Tofu pot pi

In honor of today being Pi Day, I thought I should make dinner a little more interesting than usual: tonight we will feast on Tofu Pot Pi.

“Pi” instead of “pie.” Get it? Yeah, you get it.

Paul and I have been on a healthy kick lately, and I’m proud to say it’s paying off: after two weeks of just watching my calories and observing simple portion control, I’ve lost 4 pounds! While going down the road to healthy eating, we’ve both found that we don’t particularly care for the taste of meat any more. We’ll still eat the occasional chicken dish, and we still eat probably way too much salmon, but we’ve found tofu to be a fine protein substitute. Hence the tofu as the main ingredient in this dish.

The Pot Pi recipe is simple: use whatever veggies you happen to have lying around, throw them in a crust, and nom it up. It makes about 6 servings, with a cup of filling in each Pi, and about 580 calories per serving (most of them coming from the crust). I regret using up the last of the mushrooms and potatoes in a dish the other night, because they would have been heavenly in this mixture. In any case, here’s what I used this time:

Filling:
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 green onions (white parts only), chopped
4 shallots, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
2/3 cup frozen petite peas
2/3 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can pinto beans
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
salt and pepper
1 block extra firm tofu, drained
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

Saute the onions and garlic in grape seed oil until they are soft and fragrant. Add all the vegetables and beans, and seasonings. Saute just until the carrots are sort of soft. Remove from pan, reserving any oil left behind. In the same pan, saute the tofu and cumin until the tofu is slightly browned.

In a prepared dish (I made my own whole wheat crust, but you can use whatever you like – puff pastry, frozen pie crust…), add 1 cup of the vegetable-tofu mixture. Top with more crust, cutting slits for steam to vent. (You can even cut the slits into fancy shapes or symbols.  Ooooooh.) Brush the top crust with an egg wash for a golden sheen.

Bake those puppies in a 375°F oven for about 40 minutes, rotating them in the oven halfway through.

Once they’ve cooled enough so as not to burn your tongue, scarf it down. It should leave you feeling full and satisfied, yet not weighed down. Om nom nom!

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The tale of the best ever chocolate cream pie

Gentle readers, today I would like to tell you a story about the most delectable pie I have ever made.

A friend of mine from high school now lives in the far, far away land of Michigan with his wife and beyond-adorable two kids. Although we’ve stayed in touch through Facebook, I’ve now found a new way to spy on my old friend’s goings on: a blog he’s started, wherein he chronicles his year-long endeavor to make many, many delicious pies. Go visit The Rationality of Pie; it will be well worth your while.

I’m more of a fruit pie girl, myself. Give me a blueberry pie and you’ll be out of luck if you want a slice. I’m sure that Zeb has a ton of fruity pie recipes lined up when the weather finally warms up. However, since it’s wintertime and fresh fruits aren’t in season, most of the pies he’s posted about have been of the sweet variety: coconut cream, vanilla cream, Indiana buttermilk, etc. Honestly, I prefer reading about sweet pies, rather than eating them. Of course, that all changed when I saw the recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie.

If there’s one thing I can’t pass up, it’s chocolate, especially when it’s something chocolaty made in one’s own kitchen. Homemade chocolate pudding is just tops, and that’s what goes in the crust of this amazing culinary masterpiece. I’m not kidding, folks, this pie filling is some of the best chocolate pudding I have ever tasted. Zeb sums it up perfectly: “Forget the crust – just give me a pan of filling, a spoon, and ten minutes to myself.”

Having never made a pie filling that required precooking, I was more than a little nervous that I would royally screw it up. I shouldn’t have worried in the slightest: the milk didn’t burn, the cornstarch didn’t clump, the egg yolks didn’t scramble and the chocolate (a combination of semi-sweet and milk) melted into the creamiest, most heavenly concoction ever to grace my stovetop.

While I have been going on about the incredible chocolate filling, I must mention the meringue, which takes this pie to a whole new level of awesomeness. The meringue seems straightforward enough (egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar), but one addition makes it almost unearthly: cinnamon. Cinnamon meringue! It’s such a simple addition to a basic recipe that I never would have thought that it would completely change the taste of the finished dish. All I know is that if I ever have to make a meringue again, I am checking to see if cinnamon would compliment the dish, because the smell of cinnamon wafting through my kitchen is almost too much for me to handle. That’s a good thing, people.

Because this is Zeb’s creation (or rather, the creation of the guy who wrote the book that has become Zeb’s second bible), instead of posting the recipe here, I’ll point you over to the original post itself.

I made this pie for a dinner party about a week ago, and to say that it was a hit is the understatement of the year. Inappropriate, near-orgasmic sounds came from everyone at the table as they took tiny, savoring bites, and one of my friends demanded requested that I make it for his upcoming birthday. As long as I’m invited to the party, I think I’ll be happy to oblige.

