmacy (what's up with the "/" anyway?) doesn't have an Albertsons after all. What it does have is amazing prices.

Every other item is tagged with a special "WOW!" tag, highlighting a particularly daring and astonishing sale price.

Like store brand baby wipes for $3.99.

And that truly is amazing, because at Target, they would cost $1.78.

The Dreyers ice cream for $5.99 is a little less impressive--it can be pretty expensive at other stores, too. But I will give them some credit, because that really is on the upper limit of the price range. And right now it's going for $3 at Gigante.

I can't help but admire the sheer audacity of their strategy.

And when I run out of diapers in the middle of the night, I can't help but shop there.

3.17.2007

Dunkables

Oreos and milk.

Donuts and coffee.

Herb flavored triscuits and cranberry juice.

(And to think that they turn their noses up at strange foods such as couscous...)

Bathtime Arithmetic

I wasn't planning on bathing the kids today, but I had the unfortunate bright idea of fixing Tembo's hair while she was distracted by her breakfast. It didn't prevent her from protesting the gloop with which I tried to tame her unruly curls, but it did provide her with some gloop of her own. The moment I pronounced her hair suitably beautiful, she immediately followed up with an egg yolk.

So it was bathtime. And well... if you're gonna bathe one, you might as well bathe them all.

So much more efficient that way... I think.

Nobody was excited about the idea of a bath, and nobody wanted to go first. So I rounded everybody up in the bathroom, and told them that they couldn't leave until they'd had a bath.

I thought maybe this would motivate them to hop right in and get it over with. I was forgetting that the bathroom is the absolute funnest room in the whole house, being the room with the highest mischief density.

I do hope that they still retain their love of toilet scrubbing, once they're old enough to learn more... sanitary... techniques. Yes, I very much hope that they retain that love of toilet scrubbing, not, say that love of TP-ing...

When it was all said and done, though, I had three beautifully clean wuggies. Three beautifully clean naked wuggies.

I put a diaper on one of them, and stood back to assess the situation. One wuggy in a diaper, and two naked wuggies.

I put a diaper on another one, and once again, stood back to assess. One wuggy in a diaper, and two naked wuggies.

I put the diaper back on the first wuggy, and put a pair of shorts on top of it. One wuggy in a diaper and shorts, two naked wuggies.

I put a diaper on a wuggy, following up with a pair of bloomers. One wuggy in a diaper and bloomers, one naked wuggy, and one wuggy wearing shorts... but no diaper.

I escorted Houdini back to the bathroom, praised him profusely for using the toilet, replaced his diaper and shorts, and exhorted him sternly not to remove his diaper again, but simply to tell me when he needed to use the potty. We trooped back out to the living room. One wuggy in diaper and shorts, one wuggy in a diaper and bloomers, and one naked wuggy.

Victory was close at hand! I put a diaper on the last remaining wuggy. One wuggy in a diaper, one wuggy wearing shorts and a diaper... and one naked wuggy.

Onesies are a mom's best friend, and I quickly found a different outfit for the naked wuggy--one less easily removed. She was not happy about this, and so it took quite a while to wrangle her into it. But when it was all said and done, I was safe. They might not all be dressed yet, but at least they were all wearing diapers. No disasters ahead.

One wuggy in an adorable one-piece outfit, one wuggy in diaper and shorts, one wuggy in a diaper. Busily microwaving a 3-inch red Camaro.

Our microwave seems to have been designed for ease of use by the illiterate, with pre-programmed buttons with pictures of different foods on them. The button with a picture of a steaming cup will set it for long enough to boil a cup of tea, the button with a plate of food is just right for reheating leftovers, etc.

Thankfully, I caught them just moments after they'd pressed the popcorn button.

"Gonna pop it!"

Gonna pop it, indeed.

One diapered wuggy, one wuggy in a diaper and shorts, one wuggy in a diaper and an adorable one-piece outfit...

...and one wiped out Mama.

3.14.2007

WFMW: Cranberry Juice

I don't know about you, but we have a really hard time drinking enough water around here.

Or at least we did.

Did you know that at Trader Joes, you can get a 32 oz. jar of pure cranberry juice for 4 bucks?

Not cranberry juice cocktail, which is really mostly sugar water, but real, live cranberry juice--not from concentrate!

