Monthly Archives: September 2011

Kimchi

How often are you granted permission to make something, then forget about it in your refrigerator for a couple of months?

We often had a jar of my mom’s homemade kimchi in the refrigerator when I was growing up. I’m willing to bet that wasn’t the case in a lot of the households in our part of rural Wyoming. I remember loving it, even as a child. It’s easy to make–so long as you don’t mind not being able to eat it for awhile. 

It’s tangy and spicy and the perfect mate for a bowl of steaming rice. But if the thought of rice with cabbage, no matter how zesty, doesn’t excite you all that much, you could try kimchi and rice with grilled steak skirt that you’ve marinated in 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Suddenly, your duet is a group.

If you want to keep the kimchi super simple, don’t bother adding the sugar and fish paste listed below. And this kimchi won’t be the same shade of bright red that you’ll find in the stores because I don’t add paprika. I prefer the color of the cabbage sprinkled with chili peppers, but that’s just me.

Kimchi

Ingredients:

3 – 4 pounds Napa cabbage, cut into 1-1/2″ pieces and washed

3 tablespoons salt

3 tablespoons chili paste

3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)

Directions:

1. Place the chopped, washed cabbage in a large bowl. Cover with a plate that touches the cabbage and weigh it down. Leave at least 8 hours.

2. Wash and drain the cabbage, removing as much moisture as possible.

3. Mix the cabbage, chili paste, and garlic in a bowl.

4. Place the cabbage mixture into a bowl with a lid or a jar. Stir occasionally.

5. Kimchi keeps in the refrigerator for months.

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Homeschooling: The Ultimate DIY Project

The ultimate DIY project? That may be overstating things a bit. But in the spirit of all things being relative, I am here to say that homeschooling is my ultimate DIY project.

Let me start by saying that I asked for it. In one year, Rue will be in full-day school. I wanted this opportunity to experience the things that interest her. And yet, I couldn’t help but organize and schedule it. In my own naive way, I wrote down this schedule and filed it with my subject organizer:

Isn’t that tidy? I figured that by ten in the morning, I would have covered the bases and then some. I’d be sending a kid to kindergarten who would knock the teacher’s socks off with her impressive handle on the subjects.

Mother/Teacher of the Year, here I come.

Here’s how it really works:

6:35 — Rue wakes me up. She is hungry.

6:52 — Rue wants her vitamins. Her two vitamins. If three accidentally drop out of the container in my pre-caffeinated state, she puts the extra one back in the childproof bottle. That she knows how to open. But doesn’t.

6:58 — Calendar. This is actually for my own benefit. Without it, I live in my own time zone.

7:02 — Math

7:17 — Read stories. Holler at other family members to get moving.

7:45 — Rue makes bed, gets dressed, and brushes teeth.

7:49 — Make Lupe’s breakfast.

8:00 — Curious George takes over. Thank you very much, PBS Kids.

8:02 — Remind Lupe not to use all the hot water when she showers while I use my own shower.

8:27 — Remind Rue to turn off the television while I simultaneously blow dry my hair and Lupe’s.

8:32 — Rue asks for a piece of gum. I remind her that she gets one piece per day and is she sure she wants to chew it this early? (That’s a math lesson  and a self-management moment in disguise.)

8:35 — Ask Lupe if she’s ready. She says she is.

8:40 — Tell the girls it’s time to load up.

8:41 — Lupe thinks of three other things she needs to do.

8:48 — Late getting out the door to pick up kids for carpool.

8:49 — Rue spits out gum and asks for a snack.

9:02 — Back at home and it’s time for Writing.

9:15 — Rue needs a snack before she can possibly contemplate doing more school work. (Are you keeping track? That’s three feedings in two-and-a-half hours.) Take advantage of her captivity by food to read science books to her.

9:30 — Science experiment. Probably one of Rue’s favorite times of the day.

10:00 — Clean-up time.

10:04 — Rue asks for a piece of gum.

10:05 — Board game or card game. Usually “War” with our set of Star Wars cards.

10:27 — Break. I make appointments, pay bills, wash laundry, and perform other domestic goddess tasks.

12:00 — Lunch

12:45 — Mama…er…Teacher needs a nap.

12:46 — Curl up in Rue’s bed and read stories. Try not to drop eyelids and slur speech.

1:15 — Tell Rue that we’re having “quiet time.” Speech is irrevocably sleep-slurred. “Quiet time” comes out sounding like “kite tie…”

1:17 — Lying in my bed when I remember the load of soggy laundry in the washing machine.

1:20 — Move wet laundry into dryer. Sneak downstairs and see what’s in the pantry. Root around for a piece of last year’s Halloween candy, a half dozen somewhat fresh chocolate chips, a marshmallow, anything.

1:42 — Guilt-ridden over Stressed Mommy pantry raid. Do some leg lifts and squats at the kitchen counter. Use canned tomatoes as resistance for arm curls.

1:45 — Rue proclaims that quiet time is over. Asks why I smell like chocolate and marshmallows.

1:46 — Rue asks to do a craft.

2:11 — Clean up.

2:12 — Rue asks for a snack.

2:49 — Rue asks for a piece of gum.

3:13 — Lupe is out of school.

3:18 — First argument between the girls.

