Tag Archives: Christmas tree

Advent 2013 Day 12 Daal and Christmas Trees (and flip turns)

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?)).

This is what she saw when she got home yesterday. She said it worked. Yay for tiny trees!

This is what she saw when she got home yesterday. She said it worked. Yay for tiny trees!

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.

Semi-authentic Daal

Ingredients:

  • 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

Preparation:

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.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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.)

Preparation

  1. 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.
  2. Let rest for 10 minutes or so
  3. Preheat pan to medium high heat with a tiny amount of cooking oil to coat pan
  4. Roll into small (about 1.5 inch or 4 cm diameter) balls
  5. Coat each ball lightly with flour and roll out to about 6 inch (15 cm) diameter (1/6 inch thick) circles.
  6. 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.
  7. Serve with daal or other Indian food. Or anytime you need a nice flat bread.
Today's dinner, Daal with a dollop of yoghurt in it, homemade chapatis and a bit of mango chutney. You'll know that I've gone off the deep end when I start canning my own mango chutney as well.

Today’s dinner, Daal with a dollop of yoghurt in it, homemade chapatis and a bit of mango chutney. You’ll know that I’ve gone off the deep end when I start canning my own mango chutney as well.

Captain Dukie checks out the bicycle ornament on mini-tree as paper cranes take flight. (wow, that's almost a haiku!)

Captain Dukie checks out the bicycle ornament on mini-tree as paper cranes take flight. (wow, that’s almost a haiku!)

Now, everyone sing with me 🙂

 

 

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Advent 2013 Day 2 – Things go swimmingly

Today, on the second day of Advent, I got up early to get to the pool by 7:00 am for the first day of a 2-week Advanced Crawl swimming class at the local pool. There were 7 of us, 2 women and 5 men all with varying amounts of interesting tattoos (one has some very Maori tribal ink down both arms and another has his entire back covered in very Japanese artwork) I was a bit worried about this because I don’t believe in my heart that I’m good enough to be advanced, and because this class is taught in another language on top of it. But the instructor knows me and she said I’d be find, so there I was.

You know how in every class, there’s one person who has to be last? Yeah. That wasn’t me. Actually, it turns out that I can outswim this entire class. The guys started getting out of my way, saying “Ladies first” so that I didn’t catch up with them and pass them. So huzzah for ego-boosting swim class. After the class ended, I stayed around for an extra 15 minutes, just swimming by myself and feeling comfy in the water. I haven’t swum alone since deep in the high volume weeks before Ironman, so it was nice and peaceful not to be looking out for anyone else and having to set an example. I was so peaceful and in the zone that I swam directly into some guy who magically appeared out of nowhere in my lane, backstroking right towards me. Oops! Overall, it was a fun and new experience to be the fast kid in class. I could get used to it!

Possibly, my swimming has improved since I obsessively do about 300 meters of technique exercises at the start of every swim. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Catch-up Drill
  2. Fist Drill
  3. Zipper Drill
  4. Underarm touch
  5. Tarzan drills

Anyway, might as well stay under the sea for today’s recipe. The other week, the Wife brought home 2 kg of fresh mussels from the local fish shop. We didn’t have any white wine on hand for traditional Moules Marinières so I improvised.

Moules Triathlonières:

Ingredients

  • 2 kg fresh mussels
  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes in juice (or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, skinned and diced + 1 cup water)
  • 1 Tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tsp dried basil
  • Fresh or dried parsley to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse the mussels in fresh water and remove beards and barnacles. Discard any obviously dead ones (Like ones that are already open and don’t close again when you poke at them or very obviously broken shells.)
  2. In a large heavy sauce pan or stockpot heat the oil over medium heat
  3. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, try not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add the wine and cook an additional minute
  5. Add the tomatoes plus a cup of additional water
  6. Add the spices
  7. Bring to a low boil
  8. There will be about three waves of mussels. Make sure each wave is wearing the appropriate color swim cap…Cover and steam for 3 to 4 minutes or until most of them have opened. Send them to T1 and add the next batch. Repeat until all mussels are cooked and the broth is rich and tasty.
  9. Add all mussels back into broth (or serve mussels in separate bowls and spoon broth over them)
  10. Serve with garlic bread.

I used the leftover broth the next day to make vegetable soup with spinach, mushrooms, and pasta. It was pretty salty so I had to cut it with more water for the soup.

And now let’s hear from some folks who met someone who’s 6’4″ and full of mussels…

This is especially for the Wife and the theme of rock musicians playing flutes. We’ll continue with that theme tomorrow.

And now for your daily cat. At the Christmas market we got a cat surprise treat bag that contained a catnip treat. The cats turned it into a tiny, sodden pillow soaked in cat spit in short order. While I don’t have any pictures of them fighting over it, falling over in a kitty stupor, and subsequently getting the munchies, I do have a picture of them covered in ribbons, helping us take down last year’s tree.

Captain Dukie and Devil Kitty undecorate the tree. And yes, if you notice, our angel topper is a weeping one. Don't blink!

Captain Dukie and Devil Kitty undecorate the tree. And yes, if you notice, our angel topper is a weeping one. Don’t blink!

Advent Day 23 Christmas cats

For today, the penultimate day of advent in 2012, I talk about swimming, pancakes, the ’86 Mets, the Boss, Prince, and my cats. So, pretty much business as usual.

