Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Bellydance Lesson

Normally I have bellydance practice on Tuesdays, but due to the craziness of holidays and exams, practice was up and canceled. And because the teacher in me is itching to get out, and because there are many of you who have expressed interest in bellydance if-only-you-had-a-teacher-near-you, I thought I'd share a bit of dance technique with everyone as my way of saying thanks. The below move is called a smoke hand. It's really good for impressing people at parties, and for some reason grossing our little kids (It's fun to tell them right before you do this that you have no bones in your hand. :P).

Happy Bellydancing Thanksgiving everyone! :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

That'll Clear Your Sinuses! ... And Get You Tipsy.

Cooking Adventure: Sriracha & Wasabi Deviled Eggs
Source: Food & Wine
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Inchalla by Latifa
Prep Time: 4hrs
Cook Time: 30 min.

This weekend le husband was out enjoying a yearly tradition amongst the males of his family: sitting in freezing cold woods & shooting at things. I've occasionally been invited to visit the deer camp cabin, but have so far declined based on the grounds that it's a cesspool of testosterone (i.e. men attempting to be manly men by contesting who has farted up the local atmosphere's percentage of methane). It does stand to reason, though, that if my man leaves to be manly for the weekend, that I can take over the apartment with a girly girl slumber party. 

Each year the party gets more elaborate in decorations or food. And since last fall I went a little crazy getting dollar store decor, this time around it seems I was bit by the cooking bug. I spent most of Friday & all of Saturday prep cooking. It might not have taken so long, if I hadn't completely undercooked the first dozen hard boiled eggs. I ended up having to bike to the store and have another go with a new batch, but this time with specific instructions on how to properly boil an egg (Directions below). Yay,  Internet!

The rest of the recipes will come in due time, but for now I present you with the best hors d'oeuvre of the night. These deviled eggs are soaked in sake for four hours before serving them. Mix the spicy taste of wasabi with the hard alcohol taste, and it's perfect for getting party guests to wake up for the evening. 

  - 1 dozen large eggs
 - 2 cups soy sauce
 - 1/2 cup sake
 - 10 star anise pods
 - 1/2 cup chopped scallions
 - 1/4 cup sugar
 - 1/4 cup coarsely grated peeled fresh ginger
 - 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
 - 1 tablespoon Sriracha (That bottle of red sauce with the rooster on it that often grazes Japanese restaurant tables.)
 - 2 1/4 teaspoons wasabi paste
 - 1/4 cup snipped chives
 - Pinch of Chinese five-spice powder 
1. Hard boil the eggs
2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the soy sauce with the sake, star anise, chopped scallions, sugar and grated ginger. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and let cool completely.
3. Drain the water from the large saucepan and shake the pan gently to crack the eggs. Cool the eggs slightly under cold running water, then peel them under running water. Add the eggs to the soy mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the eggs for at least 4 hours.
4. Drain the eggs and rinse lightly to remove any bits of scallion or ginger; pat dry. Using a slightly moistened thin, sharp knife, cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Gently pry the egg yolks into a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Stir the mayonnaise, Sriracha, wasabi and 3 tablespoons of the snipped chives into the mashed yolks. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a star or plain tip. Set the egg whites on a serving platter and pipe in the filling. Sprinkle the deviled eggs with the remaining 1 tablespoon of chives and the Chinese five-spice powder and serve.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Story Time

Sometimes I just want to say, "Forget it! The week has been so insane that I can't blog without turning this into a complaint post about being busy! I'm just going to post links to cute and funny things and be done with it!" Well, I could do that, but there's only so much Internet vomit* one page can take. So today I would like to present what I can only hope may be puked up on other websites in the future - Story Time.
The Madison Zombie Lurch - 2009
Every year the walking dead of Madison protest for their rights as equal, if just a bit handicapped, citizens. After the group of 30 plus zombies perform their cultural rendition of "Thriller", they proceed to shuffle, stumble, and lurch down the street leading from the capitol to campus. And because the living dead held their dance rehearsals at the local Middle Eastern dance studio, there was ample representation from the decomposing Raqs Sharki community.
Minnesota State Fair 2009 - The Princess Kay Display

My brother and I used to behold these buttery carvings of local beauty queens, and wonder just how they meet their eventual death. The butter sculptures stay up for the week & a half of state fair fun - shown off in a rotating display case in the dairy building. If we happened to be there at just the right time, we'd get to see the next Princess Kay posing on a stool in the middle - bundled up in her winter finery in the cooler while a sculptor chipped away at the next giant butter ball. What my brother and I could never figure out was: If the families of the girls get the butter sculptures at the end of the fair, what do they do with them? Do they actually use them? And if so, what facial extremity do they dig into first? My brother told me if it were me, he'd take my nose. I always preferred lovingly jamming a butter knife into the eye.
Do I really need to explain this one?**
I will always remember the head-on photo of several sheep butts that was framed and mounted in my Florida home. I asked my dad about it once and he told me that it was a prize-winning photo. Of course, my first reaction to this was to raise my eyebrows and yell for Mom to corroborate his story.  Sure enough. Years ago he had worked with a company that had an office photography contest. One of the employees was absolutely ecstatic because he himself was an amateur photographer. Hoping to get the perfect shot, he spent days on this -dragging out all his lenses and his knowledge of technique (This, my dad knows because he's the type of person that listens in on office gossip and then hordes the information within his family.). Meanwhile, my dad either took at the moment or dug up out of storage (accounts vary) the sheep butt photo. Thinking it was pretty funny he submitted it. And it won. My dad couldn't remember what the prize was at the time, but I think his real prize was getting to see his coworker fuming over ram hineys.
*Internet vomit (n): the phenomenon that occurs when the life of a blogger becomes so devoid of entertaining events, that said blogger must resort to petty outside links, effectively ingesting original information from the main source and then barfing it onto their own site in a gooey, dripping Rorschach of embedded YouTube videos, Lolcats and photos of shiny things.

