Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crackers du Sel and Other Classy Stuff

Have you seen this?

I got a teacher catalog in my mailbox full of fascinating educational materials to buy, and this was featured on the back cover. Yes, it was a totally serious catalog, complete with equally serious advertising for the hours of fun you will have with this doll.
Luckily for you, you can get a free sample of the doll here, and there's even a John McCain. If you buy the set, you also get clothes and the rest of the Obama family.

Fellow Americans, you can see Barack Obama (and his family) in his underwear. If that's not enough to get you to vote for him, I have nothing left to say.

The other part of my post is in reference to a recipe on the Premium brand saltine crackers I bought today (for Amaya, who has diarrhea-- Joy). On the front of the box it says "Delicious Recipe on Back!"

Lo and behold, a recipe for "Corny Macaroni and Cheese" graces the back of the box. This recipe is scrump diddlyumptious looking, especially knowing that 10 saltine crackers are mixed into this corny pasta masterpiece.

I said to Jake, "Really? Do they really think that people buy this box of crackers for the delicious recipes?" To myself I am thinking that the only reason people buy saltine crackers is if they have soup, diarrhea, a stupid camp relay wherein a person eats several saltine crackers and then attempts to whistle, or a baby in her uterus. This is not a recipe that appeals to this audience. In any case, the digester of saltine crackers is only thinking, "Why did I buy a whole box? I won't even like these after the first five, and I am so never eating saltines again."

For years I truly thought that saltine crackers only existed in 2 cracker portions, wrapped in clear plastic, and available in salad bars. In these cases, saltine crackers taste wonderful, and are fit to steal.

Jake said back to me, "You know that someday you are going to meet someone who bought saltines for the recipe on back, and it is going to be hard for you not to laugh at them."

Ah. Too true. Does this make me a bad person?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Money, Get Away

I realize that this post is going to annoy my friends who have, for years, budgeted, gone through debt, are currently in school, and have had to pay 10 or 20 times in loans what I have paid in my entire educational career. This is not related to the current economic crisis and not inspired by it. This rant is not intended to encourage any of you to feel sorry for me; rather I hope that we can agree on a certain ridiculous fact:
Teachers just are not paid enough.
Jake and I have been lucky to come away from our educations debt free, and largely, we have been budget free. Not that we have spent exorbitant amounts on cars (well, that can be argued at this point, over a previously known issue), rent, clothes, swimming pools, travel, or anything of the like (I would like to point out that I did not put "food" on that list, simply because we all know I spend more money than anyone on food). I generally just keep in mind what we have, what I know we can afford, and what is coming up. We certainly have been able to afford many luxuries. We have been able to save, and we always had enough to cover whatever came up, and I'd like to think that we've come away with quite a bit (in terms of 20-something year olds and no real aspirations in the housing market, not in the rest of the world terms).
So I looked at our current earning potentials yesterday, in light of some recent income (read "pay cuts") and expense changes (increases in gas and childcare needs) in our lives, and was appalled to find that, if we are VERY VERY careful, leaving no room for extras (I am including medical costs here), we will be left with a tiny amount each month to save. Meaning, if we lived in any situation that involved a two bedroom apartment instead of one, we would be going into debt.
I am completely floored by this fact.
I am not expecting to be paid any sort of fortune. When it comes to being a teacher, I expect that most of what I do is volunteer work.
How does the world answer to such a mess? I live in a society where a full time teacher could not afford a mortgage or more than one kid (notice the use of the conjunction here). Absolutely any other profession that requires as much schooling as a teacher would demand more from an employer. Even my salary reflects a higher pay grade (due to credits I've worked up to) and an additional $50 per paycheck to be Department Head. How do other teachers live?
So this is what it feels like to be a doormat.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cooking Light? Wouldn't dream of it.

I used to be an avid follower of Cooking Light Magazine. I looked forward to their magazine, faithfully tested out their recipes, and even bought one of their cook books.
Oh, to be young again.
Now I see that making their recipes full fat makes them taste much much better. I should be one of those people who writes in the food section of newspapers, the ones who adapt recipes, except I would have the opposite task-- The Recipe Doctor: Change your food from fit to fat. I can just see it, someone would write in, asking, "Dear Dr. Jackson, I recently ate some sweet potato pancakes and the woman who made it informed me it was a light and healthy recipe. Can you adapt a more succulent version I can serve to my family who needs help gaining weight?"

Just to keep it healthy, I added wheat flour and flax seed meal to the recipe.

Sweet Potato Pancakes, adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/4 C flour (substitute 1/2 of the flour for wheat flour if desired for a heartier flavor)
2 1/4 t baking powder
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t salt
1 C milk or half and half (I used a mixture, mostly half and half)
1/4 C packed dark brown sugar
2-3 T flaxseed meal (optional)
3 T vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 (16 oz) can of sweet potatoes or yams, drained and mashed. About 3/4 C.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, spice, salt in a bowl. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients in another bowl. Add to flour mixture and stir in sweet potatoes until smooth.
Melt butter in a non stick skillet over low heat. Add 1/4 C of pancake batter to the hot pan and spread out a little. Turn when small bubbles are starting on the sides. Cook on low or the pancakes will burn.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vegan with a Vengeance

Vegan, for some reason, has come to be synonymous with "healthy", and therefore a difficult dietary change. That's probably why I don't make the switch completely. Instead I like to dabble in it. Steak tacos one night, vegan moussaka the next. I usually like everything fatty about food. Just ask Da. I squealed with delight upon locating a tub of lard during a late night shopping trip.

