pyjamasandtea

May 4, 2011

On Tofu and Chocolate

Filed under: Dessert,Main Dishes,Recipes,Uncategorized — pyjamasandtea @ 3:08 pm
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Not necessarily combined, mind you.

Sorry for my delinquent posting of late. I’ll get on that, promise!  In the meantime though, I offer what I made for dinner last night.  YUM.

Cynthia’s Tofu


This is called “Cynthia’s Tofu” because it is a recipe carefully preserved during his separation by my love and mastered by his ex-sis-in-law.  It is one of those very imprecise recipes with words like “lots of” or “bunches of” or cook for “a while”.  I tried to pay attention last night and offer you a somewhat more precise version that keeps all the charm of its original.  This is delicious!

2 cakes of extra firm tofu

one bunch of cilantro

5 tbsp of oyster sauce

vegetable oil (lots!) for frying

Place tofu in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently remove from water and refrigerate til chilled (at least two hours or overnight). Slice into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes and brown in lots of hot vegetable oil. This takes about 10-15 minutes and requires lots of careful flipping of the pieces so they brown on all sides. Be vigilant. It is worth the effort! Pour off excess oil, then add oyster sauce and LOTS of cilantro (it may seem excessive to include a whole bunch, but it is worth it). I served this with an Asian-inspired salad and simple coconut rice. It served 2 healthy portions for dinner with one leftover lunch. Excellent!

And then, after already feeling stuffed, I brewed up some mint tea and ate a large “Knock You Naked Brownie” from Ree Drummond at “The Pioneer Woman” website.

TO DIE FOR. Two notes about this recipe. First, I could not find a German Chocolate cake mix– two different grocery stores had no record of such a mix. I substituted a Swiss Chocolate cake mix on the theory that the Swiss and the Germans are geographically close. It worked just fine. Second, I could not get my top brownie layer to cooperate in being moved from counter to cake, so I simply laid out the pieces on top in a puzzle-like fashion. There were some gaps, but they all filled in perfectly during the baking process. Next time I wouldn’t be so fussy about the top layer.

You must go make these!  My love pronounced them possibly the best dessert he has ever had.

April 19, 2011

I Feel Good About My Feet

Filed under: Books,Daily life,Uncategorized — pyjamasandtea @ 11:29 am
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I am attending a really special event tonight… the launch of “I Feel Great About My Hands” edited by my bff Shari Graydon.  Her book is a collection of essays about the unexpected joys of aging and features contributions from amazing women, many of whom I know and love. Shari’s criteria for her invited writers is that they had to be over 50.  While I am still a ways away from that milestone, it got me thinking about aging and aging bodies.  Shari’s title is a riff off of Nora Ephron’s series of columns, published in a book called “I Feel Bad About My Neck”.  Shari has GREAT hands (they are featured on the cover of the anthology!).  I had to think long and hard about what part of my own anatomy I could say I feel “great” about, and settled on something I feel good about:  my feet.

I don’t actually feel “great” about my feet.  They are, however, unoffensive, as feet go.  Small, no bunions or yellowed toenails, a little tuft on hair on the big toes that sometimes throws me off and a baby toenail that is almost too small to paint, but on the whole just fine.  I really don’t know that there is a part of my anatomy that I feel GREAT about.

Despite the fact that I see myself in the mirror every single day, I have no strong sense of what I look like to other people.  I am stereotypically horrified at most pictures of myself and often wonder if THAT is what people see:  this blotchy-faced, big-nosed, slightly overweight, limp-haired woman.  Is that “me”?  I am a dismal failure at make-up (or at least at feeling like I am making a positive difference in applying it!) and I usually put my hair in hot rollers, despite the fact that again, I have no sense that my hair actually looks better curled.  I get dressed up without really knowing what looks good on me.  It is all a bit mysterious, and exacerbated by the aging process.  I still think I look 15 and I’m surprised when I don’t get carded in the liquor store!  It isn’t that I thought I was more beautiful at 15– in fact, looking back, I was too heavily coiffed and made up in my teens, it is just that I haven’t internalized the effects the aging process has had on me.  (Well, other than the ravages of sleep deprivation that my children visit on my face on a regular basis.  I KNOW that makes me look older!  But then, my children seem determined to age me before my time.)

So I feel good about my feet and a bit bemused by most of the rest.  I hate my hair, my upper arms, my cellulite, my nose, my ever-widening derriere, my floppy belly.  Fortunately, pyjamas cover all manner of bodily sins.

