We leave in a few hours for New York, I still haven’t finished yesterday’s post and I had a bit of pre-travel panic today. Swim class was great but things went downhill fast after that. To help counter that, some Christmas spirits:
I don’t quite know what to do for today. I’ve basically been to aikido and done nothing else today. The Wife and I have baked about a hundred cookies and made about 5 pounds of fudge which we shall mail and give out in the next two days. Then we leave for the US and these updates will get even harder. I might actually run tomorrow for the first time all week. I need to stop making a habit of my Sunday long runs being the only runs I manage each week. Well, at least I swam twice. And had two nice bike rides.
OK so, um . . .
Oatmeal. One of my favorite foods as a child was the packets of Apples and Cinnamon oatmeal from Quaker. Just add water and you have warm, hot, sweet, cinnamony goodness, except that it’s like half sugar. I rediscovered it in grad school when I would be working all night in the lab and by that time it came in plastic containers where you just added water to the fill line, microwaved it and then once again sweet cinnamon goodness without much effort, still far too much sugar, and now with a significant amount of wasteful packaging.
And that brings us to today. We’ve finally discovered that it only takes 10 minutes to make regular oatmeal in which we control everything that goes in and it’s much tastier than the instant version. It takes 7 minutes longer, though, so plan accordingly.
Really, it’s that easy? Oatmeal
Ingredients: (for two)
- 1 cup Quick Oats (The comparison of all the different kinds of oats is a blog post for a different day and today we’re on about the fast-cooking version.)
- 1 cup low-fat lactose free milk (or soy milk, or regular milk, or even water)
- 1 cup + 1 Tbsp water
- pinch salt
- 1 apple peeled, cored, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 to 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 to 2 tsp honey or brown sugar (or whatever sweetener you prefer)
- In a medium saucepan, bring water and milk to a low boil
- Stir in oatmeal and salt and simmer for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Remove from heat, add apple, cinnamon, and sweetener
- Let stand, covered for about 2 minutes more.
- Serve 🙂 Add additional sugar and/or cinnamon to individual taste.
That’s it. It’s done. It can even be done on a weekday if you give up 5 minutes of faffing on Facebook. (The other 6 minutes while you wait for thing to cook can still be used to check if anyone is wrong on the internet or for looking at pictures of cats, etc.)
Speaking of pictures of cats, here’s a few of the boys very beautiful mother who was my first foster kitty. I successfully fattened her up, made her healthy, socialized her, and convinced the cat-sitter to adopt her where all 5 pounds of her are still in possession of all she surveys. The boys were my second foster project and you know how well that one went as it’s now 4 years later and I dragged them to another continent with me rather than give then back. In one way, less successful, in another – infinitely more so.
And today I’m out of ideas so it’s up to John Denver and the Muppets to make you smile.
Today was interesting. It started with early morning swim class (still the fastest) and more sinus-searing flip turn practice. I’m getting better, slowly. I’ve figured out that if I don’t flip around enough then when I push off the wall, I head straight down to the bottom, so that’s another step forward. My usual gang didn’t even make it to the flip turn stage yet, so I’m really glad I went on Wednesday. From there, I had to jump on the bike and head straight downtown in the rain to pick up a prescription for the liver-destroying drugs I need to keep my bowels from eating themselves because the pharmacist was being somewhat bitchy about expired prescriptions and where exactly on the piece of paper the doctor signed it. Then back home as fast as my poor city bike could go to meet the heating guy who was there to do the yearly inspection of our very efficient, but often broken heating system. He beat me there even though I was a full three minutes early for once. We got inside, I went upstairs to my little workstation and left him to do his thing. Which involved inordinate amounts of under the breath muttering and the occasional German expletive. He had to go down to his truck on three separate occasions, had to talk with both his boss and the makers of the temperamental heating several times and frighten the cats at least twice. And this for a system that wasn’t even broken in the first place. Oh, yes. That was foreshadowing.
By the time he left, he’d had to go down to his truck one more time for the duct tape to fix the bit he had broken, we’d had to turn off a circuit breaker so he could do more fixing of the thing that wasn’t broken and the entire electronic innards were strewn all over the kitchen floor. He’s got to come back at some point to replace the part he broke while fixing the functional heating and…
You know what’s coming, don’t you?
There was no hot water after he left. So yes. Success on all counts. Immediately after I went into righteous indignation mode and made the (long-suffering) Wife write a nastygram to the landlord, she discovered that the hot water didn’t work because the heating guy failed to turn it back on. Someone had a Friday the 13 today. I’m just glad it wasn’t me. The Wife rescued us by pushing a button. She’s quite the handyperson.
