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 (I was thinking about this song)

Blue Lake pole beans are prodigiously productive. 

So far I have made (some of them multiple times):

Turkish green beans in olive oil with tomatoes

stir fried green beans with fermented black beans sauce

stir fried green beans with oyster sauce and rice noodles

salad of blanched green beans with mustard vinaigrette, hardboiled egg and potato

green bean stew with chicken and turmeric and other vegetables

sauteed zucchini with green beans, red pepper and basil

fried rice with green beans

pasta with green beans and asiago cheese

and one day I just flipped out and mainlined a kilo of them raw while I was distracted, reading the internet

how do you eat green beans? Of course I do know about making them with mushroom sauce and a topping of fried onions and I will probably eventually do that.
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Today's blood test results came shockingly fast. My blood counts have been only just barely out of the normal range, and today they are almost all just a wee bit closer to normal.My last dose of adriamycin/cytoxin was a little less than the doses before, because of my hands and feet bothering me, so maybe that's why I've started recovering already (it hasn't been very long).  Which doesn't explain why I'm so tired and have so little stamina. I'm starting to think that's in my head and maybe I should ignore it.Even the shortness of breath when I climb stairs. Maybe that's from indulging the tiredness. So maybe I should push myself more. I've already started making myself go for more walks instead of just taking Zluta to the dog park every time and sitting on the bench while she runs around.  But the walks have been shorter. And I missed a couple weeks of dancing and then  only danced a couple-few times because I felt like I'd run upstairs after each dance.

So maybe this is a self-created problem and I should power through it  I'll play around with it and see how I feel.

On Wednesday (five days from now) I start Round Two of chemotherapy--taxol. I'm taking it at the "less dense" option because the side efffect I'm trying to avoid is neuropathy, which I am more bothered by than nausea. But the less dense option is a weekly dose for three months instead of a biweekly, stronger dose for two months. So we'll see how that goes.

While I'm complaining: my tastebids have not returned to normal. Currently green vegetables mostly taste bad except for broccoli, starchy food mostly tastes weird and half-tasteless, and sweet things have no taste except for a hint of bitter. I end up only wanting protein foods with a fair amount of fat in them. Well, and porridge, which has a comforting mouthfeel even though it doesn't taste like much of anything. I just don't bother to sweeten it any more. Shredded wheat is okay too.

It looks like I'm writing again, slowly  but surely, one good day a week and several less sterling ones with some wordage in them. Also still researching, because I don't know enough about crows and pigeons. Though I know a lot more now. Yesterday I fell down a sartorial rabbithole trying to determine what some comfortable working class teen boys would wear in almostlike the thirties in almost like Central Europe and even though Google failed me egregiously (somehow returning every decade but the thirties, and no, I didn't put a minus sign there), I did finally find a vintage photos site whose tagging system worked for once and finally saw enough children and teens to form an opinion. Plus fours were a thing, apparently, and therefore, I can use them to differentiate class identification. I don't have to research the Sokol this time because I fell down that rabbithole a few years ago doing military history in Czechoslovakia and I still have my notes.

It's maybe going to be a darker book than the previkous one, buit I have to remember that these girls are going to save the world. So that's all right, right?

On another front, as Zluta matures she has decided that it is positively her job to chastize abnormalities in the night. Unfortunately she believes that if she can hear it, it is abnormal. Fortunately she seems to think that her barking is only effective if she performs it downstairs, so barricading the stairway caused her to give up and go to sleep.  She's pretthy insistent about me getting up pretty regularly, which is what I got her for. But for some reason she's letting me lounge and write as the case may be this afternoon.
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I forget where I am in documenting the Amazing Adriamycin Adventure, but in reality that part of the cancer treatment is about over. I have had the last infusion of Adriamycin-Cytoxin, last Tuesday, and now I have a three-week break before I start the taxol infusions. I'm grateful. Of course.

My latest complaint though is that chemo has robbed me of my greatest culinary consolation--garlic! As of today, suddenly--I can almost pinpoint the hour--garlic tastes terrible and has an awful pervasive aftertaste. So much so that I had to triple-wash my hands and soak my nighttime mouth guard in mouthwash. And guess what I innocently did this morning before I knew? I cooked! I cooked lentil soup with lots of garlic, brussels sprouts with garlicky tomato sauce, and I made a garlicky onion dip for a treat with some potato-veggie chips that have always been a favorite of mine because they are so garlicky, K's pizza almost made me cry, because it was so nasty.

Well, things change, Hopefully I'll get garlic back when this is all over. Meanwhile I have developed a taste for fruit and milk products, with or without cereals, and delicate vegetable purees. In other words, I eat like a baby.