April 10, 2011

Scallops and Shrimp with Sherry Paprika Sauce

Filed under: Recipes,Seafood — pyjamasandtea @ 3:17 pm
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This sauce is absolute heaven.  I am  now pondering all the different ways I can make use of it, for it is truly wonderful!
Scallops and Shrimp with Sherry Paprika Sauce

2/3 cup drained and chopped jarred roasted red peppers (while I imagine one could use homemade roasted peppers here, there is something about the jarring process that really pops the flavour)

1/3 cup dry sherry

2 tbsp 10% cream

2 tsp smoked sweet paprika (I just used regular paprika, but if I could find the fancy stuff, I have a feeling it would really add something here)

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (I did go to the trouble of using fresh and it is totally worth it)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

16 sea scallops

10 oz of large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tbsp butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a blender or food processor, puree the peppers, sherry, cream, paprika, salt and pepper.  Remove tough muscle from scallops and pat scallops and shrimp dry.  In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat.  Cook garlic until softened but not browned.  Add scallops and shrimp and cook over high heat, stirring, til shrimp begins to pink.  Stir in pepper mixture.  Cover and cook until shrimp are pink and scallops are opaque, about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley.

The recipe is designed to make four servings, but my love and I polished off the whole thing!  I served it on brown jasmine rice.  You definitely need something to catch the sauce, it is so good.  It looks like a tomato sauce so the flavours are unexpected.  The rosemary is wonderful.  Enjoy!

April 8, 2011

Things I Can’t Do

Filed under: Daily life,Lists — pyjamasandtea @ 9:44 am
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There are lots and lots of extraordinary things I can’t do.  I can’t perform brain surgery (for example), or speak a dozen languages, or do math.  But these things are truly exceptional and I don’t particularly fault myself for those inabilities.  There are however, a whole bunch of very ordinary things that I can’t do, and I think it high time to embark on a little self-improvement or continuing education project to improve this sorry state.

For instance, you ask?

1.  Laundry.  I really don’t think I do laundry very well at all.  My usual routine is to throw towels and sheets in and put it on “hot” and do everything else on “cold” and then throw everything in the dryer.  I hang some things, like delicate sweaters or things I imagine might shrink in unattractive or revealing ways, but I have no real understanding of my washer/dryer combo.  The washing machine has a setting called “permapress”.  What is that?  Is that a type of fabric or a way of washing or does the machine really iron while its working?  It has settings called “quick” and another labeled “touch up”.  What is the difference?  What is a “touch up” wash?  And how about the “stain removal” setting?  I just pour on the ‘Shout’ in a futile attempt to get at the butter stains that ruin my clothes… but can my machine really seek and destroy a stain through a setting?

2.  French braid hair.  My ex’s new love recently put my daughter’s hair into french braids.  I LOVED it.  I tried to replicate it a few days later but was a complete failure.  My soon-to-be-five-year-old said in quite the dejected tone:  “I guess you are good at ponytails.  Or sort of anyway.”  An arrow to my heart. I think the fact that I never went to overnight summer camp permanently impacted my french-braiding skills.

3. Make-up.  I don’t usually wear make-up, but once in a while I like to gussy it up and so I pull out my ten year old eyeshadow and mascara.  I really have no idea though, whether I am improving my appearance when I bother.  Does make up actually work?  And if so, how do I know where the light goes, the dark goes, the concealer and blush and highlights.  I really have no sense of whether I’m making any difference at all, and I always feel a little self-conscious when I try.

4.  Royal icing on cookies.  I bake all the time, and I bake cookies all the time.  This deficiency really burns me, for I am the type of person who should EXCEL at royal icing.  If there is an “icing type” it should be me.  Yet every time I try royal icing I make a right royal mess of it.  It is never the right consistency and always hardens in the wrong places and remains soft in others.  I am angry at royal icing.  It is defiant.

5.  Organizing my digital photographs.  I take hundreds of photos, and I use a Mac as my main computer system.  Macs are MADE for photos– Mac exists (so they say) to enable me to manage my media and share it with others.  Yet my photo library is a morass of unorganized images.  I have scanned in old photos, and they are now mixed with the new.  A search for the year 2010 pulls out photos of when I was a baby.  I can’t seem to create albums and my system stubbornly refuses to allow me to “share” photos.  I had it all down on my PC and it just irks me that I have worsened my state of photo organization and not bettered it through Mac.