The other thing that happened today of course is that the Hobbit part two opened. The one with the dragon and apparently extraneous elves. So since I can’t find my Lembas scones recipe (they started as cookies, but the texture changed as I continued to modify it and I wrote all the changes down by hand somewhere and I can’t find it. Anyway, these are somewhat light, kind of healthy, and definitely filling.
L on Wheels’s Lembas Pancakes
(These are my version of Lembas done as pancakes; they’re dense and a bit nutty and should fill hungry bellies for hours)
Makes: 8 to 9 regular pancakes or 5 Mickey Mouse pancakes, enough for 3 adults or 2 hungry boys
- 1 Egg
- 3/4 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
- 1/4 spelt flour
- 1/3 cup dried coconut flakes
- 1 Tbsp. sugar (white, brown, or raw)
- 3/4 cup milk (low fat)
- 2 Tbsp oil (canola or similar)
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)
- Preheat frying pan over medium heat with oil (canola or similar; not olive). Preheat oven to about 120°C or 250°F or so with an oven-proof plate already inside to keep pancakes warm.
- Beat egg until fluffy.
- Add the other ingredients and mix with spoon until just moistened, not longer. If consistency is too thick, add a bit more milk, if too thin, add a bit more white flour. Too thick would be if a metal spoon stands up straight and never falls over, too thin would be if that same spoon meets no resistance and falls straight over. Anything in between and this recipe will work with varying degrees of pancake height.
- Grease pan with oil and butter – add the oil first, then butter for flavor. Do not substitute margarine for the butter here. If no butter, just use oil. Do not use olive oil.
- Pour batter onto heated pan in pancake‐sized dollops. (About 1/4 cup)
- Turn pancakes when bubbles pop and the edges are slightly dry.
- Store in warm oven until whole batch is done.
- Serve with: Fruit, syrup, honey, jam, butter, etc.
Which makes me think of my favorite Star Wars featured song…
This blog does not seem to go up to 11 this year. Apologies to anyone who was waiting impatiently for yesterday’s post. I pulled a double swim workout, ate sushi, and fell promptly asleep.
Wednesdays are my usual days to meet up with my little swim group that I am ostensibly in charge of – in that I’m bringing the training plans and modifying them as necessary as my little group gets more proficient at the crawl. After only two months learning from me (and having started pretty much at zero) one of them is already faster than me. So I’m either the world’s best swim coach or slow as the offspring from a turtle and a sloth. Or I should know better than to show 20 year old athletes new skills. Anyway, I’m quite proud of them and only slightly miffed at how fast they are.
And that’s not even my big swimming news! I couldn’t make the Monday swim class this week, so I got to make it up last night. Which means that after swimming for an hour, I took a 15 minute break and swam for another 45 minutes. The Wednesday night crowd is a bit more coordinated than the Monday morning group. At least some of them are. I actually might not have been the fastest, but it was a bit hard to tell because after the usual 20 minutes of various drills, we started to learn to flip turn! I did a flip turn! More than one! And I didn’t snort half the pool up my nose! I clearly need a lot of work at them and I sort of miss the wall about a third of the time, but I CAN DO IT! It’s not that hard. Really.
So that was yesterday. Also yesterday I put up our tiny Christmas tree. We’ll be away for Christmas this year so the Wife thought we didn’t need one, but I love putting up trees. So I got a tiny little potted spruce for 10 Euros and a pretty table runner with stars on it for 4, pulled out our paper decorations and after about half hour’s work, we had a tree. The Wife has been working crazy hours and has been a bit stressed at work. I was hoping this would help, so I left it on when I left for the pool (she out of work in time to grab her swim stuff from home and join me for the second swim hour and got 2300 good relaxing meters in while I learned to flip turn (did I mention that I learned how to do a flip turn yesterday?)).
Today’s recipes are healthy and vegetarian, and I actually managed to make them today while I was busy doing all the things.
My daal recipe is taken pretty much verbatim from the dairy free cooking section of about.com. I usually add a tiny bit more red pepper powder (mine’s not exactly cayenne, it’s the really spicy red pepper that you can get in the Indian food store) and less broth when I want a more stew-like consistency.
- 1 T. sesame oil (you can use olive oil here, but the sesame oil is so much tastier)
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 T. finely grated fresh ginger
- 4 cups water or vegetable broth (the veggie broth gives it some depth of flavor)
- 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 1 t. cumin
- 1 t. coriander
- 1 t. tumeric
- ¼ t. cardamom (or 3 to 4 cardamom pods, crushed with mortar and pestle)
- ¼ t. cinnamon
- ¼ t. cayenne pepper (any hot pepper powder will do and more can be added to taste)
- 1 t. salt, or to taste (none necessary if you add veggie broth)
- 2 T. tomato paste
1. In a 3-quart stockpot or other medium-sized soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
2. Stirring constantly, add the water or broth, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are very tender.
3. Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more, or until the soup is desired temperature and consistency, adding more water to the dahl if needed. Serve with yoghurt and chapatis.