**It's The End. :P

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Perfect Shot

There are very few things in this world from which I demand perfection. The first was, and has always been, markers and crayons. When I was a kid, my parents got me a set of 60 professional art markers and blank computer paper. I remember being so excited that I had this rainbow of inky goodness that I spent a good half hour sitting around wondering what to draw first. In the end, I decided to save them for special occasions - namely, letters to Grandma and notebook designs. I also decided that the best way to use this veritable artistic toolbox would be to bring it to school, show them off, and proceed to horde it. And horde it, I did. I never trusted the other kids with my markers. I would watch them furiously scribble out designs with their fat hands clamped over their fat Crayolas. The beautiful tips that once graced the markers would soon be scraped away down to flattened nubs of things. The horror continued after the markers were jambed back into the box - IN THE WRONG ORDER. I would sit there thinking, "That's not where the red goes! ROY G BIV man! ROY G BIV!!" I would watch the marker boxes get shoved into desks, the poor cardboard shredded and wounded. Inevitably, the kids would ask to borrow my markers, and I would clutch them to my chest and answer with such a defiant "no" that the grubby fat hands would retreat back to their desks to console themselves in peeling dried glue off each other.

I feel that I'm getting much the same with my camera. I operate with a little Cannon Powershot - not that high up on the camera pyramid, but usable and portable nonetheless. It's not that I horde the Cannon like I did the markers. I'm perfectly fine with friends, family and coworkers using it on occasion. My beef comes with the actual photos. The usual reason why I've lent out my camera is so that I can finally have a photo of myself for a change - those times when I want photographic evidence of my experiences. And, were it not for some brief lendings on my honeymoon, it would be impossible for me to prove that I ever went to Alaska. But even though I now have pictures of me in head-to-toe sea kayaking gear, I'm missing the top portion of my head. In other photos I'm blurry. The one picture I have of my husband and I on a train has "Caution: Watch Head" printed on the metal right next to us (Okay, that one was a little funny; but you get my point.). 

I believe it is up to us, the general public, to educate ourselves on basic and slightly advanced photography techniques - just as it is parents' and teachers' duty to teach their kids proper marker care. It really would make the world a better place, as we would all be more willing to share our art supplies.

*If you really would like to see some brilliant photography, I suggest stopping by Focus My World. Michele's photos are filled with vibrant colors, some very creative angles, and perfect examples of how light in the right spot can really bring out a subject.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Dark & Light Samhain

Cooking Adventure: Baked Apples
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Aria by Medieval Baebes
Prep Time: 20 min.
Cook Time: 30-45 min.

I've always loved the Medieval Baebes, and one day I will find the time to choreograph a veil piece to one of their gorgeous songs. For now, though, I'm letting their music carry me into the new year. The baebes song, "Aria", talks about children chasing their shadows. The lyrics go:

The shadowe catchen they ne might,                                       This shadow never shall be caught
Fo no lines that they couthe lay.                                              In any trap they lay.
This shadewe I may liken aright                                              This shadow in the likeness
To this world and yesterday.                                                   Of this world and yesterday.

We can never have the past back - although some of us try. And those of us who do will only find ourselves grasping at shadows of what was. This is the darker side of Samhain - the pain that we experience when relatives or friends pass onto the next life. Whether that next life is Heaven, reincarnation, or even decomposition, we mourn the emptiness that's created when that person leaves us.

But whatever your beliefs, we can all agree that death is never the end. Our spirits move on, memories are made and kept (And sometimes, as is the case with my father-in-law's stories, embellished.), and our bodies go to feed the earth. Several of my Mexican students are celebrating Día de los Muertos tonight. They will cook food for the dead, tell their (possibly embellished) stories, and finally, will end the night praying for their loved ones who have passed. They will also light candles for the dead in order to guide them home for the night. Tonight I took from the Catholic page a bit and lit my own candle for my grandma.

I acknowledged death, but I also celebrated life. And what better way to enjoy life than through desert - an ending that only encourages us to cook more sugary endings. In this case, it has inspired my husband to cook on the next sabbat (He's already itching to cook goose for Yule.). 

A Blessed Samhain to you all. May we be ready to face the new year and the adventures it brings us.

 -4 large good baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold
 -1/4 cup brown sugar
 -1 teaspoon cinnamon
 -1/4 cup chopped pecans
 -1/4 cup currants or chopped raisins
 -1 Tbsp butter
 -3/4 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to 1/2 inch of the bottom of the apples. It helps if you have an apple corer, but if not, you can use a paring knife to cut out first the stem area, and then the core. Use a spoon to dig out the seeds. Make the holes about 3/4-inch to an inch wide.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, currants/raisins, and pecans. Place apples in a 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking pan. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top with a dot of butter (1/4 of the Tbps).
3. Add boiling water to the baking pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until tender, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and baste the apples several times with the pan juices.
4. Serve warm.