This is but a mere hint of the many ordinary things I cannot do.  I think I should start with french braids though, because I can’t let the ex’s new love occupy that space.  Anyone (with long hair) want to come sleep over and let me practice all night?

Gingerbread Pancakes

Filed under: Breakfast and Brunch,Recipes — pyjamasandtea @ 7:43 am
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I promised the recipe to these a while ago when I was embroiled in Pancake Hilarity.  I have since liberated the cookbook from which this recipe springs– an old one called “On the Road to Vegetarian Cooking”.  Shhhh…. don’t tell anyone I am serving these with bacon.  The spice quantities here seem reckless but they really work so don’t mess with them!
Gingerbread Pancakes

Beat together:

3 eggs

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp molasses  (I have sometimes (like today) used 4 tbsp of honey when I don’t have molasses at hand.  Which is usually how things are.)

Add:

1/2 cup yogurt

1/2 to 2/3 cup water or soymilk.  (I never have soymilk so I use regular milk).

1/3 cup brewed coffee (this really adds something special to the flavours).

In a separate bowl combine:

1 cup white flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp allspice or cloves

1 tbsp cinnamon (yep tablespoons from here on in!)

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp ground nutmeg

Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing just until combined.

Add:

4 tbsp sunflower or other light oil and stir briefly.

Add more liquid by the spoonful if needed. Batter will be thick.  Ladle about 1/3 cup per pancake on a griddle.  When air bubbles have formed, then burst, flip to brown on the other side.  Serve with syrup.  Makes 8-10 hefty pancakes.

 

April 7, 2011

Home

Filed under: Daily life — pyjamasandtea @ 12:36 pm
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I’m back!  Back to my computer, back to drinking tea in my pyjamas, but not back to my right mind.  Oh no not yet.

Moving is brutal!  I have never been so exhausted, and not only because this new house is five floors and I have yet to take a step without complicated advance calculations about what needs to go up or come down, lest I make a fruitless trip.   It was tough taking seemingly random pieces from three different houses (his old, my old, our temporary one) and combining them into a whole that could be called “home”.

I have thought a lot about what it means to have a home these past few months.  I can feel the beginnings of one pushing its way into my heart.  One unexpected downside to feeling home is that I miss my kids more than ever when they aren’t with me.  They occupy an entire floor of the new abode and when they aren’t here, I pass by that floor without stopping and it gives me a pang.  Home means they should be here with me.

Some random observations about my new home:

-I stood in front of my new shower on day two with abject terror in my soul.  What if it dribbled?  Or couldn’t get lobster-boiling hot?  What if it felt like a a spring shower instead of the brute force thunderstorm I need every morning?  I entered with such hope, such fear… HEAVEN!  The water sang as it poured out and I could live in that shower if only I could also bake in it.

-The counters in my kitchen are just a tinch higher than any others I have had, necessitating a whole new dough-rolling technique.

-My new soft pillow-top mattress forces me into a roll into the middle during the night, enabling unsolicited cuddling with my love.  Endearing?  Apparently not always.

-Negotiating closet space proved more difficult and delicate than signing our names on the mortgage papers.

-Seeing a set of cheques with the new address AND both our names on them caused me heart palpitations.

-Two= the number of times I drove to the old house on auto-pilot.

-The fishbowl effect of living in a house of windows makes me feel like I “perform” my nightly ritual of making tea.  I can feel the neighbours watching me choose from my impressive (some might say excessive) tea varietals and struggle with the new mugs that have weird handles that don’t enable me to carry two without burning my knuckles.  Do they mark the time I turn off all the house lights? Do they admire my fetching red robe?  Of course they don’t, but I might wish they might.

-I have two unpacking chores left to accomplish.  I was however, right to predict that as soon as I gave myself a day off, I would never feel motivated to return to the unpacking-frenzy.  Those boxes may well hide their contents for years to come.

Home is a place and a feeling and a future.  I am working its way there.