(yes, you can make your own, it’s easy!) I had no idea that chapatis (Indian flat bread) are so easy to make. And fun. But you have to encourage them. No bad-mouthing or talking down to the chapatis as they cook.
- 2 cups chapati flour (white will work just fine)
- Warm water (enough to make a pliable dough – start with 1/3 cup)
- 1-2 tsp olive oil (for the dough)
- Salt to taste
- Additional flour for work surface
- Cooking oil for pan (Canola works. Any oil with a relatively high smoke point and little flavor will do. I.e. no olive oil or sesame oil for the pan.)
- Mix flour, salt, water, and olive oil to form a smooth dough. That’s the key – working the dough enough to make a nice, really smooth dough. It should be about the consistency of fresh Play-Doh, but a bit stickier. I start with a spoon and switch to hands after the water is incorporated. Don’t be afraid to work it for a while.
- Let rest for 10 minutes or so
- Preheat pan to medium high heat with a tiny amount of cooking oil to coat pan
- Roll into small (about 1.5 inch or 4 cm diameter) balls
- Coat each ball lightly with flour and roll out to about 6 inch (15 cm) diameter (1/6 inch thick) circles.
- Fry each circle, flipping twice. The first time after you see little bumps on the top form (and light brown on bottom) and the second after the bottom is light brown, just like the first side. Just after the second flip, use a kitchen towel to press the edges of the chapati down and encourage it to puff up (this is where you have to tell it that it is a good chapati, a clever chapati, and very pretty). I’m not always successful getting them to puff up, but they taste ok anyway and have about the right consistency.
- Serve with daal or other Indian food. Or anytime you need a nice flat bread.
Now, everyone sing with me 🙂
I am tired so instead of recipes typed in by me, you get two that are directly from the internet.
Apple-Cranberry Pie from Runner’s World – Not the healthiest pie on the planet, but it’s got apples and fresh cranberries in it (along with cream cheese, oats, and other good things) and it was relatively fun to make and much more fun to eat.
Oatmeal Cranberry cookies – I found the recipe for these online last year and now it’s our favorite cookie. I’m making more tomorrow. These use dried cranberries and it makes them about a thousand times more interesting that cookies with raisins in them. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom make them really special.
The other thing that happened today besides a 25 km round trip bike ride to get my regular (every 2 months) bloodwork done – necessary to make sure my meds aren’t destroying my liver and to make sure I’m still basically mostly healthy – and the usual 3.5 hours of Aikido and a ton of work in between those two things is that I got to wear my new Christmas socks today. We exchanged gifts early because I am a five-year-old and couldn’t wait.
The feeling I get when I get to wear a new and soft pair of socks for the first time can be described better in German: Sockenvergnügen. Apparently this word did not exist until I entered Germany. The best English translation is: Sockgasm!
In lieu of music today, here’s David Sedaris reading his hilarious Christmas essay 6 to 8 Black Men.
Today was rest day so I don’t even have to feel guilty for not doing anything more strenuous than going for a walk with the Wife to pick up the Italian food from the local (Turkish run) Italian restaurant. They have a good oven so their pizza is good. Some of their pasta dishes are somewhat non-traditional, like ziti with tomato cream sauce and sucuk, but it’s tasty, quick, and easy even if our Italian Hausmeister (which is the guy who takes care of the place for the landlord and I really don’t know the English equivalent – rental manager? Caretaker?) is a bit disparaging when he talks about their food.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 stick (225 g) sweet butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2.25 cups white flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup nuts (walnuts or pecans work the best. Optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 °F (190°C)
- Cream butter and sugar together
- Beat in vanilla
- Beat in eggs, one at a time
- In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt
- Mix the flour mixture in gradually (especially if using a stand mixer) until you have a nice stiff cookie dough
- By hand, using a wooden spoon stir in the chocolate chips and optional nuts
- Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown
Ok, so the only things I had wrong were the temperature (I had it set too low, our oven runs hot and with Umluft (convection oven) turned on, we bake correct chocolate chip cookies at 175°C or so.) and the order of the addition of vanilla and eggs. I tend to add the vanilla after the eggs. I don’t think it makes any difference.
