Monday, June 27, 2011

You'll Eat It and Like It!

Cooking Adventure: Red Lentil Curry
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Killing an Arab by Speed Caravan
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cook Time: 25 min

Perhaps we all hit that point in our lives when we realize that our parents were right to make us eat our vegetables. We hit the point where we're forced to provide our own meals and, after the four year chips and soda binge that is college, figure out that maybe we should actually start listening to our parents on the basis of what goes into our bodies. Granted, in my case the rediscovery of vegetables was a bit different.

My mom grew up with her upper middle class company-managing father and a classic 50's housewife mother. It was a magical era that was defined and graced by commercials showing ladies shocked and amazed by the newfangled kitchen gadgetry. I could kill the 50's for giving us the microwave. I'm not sure when my grandma got her first one, but I'm sure that her own religious devotion to the microwaving culture was passed down to my mother. I really hope it's not genetic. I don't remember any vegetable in our house ever being pan-cooked, blanched or even grilled. Everything that I can remember went through the microwave. Yup, just as easy as putting a little water in a Tupperware container, plop in the veggies, and in four to five minutes out would pop the plants in all their steaming, bland, mushy glory. 

For years I thought that I hated brussel sprouts, carrots, broccoli (unless it was piled high with Molly McButter powdered butter), and squash (unless that was drenched in brown sugar). I remember the first time I went to my in-laws' house for the first time and my now mother-in-law announced that she was making meat loaf and brussel sprouts "Well, won't we be farty tonight!" she declared with a grin. (I have never been so aware of the food I eat and how it affects my sphincter as I have been after I met my in-laws.) By this time I was 21 and had developed an excellent ability to down even the worst cooking. As we set the table I mentally prepared for what was to come. 

What ultimately came to the table was not at all what I expected. Pan-cooked, halved brussel sprouts with butter, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper. They were a little burn on the cut half - just enough to make them a little crispy & tender. The meatloaf didn't come out of the oven - smothered in Hunt's ketchup and cut into soggy, bread-shaped pieces. It came from the grill, with ketchup as an actual OPTION. That was the first time in my entire life that I asked for seconds on either food. 

So it hit me that night that it wasn't that I didn't like vegetables - I didn't like the way my mom cooked vegetables. I have hit a similar dilemma with my husband who is convinced that no lentils can be good, and that I will eventually kill him with my plant-centered diet. I made this batch of red lentil curry over the weekend while he's been on a roller derby trip across the country. The dish is so good that I'm sure he'll have his own epiphany when he gets home today. :)

 - 2 cups red lentils
 - 1 large onion, diced
 - 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
 - 2 tablespoons curry paste
 - 1 tablespoon curry powder
 - 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
 - 1 teaspoon ground cumin
 - 1 teaspoon chili powder
 - 1 teaspoon salt
 - 1 teaspoon white sugar
 - 1 teaspoon minced garlic
 - 1 teaspoon ginger root, minced
 - 1 (14.25 ounce) can tomato puree *I just poured it into the onion mix until it was about what I wanted. I ended up using a bit less than 14.25oz, and it came out way less liquidy that way.

1. Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear (this is very important or the lentils will get "scummy"), put the lentils in a pot with water to cover and simmer covered until lentils tender (add more water if necessary). 
2. While the lentils are cooking: In a large skillet or saucepan, caramelize the onions in vegetable oil. 
3. While the onions are cooking, combine the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl. Mix well. When the onions are cooked, add the curry mixture to the onions and cook over a high heat stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. 
4. Stir in the tomato puree and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the lentils are ready. 
5. When the lentils are tender drain them briefly (they should have absorbed most of the water but you don't want the curry to be too sloppy). Mix the curry base into the lentils and serve immediately.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Abandoning my Groove for a Better One

There comes a point in life when you realize the fine line between a healthy amount of lounging and a 30 year-old single, anime-geek gamer, single, overweight, still living with his parents, and covered with so much Ax body spray he's now sweating the stuff. I got up from crocheting and watching old Simpsons episodes yesterday only to find that my desk chair had a definitive ass groove. I desperately needed to get out.

One of the bloggers around here does photos of her walks around Canadaland*, so I thought I'd join in with my own photos of Madtown on a Saturday morning.

