Tag Archives: Food

Getting Back Up

Hi!

 

Have you missed me?

 

Well life has been a series of busy lately, and while all of it has been fantastic, none of it really lends itself to being ‘blog-worthy’.  Or at least, not in a way that I can think of just yet.  So what has been happening in life down here in kiwiland?  Well, let me tell you.

 

A couple weekends ago two of our really close friends got married.  It was an absolutely fantastic day, the ceremony went off just as was planned and the Bride and Groom had a great time.  I was so very happy to be not only invited but to also be a part in helping them plan and get ready for their day.  Having only known them for a few months, it’s truly amazing just how close we’ve become.  I can’t express enough or in the proper words just how humbled and grateful I am to the pair of them for allowing me to spend time with them and share in their joy on that day.  Love you both R&K!

 

This past weekend, another pair of our friends moved into their new house! And we, of course, helped them move!  Now, I know that does not necessarily sound like a barrel of laughs, and it was some hard work, but it was also absolutely great.  We got to spend time with friends, help them move onto their next big step, and generally just enjoy everybody’s company.  And while helping them move, unpack, and settle into their new place, I had time to look back, reflect, and focus on just how far this life that I’m living now is to the ones that I’ve lived before.  Doing physical labor, but laughing and joking at the same time. Everybody coming together collectively to help out, and then sitting around a table (which is gorgeous!) for a well deserved dinner.  I am struggling to figure out if life gets better than that.   The house is gorgeous, the couple fantastic, and our time spent together equally precious.  Congrats R&E!

 

What else, what else.

 

The job hunt is not so much a hunt as it is shooting arrows wildly into the forest in every direction, only to have them shot back at you with no points and no fletching. Not helpful.  But! perseverance will prevail!  Employment will be gained! Somehow.

 

Now, the biggest new thing happening to me personally is that I’ve committed to a Personal Trainer. Tom is going to be kicking my butt left, right, and sideways twice a week for 45 minutes.  After 7 months at the gym, and a significant amount of body tightening up, It was time to get even more serious.  I’ve got weight I want to, must, lose and it’s not going to come off on it’s own.  And while I’ve stuck with going to the gym at least twice a week for 7 months, I need something more. I need to keep pushing myself even more, harder than before.  I must lose this weight.  The rest of my life depends upon hitting that healthy moment and then keeping going.  And that’s not an exaggeration.

 

Today was my second session with Tom and everything went well.  Really well, actually.  But it was the last ‘exercise’ that got me into a contemplative mood.  Essentially all I had to do was lay down on the ground on my chest and then stand back up again five times, and then lay on my back and get up again five times.  Sounds simple, right? Wrong.  It was definitely not easy.  There was so much involved, just so much energy and movement and muscles.  It was by far the hardest exercise that I did.

 

Just like life.  It’s fairly easy to get knocked down time and time again.  It’s the getting back up that’s the hardest part.  And all of this, the man who is supporting me, the friends that I’ve found and love, and the gym, this is all part of me getting back up off the ground.

 

And this time, I’m going to remain standing. And then, start running.

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Rainy Day Stew

The last few days have been absolutely dreary.  It might be summer, but the wind has been howling, the rain has been falling, and the temperature dropping more than it should during summer.  So it seemed like the perfect time to make a big pot of warm soup.  And man, was I ever right. This is technically vegetarian, although you can add meat in if you want. I top mine with either sour cream or yogurt. I adapted this recipe from the New Zealand Healthy Food Guide Magazine.

 

Curried Vege Stew

Serves: 8 or so

Time to make: 35 minutes

 

  • olive Oil or oil spray
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and cubed
  • 1 cup split red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (i used 2 of the new Knorr brand gelled stock things)
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2-1 cup dried fruit (i use dried cranberries and dried apricots)
  • 1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cumin
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • sour cream or yogurt to serve

 

Spray your heavy based pan with your oil spray, or coat lightly in the olive oil and place over medium high heat.  fry your shallot and carrots until softened.  Add 1/2 teaspoon curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Sautee until fragrant.   Add in lentils, stock, and sweet potato mash, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Add in the kidney beans, chickpeas, dried fruits, 1 tablespoon of curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes until lentils are thoroughly cooked. Taste as you stir, and adjust seasoning as you desire.  I prefer mine to have a bit of a hot and sour kick, so I add in more lemon juice.  salt and pepper to taste.

 

serve immediately with sour cream, or yogurt.

 

Last night I topped mine off with a dollop of greek yogurt, some freshly chopped cucumber, and dashes of mint and dill.  For lunch today, I had mixed up a yogurt dip that was a cross between tzatziki and raita and I used that on top of the stew.  Served with rye bread, this is a meal that will leave you feeling full and very warm and toasty.

 

Great for chilly winter/autumn days, or dreary rainy days.  It does not look particularly tasty, but do not let your eyes fool you.