My fingers still smell like garlic...
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I know I've been slagging on the people who want to sell me that we can "fight cancer with nutrition." Every word of that phrase sets my teeth on edge. I do believe in nutrition in a sort of general way, though I'm pretty well convinced that for everyday purposes most people's metabolisms are pretty flexible and if you're giving yourself a pretty good diet with enough of the basics, you'll do okay for a long time. When you have various physiological challenges including genetic dispositions and acquired deficiencies or metabolic disorders, you have to pay a little more attention, naturally. And then, on an entirely different hand, nutritional chemistry is fascinating, so I don't blame people who get wrapped up in it for reasons of enthusiasm.

But the nutritional cancer treatment people tend to push one of two overlapping agendas--one that boils down to variations of the regular "healthy diet" versions that are duking it out in the marketplace, or one of several crazy crank diets that eliminate whole categories of food or that ask you to ingest megadoses of micronutrients. As for the first: if a healthy diet worked against cancer, I wouldn't be here today. As for the second: just no.

I am, however, eating well. (woops, I scratched the back of my head and came away with another little clump of bristly grey hairs) I'm paying attention to protein and vitamin-rich vegetables, most of which are coming from the Grey Bears bag or my garden (or kitchen, as I have suddenly become entertained by sprouting peas and alfalfa, and I got a little mushroom kit for ducks). This is only a bit ramped up from my usual. I'm back to eating somewhat less starchy food, but that's because I was told that the cancer treatment could raise my blood sugars, and I don't want to cross over from pre-diabetes to diabetes if I can help it.  But I'm not up to doing a severe no-carbohydrate diet unless I have to.

So what am I eating? That's the fun part. Last week's Grey Bears bag had triple mushrooms because the driver doesn't eat them and neither does his wife, so I dried all the prettiest ones and made a big mushroom-green onion omelet out of what was left and I am still working my way through that for my breakfasts. I also got a two-pound bag of cauliflower florets, so I made cauliflower moussaka which I have been eating for lunch or dinner. My pea sprouts came due so I harvested them and ate half of them in chicken broth with sesame oil and tapatio salsa, with snow peas and kale flowers and green onions from the garden along with some turkey meatballs that fell apart. I'll eat the other half probably tomorrow, I don't know exactly how. I also had a pile of broccoli, which I finally cooked today and grated cheese for the traditional broccoli-and-cheese casserole I will make tomorrow. Today I made split pea soup with precut coleslaw from last week's Grey Bears bag and herbs from my garden and dried tomatoes I made last summer in it and alas dried onions because there were no more ready green onions in my yard and no fresh ones in the Grey Bears bag.

Every week for the last month or so I have also done a wee bit of baking. I still do this simultaneously with a casserole-or-something in the oven (one week it was a lamb pot roast) to conserve the use of gas and stack up the kitchen time. Anyway, what I make are lightly-sweetened cookies or bready cakes that fill the place of treats without overstimulating the sweet tooth or giving the body too much sugar at once. They are often peanut butter or oatmeal variation cookies with dried fruit or carrots or something in them. Those are easy to make, K and Zack like them, and so they are good for my purposes. Like I say, they don't make me want to clear out the whole lot in one sitting, though they do taste nice to me, and so I think they help me eat in a more balanced way,

When I want something like ice cream I have either yogurt or cottage cheese--whole milk in either case, which I'll explain in  moment--with fruit, or my homemade lower-sugar jam, or a bit of both. Or I might mix a spoonful of peanut butter and jam, or peanut butter, a bit of honey, and sunflower seeds. These things are not a lot less calorie-dense than ice cream, but they don't make me want moremoremore, and they please me very much, and they are pretty nutrient-dense.

There are a few reasons I use whole milk products. One: they make fat-soluble vitamins more available that are implicated in the absorption and use of the minerals that dairy products are good for. Two: they taste good. Three: they seem to me to be better emulsifiers. Four: they seem to satisfy my appetite more quickly in most cases, though there are times when I can eat nice crackers with butter or blue cheese on them much longer than it seems is reasonable. So when I am being sane I just don't start those things.

I was going to go on with a precis of the garden but this has gone on long enough, so that will have to wait for another time. I would like to say for the record that I moved the coral bells and a nice baby parsley plant today and finally got the basil, cardoons, and mignonette into the ground, leaving the purple clematis, the miscellaneous blue salvia shrub, the white passionfruit,and  the purple flowers from Ellie, still to be planted out or transplanted, as is appropriate for various reasons.  I spent nearly two hours in the yard and ended up a bit short of breath, which I think is because I'm anemic again but the oncology nurses do not think I am anemic enough to treat--but the labwork was just before the last infusion and the shortness of breath is after. In any case it's not severe enough I can't wait a few days.
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I have a lot to say about a lot of things, but here I'll just  quickly say, between tossing things for Žluta, I have been slogging through The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco forever and forever and I'm about half way through. Why am I persisting? I've tried to read it before and failed. It was one of my father's favorite books I guess is why I am determined to read it now. Also I will feel free to get rid of it once I've read it.