Madtown on a glorious summer day (Today marks the end of seven straight days of overcast skies.). Madison isn't actually this crowded. I love that even though it's a downtown area, there's actually plenty of green space.
Madison has always had a strong hippie presence. This kind of made me nostalgic for the bathrooms in the University's psychology department. I really should go back there with my camera to see if the stalls are still covered top to bottom with political debates. It's amazing the length and depth to which some stall artists will go. Makes you wonder what would happen if we replaced all the seats in Congress with toilets.
Ah, Monona Terrace. Beautiful to look at, but not much else. It was built to pretty up the lakefront and provide more convention space. The problem is, we kind of had convention space already. Aside from being the broadcasting headquarters for the Whatdoya Know? Public Radio show, the Monona Terrace has been added to the list of buildings whose most common uses are: wedding photos, heated short cuts in the winter and clean bathrooms.
The observation deck at the capitol is finally open again. These statues adorn the top right before the dome starts. I have a hard time with being patient in amigurumi. I can't even imagine the time and concentration it took to do these.
I think she's my favorite. Maybe because she's the only one up there that looks completely content in every way.
There is a height law in Madison that no structure within a mile of the capital may be taller than the capitol building. The Belmont Hotel built in 1924, now replaced with a YWCA and condos, was what prompted the law to be proposed in the first place. It makes giving people directions to downtown very easy. "You need to get to State Street? No problem. See that big white building. Drive towards the big white building. If at any point you can't see the big white building, you're either going the wrong way, or you're underground - at which point I can't help you."

*Despite the fact that I won my elementary school's National Geography Bee in 5th grade, I am by no means good at geography. In fact, should you ever require quick directions to a river, do not ask me or either of the other NGB finalists from the class of '95, as we only advanced due to our excellent memorization of the following rivers: the Nile, Amazon and Mississippi, and nothing else. I decided that after my correct yet clueless yelling out of, "Mississippi!" (and desperately hoping the teacher would ask me to spell it), I was knowledgeable enough regarding the earth's layout that I wouldn't have to pay much attention after that. This explains why for a long time I thought Puerto Rico was off the coast of New York, Hawaii was about level with Northern California, and Canada is a big outline of a country north of the U.S. with a massive black hole of little skewed information bits floating around inside. I call this last geographical anomaly, Canadaland - home to Francophiles, and ...trees? So please, do not confuse Canadaland with Canada. Remember that Canadaland is north of the U.S., while Canada actually borders Mexico and Argentina.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ami Wasting Away the Days

After giving my apartment a much needed cleaning and reorganizing a few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that I have too much stuff. Too much stationary. Too much crafty things I swore I'd use but never did. ...Too many journals.

In a new found spirit of impending Buddhist monk, I've started trying to actually use the stuff I said I would, so that it will all morph into useful, or at least more interesting, things. This last week the transformation of stuff to things has gone very well. My niece's fourth birthday is coming up and she is in that stage of life where FAERIES! FAERIES ARE THE MOST AWESOME CREATURES EVER! I WANT TO BE A FAERIE! TINKERBELL! I AM A FAERIE! TINKERBELL! BOW DOWN TO MY AWESOME AMOUNTS OF CUTENESS WHILST I WEAR MY PURPLE FAERIE WINGS! THREE YEAR OLD POWERS, ACTIVATE! So I decided to crochet her up some new dolls for the occasion. It's possible that she will be the youngest person in history to have an excitement-based heart attack.

While the ideas are mine, the base pattern was not. The mermaid pattern was courtesy of Owlishly, whose adorable creations can be found here. The rest were eyeballing things, digging around my craft boxes and screwing up (the cactus pixie was supposed to be a wood faerie, but due to some bad planning on the placement of her butt and hair piece, I decided to change things up a bit).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Zombie-esque Hungering for Journals

Hello, everyone. My name is Blue Faerie... and  I am a journal junkie. I don't mean journaling. I mean journals. Crisp, white pages. Giving them that first flip with my thumb. Opening to the first page where I will declare my new literary adventure. Wondering if this will truly be the next best-selling memoir. Or just a way to make life awkward for the relatives I leave behind ("Woah! Grandma was into what now!?"). It all begins to smooth. So elegant. So well-intentioned. And with a squeaky clean ball point pen. Life is sweet.

And then the disintegration begins. The pen runs out of ink, and I have to switch colors in the middle of a page, it looks unorganized now! Okay, well, maybe I can deal with that. I'll just make it a style thing and write with all different colors. From reds to greens, and an orange pen and then - NO! ...I've bent the corner by accident. Well, I'll just put it down and come back to it. It's not that big of a deal. But it is a big deal. The journal is officially smeared. Marred and dishonored it huddles in the closet collecting random wowitsbeenalongtimes and imstillalives.

Meanwhile, the cycle has already begun anew, as I eye up that $4 bonus buy at Half Priced Books.

Yes, everyone. I am a journal junkie. And I see the opportunity to become a blog junkie. There is always that temptation to install a new template. To boldly explore new fonts. But I refuse to bend to the Internet's enticing array of html. To that end I have this to say to you all...

Gone for a long time? What the heck do you mean? You've hit a funky time warp. I'm sorry, you're finally starting to "lose it", aren't you? Your Internet must be broken. This has all been a dreeeeam! OOOoooooOOOOoooh! Where have I been? Where have YOU been!?

Good to be back. :)

P.S. If you just can't stand not knowing whether or not bee keepers kidnapped me, I will, 1. tell you that no, they didn't, and 2. leave you to ponder the circumstances under which the following invention was thought into existance.