 

 

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

 

peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber

greek yogurt

lemon juice

pinch of salt

2 pinches of sugar

dried dill

dried mint

 

Sadly, last night I did not measure.  But I took about 1/3 of a long hot house/english cucumber, peeled and seeded and chopped*.  I used about 3 large soup spoons of yogurt (let’s say about 1/3 cup), about 1 teaspoon lemon juice, pinch of salt, 2 pinches of sugar (maybe 1/2 tablespoon?), and then a tablespoon each of mint and dill.  Mixed it up well, tasted, adjusted the sugar and salt, and then covered and let sit in the fridge.

 

 

*While the sauce should be slightly runny, you don’t want it too watery.  A good trick is to take the chopped cucumbers, place them in a small strainer (or sifter), and coat them with a little salt. let this sit for at least 30 minutes, and then you can proceed with your recipe.  The salt draws some of the internal water from the cucumber, meaning that your end dip will be less runny.  This method is also used on other water-packed vegetables like eggplant in order to get a nice and crisp result.

 

 

Well there you go!  I hope that since most of my friends are in the northern hemisphere, that you find a use for this recipe soon!  The original in the magazine has half the size of this recipe, but since E loves soup so much, I always double soup recipes.  My additions to the recipe are the cumin, the sweet potato mash (i had some leftover from the other day), the chili powder.  The original calls for sultanas, but I didn’t have those on hand,  The recipe calls for lemon zest, but I only have lemon juice, the original calls for an onion, but I prefer to use shallots.  I also added in the step of toasting the curry powder and chili powder with the shallots, the original just has the spices being put in with the kidney beans and the chickpeas.

 

As Originally written, the authors in the magazine claim that the cost is $2.50 a serving.  That is, of course, in new Zealand Dollars, so it’s closer to approx $1.75 US.  Not bad for a tasty stick it to the ribs meal.

 

 

 

Liberated Woman… Or Not

“I am liberated enough to know that I like to stay at home.”

 

I said that to myself, and maybe other people, a few months back. I think I might have even put it up on facebook as a status, who can remember.  But I’ve been thinking about it recently.

 

Do I want a job?  Yes.  Can I get one at this exact moment in time? No, because my visa status is currently nebulous and ‘wonky’.  Have I worked for my living before? Yes. Have I worked and cleaned and cared for another person? Yes.  Did I enjoy it? Not in the slightest.  I have been in the workforce and I have been a stay-at-home-something.  And to be honest, I think I know myself enough to realize that I like a balance of both.

 

I do enjoy having a job, going to work and being with coworkers that are not completely crazy.  That is enjoyable.  But I also like a lazy rainy afternoon at home, cleaning the kitchen so that I can attempt a new recipe.

 

For my 30th Birthday this year, E and I went halves on some brand new kitchen goodies. A dutch oven, pie dish, quiche pan, etc.  I was ecstatic!  We’ve bought a new set of dishes, new silverware, and just recently I was gifted n electric hand mixer for hannukah.  I can’t even tell you how super excited I was! I giggled like a little girl when we got into the car with my new present!  And then today, I decided to bust it out of it’s confining box and whip up something delicious!

 

So today I was in my kitchen, barefoot, complete with an awesome apron that I bought from Andrea’s  OpenSky shop about a year ago.  I was not in a skirt or a dress, and there was not a string of pearls around my neck either.  But I was humming and happy and boiling up sweet potatoes and sifting together flour and baking soda, all to make a delicious (I hope!) sweet potato bread.  It’s in the oven now so I can’t quite give you guys a verdict, but I can say that the apartment smells fantastic!

 

After a weekend of cleaning the apartment top to bottom, rearranging furniture, and having friends over for boardgames, a nice relaxing day today spent in the kitchen is just how I wanted my day to go.

 

I read some forums online and I see all these people, mostly men, talking about how a woman needs to be treated equal to a man in all ways.  And I like the sentiment, but sometimes things can get a bit overzealous.  Of course, there are others who say that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.  And while I like my kitchen, I prefer to think that I can be other places as well.

 

I think, and this is probably going to get me some crazy thoughts, but I think that in most “Western” societies a woman’s place is wherever she damn well wants it to be.

 

For me?  I like being home. I like being in the kitchen. I like cooking up meals and watching E eat them and enjoy them.  I actually like cleaning the house, some times. And yes, I like going out and earning my own money.  The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. I can be a strong liberated woman while baking a cake.

 

Those are just my thoughts of the day so far.  Now I’m going to go curl up with a hot mug of tea and play some violent video games while waiting for my baking project to come out of the oven.

My November

Man, what a month.

 

To start with, there was Nanowrimo.  National Novel Writing Month.  Although I’m starting to wonder if it shouldn’t be called something like ‘InNaNoWriMo”, Because the project has gone global.  Ooh, There we go, “GloNaNoWriMo”.

 

Now, for those of you that are reading this and have no idea what Nanowrimo is, I will gladly point you towards their page, there are links over there –>.  But allow me to attempt to define it for you.  Nanowrimo, affection called Nano in short, is a month long torture session in the name of literacy.  The idea is that starting on Midnight November 1, through til Midnight November 30th, participants will write a 50,000 word novel.  Yes. 50,000 words.  Take a moment and pause here.  Think about it.  That’s a lot of words, yeah?  But how many?  I mean, some people will look at that and think to themselves, that can’t be all that much.  Allow me to put it into perspective for you a little bit.

