Tag Archives: food

Best Pie Ever (Strawberry-Rhubarb Version)

The best thing about our crazy non-winter here (it never got really cold enough to wear my really excellent new winter jacket more than twice, it didn’t snow at all, and it basically rained all winter with temperatures just above freezing) is that local strawberries have already started showing up at the market. That means that rhubarb season and strawberry season are going to be coincident for longer than the usual scant week of overlap. And that means that I’ve attempted to make strawberry-rhubarb pie for the first time ever.

Look at my pie! Now go make your own!

Look at my pie! Now go make your own!

A side note

There is no German word for pie. If you look it up in the dictionary, you find “die Pie” or possibly ” gedeckter Obstkuchen” which translates as covered-up fruitcake which is…not the same thing at all. I posit that the lack of pie in both their vocabulary and their lives is one reason why Germans have the reputation for being so dour and humorless.

An additional side note

Germans are not humorless. We just don’t get their sense of humor most of the time. When we think they’re angry and yelling at each other, they are actually telling jokes, except that you have to have read both Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in order to appreciate them.

On Pie Crust

In the US, I generally bought the Pillsbury frozen pie crusts after one or two disastrous experiments with Crisco-based crusts that never got flaky or ever tasted any good at all. But the other day, I really wanted to make a quiche (I’ll post a recipe for that later in the week or early next week.) and couldn’t just go to the store for a pie crust (see above paragraph regarding Germans and the embarrassing lack of pie in their lives.) so I had to make my own. After a good long perusal of various recipes on the internet, I came to the stunning realization that I didn’t need to use shortening. I could just use butter for the whole damn thing (Note that I am not the only one to have ever had this revelation, when I was searching for strawberry-rhubarb recipes, I discovered that Smitten Kitchen had the exact same thought, only six years ago! ) And the quiche came out tasty and amazing! And the crust was both tasty and flaky. And caused the Wife to say I make the best quiche ever, or at least very good quiche. Regardless, I no longer fear the pie crust, rather I embrace it in all its flaky, buttery goodness. And I possibly did the dance of joy for a few minutes over my Mad Baking Skilz!

On to the pie.

It seems that every strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe on the internet comes from this one which came from a 1997 issue of Bon Appetit (I don’t know where they got it from, but really there are only so many ways to combine strawberries, rhubarb, and sugar in a pie crust) My version is a slightly tweaked version of the slightly tweaked version that Smitten Kitchen posted in 2010.

Ingredients:

  • 1 double crust pie dough, refrigerated (see below for crust recipe)
  • 750 grams (1.5 pounds) fresh rhubarb (*this is weight before trimming. you should have the same volume of cut up rhubarb as strawberries. Too much rhubarb and the pie will always be runny.)
  • 500 grams (1 pound) fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten and blended with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
Pre baking, artfully crimped edges, decorative slits, and everything

Pre baking, artfully crimped edges, decorative slits, and everything

Preparation

  1. At least several hours before you want to make the pie, make the dough and store it in the refrigerator
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F or 180°C (with Umluft – if you don’t know what that is, you don’t have it; otherwise 200°C)
  3. Prepare the rhubarb – clean and rinse it, cut off the leafy bits and the wider bit at the other end. Cut it into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch or so – yes, I know the conversion is inexact. Cooking is an inexact process.) pieces. No need to peel according to Rhubarb Central (for all your Rhubarb needs)
  4. Prepare the strawberries – wash, rinse, hull and cut into pleasing sized pieces that seem like the right size for a pie. If they’re about the same size as the rhubarb pieces, that’s probably about right.
  5. Roll out 1/2 of the pie dough (one of the refrigerated disks) to a 12″ circle and put in 9″ pie plate (I use the fold into quarters method to get it into the pie plate.
  6. Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and cornstarch together in a bowl and pour it into the pie plate.
  7. Roll out the other disk of pie crust, trim it to 11″ and cut decorative slits in it.
  8. Place it over the tasty mess of berries in the pie plate. Then fold both dough crusts under and “decoratively crimp” the edges together. You’re on your own there. Pie dough crimping is a giant sucking black hole of internet advice, videos, and tutorials. Do the best you can or spend all of Thursday inadvertently watching pie-making videos.
  9. Optional: Take the leftover dough, roll it out and make whimsical decorative accents using cookie cutters or whatever is handy. Glue your artistic masterpieces to the pie dough with the egg yolk glaze/glue.
  10. Brush the glaze over pie dough.
  11. Put the pie on a cookie sheet or other solid surface (the recipe I used didn’t say why. I assume to prevent inadvertent spill-over from reaching the bottom of the oven.)
  12. Bake it for about 20 minutes
  13. TURN DOWN the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C and turn off Umluft) and cook an additional 20 to 30 minutes until pie is golden brown and juices are visibly bubbling.
  14. Remove pie from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Seriously, let it cool. Then the fruit mixture will have time to set properly and the pie won’t be runny. We solved the problem by making it the night before and eating it for breakfast.

