30 December 2010

Not candied carrots

Luckily for me, my husband is a pretty adventurous eater. Unluckily for him, he married a girl who has a tough time even thinking of foods she dislikes . . . fava beans are the only thing that come immediately to mind. I might think of some more if you give me a minute . . . um, overcooked broccoli?

So Jared often gets teased (by me, his loving wife) about being picky, even though by comparison, he really isn't. Poor guy. Why does he put up with me? Maybe because I make this and these and (especially) these.

Incidentally, I love most of the food my husband hates, but I happily eat them on my own. More roasted eggplant and hummus for me!


Sweet carrot dishes belong on Jared's list of taboo foods. I therefore wanted to find a way to cook carrots that didn't involve candying them, and this is what I found. It's great.

Moroccan Carrot Salad
(mostly from this)

1 1/2 lbs carrots, scrubbed and trimmed*
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder**
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
olive oil
salt and pepper
chopped parsley

1) Chop carrots into bite-size chunks. Mine were about 3/4 inch long but you could go smaller. Steam or boil the chunks just until tender; you definitely do not want mush, so err on the side of firmness. Drain well and dump into a mixing bowl.
2) Whisk together lemon juice and next seven ingredients. Pour over carrots and toss to mix. Add olive oil, salt and pepper, and parsley to taste. (I for one didn't use much olive oil, but went pretty heavy on the salt. We like salt!)
3) You can serve this warm, at room temperature, or chilled. What a nice person I am, always giving you options!

*No, I usually don't peel my carrots. They are one of the vegetables that I always buy organic, and their skin is never bitter or tough.
**Or a small garlic clove, minced.

28 December 2010

It may have killed the cat

. . . but curiosity hasn't killed me yet. Sometimes it keeps me up late though.

Questions for which I've yet to find an answer:

Was there a real John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?
When did gingerbread houses become a Christmas tradition?
Whence comes the phrase "to do a number on?"
How did people figure out which mushrooms were edible?
Why is taco dip so addictive?


Unfortunately Addictive Taco Dip*
(inspiration from here, sort of)

2 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained with liquid reserved
salt, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne to taste
2 cups sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 16-oz jar salsa (any heat level)
shredded romaine lettuce
chopped olives, avocado, or whatever

1. Dump drained pinto beans into food processor or blender, and process till fairly smooth. Add some of the reserved liquid, a little bit at a time, processing until it is at your preferred consistency. Stir in as much salt, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne as you like. Spread seasoned beans evenly in a 9x13 pan.
2. Beat together sour cream and softened cream cheese until smooth. Spread over beans.
4. Pour salsa evenly over sour cream mixture. Sprinkle shredded evenly on top. At this point, you can refrigerate it until you're ready to serve.
5. Before serving, top with shredded lettuce and your choice of additions. Olives, avocado, onions, corn, tomatoes . . . and serve it with tortilla chips.

*No cats were killed in the making of this dip.

27 December 2010

[a bowl full of] comfort and joy

Baked oatmeal. It's warm and filling and unpretentious. It's easy to put together and tastes just as good the next day. Though I make it all year, this stuff really hits the spot in wintertime, especially when you can accompany it with a sunny bowl of fruit you picked and froze back in August . . . peaches and blueberries for us.
Baked oatmeal, if not completely limited to Lancaster County, certainly does not enjoy the fame of other breakfast foods. When I went to college in Michigan, few of my fellow students (who had come from all parts of the country) had heard of baked oatmeal. Horrors! So for readers hitherto deprived of this comforting carbohydrate delight, I am posting my version.

Even if you think you hate oatmeal, try this, because it is nothing like the usual gelatinous mush that plummets like a lead sinker to the bottom of your stomach. I'm not a fan of "usual" oatmeal, can you tell?! Think of a lightly sweetened and dense cake.

Baked Oatmeal
(mostly from my mom, with some tweaks inspired by this)

3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt*
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs, beaten with fork
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar (I use raw, but brown is good too)

1. Stir together oats, salt, milk, yogurt, oil, and honey in large bowl. Cover with a towel and leave on counter for 12-24 hours.
2. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour beaten eggs into bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle baking powder over top (to prevent clumps) and stir very well (again to prevent clumps).
3. Pour mixture into greased 9x9 pan, or a dish with comparable dimensions, and sprinkle sugar over top.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Spoon into bowls. Serve with blueberries, peaches, sliced bananas, or any other fruit you have sitting around, and pour milk over top. (Some people prefer their baked oatmeal without extra milk. I think it's incomplete without.)

*Or whey, which is usually what I use, because I have it sitting around from draining yogurt. Drained yogurt, by the way, is one of our favorite things in the fridge. Intensely rich and so thick, it's like eating cream cheese . . . except really good for you. I line a mesh sieve with coffee filters, set it over a bowl, and dump in a big jar of homemade yogurt. After about a day in the refrigerator, you will have about half the volume of yogurt you started with, plus lots of nutritious and useful whey. I put it in bread, and baked oatmeal of course.


Fast option: use quick oats and skip the soaking step. But I like the texture with rolled oats, and they are less processed.

26 December 2010

The Turning of the Tide, part 5

So death lay in arrest. But at Bethlehem the bless'd
Nothing greater could be heard
Than a dry wind in the thorn, the cry of the One new-born,
And cattle in stall as they stirred.