 

Remember back in school, when you had to do those reports and write papers for classes?  Remember how the teachers would usually give an arbitrary length of pages, say 3-5.  Well, I just did a quick calculation and 4 pages of my novel this year is just about 2500 words.   Ok you math majors and thinkers out there, c’mon.  Yes.  So essentially what you’re doing when you participate in Nano is writing 20 4 page papers.    Want something more?  OK.  Remember back in 11th grade, doing that first research paper?  It had to be over 10 pages but no more than 13, remember?  My research paper was 11 pages.  The first 11 pages in my Nano novel comes in just over 6600 words.  So how long, in page length, is my novel this year? Well, in size 11 font, single spaced (which no report ever would be when getting turned in at school) my novel is 87 pages long.

 

Yes.  Eighty-seven.  Want to know something dramatic now?  I finished my writing on the 13th of November.  Take a few deep breaths, put your eyes back in your head.  Better?  Yes, I wrote 50,119 words in just under 2 weeks.  Now mind, I did not do much of anything else those two weeks.  I do not have a job, or school, or anything else really to take my focus away from writing.  But there you go.  Still think it can’t be done?  It can.

 

If you want to know more about this program, or the parent Non-Profit organization that runs it and other programs throughout the year, go check out http://www.nanowrimo.org  and you can find out all about the program, the Office of Letters and Light and more importantly their Your Writers Program.

 

Now, Nanowrimo was not the only race that I was going through this month.  I had something else happening as well.  Trying to get my visa application finished and into immigration before the end of the month.  And I am happy to report that it has been done!  The visa application for the next step in the process has been submitted to the Immigration new Zealand officials and now, we wait.  Four to six weeks we wait.

 

What else has happened this month?

 

Oh right!  E and I had our anniversary!  It’s been two years and life honestly couldn’t be better!  Two years.  Holy crap.  Time has flown on by.  We went out to dinner to a place we’ve been meaning to go (mongolian barbecue, nothing too fancy shmancy) and just spent the night in together.

 

We got invited to a wedding, which was absolutely fantastic!  Such a beautiful day, a gorgeous couple, and a perfect wedding. And a great day out with friends afterwards.

 

Oh, and Skyrim came out!  Heart this game so much.  So very very much.  Hehehe.

 

And one other thing…

 

Oh, right, Thanksgiving.

 

Now, as you might be aware there is no Thanksgiving down here in Kiwiland.  In fact Turkey is not one of the easier/cheaper to purchase meats.  And since we weren’t having a huge gathering of people, instead just the two of us, we went with a chicken.  One whole chicken.  Now, I did a few searches online and found some people suggesting butter under the skin of the chicken.  I had seen the cooks on Masterchef do this as well.  So if they’re doing this, and the cooks online are doing this, then why not, right?

 

So I took some butter, maybe 3-4 tablespoons worth, and softened it to room temperature.  I mixed into this butter herbs and spices (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and nutmeg) and then stuffed it into the chicken, just under the skin that covers and coats the breasts.  I then took another 3 tablespoons of butter and shoved them into the cavity of the chicken, along with fresh rosemary and marjoram.  And then, because I felt there was simply not enough calories, I shoved another tablespoon of butter under the skin again.  One tablespoom on each breast.  Then, your hands are coated in spiced herbed butter, and you rub them all over the outside of the chicken.  All over.  Coat it in the thick creamy yellow goop.  Then salt and pepper on the skin.  Then into the oven it went!

 

Let me tell you, this chicken was the most scrumptious, delicious, juicy chicken.  Even the leftovers 2 days later were still moist and juicy and so flavorful.  I had to do some serious work at the gym, but let me tell you, so worth it.   So very very worth it.

 

Now, I’ve seen other posters with their posts of ‘what I’m Thankful for’ all month.  And I’ve been trying to figure out the answerto that question all month long.  I really have.  And It’s hard to really come up with anything that warrants a post.  Because to be honest, the best answer I can give is, “I am thankful for my life.”  And I am.  I am thankful for everything I’ve been through to get to this point.  I am thankful for the hardships, the heartaches, the ups and downs, everything.  I am in such a good place right now, in such a happy spot and blissful state of being that there is little else that I want, need, or crave.  This is my life, and I am happy.  So for all of that, I am thankful.

 

 

So, quite a month, eh?  So what’s happening next month for me?  Well, the first sunday in December I have a race!  That’s right, a 6k walk/run through the city.  Should be fun!  It’s my first time doing anything like this ever ever, so who knows what will happen.  But I do know that I will enjoy myself thoroughly.  Hannukah starts on the 20th this year, and then Christmas to follow.  And on top of all of that, I should be hearing back about my visa application by the end of the year and then, finding a job.

 

Hope everything is well with you and yours!  Have a great holiday season, I’m sure I’ll be back at some point!

Dashboard

I’ve yelled at myself something fierce lately.  Trying to get myself psyched up for writing again.  And I knew it all was going to start with a blog post, or seven.  But which one?

