Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I always liked the name Martha ...

baba ghanouj

Sometimes I really love having a productive day at home completely to myself, which is what Sunday turned out to be. I did have tentative plans, but the extreme heat canceled them (I had been planning to go to the Durham Food Truck Rodeo* for my third time, but since it looks like it's going to be monthly I figured it would be OK to miss the one that occurred in 100+ temperatures). So I ended up spending the whole day (with a few small excursions to various stores) at home actually getting stuff done. And some of the stuff I did was cooking and baking.

It's the time of year when my friend Cindy's garden produces an overabundance of veggies, so Saturday I accumulated a kitchen full. I shredded a bunch of zucchini and stuck it in the freezer for future zucchini projects (I'm going to try a savory zucchini bread). I have way more tomatoes than I have time to do anything with, but I also don't have time to run around finding homes for them.But she had so many they would have just fallen off the plants and rotted on the ground because she doesn't have time to pick them all. So I took them ... I suppose the worst thing that could happen is they end up feeding the worms in my compost pile instead of the critters and bugs in her garden ...

Anyway, she gave me a couple of eggplants, and I really wanted to have a go at baba ghanouj, which I adore. I had tried many years ago to make some and it turned out horrible, so I was a little afraid to try it again. I think my mistake that time was that I didn't roast the eggplants correctly or long enough. So I looked online for some tips and I found a nice little video on Chow. Worked like a charm! So then I just followed this recipe, except for the part where it told me how to roast the eggplants, and I ended up with absolutely the best baba ghanouj I've ever had. Yay me! I'm definitely going to add eggplants to my garden next year, because this stuff is habit-forming.

I also had some lemons lying around so I decided to make glazed lemon-coconut bars. I started with this recipe but I completely didn't follow it because I didn't have Bisquick (I formulated a substitution with flour, baking powder and salt ... thanks internets!), I didn't have a half-cup of egg substitute (I used two real eggs instead) and I accidentally mixed the 3/4 cup of sugar with the base layer, so I had to add another in the top layer. Yes, I used twice the amount of sugar. Anyway, the result was delicious, but not terribly good-looking:

glazed lemon coconut bars

*The Durham Food Truck Rodeo looks like it will be happening monthly at Durham Central Park. Probably the best place to find out when the next one will be is the Durham Central Park blog. I had a great time at the first two and plan to go to them as ooften as I can in the future.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Have a seat ...


I think I may have mentioned here the new meditation habit I'm trying to establish. Did I also mention that in pursuit of such, I was going to make myself a zafu, which is the Japanese way of saying "meditation cushion"? So anyway, I made the zafu (pictured above), and I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out. (But I'm going to make another because I think I may actually be more pleased with one that's a little smaller in circumference.)

I used these instructions, which were pretty good. The one thing they didn't specify was finishing the ends of the pleated strip before you sew it to the top and bottom circles. I think that's sort of a crucial step, and fortunately I recognized it needed to be done and did it before it would have entailed any seam-ripping. The other thing it doesn't specify is how much one should adjust the length of the pleated strip to account for any decrease in the circumference of the circles. This is something I'll need to monkey with when I make my next one. Also, I'm going to add a handle to the next one, which will be pretty easy.

I stuffed it with buckwheat hulls from this place, which is actually local (Morrisville) so I was able to save a bit on shipping by picking them up. I think it's pretty cool that the woman started the buckwheat hull business to provided employment opportunities for developmentally disabled people. So if you need buckwheat seeds or hulls, that's where you should buy them.

Since I just used fabric I already had lying around, the only out-of-pocket cost to me was the buckwheat hulls (I used about $10 worth). It only took me about 2 hours to make, and I've got more time than money so it was really worth the effort (I would have spent at least $45, probably more, on an already-made zafu). The best thing is that I was able to make it to my own preference, which is important in a meditation cushion because discomfort can be a big obstacle to establishing a regular meditation practice.

Once I make my second zafu I'll still have enough fabric left to make a zabuton, which is a little mat you put your zafu on (it cushions your knees and ankles). Right now I'm just using an old folded-up comforter for that purpose. It works just fine ... but if it's cheap and easy to do I may as well make a matching one. Right?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Do you have to have a garden to have a garden party?