I finally got back to the library yesterday and I got Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, Mappa Mundi by Justina Robson, and Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, as well as two cookbooks (Pkease to the table, a Russian one: and The Paprikas Weiss Hungarian cookbook). I'll have to get them back before the 22nd so I can take out enough books to last me until I've recovered enough from the next surgery to get back to the library.

Right. I'm getting my new right knee on the 23rd. Also, I had the nerve conduction test yesterday (the 9th) and Dr. Brunelli said it was an elegant study, confirming carpal tunnel syndrome with a classical (and extreme) presentation. He said the median nerve was "trashed" in the tunnel, and fine in the forearm and across the elbow. Also the ulnar nerve was fine. Best: although the nerve response was dramatically slowed, the volume of the response was normal, which is a good indication for success in treatment, which is a simple surgery where they snip the ligament that holds the wrist bones tight. This makes the  palm a little flatter but it allows the inflammation to subside and relieves the nerve. When I had it done on my right hand 37 years ago my hand was weaker for a couple of years so I didn't do it to my left hand at the time and I didn't need it till now. The right hand recovered its full strength long ago and since I am right handed I frankly don't care that my left hand might possibly be a bit weaker for some purposes for a while.

I have a lot of other things I want to talk about but some of them are very difficult. Ad an easy one is I broke down and bought quinces again yesterday, and also I have frozen tomato puree and apple slices for pie, and I'm gathering windfall apples for apple butter. Also I have a raft of rose hips so maybe rose hip jam? I've made rose hips into a magic conduit in The Drummer Boy.
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Seriously I am eating a reasonable amount of food but I feel like nobody lets me near the victuals. What the hell? I'm having to do reality checks on my consumption instead of just following my appetite because it's never satisfied. Maybe I'm missing some important nutrient? "Satiatine!" the vitamin that makes you feel satiated.

I have a new keyboard for my laptop but I can't figure out how to get the thing in. I mean, I understand that all the components of the laptop have to come out but I can't see how that is done--there are a lot and and a lot of screws in there and many odd plastic structures. So I decided I needed a new computer guy because the guy I was using spaces me out all the time and can't be in my presence for more than a few minutes before he tells me what an asshole my son is and how much he disliked my dog (he's in the category of "old friends" but I'm thinking this category might be too broadly defined). I called the one down the street I can walk to and it was a weird conversation in which the guy seemed to be trying to convince me not to bring the laptop and keyboard in. So I guess I'll call the other one a few blocks farther away.

I drafted a new sleeve for that top but I have my doubts I did it right, so I haven't cut  new ones out yet. It's no use saying "use a well-fitting sleeve for a guide" because I don't own any. I have some t shirts that work right, but the woven shirts I own all have oversized sleeves and giant armscyes, whereas here I'm trying to make a just-normal sleeve with a tailored armscye. I believe the reason I own all these giant shirts is that normal shirts in my size are never made so that they actually fit. Usually they are too tight in the bicep and weirdly both too broad and too narrow in the shoulder--to narrow across the back and too broad across the front, even if they are too tight in the bust. That, and for a long time the dropped shoulder "big shirt" was all the rage. I think that the endurance of this style is because it doesn't matter if it doesn't fit.

What else can I complain about? I know! I can't find any more non-Company Kage Baker books! Maybe I'll give up and try the Company books again. What I want more of is stuff like The Bird of the River and the Pismo Beach sort of stories.
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appetizer: quince paste I made a while ago, with possibly nut candy to go with if I can promise cross my heart and hope to die that I won't eat it all before we get there.

dinner: romanesco trees (slice florets vertically, steam lightly, marinate)
some pickled veggies I have in the fridge, arranged as garnish
cabbage rolls stuffed with pumpkin, pumpkin seed (somehow I think eating pumpkin flesh and pumpkin seed at the same meal is probably treyf to the ultra-orthodox: anybody know?), drained and sieved cottage cheese (on principle, thank you, and not because I'm not cool enough for ricotta), caramelized red onion and shallot, freesh sage, assorted dried herbs, and of course a wee bit of tapatio, cooked in tomato sauce made with oregano and cinnamon the way certain greek recipes do it
probably some carrots sliced to look like trees too, to try to tempt that one niece whose only vegetable is carrot and then not always (she is a grown woman, but why shouldn't I try to seduce her to the world of yummy vegetables?)

My brother in law makes a ton of meat things, so I don't.

dessert: probably nothing. There's always too much dessert. And the appetizer I'm bringing is pretty sweet anyway.

I've parboiled and separated the cabbage leaves and made the filling. I may decide to put more flavor things into the filling. I believe I parboiled the leaves a bit too long, but not so long that the project is impossible. If they won't do the trick, I'll make a lasagne-shaped casserole instead.