4:00 — Table work for both girls. Rue demonstrates that she could care less why some letters have to be uppercase.

4:30 — Martha Speaks. Again, thank you PBS Kids.

5:45 — Dinner

5:51 — Clear picked-over dinner dishes away. Girls ask to play outside.

6:45 — Bath. Urgent bath if mud pies got made while I wasn’t looking.

7:15 — Reading in Rue’s bed. We’re currently devouring The BFG, by Roald Dahl, one of Lupe’s favorites when she was Rue’s age. Tongue is once again so sleep-slurred that the BFG’s language actually sounds natural and sensical as it comes out of my mouth.

7:45 — Rue is asleep.

7:46 — Lupe wants to play a game.

8:55 — Lupe in bed.

8:56 — Mommy/Teacher crawls into bed.

It’s all going exactly as I planned.

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Gluten-Free Pancakes

So it’s been awhile.

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would blog my life, rather than live to blog. Lately, life has been a little too hectic to take time to reflect and put into words. There are lots of changes in store for our family–all good–but I’m a creature of habit and adapting to change requires energy.

You need to eat to have energy.

Especially breakfast.

A lot of well-known gluten-free bloggers are doing a “Rally for the Ratio.” The inspiration for this rally is Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.

This book fascinates me. Actually, the first time I opened it, it terrified me. Why are there so many words?, I asked myself. Where are the full color photographs? I felt like I was out of my league.

But the only way to get into the league I want to be a part of is to get out of the league I’m currently in. So I persevered. And you know what? This book is really approachable. In fact, it’s easier to cook from this book than from a simple-looking cookbook with full-color photographs but a lot of extraneous ingredients and steps. Understand how the proportions of your ingredients relate to each other, and you can probably cook without a recipe. With confidence. And palatable results.

This morning, I used Ruhlman’s ratio for pancakes. I had a husband who’d just gone for a run in the rain, two hungry kids of my own, and one hungry kid who is hanging out with us for the weekend. While it’s generally not a good idea to try a new recipe under these conditions, I really wanted to try that ratio:

2 parts liquid : 1 part egg : 1/2 part butter : 2 parts flour

-or-

8 ounces gluten-free flour (here’s my mix)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar (Ruhlman’s recipe calls for 2 tablespoons sugar)

Mix these together in a large bowl. Then, mix into a second large bowl:

8 ounces milk (Ruhlman says you can use up to 4 ounces of buttermilk, but using 8 ounces of buttermilk gives you a much fluffier pancake. The first photo in this post is of a stack of pancakes made with 4 ounces milk/4 ounces buttermilk; the second is of a stack of pancakes made with 8 ounces of buttermilk.)

2 extra-large eggs (Ruhlman’s recipe calls for 2 large eggs)

2 ounces butter (that’s 4 tablespoons), melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well. The great thing about gluten-free flours is that you don’t have to worry about overmixing and activating the gluten.

Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto a griddle at medium heat and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side. This amount of batter makes enough to feed 5 people, but if you have 5 voracious people and want to have enough to pull out of the fridge and serve on busy weekday mornings, then make a double batch.

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(Sort of) Spicy Green Beans and Tofu

The challenge was to turn these:

into a dish that Lupe would eat.

Here’s my solution:

This is fast and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Here we’ve got 1 14-ounce package of tofu, cubed and patted dry, about 1 1/2 cups of trimmed, chopped green beans, and a sauce made of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and Sambal Oelek chili paste (found at Asian markets as well as many grocery stores). If you don’t have the ingredients for this sauce, it’s fine to substitute with teriyaki or some other sauce.

I had an instance of Mommy Brain and forgot to pull the sesame seeds for this picture.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil and carefully put the tofu in the pan once the oil is hot. Stir it around often. After a few minutes, it’ll start to brown on all sides. Add the green beans. I try to use fairly thinnish green beans, which is hard because the kids are tempted to pick the biggest, plumpest green beans they find on the vines. Cook, stirring frequently, until the green beans are cooked but still crisp.

Add the sauce and stir constantly, about 30-60 seconds, about enough time to cook the garlic and season the tofu and green beans, without overcooking the vegetable.

Meanwhile, heat a second, smaller skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and toast for just a few minutes. Move them around the pan often. Sprinkle over the green beans and tofu. We like to eat this over rice.

But it’s also pretty tasty straight out of the pan.

(Sort of) Spicy Green Beans and Tofu

serves 4

Ingredients:

1 14-ounce package of tofu (we prefer firm or extra-firm), cubed and patted dry

1 1/2 cups of trimmed and cut green beans

1 tablespoon canola oil for frying

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

scant 1 tablespoon sugar

1 clove of garlic

1/2 tablespoon-1 tablespoon of ground fresh chili paste

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and chili paste together in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil.

3. When the oil is hot, add the tofu, being careful not to cause the oil to splatter. Stir frequently until the tofu begins to brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes.

4. Add the green beans and stir often.

5. After about 2 minutes, or when the green beans are done but still slightly crunchy, add the sauce. Stir constantly, until all the tofu and green beans are coated.

6. Remove from heat after about 30-60 seconds.

7. In the meantime, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned. Sprinkle over the green beans and tofu.

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