Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, November 30, 2012

In the Kitchen—Freezing Dairy

As mentioned in my recent Menu post, I'm carefully monitoring what I eat, eating healthy and mostly vegan/vegetarian for the majority of my meals, but two times a week I get a treat meal where I can eat whatever I want. This brings up the question of what to do with leftovers from the treat meals. If I bake a cake for dessert on one of these treat meals (like last night when we had champagne and pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting to celebrate my gentleman getting his masters degree), what do I do after eating a slice or two? If I buy a chunk of cheese to make enchiladas for a treat meal (like I'm doing tonight) what do I do with any cheese I don't use immediately?

So today I am researching freezing. I've already thrown my Thanksgiving cranberry sauce in the freezer to use in sandwiches at future treat meals (freezable containers for Thanksgiving leftovers were the only thing I bought on Black Friday), and I'm planning on cutting the pumpkin cake into individual servings to put in the freezer. But what about other things, like that block of cheese?

Yes, cheese can be frozen, but it will change the texture. If you're going to be cooking or melting the cheese (pizza or quesadillas anyone?) the change of texture won't be that noticeable. Putting thawed cheese on a plate with some fruit, probably not a good idea. Also, the fancier the cheese, the less you should be freezing it. But as Andrea at Forkable says, it's better to freeze fancy cheese for later than to simply toss it.

Same thing with cream cheese. Freezing will change the texture, so you won't want to spread that thawed cream cheese on a bagel. But using it in a hot dip? Go ahead.

OK, so how about sour cream? I do love sour cream on a burrito or on potatoes with salsa. Freezing sour cream gives it the texture of cottage cheese. So follow the same advice as with the other dairy: use it in cooked foods. Sad day, maybe I'll try cottage cheese-like sour cream on a burrito anyway.

Colleen Rush at The Nest gives an explanation to what happens to cheese in the freezer, and it sounds like it applies to most dairy products:

Because of the moisture content or vein-y, open texture of most cheeses, ice crystals develop inside as cheese freezes. (Hey, that rhymes!) The ice “breaks” the curds in the cheese apart, which alters the texture of the cheese from creamy and smooth to crumbly or grainy when it thaws.

With all things frozen, make sure to date the foods and use them within six months of freezing. Also make sure to wrap your cheese up air-tight.

For more info on freezing cheese, see here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Manifesto Monday—A Surrealist Writing Exercise

My, it has also been a long time since I did Manifesto Monday! You may put down the lack of posts to me furiously working on a story.

I studied surrealism somewhat as an undergrad, but recently when discussing my thesis with my major professor, she suggested I look into surrealist literature, because some of my stories border on surrealism (upon hearing this, I thought back upon Breton's Nadja*, a novel I enjoyed, but whether my writing bears any similarity I can't say). So today's manifesto is an excerpt from the 1924 Le Manifeste du Surréalisme by André Breton. The excerpt describes a surrealist writing exercise. For the entire manifesto, go here.

Written Surrealist composition


first and last draft

After you have settled yourself in a place as favorable as possible to the concentration of your mind upon itself, have writing materials brought to you. Put yourself in as passive, or receptive, a state of mind as you can. Forget about your genius, your talents, and the talents of everyone else. Keep reminding yourself that literature is one of the saddest roads that leads to everything. Write quickly, without any preconceived subject, fast enough so that you will not remember what you're writing and be tempted to reread what you have written. The first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard. It is somewhat of a problem to form an opinion about the next sentence; it doubtless partakes both of our conscious activity and of the other, if one agrees that the fact of having written the first entails a minimum of perception. This should be of no importance to you, however; to a large extent, this is what is most interesting and intriguing about the Surrealist game. The fact still remains that punctuation no doubt resists the absolute continuity of the flow with which we are concerned, although it may seem as necessary as the arrangement of knots in a vibrating cord. Go on as long as you like. Put your trust in the inexhaustible nature of the murmur. If silence threatens to settle in if you should ever happen to make a mistake -- a mistake, perhaps due to carelessness -- break off without hesitation with an overly clear line. Following a word the origin of which seems suspicious to you, place any letter whatsoever, the letter "l" for example, always the letter "l," and bring the arbitrary back by making this letter the first of the following word.

*I think about Nadja occasionally, always of those gloves. "I don't know what there can have been, at that moment, so terribly, so marvelously decisive for me in the thought of that glove leaving that hand forever." When I lived at Lavender Corner in Bellingham with Katie, we had a painting of orange gloves beside a Tiffany lamp, and I thought of this as the Nadja painting. I miss that painting.

In the Kitchen—Menu

Wow, it's been a while since I posted a menu, unless you count Thanksgiving.

What I'm doing right now food-wise is that the majority of my meals I eat really healthy and monitor my food to make sure I'm getting the right proportion of protein to veggies to grains. Then for two meals a week I can eat whatever I want.*

So here's what I'm eating this week:

Oatmeal with spices and maybe a little honey
Eggs scrambled with spinach and garlic, topped with salsa

Curried carrot soup with pistachios (recipe in Vegetarian Times October 2012)

Black bean enchiladas with avocado
Basil Coconut Curry

Smoothies made of frozen berries, unsweetened soy yogurt, whey**, spinach, bananas, and flax seed

Daily treats
Red wine
Dark chocolate

Treat meals for the week
Brunch: Fried eggs, bacon, French toast made with apple cinnamon sourdough. Had this yesterday with the gentleman. And it was more like a late lunch than brunch—I'd already eaten breakfast, been to work, and come back by the time we had it. But it was delicious; I haven't cooked myself bacon in literally decades; it was a rare luxury.
Dinner: Enchiladas Verdes (involves spinach in a creamy cheesy sauce). Pumpkin bars.