 

Do I sit down and write about how great it was to be working where I was working, but how fantastic it is to not be there anymore?  Or about the fantastic people and coworkers that I had while on my brief stint there, but at the same time, how grateful I am that I’m not there anymore, and can sit with myself and my thoughts?

 

How about I write about how horrible I’ve been at the physical fitness stuff, and how I’m still hovering at the same weight, which granted it could be worse, but I was going to get myself moving.  I can tell you that I am in much better shape than I was when I first set foot on kiwi soil.  I nearly died while climbing and walking the trails at Piha beach, but I actually made it through two days of fairly intense (for me) walking while in Rotorua.

 

What about that trip to Rotorua?  Do I just post a bunch of photographs and give a brief overview of the trip like I did when we went to Piha, or to Manganui?  It was a fantastic trip, and the scenery was breathtaking, the food delightful, and the time to unwind with Ee was superb. And even the pain from the walking and climbing was a sweet pain to me, near tear jerking, but sweet.

 

And food! What about food?  I have been cooking lately now that i’m not working.  And I’ve made some interesting things.  Including my own version of pierogies!  I really should write about them too!  The soups I’ve made, the sauces, the dumplings that we’ve cobbled together, all very intriguing topics for conversation!

 

And my goodness, I turned 30!  What a momentous occasion, a glorious day, a rather anticlimatic hump.  no really, it wasn’t that traumatic.  Other than I can now say that I’m 30 with a straight face without all of those preceding words, “I’m going to be turning…”  No, no more future tense for me.  I am 30.  And it kinda feels nice.  But at the same time, now I get into a whole bunch of other things. Like where am i going now that I’m here. What happens next in my life.

 

So where do I go from here?  I’ve got some work experience in New Zealand, but what happens next?  I know that I don’t want to work in a call center again, but I know that I want to work.  But what do I want to do?  I’ve toyed with the thought of part-time work, since I do enjoy being home and being the ‘housewife’, but I also like having my own money.  And having my own money would lead to a whole other world of things.  I’ve been looking at bigger flats and a car of my own.  I’ve almost given up on the vague dream of having a scooter, since that would be impractical, both due to weather concerns, as well as potential offspring.

 

So yes.  This is what I’ve been thinking, and so many choices actually leave me paralyzed a bit.  I’ll work on getting around to most if not all of the topics above, eventually.  I just need to make a list and then work down them one at a time.

 

So I am not dead or missing, just busy, happy, and overwhelmed.  Also, look forward to posts detailing the process that I’m going through in order to get my next visa.

When it All Goes Down

So there’s really not too much of a point to this post.  I’ve been working on a post in my head for a while now and it still hasn’t quite made its way onto paper, either physical or virtual in any manner.

 

I am at work now and still loving it, although for the moment we are experiencing the calm before the storm.  The email queue is low, the calls are slow and easy, and everything is status quo.  So what else is there to write about.

 

Not much.  Life has been work and not work, sleep and work and life and love.  I guess I could talk about life at work.  It’s fairly good, and a wonderful company to work for, they take care of their employees (like a massage lady every 2 weeks who will give shoulder massages) and they do seem to care about their customers and products.  And there have been no problems with getting along with other people, or running into trouble being only ‘temps’.  Everybody has been helpful, supportive, and even very friendly.  We’re a disparate group, differences abound, but everybody seems to get along just fine.

 

One of the other temps and I get along rather well and when we have quiet time like this, we spend far too much time talking and giggling amongst ourselves than should be considered healthy.

 

So what else have I been up to?  well, making food (we got a new rice cooker!)  It will be the beginning of many more adventures (it came with a recipe booklet that’s actually in english! so i can make cool things!), and working.  Oh, and planning our vacation to Rotorua.

 

For those who are unsure, Rotorua is one of the most, if not the most, geothermally active regions in the world.  Geysers, hot mud pools, sulphur.  Apparently the entire region smells like rotten eggs, but the restorative properties of the muds and hot pools way outweigh the nasty smells.  it is also apparently an active location for maori history.

 

Not entirely sure what all we are going to do while there, but i am hoping to definitely get some amazing pictures of bubbling hot mud pools and geysers erupting with intensity.  I am also looking forward to a trip to something that will help me get a bit more educated on maori culture.  Also, for a hangi.

 

A hangi is the traditional maori feast that is created by digging a big hole in the ground, heating rocks and coals and then lowering the food into the pit and covering it for a few hours.  Sound familiar to something you know about?  Yeah, it’s a polynesian kind of cooking.  But I have also seen video of there being a basket of mussels being steamed/boiled in the hot pools and then being pulled up and eaten happily.

 

The Rotorua region is also home to a once active volcano that erupted in the late 1800s and buried a village, and some land formations that were called the Pink and White flats.  I’m hoping to visit a tourist place called “The Buried Village” and get more information not just on the volcano, but on the eruption and the excavations going on to find out about the people who were victims.

 

There seems to be a lot to do down in Rotorua, and It should be a fun filled report back, complete with pictures.

 

I promise that I’ll start posting a bit more, once life calms back down again.

 

Work is good, life is good.  Love is good, food is good.