Someday when I am really feeling grand I'll make a dinner for somebody, which will feature Svickova, Chartreuse, and mushroom dumplins in yellow beet clear borscht (I made that last thing once and it was heaven). Svickova, as my constan readers will remember, is a Czech dish involving marinating a hunk of beef with root vegetables, roasting them together, and then pureeing the vegies into a smooth velvety earthy almost-sweet sauce which you may or may not enrich with cream. I have been playing with this method and it kept coming out way too sour, even as I cut the vinegar to a smaller and smaller proportion of the recipe I had. Then I went online. I found recipes posted in North America and recipes posted in Prague. The ones posted in the US or Canada had the vinegar measured in cups or fractions of a cup. The ones posted in Prague had a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. So now I know the secret to good Svickova: less vinegar!

As to the chartreuse, I have a recipe that involves layer after layer of mashed things in a reconstructed head of savoy cabbage: rather like those layers of color we used to uncover in the candy called jawbreakers. I imagine they still make those, sadly. Anyway, when I wanted to link to the recipe, I found that none of the recipes online, including the ones from sites about Thomas Jefferson, whose recipe it is supposed to be, had that form, and none of them had ground meats in the layers either. Instead the vegetables were variuously mashed and whole and were arranged decoratively in a charlotte mold, held together by mashed potatoes and cream. I can't figure out which is the more attractive starting point, actually.

The point is that usually I don't make fancy pants food, just kind of eccentric food, and someday I want to make a large festive meal of all fancy pants, all obscure food that appeals to me.

That's the sort of thing I would do more often back when I had the nice fellow around to egg me on.
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Not even vegetable salad is safe from the controversies of the ethnic secessionists.

(I was working on a long post about Czech food and wanted to check on the spelling of this salad, and I had an issue with a minor wording in the article so I turned to the talk page, as you do . . . I decided my issue was just not entertaining enough to compete with the insane fellow who has been attacking this article about the arrangement of cucumbers and tomatoes. )
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If you want to know if a food is high in a particular nutrient, don't rely on someone else's received lists or the opinions of your friends. Do a little simple arithmetic instead. Find charts that provide: 1. the calories per serving: and 2. the amount of that nutrient in the serving. Then find charts that provide: A. a reasonable daily calorie intake for you at your sex, weight and age (or else use a good estimation of your actual calorie intake) and B. the amount of that nutrient someone in your condition ought to be having (taking everything into account: like, if you know you're not absorbing the nutrient well, or if you know that you have a higher need for it because of your situation -- one of which is probably true if you're interested enough in this to do this much research).

Now divide A by 1 and divide B by 2. Compare the numbers. A/1 means how many servings of that food it would take to give you your whole day's calories. B/2 means how many servings of that food it would take you to get your whole day's needs for that nutrient. If A/1 is not larger than B/2, the food is not "high" in that nutrient. It may be a nice food, but it is not providing a larger share of the nutrient than you ought to be able to get from an "average" food. If you need to get more of that nutrient from your food, you need to look elsewhere.

This was prompted by my roommate telling me to eat almonds for iron. I was pretty sure this was not correct. I do love almonds. Almonds are lovely for flavor and food and minerals in general but they are not especially high in iron. But it turns out sunfl"ower seeds are high in iron. This is a wonderful insight, as sunflower seeds are very inexpensive if you get them at Trader Joe's -- they're right there with peanuts in the economy nuts and seeds category -- and I adore them. I eat bowlfuls of them sometimes! And they go very well into salads and stirfries and on top of kookoo-fritattas. I buy them roasted and unsalted, myself, but they come raw and also roasted and salted.

Currently, though, my teeth are irritated from long-deferred dental work and I am not eating anything hard except lettuce, and that I am chewing awkwardly with my front teeth. I keep telling myself, this is temporary, no need to get pissy about it.

Also, I can't find a good translation for a line in a Czech children's song. I'm pretty sure what the whole line means, but there's one word I can't get in the dictionary and the online translator completely fails on it, giving me gibberish. It doesn't do well with Czech verbs, which have stacking auxiliaries (you know, like in English "I had been going to drive there forever, but I never did get around to doing it" -- onlhy, of course, different). It insists on translating each element as a stand-alone word, most of the time, except sometimes unpredictably it will gang up two of them -- and, you guessed it, it gangs up the wrong ones frequently.

Just in case anybody around here knows somebody who speaks Czech (oh wait, I do! I'll ask Hana), here's the verse, with the problem word in italics:

"Když jsem já ty koně pásal
přišla na mě dřimota,
koně vešli do žita.

I think it means, "When I was taking the horse to pasture
I fell asleep
and the horse went into the rye."

But I can't get any kind of meaning for pásal. I believe it is the past participle of a verb like "to pasture" but I can't find any direct evidence for it. If I am right, the verb is jsem pásal "I was pasturing." But what is the infinitive form, that I can't find it anywhere?
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This last year the jam supplies have just about come out even. Once again I have tackled the lemons late, and once again I swear I will make lemon marmalade earlier next year. This year there is added force to the vow because I have come to understand that there is less pectin and more bitter in the lemons in May than there is in March.  The marmalade works fine though.