*Except that the dairy still has to be organic and the meat has to be free range, etc.
**Pairing soy yogurt with whey sounds weird, but I have my nutritional reasons. Ask in comments if you're curious.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In the Kitchen—Thanksgiving

The plan? A low-key Thanksgiving in Moscow, just me and the gentleman. The actuality? Hectic cooking, a butt-load of dirty dishes, a whole lotta food, punctuated with dancing, merriment, and Doctor Who.

Here's how it began:

Me: "So Gentleman, what should we have for our two-person Thanksgiving? Besides pumpkin pie, of course."
The Gentleman: "Mashed potatoes. And cranberry sauce. And stuffing."
Me: "OK, that means we'll also need gravy, something with protein we can put the cranberry sauce on, and something green or vegetably."

Now picture me sitting on the living room floor with ten November issues of Martha Stewart Living and Vegetarian Times spread out around me, plus a couple cookbooks. I considered getting some free-range turkey, but me and the gentleman aren't big meat eaters so it didn't seem necessary. As for cranberry sauce, I was clueless. I'd eaten cranberry sauce maybe once in my lifetime, and that was on accident.*

Here's the official menu settled upon:

Hard apple cider
Red wine
Huckleberry mead (It's becoming a tradition to buy the local Camas Prairie Winery stuff on special occasions.)

Mashed potatoes (A mix of red potatoes and a sweet potato.)

Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy (Recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance. Good, but next time I'll use less nutritional yeast than the recipe calls for.)

Green bean bundles (Recipe in the November 2012 Vegetarian Times.)

Stuffing (A family recipe from the gentleman, tweaked a little for our vegetarian sensibilities. Easily the best part of the meal.)

Cranberry Sauce with Hard Cider and Mustard (Recipe in the November 2011 Vegetarian Times. It was easy to make; I just threw all the ingredients in a pot and let them simmer while I cooked everything else. So, practically the first time cranberry sauce has passed my lips, what did I think? Delicious. I look forward to eating the leftover stuff on sandwiches, maybe even with turkey!)

Tofu (I had planned on making pumpkin-seed crusted tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance, but this was the last item I cooked and I was feeling pretty harried, so I went with the quickest and easiest method of cooking: throw it in a pan with olive oil. I probably would have skipped the tofu at this point if we hadn't needed something to put the cranberry sauce on.)

Pumpkin pie with almond crust (A tasty, easy-to-make, gluten-free crust from the November 2012 Vegetarian Times. I just don't think the cooking time for the crust coordinated with the cooking time for the filling, even if the recipe implied this crust could be used with a variety of fillings.)

What did you have for Thanksgiving?

*I though it was jam and spread it on a roll. I came to regret my confusion.

On the Bookshelf—An Interview with Nora Roberts

I'm going to be Nora Roberts when I grow up.

Above is an interview with Nora Roberts done by CBS a couple months ago. In this interview we get to see Boonsboro, the town and inn where Roberts lives and based her recent trilogy on, including The Perfect Hope, published a couple weeks ago.

An excerpt from the interview:

[Roberts is] one of the top-selling authors in the world, with more than 400 million books in print and legions of devoted fans who can't seem to get enough of her strong, independent heroines. 

"They always seem to have an interesting career," said Britteny Devicq. "They can take care of themselves or they get through adversity."

In fact, Roberts is credited with being one of the first romance writers to steer away from young, helpless and hapless women. "Yeah, an orphan virgin raised by an aunt and was a secretary of the hero who's the richest man in the free world, which can be a really fun story - what's wrong with that?" Roberts said. "But you don't want to tell that every time."

Monday, November 12, 2012

On the Bookshelf—How do I love Nora Roberts? Let me count the ways.

The chance to make a life together...Love, a home, a family that comes from me and the man I love. And, of course, I want my job, good muscle tone, and a fabulous collection of shoes.
—from The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

Just finished the newest Nora Roberts book, The Perfect Hope, last in the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. I love Nora Roberts books. Sometimes Roberts isn't as elegant and discerning on a syntax and diction level as I'd like, but she's got some lovely passages. Her books are about strong women in fulfilling careers, with faithful friends and loving family, finding a man you're passionate about to make a life with. As Kate Nagy has said about a Nora Roberts book, it's about "happy, pleasant people being pleasantly happy with one another." Of course, there's conflict, there's always an evil ex-boyfriend to deal with or a lover's quarrel to overcome, sometimes a ghost in the attic you need to help find peace. But overall, the Nora Roberts novel is a world I love to live in, one that is inspiring and touching and can be strived for off the page, in my own life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the Kitchen—Gearing Up For Cold Season

One sits hoping that in the world outside it is raining or snowing, hoping almost for a catastrophic deluge to add the romance of being in winter quarters to the comfort of a snug retreat.
—Marcel Proust, from Swann's Way

Winter approacheth. I've been thinking about making soups and stocking the freezer with them so that in cold season I'm sure to have something nourishing to eat. Last March when I had the mumps, I had been fortunate enough to make a big pot of borscht just before I got sick. That borscht got me through when I could barely swallow. Though I did start turning purple. I'm also thinking about making pesto—just some basil, garlic, olive oil, and lemon—and sticking that in the freezer too, to drizzle over soups to get a jolt of immune-boosting garlic.

I've stocked the pantry with tea: echinacea tea, but also cinnamon and ginger, wonderfully warming in these cold months. Keep honey and lemon on hand, and you're prepared for sore throats. Check your stock of rum and whiskey—because when you're feeling fit as a fiddle, that honey and lemon and spiced tea can so easily be turned into hot toddies to get you through wet and chilly nights.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the Garden

Between the new growth of grass and the birds clicking and singing in the trees, this morning you could think it's spring.