Just after baking, as we waited for it to cool enough to eat.

Just after baking, as we waited for it to cool enough to eat.

What to do with the constructed, cooked, and cooled pie:

Serve with whipped cream. Possibly for breakfast. Or dinner. I am assuming that you know how to make or buy whipped cream or can use the internet to figure it out. We flavored ours with a bit of vanilla and that was a perfect complement to the pie. This pie is not too sweet and really, it’s better that way, the tastes of the strawberries and the rhubarb really come through.

Breakfast Pie

Pie, it’s what’s for breakfast

My pie dough:

Ingredients for two crust pie:

  • 2 ¼ cups (280 grams) whole wheat flour (you can use white flour here, I just like the taste of the whole wheat and how well it pairs with the strawberry and rhubarb)
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) white flour + additional white flour for surfaces
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (225 g) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup ice water + 1/4 cup additional ice water

Method:

  1. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  2. Cut the cold butter into cubes, add it to the dry ingredients and use a pastry blender to blend it to the “pea sized crumble” stage. Don’t over mix. And yes, a pastry blender is a little thing you use in your hand, you don’t need the stand mixer for this at all.
  3. Add 1/2 cup ice cold water and mix with a rubber spatula until things come together. Add up to ¼ cup additional water as necessary just to get the dough to stick together (add by teaspoonful)
  4. Divide dough in half, cover with plastic wrap and shape into two disks.
  5. Put the dough disks in the refrigerator for no less than 2 hours.
  6. If you’ve never done this before and need pictures to help you out, go here.
A close-up of our whimsical decorative dough cut-outs. Yes, they're cats. No, they are not evenly spaced around the edges and no, they don't all face the same direction. Cats, remember?

A close-up of our whimsical decorative dough cut-outs. Yes, they’re cats. No, they are not evenly spaced around the edges and no, they don’t all face the same direction. Cats, remember?

And that’s it. Best pie I ever made.

And if you’re wondering…

When this thing is going to be a triathlon blog again, well I’m getting on the road bike on Friday for the first time since October and tonight I am going to swim with my little Wednesday night group for the first time in over a month. Now I’ve got to stop nattering on the blog so that I can get my run in today before swim group meets. Also, I just got my MIO Link in the mail and I can now measure my heart rate without feeling like I am suffocating (claustrophobia reaction to the usual chest heart rate strap). It’s very pretty and seems to function just fine and I will write more about it when I’ve had more than one run while using it.

And also, no, I had absolutely no idea who Smitten Kitchen was until this week when I needed a good pie recipe. But giving credit where it is due is a good habit to get into. Also, she has good pie crust tutorials.

Happy Pie-ing!

Obligatory cat pictures

As I was setting up a shot of the pie with some slices taken out just to show how nice and not-runny the filling is, Captain Dukie photobombed me.

As I was setting up a shot of the pie with some slices taken out just to show how nice and not-runny the filling is, Captain Dukie photobombed me.

Then so did Devil-kitty. I then gave up on getting this shot the way I wanted it, preferably without a cat in it.

Then a minute later so did Devil-kitty. I then gave up on getting this shot the way I wanted it, preferably without a cat in it.

Tuesday Twofer

The post about why I haven’t been posting has to wait another day as I haven’t finished it yet and I have too much to do to get it done in the manner it deserves.

There’s wordless Wednesday and Throwback Thursday, but what’s Tuesday? Today it’s Twofer Tuesday since I’ve only got about two minutes at the moment and too many things on the to-to list.

Two running recommendations:

1) For long runs, my Nathan running vest/backpack is the best ever, even though I tend to pack too many things into it. (Always a phone, extra cash, a couple of gels, a packet of tissues, lip balm, and the iPod. Often a jacket and/or spare gloves just in case).

2) Running with one’s significant other. Especially nice slow recovery runs where we get to chat for an hour or so. I know it’s hard for most couples because there’s always the fast one, but every once in a while, if the fast one slows down, it’s really lovely bonding time

Two photos:

two cats on a bookshelf, looking smug

People wonder why one shelf of our Wall of Billy has been left inexplicably empty. This is why.

a picture of bibimbap

The Wife has started making her own version of Korean Bibimbap. I’ll post a recipe when I get it from her.  But because she’s German, her version includes bacon.