This year I am making very small batches more often. It sounds like it would be more work, but I think it is less nerve-wracking and does less bad things to the kitchen and my life. Also it means I can use the smaller amounts of fruit that drop into my lap for no reason. Like: the Grey Bears bag usually has one of those enormous boxes of strawberries which disappear in seconds if you have childen but are more challenging if you are a single old lady who doesn't eat cereal or ice cream. This is four cups of uncut berries or three of cut. Meanwhile, my rhubarb -- which I planted for the nice fellow as I don't care for it much (or mind it, really) is producing a small and steady amount of stalks which I dutifully pull, trim, and stick in the feezer bag I have dedicated to them. So today I made a small batch of jam: three cups of strawberries, one of rhubarb, and most of a lemon (for pectin, mainly). Most of my jam is running just over three quarters of a cup of sugar to a cup of fruit, but the rhubarb and the lemon are something to contend with, so I did it with four cups. And it came out very nice, with four half-pint jars and a bit less than a cup to put into a bowl for immediate snacking.

So the tally so far: 4 jars meyer lemon peel and blood orange marmalade, and four jars of strawberry-rhubarb-lemon jam. I'll make another two or three different batches of lemon marmalade, and probably more berry jam next week, depending on what the Grey Bears bag has in it. Since I liked the rhubarb with the berries, I may also do a batch of rhubarb by itself (or rather with candied orange peel I have from Christmas time). And I may also stick a box of berries in the freezer to wait for the next batch and make an all-berry jam.

I like feeling free to experiment with combinations with these small batches. If you're only going to lose four jars at most, it's a lot less intimidating than losing a flat's worth of fruit. Not buying flats anyway. My rule for a while has been: jam is made with fruit I grow, forage, or get as a gift. On that note, I'm tantalized by the pruple leaf plum around the corner. It's dropping its fruit, but the tree has gotten large and the plums smash on the pavement. I suppose I could go after it with the pole picker, but that entails geting over my shyness to ask the neighbors if I can go in their yard, and I don't know how many I'll get anyway, as it's not a heavy bearer and it is freakishly tall.

Also around the corner, at the house that used to be the high water house, there's a low fence with two kinds of passion vine on it: and one of them is l;oaded with fruit. When it comes close to being ripe, if it does that while I am not in Prague, I'll try to ask if I can pick some and give them jam in return.

Other forageables in the neighborhood are, of course, the yellow plums around the other corner, crabapples on Emma's old corner (I made very nice crabapple-jalapeno jelly out of them last year), manzanitas up the block from the yellow plums (but somebody else got them last year), a thing like a crabapple whose name I can never remember at the base of the Laurel Street hill, another wild plum tree on the steep path from the high school main campus to the gym, and another frustrating plum tree towards the top of Laurel Street Hill which has I believe prune plums and some of them reach the ground whole. Another neighbor has a quince tree, and the folks across the street have a fig tree. Nobody around here grows apricots because the climate is just barely okay and the ground water kills them. The same is true for peaches. But the plums from Woodstove and Sun produce a jam that is very like apricot. Also there are more manzanitas, which bear a little later, up on bay Street where the weird narrow park is that's dedicated to old-time Italian fishermen. Also, there are blackberries in various odd corners, naturally, and more plums at University Terrace Park, and I have the Satsuma plum tree and the apple tree.

So jam should not be difficult. Even being gone during the biggest jam month (JUly). My plums and apples come later than anybody else's.


Mar. 16th, 2013 10:14 pm
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Had a nice pre-birthday dinner with Emma and Jason. They grilled chicken with turmeric, and asparagus, and they made a thing whose name I probably will never remember with a lot of thin-sliced onions sauteed and then mixed with brown rice and lentils. It siounds cozy and familiar, right? but that is a superior dish.

Came home to plot what to do for next week's food and decided that I am not making one of the apparently only four chicken liver recipes that exist in the world.  Instead I will toast a little buckwheat and then I will make a kasha pilav with the chicken livers, an inordinate amount of garlic and parsley, and celery.  The rest of the week will be a tofu, asparagus and mung shoots stirfry (because I left the mung beans in the jar too long and now they are shoots with green leaves), and a beef and bean and root vegetable stew, and brussels sprouts with lemon, garlic and parmesan. Also a kookoo sabzi, which is eggs and herbs, which I'll do up to share with my brother tomorrow: he's making too much food as usual to celebrate all out birthdays (his, mine, and my ex-sister-in-law's), but I always want to put something on the table too and that's my latest easy go-to dish. Well, that an parsnip gratin, but I lived on parsnip gratin for almost two months and I can't eat it anymore. I don't imagine we'll eat up the kookoo sabzi with all the food David will make, so I'll have that for the week too.