So what if you live in Germany and want a taste of home? Baking soda is Natron. You can find it in envelopes in the baking aisle or in the traditional orange Arm and Hammer boxes in the special imports sections of fancy food stores. Either 405 flour or 550 flour works fine. I started with various combinations of the two while trying to recreate American all-purpose flour, but I’ve found that it makes absolutely no difference. You can also use whole wheat flour. Spelt flour (Dinkel) doesn’t really work. Don’t ask how I know that. And now for the big problems: brown sugar and chocolate chips. Brown sugar as we know it in the US does not exist here. I take a tablespoon or so of molasses, mix it with 3/4 cup sugar and put it in the food processor on high for a minute or two. Presto. Brown sugar. Or if you’re lazy, just add the molasses (honey also works, but gives a slightly lighter, fruitier flavor) to the stand mixer when you add the sugar. Chocolate chips also a a rarity in Germany. You have two options: every time you go back to the States, bring a couple of pounds of proper chocolate chips with you (they’re pretty shelf stable if you keep them in a cool, dark, dry place) or use regular semi-sweet baking chocolate and hack at it with the big chef knife until you have chocolate chip sized pieces. The second way tastes fine, but a little of the particular texture is lost because there’s some sort of waxy coating on proper chocolate chips that helps them keep their shape while baking.
I don’t have any pictures of these because they usually don’t last long enough for that. I think this was the first food item I ever learned to make on my own. (Other than say, a can of soup or a fried egg). I love making them and I love giving them to people. They’re like little chocolatey love bites. I almost always will make a nut-free batch first because there’s always at least one person with a nut allergy in any group. I have absolutely no idea how I’d make a gluten-free or a vegan version, but if you’re reading this and you know, please post it in the comments!
Also,if you want to play around with various textures and consistencies, here’s a great article about the science of cookie making. From the article:
Baking cookies is almost magical. You put little balls of wet, white dough into the oven and out pop brown, crispy, tasty biscuits.
There’s also a great time-lapse video of the baking cookies in the article. And speaking of videos, today, I found a great Ylvis parody on Facebook, so you get my favorite Norwegian viral nonsense video along with a few hilarious parodies:
And the spleen, what does it do?
And what if your failing, non-inclusive clothing brand needs a boost? Do they know what the fox says when he’s not wearing a shirt? I think they do. I’m not linking directly to their video because they’re an odious company and I don’t really want to contribute to their hit counts, but this was a total WTF. They’re not even being ironic here.
Finally, your daily dose of cat, complete with bad fox parody:
Until tomorrow when I shall do all the things and then blog about them here, wishing you a happy Monday!
Which for us means that we do the weekly long run sometime in the afternoon after a late breakfast (waffles today) and general lazing about for a couple of hours. So I ran 9 miles this week, all of them today. The Wife ran 23, a much more reasonable number and appropriately spread out throughout the week. Today’s run was nice, through fields, up over a couple of really tall overpasses, along the river and back through the scenic industrial park trail. Incidentally, that last is not meant ironically. They actually have set up a scenic walking/biking trail that borders on the industrial park and various fields and forests on the other side. It comes complete with informative plaques and scenic overlooks. We wore our matching bright orange hoodies and as usual got more than our fair share of smiles and waves. I actually look utterly ridiculous in it, especially when I’ve got the hood up, which I did for most of the run today.
Then when we got back, we had a typical lazy meal, made with chicken legs bought fresh from one of the poultry stalls at the weekly farmers market. They actually do taste better than the frozen ones from the store, even the organic ones.
Chicken Rub Chicken
No, this is not an order. Stop it, chickens! Ahem. Serves 2. These are great with a steamed vegetable and some mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. We make this on days when we don’t want to think about what to cook.
- 2 chicken legs
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp paprika powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
- Mix the spices on a small plate. Variation is encouraged – the only things that I always end up putting in are the salt, pepper, and paprika, so if you prefer e.g. cumin, curry powder, or chili powder, feel free to add that to the mix instead. But try the cinnamon at least once – it’s really excellent with chicken!
- With your fingertips, rub the spice mixture all over the chicken legs until they’re evenly coated and, for most given versions of spice mixture, red.
- Place chicken legs on a on a piece of aluminum foil with the edges folded up, and stick in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for about 25‐30 minutes. If you’re making a potato side dish, it’s a good idea to start the potatoes now – then everything will be ready together!
On today’s run, I listened to Paul Simon’s Graceland all the way through from start to finish and was reminded once again of just how excellent this album really is. I’ve been listening to Graceland for 27 years at this point and it still hasn’t gotten old for me.
Here’s Rhymin’ Simon singing it in 1991 at the Concert in Central Park (which I was at, at the expense of a final exam in physics)
And me at Graceland with my traveling companion in 1990 when we did one of those things that you can only do in the invincible stupidity of youth. We spent two months on the road as we drove off to look for America, New York to San Francisco by way of Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Austin, the Grand Canyon, the New Mexican desert, and the Pacific ocean.
And cat-hats are the latest trend, really they are. And they do wonders for keeping the ears warm.