Swam 3000 meters today in 1:23.  For me, that’s good. It felt like it took a long time and afterwards I was tired enough that I cancelled my last workout of the week – a bike workout I was supposed to do tonight on the trainer.  Instead, the Wife and I will eat good food, watch MST3K (in honor of the 3k swim!) and watch the cats continue to destroy the tree.  Note that this year all our ornaments are made from metal, paper, or plastic so they can’t actually do all that much damage. My tree decorating has changed dramatically since we’ve acquired these particular cats. Lucky for them that they’re so adorable when they wreak havoc.

In Advent Calendar news, Lindt warned us that in order for miracles to happen, we must have faith, or in the immortal words of Tug McGraw, “Ya gotta believe!”. Yes I remember the ’86 Mets (and oddly, I thought of Mookie Wilson first and had to google to remember that Tug McGraw was the originator of the catchphrase. I don’t remember  the ’73 Mets, I was too young for that season).  We both guessed the AC/DC logo correctly today even though it looks a bit more like RC/DC this time.

The Wife, choosing the tastier chocolate, showing both her good judgement and her elegant hand.

The Wife, choosing the tastier chocolate, showing both her good judgement and her elegant hand.

For breakfast today, since it was Sunday, I made pancakes. I call these Lembas pancakes because they are a variation on my Lembas waybread recipe and contain some things that I imagine Elves would cook with. Also, we are going to see the Hobbit this week.

Lembas pancakes with spelt, coconut, and walnuts.  They're good with honey, maple syrup, or jam.

Lembas pancakes with spelt, coconut, and walnuts. They’re good with honey, maple syrup, or jam (but maybe not starfish and coffee).

Here’s my Lembas Pancakes recipe:

Makes 8 to 9 medium sized pancakes

Ingredients

–       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)

Preparation

  1. 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.
  2. In a bowl – beat egg by hand
  3. Add rest of ingredients and mix until just moist – not too much more. 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.
  4. Add a bit of butter to the oil in the pan for taste.  If desired. Feel free to skip the butter, but it’s not really unhealthy and it tastes good so you might as well add it.  Do not add margarine.  Margarine is unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs in favor of butter and extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Drop by large spoonfuls in hot frying pan
  6. Cook until bubbles break or light brown on bottom
  7. Flip and cook until edges are no longer moist and pancakes are light brown on both sides
  8. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve.
  9. Serve with honey, maple syrup, jam, and butter

One of my favorite Christmas songs done by a New Jersey born rock megastar (and Santa’s almost here, one more day!):

And (the artist formerly known as) Prince with Muppets 🙂

And now, a flipbook of Devil-cat, Captain Dukie and the tree:

Advent Days 16 and 17 Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Sorry about missing yesterday – working out all morning, then the rest of the day at the Christmas Market in Wiesbaden where I had too much Glühwein (or German wikipedia here), potato pancakes, poffertjes and then topped it off with hot chocolate and Baileys and Irish stew. So then we got home and went into a food and drink coma.

I won the AC/DC Advent guessing game yesterday with drummer and today we both lost when it came up R2/D2 again. Lindt talked about smiling and being rich but the causation and correlation have not yet been proven. Incidentally, my superpower (we all have one, you just have to figure out what it is) actually caused a (typically taciturn) older German woman to not only smile back at me today but also wish me, “Guten Morgen”. Yes, my superpower involves getting strangers to smile back at me.  Probably not as effectively as any baby or small dog, but hey, I’m a 42 year old woman. I’ll take what I can get. Also, it’s a fun hobby, especially when out running. I used to run with a group in SE Washington DC that was pretty mixed in terms of gender, age, and race and we would play the game every Saturday. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we all won, every time. And here’s a photo essay of lots of people smiling in Seattle last week and I didn’t have anything to do with it except that someday the Wife and I might be two of them.  (Oddly, one of the perks of being lesbians is that we get to keep getting married to each other over and over again as the laws change in the places we live or want to live. Yay for multiple weddings to the same wonderful woman! Boo that that has to be the case.)

Then today we decorated the cute little tree we got on Saturday and made yet more fudge.  We’ve now made almost 4 kilos of the stuff and tomorrow are ready to start cutting it up and sending it out.  Then the cookie making shall commence. (Chocolate chip, oatmeal cranberry, Russian tea cakes, macaroons, Spitzbuben, orange cookies, butter cookies, thumbprint cookies, Lembas, and meringues). At the Christmas market I got two new cookie cutters, one specifically for the Spitzbuben and one shaped like a bicycle! The bicycle cookie cutter goes well with our new and unbreakable bicycle ornament for the tree 🙂

Our tree decorating is a bit odd these days because anything that goes on the tree has to be completely cat proof, so delicate glass ornaments, 900 lights, and beautiful balloons made from ornaments just aren’t going to happen in our house. (But check out Epbot here for an amazing steampunk decorated house and tree). Oh and I wanted a Weeping Angel for the top, but we couldn’t find one anywhere (why am I the only one who wants a tree topper that looks like one of the creepiest Sci-fi monsters ever to show up on TV? Rhetorical question, don’t answer that. I also want a Robot Santa for under the tree. And a yule-tide. 10 points to anyone who gets all 3 references without a) being married to me and b) clicking through to the links.) so the Wife made me a low tech version because she’s wonderful like that. It even has 2 sides so I can turn it to the creepier side when I’m in the mood.  We decided against putting a version with the fangs on the actual tree. Christmas is a time for twinkling lights and blinking, after all.  So in honor of our cute little tree, one of the classics (since I already used O Tannenbaum two days ago):

Today was a rest day (yay rest days!) which is why we had time for fudge making and tree decorating on a Monday, along with finishing the Christmas cards. It’s amazing how much free time one has when one isn’t trying to fit one or more workouts into the day along with everything else.