24 December 2010

The Turning of the Tide, part 4

Heaven danced to it and burned. Such answer was returned
To the hush, the Favete,* the fear
That Earth had sent out; revel, mirth and shout
Descended to her, sphere below sphere.**
Saturn laughed and lost his latter age's frost,
His beard, Niagara-like, unfroze;***
Monsters in the Sun rejoiced; the Inconstant One,
The unwedded Moon,^ forgot her woes.
A shiver of re-birth and deliverance on the Earth
went gliding. Her bonds were released.
Into broken light a breeze rippled and woke the seas,
In the forest it startled every beast.
Capripods fell to dance from Taproban to France,
Leprechauns from Down to Labrador,
In his green Asian dell the Phoenix from his shell
Burst forth and was the Phoenix^^ once more.


*In religious ritual this has come to mean "keep silence."
**See here for a diagram of the heavenly spheres, with Earth in the middle.
***In medieval astrology (a fascinating subject and one that interested Lewis immensely), Saturn was a melancholy planet, cold and grim.
^The moon, on the other hand, represented a collection of traits from insanity to virginity. Hence "the unwedded and inconstant one."
^^Author Bruce Edwards remarks, "The reviving universe reaches its fever pitch of rebirth in the reigniting of the Phoenix, which functions as a metaphor for Christ."

23 December 2010

The Turning of the Tide, part 3

Like a stab at that moment, over Crab and Bowman,
Over Maiden and Lion,* came the shock
Of returning life, the start and burning pang at heart,
Setting Galaxies to tingle and rock;
And the Lords dared to breathe, and swords were sheathed
And a rustling, a relaxing began,
With a rumour and noise of the resuming of joys,
On the nerves of the universe it ran.
Then pulsing into space with delicate, dulcet pace
Came a music, infinitely small
And clear. But it swelled and drew nearer and held
All worlds in the sharpness of its call.
And now divinely deep, and louder, with the sweep
and quiver of inebriating sound,
The vibrant dithyramb shook Libra and the Ram,
The brains of Aquarius spun round;
Such a note as neither Throne nor Potentate** had known
Since the Word first founded the abyss,
But this time it was changed in a mystery, estranged,
A paradox, an ambiguous bliss.***


*All constellations, but here personified (see also Libra, the Ram, and Aquarius later).
**Members of the traditional angelic hierarchy.
***An allusion, I think, to Ephesians 3:4-10.

22 December 2010

The Turning of the Tide, part 2

Salamanders in the Sun that brandish as they run
Tails like the Americas in size*
Were stunned by it and dazed; wondering, they gazed
Up at Earth, misgiving in their eyes.
In Houses and Signs Ousiarchs divine**
Grew pale and questioned what it meant;
Great Galactal lords stood back to back with swords
Half-drawn, awaiting the event,
And a whisper among them passed, 'Is this perhaps the last
Of our story and the glories of our crown?
--The entropy worked out?--The central redoubt
Abandoned? The world-spring running down?
Then they could speak no more. Weakness overbore
Even them. They were as flies in a web,
In their lethargy stone-dumb. The death had almost come;
The tide lay motionless at ebb.


*Here Lewis begins a catalogue of extraterrestrial beings, most of them taken from medieval cosmology and astrology, and describes how they react to the Incarnation. (This is one of the reasons I love this poem-- Lewis, as usual, takes a wide-sweeping look at his topic that makes us see larger implications than usual.) Anyway. Legendary salamanders, as opposed to real salamanders, were supposed to be at home in the element of fire. So it makes sense that giant salamanders would reside in the sun, the fieriest place we know of.
**Houses and Signs are here "places" in the solar system, as determined on an astrological map; for example, the House of Leo being associated with the constellation Leo. Ousiarchs are celestial rulers in the Neoplatonist conception of the cosmos.

21 December 2010

The Turning of the Tide, part 1

This, a piece by CS Lewis, is one of my favorite Christmas poems. I'll be posting it in sections from now till Saturday. It helps to know a little bit about medieval cosmology when you read this, especially the latter half, so I will include a few explanatory notes when we get that far.


Breathless was the air over Bethlehem. Black and bare
Were the fields; hard as granite the clods;
Hedges stiff with ice; the sedge in the vice
Of the pool, like pointed iron rods.
And the deathly stillness spread from Bethlehem. It was shed
Wider each moment on the land;
Through rampart and wall into camp and into hall
Stole the hush; all tongues were at a stand.
At the Procurator's feast the jocular freedman ceased
His story, and gaped. All were glum
Travellers at their beer in a tavern turned to hear
The landlord; their oracle was dumb.
But the silence flowed forth to the islands and the North
And smoothed the unquiet river bars
And levelled out the waves from their revelling and paved
The sea with cold reflected stars.
Where the Caesar on Palatine sat at ease to sign,
Without anger, signatures of death,
There stole into his room and on his soul a gloom,
And his pen faltered, and his breath.
Then to Carthage and the Gauls, past Parthia and the Falls
Of Nile and Mount Amara it crept;
The romp and war of beast in swamp and jungle ceased,
The forest grew still as though it slept.
So it ran about the girth of the planet. From the Earth
A signal, a warning, went out
And away behind the air. Her neighbours were aware
Of change. They were troubled with a doubt.