You'll eat one of these and think, "HA! Being vegan is a piece of cake."

Or, really, an extremely chocolate cookie.

This cookie is adapted (only very slightly) from the Veganomicon cookbook, a collection I adore. I think that veganism is one of the most time consuming styles of cooking, making it one of my favorite styles of cooking.

These cookies, though, are really simple. And I cheated. I only used one bowl to make them in, and they came out perfectly.

Amaya helped me make the cookies, so it's only fair that I feed them to her too. I should do all my food photography this way.

Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies

(adapted from Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookies from Veganomicon)

Makes 24 cookies

2 C flour

2/3 C Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2/3 C canola oil

1 1/2 C sugar

4 t ground flaxseeds

1/2 C soy milk

2 t vanilla

1 C chocolate chunks (Trader Joe's dark chocolate bars are awesome for this)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In a large pyrex measuring cup, mix together the oil and sugar. Add the flaxseeds, soy milk, and vanilla. Mix well.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a fork to stir once it starts getting stiffer. Add the chocolate chunks. Mix with your hands until combined.

Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Scoop about 2 T out at a time, flatten into a thick disc, and place on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 10 minutes, let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

I like to freeze them in ziploc bags for later eating. They get a nice chewy texture this way.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sandwich Fetishness

I've been doing something unholy. Making sandwiches with fruit. I blame my dad and his monte cristos (if you are unfamiliar with a monte cristo, you have only yourself to blame).

Jake warned me that this looks slightly suspect. I assure you it is divine.

Fresh mozz.


Papaya and mango salsa with cucumber.

Ciabatta roll.

Try it.
Papaya and mango salsa with cucumber
1 mango, diced
1 papaya, diced
1 half cucumber, seeded and diced
1 roma tomato, diced
salt to taste
2 tsp white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
Stir all ingredients together and let sit for at least an hour so the flavors can meld.
Add a minced jalapeno if you like some heat.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Church Is True

Multicolored flat carpet. They knew that Nursery could not exist without Play-Do.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Lately, when I glance at the breakfast dishes laid out on the counter by the kitchen sink, I consider the fact that I haven’t eaten at an Indian restaurant in a while. I can’t make out what a hot naan with garlic feels like in my hands when I tear off the piece, even if I can sense the next step of flour slipping a fine dust onto the roof of my mouth before the first chew. I make it a point to review past tastes (I call them rebanquets). I started to plan a “because” in that last sentence, but there’s no clause to tie up that conjunction. I’m very elaborate about my rebanqueting, and I consider past meals to also be ones I’ve read about in books or stories, fictional and not. I think of these tastes as if they are my own, and I do, I suppose, lay claim to them even if they are someone else’s intellectual property. My reoccurring moral dilemma: is it plagiarism to review tastes that are enjoyed on paper? Will I be told, at some point, that Madeleine L’Engle has exclusive rights to liverwurst and tomato on white bread, and I must desist with my rebanqueting fetishes?

The best thing about rebanqueting is that I may enjoy many foods that I will never eat, and possibly never like. I still have not tasted liverwurst, but it remains in my senses a rich and sensible food, one that I could pop out of a can (does it even come in a can?) and enjoy as a late night snack, with the thunder and rain at my window. While one might consider me a connoisseur of sorts, I think I’ve unintentionally fooled those people. A definition of connoisseur, in the dictionary of me, hits on someone who enjoys new, fabulous tastes, and is bored by the old ones, unless those old ones are impossibly cultured and extravagant. My tastes seem to hit on relatively simple foods, and I rarely venture to new taste bud markets. For example, I have a hard time with organs in general, and have tried tongue and liver, but shy away from visiting those cubes of memory during my rebanquet. The only reason liverwurst stays in the course menu is that I didn’t put liver and liverwurst together when I was in second grade, and it remains unchanged for me, despite that new knowledge of word parts. The menu of rebanquet isn’t limited, rather filled with lush foods, but it avoids organs. Organs are what seem to set connoisseurs from people who eat food. I’m not sure what I am. Somewhere in the middle. On the line between “organs” and “spaghetti o’s,” because they look similar, but taste much different.

In my memory of tastes I have had salt pork (from Where the Red Fern Grows) with cornbread, roasted over a fire; coffee and meat pies (from The White Mountains), german stews and doughnuts (from And Never Said a Word); boiled eggs with salt, bread and jam (from Frances); chicken and potatoes (from Homecoming); a meal of fine French restaurant smells (from Family Under the Bridge) and I see when I start this list it may never end. My whole life is filled with meals I had with fictional characters and foods they have enjoyed during a long journey or at the table. I do note that in all of my food memories that these all taste rich, linger in the back of your throat, and act as the kind of food that fills your soul.

The only time I can remember that same feeling from a real life meal is a time that my grandparents and my family caught fish from someone's pond, cooked it at a fire, and ate it in the dark. We pulled white flaky meat off the bones, and I couldn't imagine anything tasting better. I'm not sure we even had salt to flavor it. I got a little piece of the skin I had tried to avoid. It melded so well with the soft fish. I remember being surprised that the whole meal could feel so warm and strengthening. I thought about it as I lay in my bed in the trailer house we stayed at because it was too late to go back to my grandparents' house.

And I don't even like cooked fish. But it's this meal I go back to draw from when I read about Huck roasting Mississippi fish over the fire while he contemplates a starry night.