This is how I eat these days for reals. I make three to five dishes on the weekend, most of which are whomping vegetable and protein things, and I just grab hunks of them for every meal during the week. When I get tired of being good, I grab a hunk of yogurt and drown it in jam. Because I am a wild thing with no inhibitions and I will eat what I feel like. Yeah.
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Zack and his girlfriend went shrooming yesterday and they broguht back a butter bolete, a queen bolete and more immense chanterelles than you can imagine.

I just ate a big old sandwich of chanterelle with onion, parsley, and oregano on ordinary whole wheat bread.

And also, I accidentally brought home my brother's hazelnut torte that I was packing for him to take home, so I ate it.

And also, the jellied compote (made from fruit I dried this summer and quince jelly I made this fall) is heaven. And so is my sister-in-law's whole orange cake which I have to figure out how to do myself in the future.

I'll go back to greens'n'beans tomorrow. That will be heaven also.
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My most successful story, at least in terms of pleasing the people who read it, is "The Raw and the Cooked." I got a note from a reader asking where the "recipes" in the story come from, and of course there are no recipes, but I did have the following to say:

Most of the food in the story is a combination of mashups and invention. I do, for example, cook with California Bay Laurel, and it does taste different from commercial bay leaves, and you really should use a fraction of the amount. And I do make wild blackberry jam. And I do treat the weird little round wild plums as if they were cherries, though lately not the purple-leaf ones, as they have gotten too large lately and I can't reach the fruit befopre the birds and squirrels. But, for example, the St. Patrick's feast -- I've never done anything like that on a scale like that (using wild herbs as salad greens gets frustrating if you do more than add a sprinkle to your regular garden or store-bought salad greens, in my experience, but I continue to daydream). Clafoutis is a real dish: it's French, and they usually use strawberries or cherries. I've never made cioppino or bouillabaisse (actually at this very moment I can't recall which they made!) but a friend of my parents used to do it just like that, at a beach north of San Francisco, at least once a year, and a cousin of my husband's still does, as far as I know (I can't stand being around him for other reasons, unrelated to his cooking or his generous and friendly personality), though he doesn't do it at the beach.

I forget at the moment what all else Marek cooks.

The answer to the implied question: if you want to cook like Marek, you need to (1)absorb Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian cooking methods and (2)learn your local wild and farm-raised produce and (3) play with your food a lot so that you develop what I call "sympathy for the food." -- I don't know why, you're not feeling sorry for it. But you get a feel for which novel combinations are comfortable innovations rather than horrifying nouvelle grandstanding.

Anyway, I'm glad you liked the story.
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So the last couple of days everything I eat has a bitter aftertaste.  It's a bit subtle so it's taken me those couple of days to be sure that I am really tasting this all the time.

Apparently, sometimes Asian pine nuts can give this effect, and nobody knows why yet, though there are theories, and yes, I ate a handful of pine nuts I had been saving in the freezer, and now I think I must throw them away.  They weren't as expensive as Italian or North American pine nuts (which you can't find anyway), but I guess pine nuts are just going to be out of my reach if eating the affordable ones might randomly give me a pervasive bitter taste. The articles I read said it goes away in a few days to about a month.  Meanwhile, as I become more aware of it, it's becoming more annoying (at first I thought maybe the particular food I was eating was too old to eat, though it looked, smelled, and tasted fine and I knew it was okay).  Things taste fine when I first put them in my mouth, but after a couple of bites it starts, and after I eat it gets worse and worse for a while.

And then there's the phenomenon, the inverse of the placebo effect, that once you know something's happening it gets more and more noticeable after that.

Oh well.  I suppose, given my extra storage, I actually could give uop eating, relatively, for a while.  But I don't want to.  and given my personality and the fact that food tastes fine for the first bite or two, it will be difficult not to unconsciously stuff my face trying to chase the bitter away.  Must not be unconscious around food, I guess.
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For years I have been told by people who have some experience in the matter that I make the best haroseth.  I have to make at least a half-gallon of it every year.

I have puzzled over why I apparently make the best haroseth and I have to make a half-gallon of it every year.

I have figured it out.  It is a matter of texture.

Here is what you do -- or rather, what I do:

I cut up some appropriately large number of tasty apples into little slivers.  They tend to be like wooden matchsticks chopped into eighths or so, but they are somewhat irregular. I do this with a slicing technique rather than a chopping technique because I find it less tiring.  This year it was six of those giant granny smiths because of circumstance.  I would have preferred a realler apple.  I squeezed three small Meyer lemons on them to keep them from browning.  Yes, three.

I mix this with an appropriately large amount of walnuts which are -- here is the secret -- grated in a rotary hand grater, so that they are small small flffy mealy flakes. This time it was about two thirds of a pound.  And a like amount of raisins, also run through the rotary hand grater, though you could chop them.

Then there is an appropriate amount of cinnamon and ginger, sometimes candied, sometimes fresh.  This time it was this weird fresh ginger I got that is extra juicy and a bit bland.  And a healthy splash of either the weird sweet Passover wine or what have you. This time it was what had I, which was plum wine from 2007, a very good year I made myself and it's high time I did it again.