She made this the first time last month and it’s possibly the best thing ever to come out of our kitchen. Really tasty with bok choi, fried tofu, the usual ingredients, but instead of egg, she finished it with German bacon. #ilovemywife

That’s all for today. More tomorrow (or Übermorgen – I’m on a plane tomorrow and I don’t know if I’ll have internet on the other side)

2014 Resolutions and 2013 Wrap-up before it’s so late it’s irrelevant

Today, we took down our adorable tiny Christmas tree and all the wonderful cards we received. The last day of Christmas is always bittersweet. We have also managed to eat every last bit of Christmas cookies, candy, and cake that was left in the house, so it’s well and truly over until next year.

One batch of the roughly 1000 pounds of fudge we made for the holidays. Sadly, all of it has been given away and/or consumed.

One batch of the roughly 1000 pounds of fudge we made for the holidays. Sadly, all of it has been given away and/or consumed.

And now for the important parts of this post. What we did and what we’re going to do.

What we did last year:

Short version – last year I did an Ironman. Which I shall never tire of saying, sorry (not really. Ironpeople are never sorry for bringing it up. Again. Maybe this year I’ll actually finish last year’s race report.). I was going to run up a mountain this year, but instead, I’ve decided to qualify for the Boston Marathon and just like that, another obsession is born. The Wife has decided to do her first 70.3 triathlon this year, so we have some fun training times ahead of us.

Long version – here’s my season recap for this year which basically says that I did an Ironman (did I mention that already?) and got a bunch of PR’s along the way, which was nice. Here’s last year’s resolutions post where go into stupefying detail about how to write resolutions and then give a laundry list a mile long of all the things I wanted to do or work on during 2013. Here’s the (hopefully less painful) summary of last year:

  • Ironman (see above.)
  • 4:00 marathon – cancelled because I was too tuckered out from Ironman (see above) to do anything meaningful with the rest of the fall. Poor, poor, pitiful me.
  • Flossing. Yep, still flossing. Like a boss.
  • Basic medical care, cats + humans. Behaving mostly like an adult and doing this stuff when we’re supposed to. Except the dentist. I never did go back to have the ancient cavities replaced. They still don’t bother me at all, giving me zero incentive to actually have things done.
  • Being a Scientist. Working on it. Was harder than I’d imagined. But there’s still hope.
  • Being a German speaker. Passed the B2 German exam and the civics exam for residency in May!
  • Being a home handyperson. Not really. Something had to fall off the (overly ambitious) list and this was it. Not that things are in bad shape, but I still want to reorg the bathroom and living room the way I did with the kitchen in 2012.
  • Getting wedding rings and having the accompanying wedding. Yeah, that one worked out pretty well. In case you were wondering, yes, we are legally in a Lebenspartnership here, but that’s like a civil union and not like a marriage. For US Immigration purposes, we needed a wedding and a marriage, so we had (another) one. It was beautiful and we had so much fun with it and that’s the one perk of same-sex unions. We get to (in fewer than half of the US states, though) have a lot of weddings. To the same person. (Because we have to in order to satisfy different states and countries patchwork and not wholly equal laws and regulations. So to counteract the lack of equality in a lot of places, we express our joy in those places that do consider us equal under the law by having more parties there.) OK, same-sex equality rant over. This is supposed to be a tri-blog, after all.

What we’re going to do this year:

I’ve decided against running up a mountain this September as it interferes with both our vacation plans and my BQ plans.

My A Races:

  • Mainz Marathon (May)
  • Frankfurt Marathon (October)

My B Races:

  • Frankfurt 1/2 Marathon (March)
  • Wiesbaden 70.3 (August)

My C Races:

  • Platte, Fertig, Los (only 450 meters of climbing in 5 miles up Plattestraße in Wiesbaden) (March) (Yes, I’m doing this one just for fun. For some definition of fun.)
  • Frankfurt City Tri (As usual, the week before Wiesbaden. I’ll probably do the sprint distance again. Maybe I’ll get first woman on the bike again this year.)
  • Lauf für Mehr Zeit – Frankfurt’s AIDS charity run. (September) If we’re not on the beach in Crete.
  • Cologne Triathlon Weekend (September) I may do the Oly here for fun since the swim is so beautiful and I’ll be there anyway, sherpa-ing for the Wife at her first half-iron distance triathlon. (Go Wife!)