Seder

To continue with my educational portion of my blog, I will now expound upon that which was mentioned yesterday and explain what Passover means to me in this modern time.  There are many sides and aspects and thoughts about this, so I promise I will do my best to not confuse or lose you in the thought processes, but I  cannot be certain that I will be successful.

To begin, lets start with the Seder itself.  Seder is the Hebrew word for “Order”, so when you hear somebody invite you to a Seder meal, they are inviting you to not only a Passover dinner, but to an Ordered Meal.  Everything within the Seder has a place, a meaning, and a purpose.  Sadly I do not know these steps and meanings off the top of my head and I did not pack a Hagaddah to bring with me when I moved.  However, if you are curious about the ins and outs of every nuanced step of the Seder, you can find the information on the internet, or purchase a Hagaddah from any bookstore of any reputation.

Most of the Seder is the retelling of the story of the Exodus, please see yesterday’s post.  There are other stories that are told depending upon your family’s traditions.  On every table there is the Seder plate, the matzah plate, and a goblet of wine for Elijah.  More recently, some families have started to add a goblet of Water to honor Miriam, Moses’s sister and a prophetess of her own right.  Some say, but I won’t wade into that argument here.

This is my new Seder plate that my father bought for me and sent me here.  It’s rather lovely, isn’t it.  The squiggly looking letters are Hebrew, and the english translation is just under them.  Starting at the top of the star and moving counter clockwise you have the Bitter Herbs, Egg, Parsley, Horseradish, Haroseth, and the Shank Bone.

This is an unusual plate, I actually believe it’s Sephardic* in origin because it places the Bitter Herbs and the Horseradish separately, whereas the Ashkenazic** Seder Plates usually combine those two together as Bitter herbs and the 6th place belongs to salt water. Each item has a symbolic reason for being on the plate, and each connects back to the story of the Exodus, and of the Jewish people.

  • Bitter Herbs- Usually Horseradish, freshly ground, this recalls to us the bitterness of life in bondage.  It is eaten twice during the Traditional seder, once by itself on Matzah, and then in a sandwich on Matzah with the Haroseth
  • Egg- this is often hard boiled and then roasted in the oven, but that is purely for health safety sake, and also so that if it gets dropped, you don’t have egg yolk oozing everywhere.  In Israel, and most of the world, Passover is a spring holiday, and Eggs symbolize new life, a new year, and a new beginning.
  • Parsley- Or really any greens are acceptable. I have seen some people use lettuce leaves when they could not afford parsley.  This also symbolizes spring, new life and growth.  Parsley and other leafy greens also used to be used in the Temples of Israel to help spread blessings via smoke and water. During the Seder, the Parsley is dipped into the salt water and eaten.
  • Salt Water- This is a vessel that is filled with a mixture of salt and water, enough salt to the point that it tastes of tears and the salt will not dissolve anymore.  It is kept room temperature, or slightly warmer.  The symbolism is clear enough that it is for the tears that the Jewish people have cried over the years.  Not just in bondage and suffering, but also in Joy and Reverence.  A reminder that one Emotion can be different from the other, but the reaction can be the same.  Even in our sorrow, we can find Joy.
  • Haroseth- Now, this is the fun one.  Ashkenazic Jews usually make this mixture with apples, raisins, walnuts, and wine.  Sephardic jews often use the raisins, walnuts, and wine, but instead of apples, they use dates.  The different recipes for Haroseth numbers in the thousands, with every family having at least one of their own.  From chunky to almost paste like.  The symbolism is the mortar with which the Hebrews built the temples and pyramids for the Pharaohs while in bondage.  It is mixed in a sandwich with the horseradish and matzah, once again to remind us of our time in slavery being both bitter, but also a bit sweet, as we who were a scattered people before Joseph led us into Egypt, we left with Moses a nation of people, bound together by suffering and belief.
  • Shank bone- Usually the shank bone of a lamb, roasted in the oven.  Sometimes, in lean times, it is permissible to use any bone you can find. I have admittedly used a chicken bone in the past.  This is to symbolize both the new life that spring has given us in the fluffy little lambs, but also the sacrificial lamb that was killed to provide the blood for marking the lintel and posts of doors so that the Angel of Death may Pass over the houses of the Hebrews while enacting the 10th plague.

Also on the table is the plate of matzah, which is covered and consists of 3 slices or crackers of matzah.  Why 3?  Because according to Jewish Tradition there are currently only 3 Tribes of Israel left, Cohen, Levite, and Israelite.  The Cohen (I know, you have friends with that last name) are the Priests, descendants of Aaron and the other Priests of the temples.  Levites are the shepherds, Descendants of Moses and the other teachers and Rabbis.  The Israelites are everybody else that’s leftover.  After the Diaspora (the Babylonians invading Canaan and doing their typical uprooting the population and scattering them to the winds) it became difficult for most Jews to remember their Familial and Tribal ties, or to even hold to them.  These people are the Israelites, the lost, the Tribeless. They’re not truly treated any differently save for a few ceremonial differences.  Truth holds, the Israelites outnumber the Cohens and the Levites.  By the way, it’s pronounced Coe-Hain, not the way you’re thinking it out in your head.