And honey to taste.  This time it was a bit much, but I did say the best haroseth, not the perfect haroseth.
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Nah, I didn't write again yesterday. But today is 23K and I accomplished backstory and acquired some more damned characters. A little more Cinderella stuff going on. Do I need so much talk about how Yanek doesn't ever have the appropriate clothing? I can cut it later. The ponies trot onstage again, briefly.

My research, let me show you it, because it will not show in the finished product, again: royal titles. Very difficult to find out what they cal the children of royals outside the UK. Screw it, the children of the Duke are "the little Dukes" and "the little Duchesses." Sidetracked into the title equivalents in other languages and why am I not calling these people things like voivode and herzog? Attempted to find some geographically-correct period clothing, or rather, some clothing of the generation or so before, again no dice so the upper classes wear what I say they do, which is largely whatever is most annoying.

I made cream cheese pastry for piroshki last night. Somewhere along the line I had become convinced that my mother had made that part up because she liked a recipe for cream cheese pastry she saw in a Sunset cookbook, but it appears there's reasonable precedent for it, so I guess that much is traditional. I don't have a lot of mushrooms to use so I'm making cabbage ones, but the recipes I see are boring, so I'm messing with that. Mainly to add tiny diced turnip and celery root and garlic and dill. And lots of parsley and green onions, as they were on sale. Anyway, I'm putting a potato and ground beef into it, so it's not that far from the original.

At thanksgiving my Danish sister in law was having paroxysms of joy over all the dill I put into everything. Of course she was. The non-Danes were a bit puzzled as to why the dill was so wonderful (I mean, the dishes were successful, they liked them, but the dill was not what they noticed, particularly).

What else? I don't know. I'm hungry. My knee hurts. I bet the dog peed by the back door.

Oh yeah, I pass 50K the next time I write.


Sep. 5th, 2010 05:59 pm
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"Retention" is the word we use when we talk about keeping people in a program (school, and Even Start, in this case). It's hard.  You have to be there every time the person gets cold feet: every time the person gets overwhelmed: every time the person gets hit with a crisis: and every time the person just gets tired.

We have a couple of tired recent graduates right now.  They're ambitious, in the long run, but they want some time off.  They actually kind of deserve time off: they both worked very hard to get where they are. But they have to be in school a minimum of 15 hours a week to qualify for the program, and the program is what pays for their childcare and gets them extra free medical screenings and holds their hands when they go to get birth control or financial aid.  The program is where they meet other mothers and their babies meet other babies.  The program is where they get parenting classes and free diapers and back to school supplies and countless other things.  If they take a break from school, they take a break from the program.  If they take a break from the program they take a risk that they will lose their place.  Because if someone leaves the program for whatever reason someone else must be enrolled right away or we lose the funding, which means, among other things, we can't pay me.  Which would mean no program.

So we're all relentless about it.  "Find some classes you can stand to take."  "Don't give up."  "Remember your goals."  "We don't want to lose you."  We don't.  As easy as it is for me to attach to the new mother and her baby, it's a wrench to lose the old ones to anything but a successful completion.  Which is not just a high school graduation but an A A or a vocational certficate and a job in hand.
On another front, I made both garlic dill pickles and bread and butter pickles today.  I forgot to buy more lids, so I haven't put up the tomatoes I bought yesterday. Also, I'm redoing the dandied habaneros because the method I chose did not work out right.  After gthose, and after I figure out what to do with the apples, I'll be done with the required stuff for the year.  I'm considering asking the neighbor round the corner for some of the quinces I don't think she knows what to do with, and I mean to carry off a small number of Emma's Japanese pears and Gravenstein apples, if I can figure out what to do with them.  And then it will be lemon season and I'll havew to make a bit of marmalade.  And Emma may have more pomegranates than she knows what to do with.  Or not.  And there's the persimmons at her house.  I'm not generally fond of them, but my father used to make a persimmon pudding that I loved, and dried persimmons are wonderful also.

I picked blackberries at Meder Street Park today, bt just enough to eat with cottage cheese.  I was originally planning on making berry jam, but honestly, the satsuma plum jam came out with the same dark rich type of flavor as blackberries this year so there's no need.

And now I need a nap.
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Tomorrow I get my students back, and their babies.  Rumor has it I will have two new babies -- possibly more later?  I looked at the class list with the teacher of recford but she has an ELD (English language development, pullout support for second-language learners, what we have instead of bilingual education nowadays thanks to the Texan influence on education)  class on the same roster and she didn't know who was who, and she was told she had six teenaged mothers out of the lot.  I recognized two returnees, of whom one has her child in preschool.  I also know I have three babies who aren't in her class, so four babies and also one girl I think is supposed to be on that list but I don't recall seeing her name (hmm.  She ought to be on the list).  She was sort of frantic because she also has two thirty+ -student classes in the same room and it was currently set up with one big horseshoe table which could fit maybe twelve students.  It's big enough for the desks she needs but as of Friday it needed a lot of work to get there.