Of course nobody wants to drink straight cranberry juice straight, but adding just a little bit to your water makes it scrumptious and refreshing. It's sort of like lemon water, only much, much better. Even the kids love it.

And since we dilute it about 20/1, it really isn't that expensive.

Cheap, yummy, vitamin-filled hydration that doesn't rot the teeth?

Definitely works for me!

3.13.2007

See, I told you I didn't understand daylight savings...

I just got the memo that this is daylight savings time. Here I thought it was all about how to conserve our tiny ration of winter sun... turns out it's all about spending our newfound wealth wisely. (Thanks, slowlane!)

I LOVE daylight savings!

I think it should be daylight savings all year long!

And I think I just found a new criteria to look for in a place to settle down.

I want to live at the western extreme of any given time zone.

=)

3.12.2007

Welcome to Universal Jet-Lag Time

I don't understand daylight savings. Growing up in Arizona, daylight savings was just that time when all the television and radio programs got shuffled around, when all the out of state live programming moved forward or back inexplicably, and all the local programming moved around to accomodate. It was also why you had to check an almanac before calling out of state relatives, to make sure you knew you weren't calling after bedtime. Daylight savings was also the reason why sometimes, on a day trip, the time would change back and forth, back and forth, without any state borders being involved. The Navajo Nation and the State of Arizona are separate, but overlapping entities, and the Navajo Nation does observe daylight savings... it can get pretty confusing.

But it never really affected me personally until I moved to California.

I don't understand it, and I don't like it one bit.

What daylight, exactly, did we save? Sure, the sun rose at 7am instead of 8, but it also set at 5.

So instead of showering in the dark, we eat our suppers in the dark.

Brilliant.

There is a great joy and delight in getting up before the sun, having some time to prepare for the dawn. There's a sense of milking everything out of the day. The darkness between getting-up-time and sunrise is a wonderfully rich time, quivering with the expectation of light.

The darkness between sunset and going-to-bed-time is not so wonderful. It is bleak and miserable and final. The day is over, and it was short. Now it is time to eat our supper in the fading light, and enjoy our little bit of family time in the dark of night. The state has taxed away the little bit of daylight that was ours to enjoy, to devote it to our preparations for work.

I am angry.

The lack of sunlight has been very hard on me this winter, and frankly, I can't fathom what possible good daylight savings could have done anybody.

And I'm so glad it's all over, but now our schedules are all turned upside-down...

Grump, grump, grump.

3.08.2007

...and I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your stove out!

This evening I was preparing eggs for a lovely chef's salad, the water boiled over a bit, spreading the flames on the gas stove.

As I reached over and turned down the gas, Nathan was right beside me, eager to help with the crisis, blowing with all his might.

Good one to have around, that kid.

=)

3.06.2007

Identity, or, I wish I could think of a better title for this

I suppose it all started as we drove Justy home from church one evening. With a little bit of help and prompting from Justy, the wuggies told us all about the movie they'd watched during our small group meeting--Curious George! With trains! Can life get any better than this?

And suddenly, I wondered if this might hold the key to the great mystery of our household.

For the past few weeks, Nathan had been wandering about the house singing "Time for Teletubbies! Time for Teletubbies!" and "Tinkywinky!"

This is quite normal behavior for a three year old... assuming he's been watching Teletubbies. But I certainly hadn't been showing them Teletubbies, and I didn't see how anyone else could have, either. It had been nearly six months since Nathan had sprayed down our television set, and we'd never replaced it.

Brilliant discipline opportunity, really. When you disregard Mama's warnings and squirt water on the television set anyway, you will lose all TV privileges... indefinitely. In the weeks that followed, every time he asked for Sesame Street, I could be genuinely sympathetic as I reminded him exactly why it was that the television was dead, and Elmo gone forever. No hard feelings whatsoever, just the dawning realization that maybe listening to Mama was in his best interests after all.

No, Nathan certainly hadn't been watching Teletubbies at our house, and I've been there for all his playdates---none of them involved Teletubbies. I wondered briefly if there was an unorthodox curriculum in the toddler nursury at church, but since I'm on the rotation, I know exactly what they do in there. Inside play time, song time, outside play time, hand washing time, snacks time, more song time, Bible story time, coloring time, indoor play time, and then it's time to go find mommy and daddy. Nope, no "time for Teletubbies" in there.