March 14, 2011

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Filed under: Cookies,Recipes — pyjamasandtea @ 3:56 pm
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Anyone who knows me might recognize this recipe, and be grateful to see it here since it signals a return to the more-normal “me”.  The me who bakes.  The me who eats cookies.  I haven’t baked very much these past few months, but in anticipation of the move, I pulled out an old fave.  I can’t wait to feel like baking again.   Baking is everything that is good in my life.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • ¾ cups Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1-½ cup Flour
  • 1-¾ cup Quaker Oats
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1-½ teaspoon Cinnamon (can Use Less If You Don’t Like Cinnamon)
  • 2 whole Bananas (ripe)
  • 1 cup Chocolate Chips, Semi Sweet  (This is an approximation.  You can use 1 1/2 cups.  Or 2.  😉

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

When wet ingredients are thoroughly combined, add flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix everything together well. (I love it when you can just add the ingredients without mixing them in a different bowl.)  Then add your mushy bananas and your chocolate chips, just stirring until combined.

Drop large balls of dough onto lined cookie sheets.   Make sure they are spread apart with about 2″ between them.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies start to turn slightly brown at the edges. These are best served warm with a nice tall glass of milk!

Duck (or Shrimp) Thai Curry

Filed under: Recipes,Seafood — pyjamasandtea @ 8:00 am
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I made this for dinner last night with rave reviews.  My love, he raved.  I made it with shrimp, though the original recipe calls for duck.  I have included both options below.  I expect this will be even better today since we were too hungry to cook it for the required “sauce infusing and thickening” time.  I suspect the effort required to be patient may be marginally worth it here.

Duck or Shrimp Thai Curry

3 whole Boneless Duck Breasts, Fat On If Desired  OR 1 pound of large shrimp
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
6 Tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste (storebought Or Homemade)(I used storebought and it was just fine)
1-½ can (14 Ounce) Coconut Milk (I suspect you could use a low fat variety without losing any flavour)
2 cups Hot Water
4 Tablespoons Fish Sauce (I didn’t want to open my new bottle so close to the move date so I omitted this– and it was still delicious)
3 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Ginger (don’t skimp on the ginger– it really adds a nice kick)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (additional)
½ whole Red Onion, Sliced
1 whole Green Or Red Bell Pepper, Cored And Sliced
1 cup Grape Tomatoes
½ whole Pineapple, Cut Into Chunks (can Use Canned Pineapple)
LOTS Of Fresh Basil, Chopped
Jasmine Rice Cooked (I used brown jasmine rice and it was perfect)
Preparation Instructions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place duck breasts fat side down and cook for several minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden brown. (Don’t worry about cooking the duck at this point. You just want to give the skin some great color.) Remove from the skillet and cut into slices. Set aside.

OR for shrimp curry:  Omit above step and cook shrimp with vegetables after they are beginning to soften.

Reduce heat to medium low. If oil isn’t overly brown, go ahead and add the minced garlic to the pan. (If oil is to brown, pour it off and add some new oil.) Add red Thai curry paste to the pan and stir. Cook paste for several minutes to release the flavors. Pour in the coconut milk, hot water, fish sauce, and minced ginger. Stir and allow to cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.  (This was the step I rushed and I think the flavours will really meld nicely if you are more patient than I was).

In a separate pan heat oil over medium high heat. Add sliced onions and bell pepper and cook for several minutes. Make sure the pan is hot, then add sliced duck (or shrimp) and stir. Cook for 3 to 4  minutes.

Add pineapple and cherry tomatoes. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

Taste curry sauce, which should be slightly thickened by now. Add more spice if needed.

Pour curry sauce into the pot with the veggies and duck. Stir to combine and allow to bubble and simmer for a good 5 to 10 minutes. Add a little hot water if it seems too thick, or allow to bubble longer if it needs more thickening. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

At the last minute, stir in lots of chopped basil. Serve immediately over jasmine rice. Spoon plenty of sauce into the bowl!

 

March 6, 2011

Pancake Hilarity

Filed under: Breakfast and Brunch,Recipes — pyjamasandtea @ 9:08 am
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Pancake Tuesday is this week!  Hooray!  I was thrilled to inform my Jewish kids that Tuesday we can eat pancakes for dinner.  I have no idea why, but who am I to question a higher power who decrees we must eat pancakes?  I remember going to church basement pancake parties as a kid, and would blame that tradition for encouraging my sweets for dinner, except that I know that sweet tooth was put there by the higher pancake power.

My kids think it quite hilarious to have a designated pancake eating day.  I let myself give in to 7 year old humour and played the “what if pancake tuesday was on wednesday, what would happen then” game.  Secretly though, I fear that chaos.