Yet again, my bons mots have been wasted on Facebook lately, mostly because it's so easy to get a cheap laugh over there. No need for complete sentences! But Facebook is really sort of a black hole ... you post your most profound sentiment and maybe get gratified by a few comments, but then it just disappears beneath the weight of all the subsequent stupid stuff you say or post. And by you I mean me. At least if you put it in your blog someone searching the term "mr. ray's hair weave" could stumble across it years later and maybe, just maybe, appreciate your little pearls of wisdom. Or whatever they are. ("Mr. Ray's Hair Weave" is the second most popular search term that brings people to this blog behind the term "bunch of pants." I completely understand the urge to search on the term "Mr. Ray's Hair Weave", as I, like everyone else who lived in the DC area in the '70s or early 80's, would love to find an online video of the beloved Mr. Ray's Hair Weave commercial. So far, no luck. If you got here because of that search, you may or may not find this post interesting.)

But that's not why I came here today. I came to talk about tomatoes and basil. But I just expended all my energy writing that rather overlong paragraph above, so I'll talk tomatoes and basil another day. Except that I'll ask one question: What can I do with basil aside from making pesto?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I had a plethora but I'm not sure where I put it

My friend Cindy gave me several massive zucchini, so of course the first thing I did was make some zucchini bread:

zucchini bread

It's awesome stuff. I may have to make a ton more to use up all this zucchini. Then I'll walk around giving loaves away like I'm the zucchini bread fairy.

You didn't ask for the recipe, but I'll give it to you anyway (I've been using if for about 10 years now and I have no idea where I first got it or I'd give credit):

* 3 Eggs
* 1 cup Oil
* 2 cups Shredded raw zucchini
* 1 3/4 cups Sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon Baking powder
* 2 teaspoons Baking soda
* 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon Salt
* 2 teaspoons Vanilla
* 1 cup Chopped nuts
* 2 cups Flour

Put zucchini in strainer and press or squeeze with hands to get excess liquid out. Beat eggs, sugar, and oil together. Add flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and nuts. Mix together by hand. Add zucchini (minus liquid). Beat mixture. Pour into 2 greased, floured, loaf pans.
Bake 1 hr. at 350 deg. F. Recipe may be doubled.

Also, I got some really great news via a fortune cookie the other day:

awesome fortune

When I first saw it I thought "a pony?" until I remembered that I haven't actually wanted a pony since fifth grade. So it must be the ability to smite people because I've always wanted that. Heads up jerks and wrongdoers!

I recently read a bunch of Albert Einstein quotations and the communication via fortune cookie reminded me of one of my favorites: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." I think I like the second.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Live in the moment and then just try to have really good moments ...

i think the sky is amazing today

Hi kids! I'm having a good life right now. Maybe that doesn't make for good blogging, but oh well ...

My gnome still hasn't made it home, but Rakka sent me a new one:

i have a new gnome!!

I need to get him in a frame and on the wall. I would say at least he'll be safe from thieves there, but apparently there has been a rash of break-ins in my normally boring (but wonderful) neighborhood. The thieves are only taking the computer and the TV from every house they rob. I don't know if the sound of my three bloodthirsty beastlets is enough to keep them out of my house, but I can take my computer with me when I leave and my television is one of the old heavy behemoth kinds that I would probably have a hard time giving away on Freecycle. My only worry is that someone breaking in would leave the door open and let the dogs out--they are really the only things I value.

Also, in vaguely interesting news, maybe, I'm taking the next logical step from a regular yoga practice and trying to meditate for reals. I mean, I've sort of tried in the past, but it was always easy to get frustrated and think it was a waste of time and then start putting it off because the kitchen needed tidying, etc. But now I've stepped it up and am getting serious about it. So my next project will be setting up a proper meditation place in my house. Currently I sit on a few throw pillows on top of an old comforter in the living room, but I've decided I'm going to make myself a proper zafu and zabuton and arrange part of my spare room as my sitting area. Yeah, hard core! The reason I'm DIYing the cushionry is because that stuff can be hella expensive. Oh yeah, I'm also going to make a yoga mat bag. I'll let you know how it all turns out...