So Saturday Frank and I stripped the plum tree.  I decided against making wine this year because the plums didn't get all that sweet or flavorful.  But when I started processing the plums for jam, cans, and drying, I noticed they were pretty good.  Just as well about the wine though because by the time I did strip them there were not enough good ones to make a whole batch of wine.  But now I have eight jars of tremendously wonderful almost black satsuma plum jam -- tastes more like blackberry, really: six pints of canned plums to eat with cottage cheese: and five trays of dried plums.  Also a plum clafoutis (kind of.  Sliced plums, a tad of thinned plum jam as a kind of gklaze, topped with a thin layer of custard that turned totally magenta in the cooking and a sprinkle of almond meal and a tiny bit of sugar)and a jar of plum syrup and another bowl of plums.  Also I made banana bread with three of my frozen bananas and a bunch of last year's dried fruit and mostly almond meal and a but of that weird "white" whole wheat flour (not very good flour, but it's okay in banana bread where you don't notice the flour anyway).

This year I have also canned eight jars (mostly 24 ounce jars) of tomatoes and three pints of tomato juice and five jars of escabeche (chiles and carrots in vinegar --mostly carrots because that's the part of the escabeche I actually like) and eight jars of peaches and ten jars of pears, and I have dried several batches of other sorts of plums and four trays of pears. And I made eight little jars of "wild" plum jam (the tiny yellow round ones from around the corner) I want to do another six jars of tomatoes and probably half a dozen each of bread-and-butter pickles and garlic dill pickles.  Then I think I'll put up a dozen or so jars of applesauce and maybe apple juice as well.  I'm munching on the dried apples I made a few years ago: they have softened some and now they're suddenly delicious, so maybe I'll dry some of the apples too, just not make them as crispy as I did before when I decided I didn't like them.

Also.  Got my friend Paul over and we pruned the apricot tree to a faretheewell because it hadn't gotten pruned properly in a while and it only fruits on new wood.  Hopefully we did it soon enough and there will be a lot of apricots next year.  Mostly pruned the plum tree too.  Have to bite the bullet and spray everything really well this winter.


I got the loan on the house restarted and it looks very good indeed.

And interest rates dropped again since January so even though I think I'm tacking on Frank's tuition for this year the whole thing will still cost less, and will result in lower monthly payments especially after I immediately pay off every last debt I have.  And Zack will start building as soon as we have the money for materials, and will move in during the spring, and that will be a load off my mind.

And -- as usual -- the loan officer's daughter was a classmate of Frank's.

Today I am officially off work but I am finishing putting my room together for tomorrow!  Also getting my whooping cough booster and mailing that damned Clue game to Glen.
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Inside Insides is a blog that features the magnetic resonance imaging of foods.  I can't tell you which is the most beautiful -- the cucumber, the cantelope, or the orange.

Also, you can find a Henry Thomas mix on YouTube, and a Bascom Lamar Lunsford one, and a Clarence Ashley one.  It turns out that when I'm not thinking about it, I will generally sing something I learned off a Clarence Ashley 78 record when I was a kid.

There's a special spot in my my brain for that three-finger banjo picking sound.  Or even Uncle Dave Macon's clawhammer thing.   Anyway, it's home sweet home to me, even though I'm not at all a Southerner: it's the soundtrack of my childhood.


And the Dixon Brothers!  Just go have a listen at <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyPkwm-Xmog&NR=1">The Intoxicated Rat."</a>

It will change your life.
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So I won't forget what I did.

2 cups almond meal
3/4 cup ground cocoa or chocolate (or the Ghirardelli ground cocoa&chocolate)
1-1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Mix all these things in a largeish bowl.

10 large eggs
water, to be described in a moment
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp allspice

separate eggs.  Beat whites till stiff.  Add water to yolks to make 2 cups.  Mix water & yolks and flavorings into the dry stuff till smooth.  Fold in whites.

Bake in parchment-lined pans  (in this case, one 9-inch square and one loaf) in 350 degree oven until a knife comes clean.  Half an hour? I wasn't paying close enough attention to be sure.

Notice: it's not quite low-glycemic, but it's lower-glycemic, and lowish in fat.  I just did this, and it's good enough fresh out of the oven -- could be stronger flavored -- but I don't know how it keeps.

 edit: it's moist: it's more flavorful than I thought, though I might increase the allspice and add something like lemon peel: it doesn't taste too sweet, but that one tooth that sometimes objects to sweet things pings on it. I'm definitely doing it this way again, only with maybe a bit less sugar.  It might be good layered with red fruit jam.

edit: the next day it is still pretty good.  It's most reminiscent of the cake-type gingerbread that moms used to make when I was a kid.

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