I am making Carrot Cake Pancakes this Tuesday.  I offer that recipe below.  First though, this morning’s pancake production is my usual Sunday-Blueberry-Bonanza.  I make enough batter to get us through Monday too, on the theory that Monday mornings are bbbbaaaadddd and require a little cheer to get me up.  My favourite pancakes in the world are “Gingerbread Pancakes”.  That recipe is being held hostage by my ex, but I hope to liberate it on moving day, March 23rd, when I am finally reunited with my beloved things.  Stay tuned and I will post it!

So first the Bluebs, then the carrots.  Happy Pancake Week everyone!!

Blueberry-Bonanza-Pancakes

Dry:

1 cup unbleached white flour (I actually use 1/2 whole wheat flour.  I am, one in a while, healthy!)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup quick cooking oats (I use regular oats and love the texture)

Wet:

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsps maple syrup or sugar

loads and loads of blueberries (for those of you who like precise measurements, I apologize.  My love asks that the pancake batter be a mere tool to hold the blueberries together. So “loads” is about as precise as I can be.)

Note:  My kids aren’t so crazy about blueberry pancakes.  For them, I mash a banana into the wet ingredients (hidden!), leave out the blueberries, and sprinkle a half-dozen chocolate chips onto each pancake before flipping it.

Stir together the dry ingredients.  Stir together the wet ingredients.  Add the wet to the dry.  Voila!  Do not over mix.  Heat your griddle to a high temperature.  A sprinkle of water on the grill should dance and immediately evaporate.  Use about 1/4 cup for each pancake and cook until bubbles form on the surface.  This usually only takes 2-3 minutes.  Flip once.  Serve hot with lots of maple syrup.  (And bacon.  Always bacon.)  This recipe makes about 8 pancakes.  I double it for Monday-Madness-Pancakes.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

1-¼ cup flour (you should use 1/2 whole wheat here, but since these are special occasion pancakes, feel free to use unbleached white flour.  But don’t use the bleached variety please cuz bleaching flour is just wrong.)

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon (the recipe actually called for “ground cinnamon” but I figured you knew that.  Right?  I mean, without the word “ground” you wouldn’t throw in a cinnamon stick, would you?)

¼ tsp salt

⅛ tsp ground nutmeg (I left the word “ground” in here just in case.)

⅛ tsp ground cloves (again.  “ground”.)

⅛ tsp ground ginger (do people actually get confused and use whole spices?  Really?)

¼ cup light brown sugar, Packed

¾ cup lowfat buttermilk  (I don’t usually have buttermilk on hand, so I use 3/4 cup of milk into which I stir 3/4 tbsp of vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.  I don’t know why I do this– but I have always done it in recipes that call for buttermilk so I think there must be a reason.)

1 tbsp canola oil

1-½ tsps vanilla extract

2 whole Eggs

2 cups Finely Grated Carrot (about 1 Pound)

Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in the grated carrot.

Get your griddle nice and hot. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Use about 1/4 cup per pancake.  Cook for 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook for 1 minute or until bottoms are lightly browned.

I intend to serve this with a little cream cheese icing.  For that I will beat a package of cream cheese into creamy submission, add about a 1/2 cup of icing sugar and a little milk to make it pourable.

 

 

March 5, 2011

The Express Line

Filed under: Daily life — pyjamasandtea @ 4:51 pm
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I just came back from the grocery store on a busy Saturday afternoon on a mad dash for a bag of green lentils for a recipe I hope to make tomorrow.  As I stood in the express line (1-8 items), I marveled at the oddities that people make specific trips to the store to get.  The very hip looking woman in front of me had three gourmet dark chocolate bars (a completely understandable express-need!) and two boxes of vegetable biryani paste.  Two boxes?  The man in front of her had one tub of yogurt.  Behind me, a very elderly gentleman had a carton of no-name butterscotch ice cream.  I later saw him walking home in the pouring rain, clutching the ice cream under his coat.  A young girl, busy texting the entire wait, had a bag of baby carrots.

I love inspecting other people’s grocery carts.  Sometimes I see things I never knew existed, or would never have thought to buy.  I have been known to ask fellow shoppers what the intended use of a particular item might be.  Until I started hiding bacon underneath the tofu and broccoli, I used to feel so virtuous at the vegetarian fare that filled my cart.  Until I had children, I used to flaunt my non-processed, non-boxed, non-frozen freshness.

Grocery shopping is entertainment.  I wonder what the express 1-16 line is like?

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