Fireplace socks

I’ve been spoiled by a couple days of unseasonably warm weather. An unexpected heat wave brought the temperatures up into the mid 60s on Friday, tricking my senses into thinking that Spring is coming. Alas, I should have known that walking outside without a coat was to be short-lived. Old Man Winter has teased me all season long, bringing ridiculous amounts of snow and ice; why should he quit mid-February?

Two days of delightful warmth is deceiving. While we were able to open up a couple windows to air out the house, which had become almost unbearably stuffy, the sudden return to the reality of winter was a shock to the system. 40 degrees feels much colder than it did a month ago, and now I find myself huddled on the couch in my warmest sweater under the thickest blanket I could find. Thank goodness for Fireplace Socks.

Just before Thanksgiving, the furnace at Casa de Insomniac decided that we weren’t worth its efforts and stopped working. Air came out of the vents, but it was as cool as the impending winter. It took almost a month to get the blasted thing fixed; the first guy who came to look at it had no clue what he was doing, said he would order a part, and then we never heard from him again. Fortunately, Hubby’s cousin’s boyfriend is an HVAC specialist. He offered to check out the furnace, and within ten minutes we had heat again. Huzzah!

We were lucky: although it was cold, the season hadn’t truly kicked in yet, so we were fairly comfortable using blankets, cats and space heaters to keep ourselves warm. Space heaters and the fireplace, which does an amazing job heating the living room. Whilst huddling for warmth in front of the flames, I took the opportunity between knitting Christmas presents for my family to whip up a pair of socks for myself. I call them Fireplace Socks, since I knit them by the fireplace, our only source of heat. Get it?

I’d had a couple skeins of Lion Brand Homespun lying in my stash for a few years, and with the funky texture, I never quite knew what to do with it. A simple sock pattern, like the basic chunky sock by Patons, turned out to be perfect for this yarn. I figured that since the main purpose of these socks would be to keep my tootsies warm in my chilly house, it wouldn’t really matter if they turned out badly. Happily for my poor frozen toes, I needn’t have worried.

The yarn itself was a little difficult to knit with at times. Lion Brand calls it a “uniquely textured” yarn; I call it annoying. There is one thin strand of black running through a slowly varying lighter colored, thicker yarn, which curls and backs up on itself. The best way I can describe it is to knitting with cobwebs: it’s not a smooth, silky yarn like I’m used to using, and so the needles would get caught up in it, making it difficult to differentiate the individual stitches.

The good news is that these babies knit up super quickly. Although I didn’t finish the pair for almost two weeks, the actual knitting time was closer to two days per sock. (I took a break in between to start on my brother’s present.) And the finished product, despite the temperamental nature of the yarn, is incredibly soft. They turned out a little big for my feet, but since I’m just using them as lounge socks, that doesn’t really matter. And the color is gorgeous: deep aquamarine melting into taupe, rose and cream, creating subtle unmatched stripes.

Perhaps if I wear them with abandon, Old Man Winter might decide to spite me again and send the temperatures soaring again. We can only hope.

New York: it’s a hell of a town

At this very moment, you all should be congratulating me. Why? Because I temporarily conquered two of my fears: traveling alone and New York City.

It’s not that I can’t travel alone. I’ve done it many, many times before. I just don’t like to. I always feel exposed and vulnerable when I travel alone, and much more likely to get lost. And I don’t loathe New York City with a burning passion that fills every inch of my being with rage. No, I just really don’t like big cities in general. There is something so claustrophobic about the tall buildings lining narrow streets filled with too many people. I get disoriented much too quickly, and must rely upon others to guide me to my destination.

When you combine these two elements of my feardom, you end up with the exact reason why I hate traveling in NYC by myself: navigating the subway system.

I must have been overcome with temporary insanity, because about a month ago I agreed to meet my best friend from grad school in the city for dinner, to travel by myself through the perilous, gaping maw that is New York public transit. Getting there wasn’t a big deal. Hubby drove me to the train station, and a quick trip up the Northeast Corridor brought me to Penn Station. That’s where things got a bit wonky. More

A shift in the balance of power

Hubby and I got a cat.

We already had a cat. Nothing happened to her. We just got another one.

Something happened to me two months ago that has happened with increasing frequency during recent years: my maternal instinct started kicking in. Big time. Perhaps it’s because I’m in my prime childbearing years, and I’ve long since passed the age at which my mother had me. Perhaps it’s because most of my friends have moved on from being newlyweds to being new parents. Perhaps it’s being recently wed to the Sweetest Man on the Face of the Earth and the questions have shifted from “When are you going to get married?” to “When are you going to have a baby?” All that combined with hormones that are screaming, “BABIES!!!” makes it pretty unbearable at times.

Hubby and I want to have children. Just not now. We’d like to enjoy more than a couple months or years together in wedded bliss before we have to turn our attentions to something other than ourselves. But a couple months ago, I smacked a sort-of ultimatum before him: it’s either a baby or a kitten. More

Kaiso

Hi, my name is Megan, and I’m addicted to knitting socks.