It was terribly disconcerting. I know everything about his life... right? And yet he'd obviously been exposed to Teletubbies--a LOT of Teletubbies--and I had no idea when or where or how.

So it was a tremendous relief to come up with such a plausible and innocuous solution. Perhaps Justy had been showing them videos at church during our small group.

She hadn't.

But as Andy and I explained our confusion to Justy, Nathan piped up.

"The neighbors. The neighbors watch teevee."

We all laughed. Of course! There little boy next door is the same age as the twins, and he watches a lot of television. With the volume turned way up. I just tune it out, but... well... I guess now I know why the boys spend so much time looking out the window. Maybe they aren't always watching for planes after all...

It was good to know the truth, but even more, it was such a delight to actually learn something from one of the wuggies. Of course they'd talked before, but up until then it was just simple requests, or declarations of the obvious. This was the first time that Nathan had actually provided me with interesting and moderately complex information.

I gasped in wonder. "He's a little person!"

It's the sort of thing I keep discovering over and over, on deeper and deeper levels.

I thought of the maybe-baby as a tiny person when I first saw the two blue lines, and I saw those two little jelly beans (two!) as tiny people... but when the ultrasound first showed recognizable shapes, and heartbeats, it was still a shock. They're little people! And when I watched little Isaiah kick during another ultrasound, and recognized in retrospect that faint sensation as real movement, it was another shock. They're little people.

You'd think with all the prenatal bonding I'd have figured it out, but it was still a shock to discover that they really were people when they were born.

And when they first smiled.

And when they first rolled over.

And when they first crawled.

And when they first climbed up on the piano, took off their diapers, and peed all over the keys.

It's an amazing thing to watch them unfold.

"He's a little person!"

Nathan latched onto the phrase, and repeated, "I'm a person! I'm a person!"

And so it was that we got into a discussion of just exactly what we all are.

Dadders asked them if they were people, or pickles. After much discussion the consensus was that Nathan and Isaiah are definitely people, although Tembo might be a lollipop.

That conversation has continued over the past month, as the wuggies earnestly attempt to define themselves verbally. There has been much talk about all the different sorts of people... men and ladies, boys and girls.

Isaiah is a man, and will not hear otherwise. When he neatly folds the towels for me, is he a helper? No, Wugger a man! As we march around the playground in a line, Wuggidy at the fore, is he the leader? NO! Wugger a MAN!"

Slowly but surely, however, he is starting to realize that manhood is consistent with other attributes. The other day he was soliloquizing about his identity... something he does quite frequently, actually.

"Wugger a man. Wugger a little man. No.... Wugger a BIG man. Tembo a girl. Tembo a girl like Mama. Wugger a man like Dadder."

He paused and thought for a minute.

"Dadder an OLD man."

3.03.2007

On the cultivation of shameful virtues.

I have a confession to make.

I like American Idol.

And it gets even worse. I'm not even ashamed of it.

I'm becoming quite convinced that AI is a powerful force of cultural renovation. It's like a great big music appreciation class. We see the good, the bad, the ugly, occasionally even the truly great... and all the while Simon Cowell helps us to think clearly about what makes the difference.

Yeah, yeah, he's cruel... he's also right, mostly.

And the fact is, in a culture where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, where music is a "matter of taste," and taste is a matter of nothing at all, objective criticism is always going to come off as cruel.

We're (wrongly) ashamed of objective tastes, but American Idol doesn't flinch, and doesn't sugar-coat it. Instead, with its hilarious harshness, American Idol brazenly appeals to parts of our souls that shame us. Vices like the desire to enjoy the humiliation of others, but virtues, too, like the desire to listen to music objectively and well.

American Idol is far from perfect, but quite honestly, within this cultural climate, I'm hard pressed to think of a better way to cultivate such shameful virtues.... or how a culture might survive without them.

So right now the burning question in my mind is whether to root for Melinda or Lakisha.

That, and why on earth American preferred Sanjaya over AJ. It wasn't perfect by a long shot, but shaky spots aside, I thought his interpretation was an improvement on the original. Suble and dramatic, and oh-so-musical... definitely not in the same league as some of those girls, but overall one of the strongest performances of the guys.

But the more evidence we get of America's bad taste, the clearer it becomes just how badly we need something like American Idol.

So we can learn to choose well.

Practice makes perfect, right?