Goodness I’ve rambled on some more.  Alright, lets see if I can’t wrap this up a bit quickly.

During the course of the night, as the story is being told, 4 glasses of wine (or juice if you’re too young and your parents are sticks in the mud) are drunk.  Except, almost.  During the reading of the 10 plagues, we dip our pinkies into our wine and remove 10 drops of wine from the glass.  Why? Symbolism.  While we hold that the plagues were necessary for our freedom, a lot of innocent Egyptians suffered, those that did not have the power to set us free still suffered because of Pharaoh’s hardened heart.  So, in a show of almost solidarity and sympathy, we remove ten drops of wine from our glasses, signifying that while we are happy to be free, our happiness is not complete, because of the suffering of others.

Deep, huh?

I don’t know if you noticed what I did there, but I moved the story into the present time.  That’s something else about the Passover Seder and the telling of the story, it’s subtle and not a lot of people notice it.  It’s almost second nature, but the story is to be told in the present tense.  As though the Exodus was just the last week and we are retelling it to our new neighbors.  This is just another way of connecting us here in the present to our ancestors in the past.  Another Tradition.  One thing you’ll notice is that the Jewish religion and people are filled and built upon Tradition after Tradition after Tradition.

I digress.

After drinking our wine and feeling sorry for those that suffered in order for us to be free, the youngest child possible at the table asks 4 Questions.  Why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we spend this night reclining, when on other nights we can either recline or sit up straight?  Why do we dip our greens into the salt water? Why do we eat the bitter herbs?

All of this is answered during the story, other than the reclining.  Reclining while eating was a privilege of the rich, of the Masters, not of the slaves.  Slaves ate quickly and sitting up straight, always afraid of punishment.  Now that we are free from our bonds, we have the freedom to eat however we please, but on this night, we recline to show that we do not take this freedom for granted.

Almost done, I promise.

There are a few things left to happen, including dinner.  There is the breaking and hiding of the Afikomen, and the inviting Elijah in.  Now, I do not know and have never really heard any symbolic meaning behind the Afikomen, so I will simply tell it as I know it.  The Afikomen is the center matzah from the stack of 3 that is on the table.  During the meal it is taken out to show the bread of Haste that we eat to remember our flight from egypt, and then it is broken into two pieces.  One piece is placed back into the stack to be broken up and eaten from later, the other piece is, at some point during the meal, hidden.   Why? I have no idea.  But it is a big game for the young children to go and find the afikomen.  There is usually a present for the child who finds it and brings it back to the table.  The Afikomen is then divided up again and is used as the Dessert for the Meal.

Elijah is another deal.  Throughout the night the goblet of wine is filled and waiting for Elijah to visit.  Before dinner the children go to the door and invite in Elijah, and any others who may be outside and be hungry for dinner.  By the time the kids get back to the table, the goblet of wine has been emptied by the Prophet while he stopped in briefly to enjoy the meal.

There are larger implications of Elijah’s visit, namely that if he actually does visit and stay, it will be to announce the coming of the Messiah within the next year.  But that’s a completely different story for a completely different time.

Whew.

You think it was long to read?  A traditional Seder will last about 4 hours, not necessarily including dinner.  Most modern families skip the longer parts by putting The Ten Commandments into the DVD player during the day, asking the 4 questions, singing a few songs, and then inviting in Elijah.  My father and Uncle Brent could do the entire Seder in under 20 minutes.  And then you eat.

Food is traditionally lamb or chicken, with matzah ball soup and other jewish side dishes that I have yet to learn how to make (although tzimmes is fantastic and I really need to perfect it..).

By the end of the night you are full, you are happy, and you are surrounded by family and friends. I am strengthened every year by the thoughts that everywhere in the world, everywhere from Israel, to new Zealand, to The US, to Iran, to Kenya there are Jews everywhere celebrating the holiday with me, singing the same songs, saying the same prayers, and waiting for Elijah.

And that connection to the greater world, the knowledge that no matter where I am, the traditions have been held onto and passed down and are being repeated everywhere makes me feel even more spiritual than insignificant.  But explanations on my religion and my faith are not why you’re here.  I promise, I’ll get back to more fun things like food and travel soon.

I hope you have enjoyed this two part explanation of yet another segment of the complex person that I am.  I am considering making a whole section of this blog about Judaism, or at least My Judaism.  I wonder if anybody would be interested in reading that?  Let me know!

Although I’ll probably do it anyway.

Next Year In Jerusalem!

*Sephardic refers to the Jewish peoples from the Western European countries and the middle east (Iran, Iraq, Spain, morocco, etc)

** Ashkenazic refers to the Jewish peoples from Eastern Europe (poland, Ukraine) and Russia

Lentils

I have long wanted to try these legumes.  Prided on for their nutrition, and their price, but cooking for one was never an option before and now i’m cooking for two, but two who are adventurous and willing to at least try new things.

 

So this week at the grocery store, I picked up two bags of lentils, one regular green lentils (maybe they’re brown?) and a bag of split red lentils.  Not alot, just under a Kilogram in weight.  So today the hunt was on!  what can I do with Lentils?