Once I completed my first sock (a simple, solitary little thing fit for a Cabbage Patch doll, but complete with a solid gusset and properly turned heel), I was hooked.  Sock knitting fever has gripped me with a fervor I could not have anticipated in my wildest dreams.  I seek out sock yarn, own every size of small double-pointed needles, and can’t pull myself away from the abundance of pattern books in Barnes and Noble.  I think I have a problem.

I completed my first actual complete pair of socks sometime in the beginning of February, after about two months of concentrated knitting that wasn’t nearly as tedious as I expected.

The pattern for these socks comes from a fabulous book that appealed to me on so many levels – Knitted Socks East and West: 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns, by Judy Sumner. How do I love this book?  Let me count the ways:

  • The title grabbed me.  I love all things Japanese, and the combination of Japanese patterns with something I knew how to make was impossible to pass up.
  • The photos within are gorgeous!  Light and clean, they would appeal to knitters and non-knitters alike.
  • The patterns are elegantly simple, different and intricate without complication.
  • The patterns use more than just knits and purls, incorporating stitches such as cables, the wrap, the twist/slip stitch, the three-stitch lift, and the pkok.  For someone like me, who was getting bored with knits and purls, but not ready to take on multi-colored or larger projects, these new stitches offered a welcome challenge.
  • That said, while the patterns require a little more brain power to work than just mindlessly knitting in the round, they are short patterns with plenty of repetition, so they are easy to memorize.
  • Most importantly of all, the directions are incredibly clear.  Had I never attempted a sock before, I probably could have used this book to get me started.  The illustrations are simple, and nothing about even the most intricate of patterns is confusing.

I feel that Ms. Sumner does a much better job summing up the design of this sock, Kaiso, than I ever could, so I will use her words to describe the sock:

The lace design and fluid bands of this lace pattern look to me as if they could be moving under water, like seaweed.  The Japanese word for seaweed is kaiso, and varieties of it have been used for centuries in Japanese cooking.

This sock design is a very simple one, using only knits, purls, yarnovers, and decreases to create a lace pattern that is reminiscent of the feather and fan design familiar to many Western knitters.  Here, it has been simplified and modified with garter bands that add a rhythmic feel as they flow up and down.

The most difficult thing for me when knitting socks is getting over the adrenaline of finishing the toe and completing the first in the pair and moving on to the second.  Just when you think you’re finished, the realization that you’re only halfway done sets in, and honestly, it gets kind of depressing.  It’s the same feeling I get when I shave my legs.  If the end result wasn’t something I could actually wear and show off, I probably wouldn’t be as excited about it.  With the success of this sock, I think I may have to work my way through each and every pattern in this book.  Perhaps I’ll make it a goal to knit them all by the end of next summer, a la Julie and Julia.  I could actually do it, if I really try.  Here’s to following through.

New toy #1: birthday present

I’ve had a great point-and-shoot, pocket-sized camera for a little over a year now: a burgundy Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS.  It was a tremendous upgrade from my previous Olympus Camedia D-425: easier to use, bigger screen, clearer photos.  It fits snugly in my purse so I can be ready to take a shot whenever the mood strikes me.  That said, while I love that little camera, I’ve always felt like there was something lacking.

So, imagine my delight when my birthday rolled around this year and Hubby presented me with a truly awesome gift: a Sony DSLR-A230.  This bad boy is big, hefty, and the closest thing to my dad’s old manual camera without using actual film.

One of the things that bothered me about the PowerShot was the inability to focus on the precise object I wanted.  Don’t get me wrong – the autofocus is quick and accurate.  But oftentimes the camera and I disagreed about the subject of the photo and thus on what to focus.  It made for some frustrating photo-taking.

The Sony, on the other hand, while it can easily be set to automatic, encourages everything manual, from focus to aperture to shutter speed to probably a lot of other stuff since I know squat about the workings of manual cameras.  But that is the great thing about it being digital: I can learn all about all those intricate functions of light and science by experimenting, and I can do it all without wasting precious film.

So far, I have only found one problem with the camera, and it has nothing to do with the actual photography.  The aforementioned manual camera that once belonged to my father had been sitting in a cabinet for about ten years.  Upon realizing that he had completely forgotten about it, and asking my mother for permission, that piece of nostalgia is now sitting on my desk, waiting for a new battery and ready to go again.  Along with the camera came a great soft case, some extra lenses (super zoom!) and – the best part of all – the shoulder strap that kept that camera and my father inseparable during my youth.  And herein lies the problem: the metal clasps that attach that strap to a camera are far too big and bulky for the likes of my new toy.

My hope is to get a new lens (macro zoom, fisheye, wide angle, etc.) every year. (Those things are expensive, you know, and I’m not made of money.)  I also hope to eventually know enough about the particulars of fine photography that I won’t have to spend two whole minutes setting up a shot to get it just right.

In the meanwhile, check out some of the shots I’ve taken so far:

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