Intense BQ-based navel-gazing ahead

(with a side-order of Maffetone nattering)

First, about navel-gazing. That refers to omphaloskepsis, or the act of meditative belly-button contemplation. Which is different from naval-gazing, which involves looking excessively at pretty boats, er ships. So, originally I’d hoped to BQ this May in Mainz, but then I realized that Mainz would only count towards 2015 when I will still only be 44 and the BQ time is 3:45 which is 17 minutes faster than my current marathon PR. However, Frankfurt, in October will count towards 2016, when I’ll be 45 and only need to pull off a 3:55, a mere 7 minutes faster than my PR. A majority of the predictors imply that based on my 1/2 marathon and 10k times in 2013, I should be able to swing a 3:53. I’m going to try for that at both Mainz and Frankfurt with some fun triathlon in the middle along with a couple of cool holidays.

Maffetone. Still not sure I believe in him. I’ve started HR training this month and seriously, keeping the HR below 180-43 (+5 for good behavior the last 4 or 5 years) is making me into one angry runner. I was reduced to almost 13 minute miles in the middle of Sunday’s long run. People were walking faster than I was running. I snapped at the Wife. It was miserable all around. I think I may have had a HRM malfunction in the middle of the run or something. Or the constriction around the chest (which triggers my claustrophobia) started to bother me. Or I have no aerobic fitness or something. I don’t know. But I cannot wait until March when I can get one of these fancy optical HRM that I get to wear around my wrist instead of my chest. I will stick with the Maffetone method at least until the end of February, but if my paces aren’t improving by then, I’m going back to the usual. In case you were wondering, all this started because the Wife has gotten so fast that I can no longer rely on running with her to keep my long run pace slow enough anymore and since I’m wearing the hated strap, I thought I might as well go all the way and see what happens.

So here’s my marathon training plan for the next few month in graphical format:

My weekly total mileage and long run length up to and including the Mainz Marathon this May. Races are marked as red dots on the long run (blue) line.

My weekly total mileage and long run length up to and including the Mainz Marathon this May. Races are marked as red dots on the long run (blue) line.

That’s the quick version of what I’m up to for the next year. Oh, and blogging. I resolve to blog no fewer than 52 times this year (that’s once a week at a minimum).

 

Captain Dukie was a bit traumatized by our being away for almost two weeks at Christmas. So now, all of my seated activities involve peering over a cat. For example, breakfast.

Captain Dukie was a bit traumatized by our being away for almost two weeks at Christmas. So now, all of my seated activities involve peering over a cat. For example, breakfast.

 

Advent 2013 Day 16 do all the things

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:

Eggnog the Alton Brown way

Hot buttered Rum

Peppermint Patty

Glogg

And if you didn’t grok the title of today’s post, this’ll help.

Maybe he's born with it. Maybe it's Meowbelline.

Maybe he’s born with it. Maybe it’s Meowbelline.

Advent 2013 Day 14 Oatmeal

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)

Preparation

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water and milk to a low boil
  2. Stir in oatmeal and salt and simmer for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Remove from heat, add apple, cinnamon, and sweetener
  4. Let stand, covered for about 2 minutes more.
  5. 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.

Advent 2013 Friday 13 Edition – Lembas pancakes

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

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. Beat egg until fluffy.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour batter onto heated pan in pancake‐sized dollops. (About 1/4 cup)
  6. Turn pancakes when bubbles pop and the edges are slightly dry.
  7. Store in warm oven until whole batch is done.
  8. Serve with: Fruit, syrup, honey, jam, butter, etc.
Lembas pancakes with fresh fruit, honey, maple syrup and lime juice

Lembas pancakes with fresh fruit, honey, maple syrup and lime juice

Believe it or not, the Wife had never had a Mickey Mouse pancake before I made these for her last year.

Believe it or not, the Wife had never had a Mickey Mouse pancake before I made these for her last year.

Everyone should get to have Mickey Mouse pancakes made especially for them at least once.

Everyone should get to have Mickey Mouse pancakes made especially for them at least once.

Devil-kitty checks out some race swag as Captain Dukie patiently waits his turn.

Devil-kitty checks out some race swag as Captain Dukie patiently waits his turn.

And we got our first Christmas Card today! It's a gorgeous, hand made (cyborg) Qui Gon Jinn from a friend that we will hopefully be visiting in the UK next year.

And we got our first Christmas Card today! It’s a gorgeous, hand made (cyborg) Qui Gon Jinn from a friend that we will hopefully be visiting in the UK next year.

Which makes me think of my favorite Star Wars featured song…

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 🙂