 

I pulled out my newest old cookbook that my mom sent over to me (thanks mom!), the Soup Bible and went looking.  Mainly because if the word ‘soup’ is in the title, it’s difficult to get my boyfriend to NOT eat the food.  Or at least try it.  And so, we come across the recipe for Garlicky Lentil Soup.  Reading through the instructions it seems easy enough, ‘Dump ingredients into pot, cook for 1.5 hours, add vinegar at the end, enjoy.’

 

Who could mess that up?

 

Me, apparently.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

First step was to gather the ingredients (i had to walk down to the store for the onion which resulted in a twisted ankle and some bruised ego, but that’s another story)

 

Ingredients gathered!  Not pictured here is the pepper, curry powder, or red wine vinegar that were all added later.

 

Now, onto the mincing of the veggies!  If there is one thing that I wouldn’t mind going to some sort of cooking class for, it would be proper knife skills.  Those would be really nice to have.

 

After the vegetables were chopped, they went into the pot, along with the lentils, garlic, ginger, bay leaf and some stock.  Here is where I ran into trouble.  The original recipe called for more lentils than I had.  So instead of moving on, i decided to reduce.  so I halved and then halved again, taking it form 6 servings down to 2.  I did all my calculations and even double checked them.  Piece of easy peasy, Right?

Wrong.

 

I, again, have never cooked lentils before, so when the recipe said to dump it all in together and then leave to cook for an hour and a half, I did.  I started to hear some troubling sounds and I ran into the kitchen, the lentils had soaked up all the liquid!

 

Insert panic here.

 

I didn’t know if that was supposed to happen, so I went to the fridge and grabbed the canister of vegetable stock that i had used for this, and started adding.

 

This happened a few times and finally towards the end of coking time I had added in the original amount of stock that the recipe had called for.

 

The result did not look pretty, but it smelled heavenly.  Especially after I added in some black pepper and some curry powder (god I love curry powder) in the last half hour of cooking.

 

I have no idea what I ended up with, but I do not think that it could be called ‘soup’, it was more like what split pea soup is from the can, before diluting it with water.

 

What it was, however, was freaking delicious.  Served with cucumber slices (about 1/3 of an english cucumber each), and some hunks of herb & garlic focaccia bread, it was quite the tasty meal.

I’m still a little hungry, but I know that if I let my stomach settle, then everything will be full.

 

Again, I have no idea if I made the food right, I followed the instructions but reducing the portions seemed to make the soup go all crazy.  I do know, however, that the lentils end up cooked just fine, the meal tasted amazing, and E was sad that there weren’t any leftovers.  I call that, in all cases, a success.

 

yeah, I added some sour cream to mine.  Definitely a tasty addition.

 

Garlicky Lentil Soup

inspired by The Soup Bible

edited by Debra Mayhew

 

Serves 6

  • 1 1/3 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a generous pinch of dried marjoram or oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • garnish
  • crusty rolls

 

  1. Put all ingredients, except for the vinegar, seasoning, garnish, and rolls, in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Bring to boil over Medium Heat.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring the soup occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and add in the red wine vinegar, with salt and pepper to taste.  If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little extra vegetable stock or water.
  5. Serve with hot crusty bread.

 

 

Chicken Little?

So, there was this chicken.  She didn’t seem too big really, maybe about 4 or 5 lbs.  But let me tell you, Little Miss Chicken can go a long long way.

I never really bought whole chicken in the states.  The ex boyfriend refused to eat chicken on the bone, and then so did my mother.  Mom just doesn’t like dark meat, he hated the feel of the bone on his teeth.

 

Whatever.

 

So last week was time for an experiment for me.  We had gone food shopping last sunday (21 march) and instead of picking up a packet of chicken breasts like usual, I figured we could go for the whole bird.  Now, there were some thoughts along with this, and I will share.

 

In the states, when you buy the boneless skinless chicken breasts, they usually come in just that one tear-drop shaped breast, down here, you get the entire thing.  Enough so that a package of 3 breasts can easily be made into 6 whole cuts of chicken.  If not more.  I can usually stretch that 1 package of chicken breasts into at least 3 meals for us.

So logic states, if I can do that with just the breasts, what can I do with more chicken meat!  Well, add onto this logic, plus the fact that E had a cold and was craving some soup, I talked him into getting a whole chicken.

 

Best thing ever!

 

I had intended on roasting the chicken and then just using the bones to make the broth and taking the meat and dividing it up for dinners, but my father suggested that I do it the other way,boiling the chicken in the water to make broth, and then salvaging the meat for further uses.  Excellent idea!

 

So the chicken went into the pot with some carrots and some spices, and she boiled away for about four hours.  A nice long hot bath.  She was definitely dead by now, but her legacy lived on.

I have about 3 cups of chicken broth frozen in the freezer for future use.  I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup that night for my E, and his cold. I have made 4 servings of curried chicken salad. I made a chicken pasta primavera bake thing. And I made chicken mushroom tomato sauce.  so let’s go over this again.  1 chicken has brought us

 

  • 3 servings chicken noodle soup
  • 4 servings curried chicken salad
  • 4 servings chicken pasta primavera bake
  • 4 servings chicken and mushroom spaghetti sauce
  • 6 (3) cups chicken broth (3 went into the soup)

From ONE chicken. that is, has been, (1+3+4+2=10) TEN meals from one chicken.

 

TEN.  MEALS.

The chicken cost just about $14NZD (that’s $10 USD).  And for the things that I used with it, I don’t even know.  The noodles from the soup and the primavera were about $1.50/bag.  The Tomato sauce was about $2.00, the frozen veggies were $3.00, the cheese was about $5.00…

 

I made a weeks worth of meals for under $40.  And that’s not even counting the beef that I mixed up on the same night as the chicken!

Taco Goop

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 cans mild chili beans
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large slicing tomato, wedged
  • Water
  • Tomato sauce (ketchup)
  • 1 cup brown rice

 

  1. In my slow cooker i dumped in the meat, beans, and corn.  Added in the spices (the measurements are approximate and should be adjusted to what you think you can handle or what looks right), brown sugar, and the liquid.  I put in enough water to just cover the meat and other goodies.
  2. Put slow cooker on low.
  3. Now my slow cooker gets hot and stays that way, so I have to keep an eye on it.  I left it on low for about 5 hours, going back and stirring and tasting and adding more pepper or more cumin as I saw fit.  And adding more water or tomato sauce (which is like ketchup but it’s thinner.  It can be purchased in cans in the US) as it needed.
  4. I added the rice in about an hour before ‘dinner’, but seeing as it was brown rice I should have added it in about 2 hours prior as the hour cooking time did not give it enough time to cook through.  I also added more water at this point to keep the consistency loose like a chili and to give the rice more to drink.

 

There is a 3 cup container in my freezer filled with half of this mixture, the other half has been made into tacos earlier this week and will become the mix for stuffed peppers tonight.

 

 

I think what i’m trying to say is that buying whole foods seems to be the best way to go for economics.  And it doesn’t have to be whole pizza.  while nothing I’ve had this week has been necessarily ‘stellar’ on the health scale, I have had some really good food.  In smaller portions than normal.  And I haven’t felt bad.  And it’s all been very affordable.

 

Am I going to buy another whole chicken and do it again?  Oh heck yes.  I’m thinking chicken tacos, chicken pasties, chicken pot pie (E will approve of this one, i’m sure), and maybe some chicken croquettes.

 

Cooking for two people is one hell of a lot more adventurous than cooking for a family was.  Especially when E will eat my mistakes and still tell me that they’re tasty!

So Much

Ohman ohman ohmy.  So much to cover.

 

I know, i promised a more thorough thought through the horrors of bullying, but you know what, i’m sure my viewpoint on that is not going to be anything that anybody really wants to hear, so we’ll just let it go.

 

Although if somebody decides they are dying to know my opinion on Bullying, just let me know and I’ll be more than happy to write something more up.

 

However, there are other things.

 

First off, I have a job interview!  Tuesday morning at 10am.

 

I will not jinx this by saying much more than that, but please if you are a believer in finger crossing, I would greatly appreciate the cramped knuckles in my general direction (for most of you this is down).

 

Ok, you can let go now.  No, seriously.  It’s ok. You can let go.  Well I didn’t ask you to get your fingers stuck, now did I?

 

Sheesh.

 

Alright, in other adventures, we haven’t really trekked or tramped anywhere of much lately, been busy meeting the friends, planning my domination of his house (nearly complete), and cooking on the weekends.  Sometimes the food is stellar, other times not so much.

 

Sometimes, we have meals that are halfway there between stellar and average.  Like tonight.  Tonight was store bought chicken skewers with butternut squash.  I tried to season the squash savory, but I really didn’t like the results.  It also cooled far too long.  the skewers, however, were just barely tolerable.  High levels of salt, mostly fat and sinew, and the flavor was eh.  Not a repeat purchase.

 

Today, however, was a successful day in the kitchen.  I took the leftover Challah and turned it into a rather tasty bread pudding (yes a sweet treat that even E will eat), and then tonight, discovering the tomatoes that we bought last week still lingering in our fridge, I decided to try my hand at tomato soup.

 

I peeled, seeded and sliced the tomatoes, I sauteed up some red onion in olive oil and butter, added in garlic, and some spices, and then stewed everything in some vegetable broth.  after the tomatoes had broken down and the liquid had reduced by almost half, I poured it into my new Food Processor (YESSSSSSS) and pureed it up.

 

POOF

 

Tomato soup.  Fascinating.  I was going to let E take it to work tomorrow, but he still has Hot & sour soup leftovers that he has to finish up.  So I get the Tomato soup tomorrow for lunch.

 

Score!

 

I might make myself some rice to put into it.  Shocking!

 

hmm.

 

that’s about it for the moment, but yes.  If you are a thinking, praying, hoping, wishing, finger crossing and uncrossing, kind thoughts type of person, send some of that magic karma my way on Tuesday 10am  (that’s around 5pm EST Monday).

 

I’m gonna need the good vibes.