Sunday, December 27, 2009

Recipe: Q&D Wassail

Ever since my aunt introduced me to the idea, I've been a big fan of "Q&D" (Quick & Dirty) recipes: fast, easy, cheap "cheating" ways to make a tasty version of a typically more complicated or expensive dish. OK, so wassail isn't all that complicated really. But that doesn't mean you can't have a Q&D version! Make this with the cheap apple cider, the kind that's indistinguishable from apple juice. Or heck, just use apple juice, since nobody can tell the difference. Studding the cloves into the orange slices makes a really festive presentation, and it avoids the choice between putting a fabric bag in your drink or risking people getting a whole clove in their cup. If you're going to stick them through the rind to get a studded wheel appearance, though, do it before you slice the orange. Since this is Q&D, though, we stuck them into the flesh of the orange slices after they were sliced. That left them visible from the top; much nicer visual effect.

Quick & Dirty Wassail
1 gallon apple cider
1 orange
1 lemon
handful of whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

Pour cider into a pot or slow cooker. Slice the orange and the lemon into 1/4"-1/2" slices. Stud the orange slices with the cloves. Place orange and lemon slices and cinnamon sticks into the cider. Heat over low heat for about 1 hour to bring the flavor out of the whole spices. Remove cinnamon sticks but leave the citrus slices for garnish. Serve hot. Makes 1 gallon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

President Obama In A Box

One of the kids (I forget which, but I think it was Bagel since he thinks these kinds of things are hilariously funny) joked that he wanted Barack Obama for a Christmas present. (I suppose he was picking the most absurd thing he could think of and giggling at the thought.) I told him that he'd know if he had President Obama under the tree because there'd be a big box with someone banging on the inside saying "Let me out, I'm the President Of The United States!"

A few days later, Knuckles' present* from his grandparents appeared under the tree wrapped in a very, very large box, big enough to fit an adult person inside. It's easily the biggest present under the tree, and the kids were all marveling at the thought of what could be inside. Recalling the earlier joke, I said "It's President Obama!" and banged on the back side of the box saying "Let me out, I'm the President Of The United States!" in a muffled voice. And we all got a good laugh out of that.

Well, the joke is starting to become a running gag. Every time they ask (again) "What's in that giant box?" I tell them "It's Barack Obama, silly!" The kids are starting to come up with theories as to how President Obama got into the box. Sonshine's is that someone told him it was a Porta-Potty. Once they unwrap him on Christmas day, they'll play with him by having him sign executive orders.

Move over, Zhu Zhu Pets: President Obama is the new hot Christmas gift! It's kind of like Prince Albert In A Can... only it's President Obama In A Box!

* In case you're wondering what could be in such a large box, keep wondering. But I assure you it's a Wonderful, Awesome Gift Of Nothing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

They're Playing Dreidel

...they just don't realize the dreidels are weighted.

I bought a bunch of cheap dreidels from Oriental Trading several years ago, for a Hanukkah presentation in Princess' class. We've got about half a dozen of them left. The kids found them and decided they wanted to play dreidel. But they're so cheaply made that the stem of the dreidel is off center, making the dreidels more likely to land on one particular side. For some of the dreidels, it's "nun," others land on "gimel" or "he" or "shin" all the time. The "nun" dreidel makes for a very boring game.

At any rate, it doesn't matter. The game just dissolved in a screaming fight, with Bagel throwing his candy coins at the wall and Princess trying to pound Sonshine for allegedly eating hers, while Knuckles eats all the unattended candy. He just likes making the dreidel spin. Once everybody took their fights upstairs, he remained there, spinning the dreidel and putting the occasional candy in the center pot.

Recipe: Ube-Coconut Vegan Fudge

One of the advantages of having a Filipino husband is being introduced to some marvelous new flavors like ube. Ube (rhymes with "eBay") is a kind of yam, but instead of being orange like ordinary yams it's a bright, eye-popping violet color that you'd swear could never be found in nature. It's used in desserts: ube cake, ube ice cream, and my favorite, ube hopia (a tiny pastry with an ube filling). The flavor is, well, a bit potato-y, but I really like it. Ube can be found at Asian stores that sell Filipino food. It comes in three forms: whole yams, ube jam, and ube powder. The jam is the most prevalent, but I like using the powder in recipes.

So when I was casting around for ideas and recipes to make vegan fudge for my milk-allergic kids' holiday treats, I hit upon the idea of making ube fudge. I searched in vain for a recipe online, and then it hit me: I don't think anyone else has EVER made ube fudge. I will be the first person in the universe to make it!

I've never been the first person to do anything. First in my family, maybe, or first in my town. But I've never independently invented anything that had never been in the world before. So if you happen to know that they serve ube fudge at some high-end Filipino Fusion cuisine restaurant in Manila or New York, please don't tell me. Let me savor the moment of at least thinking I'm the first to do it, OK? The recipe needs a bit of work. It's not as "smooth" as I'd like it to be, and it's really, really sweet, maybe too much so (ube powder has sugar in it). But it's tasty and full of ube goodness. Maybe somebody with more candy-making experience than me could refine it.

The biggest problem with ube is getting Utahns to want to eat it. We made ube puto* for Princess' Harry Potter birthday party and tried to pass them off as "cauldron cakes" (they're steamed in a cauldron stockpot, aren't they?), but it was the only treat left over when the party ended. However, Utahns go wild for coconut; they'll eat just about anything if it's got enough coconut in it. And coconut goes well with ube. So I put a layer of coconut on my ube fudge, in an attempt to get my neighbors to look at it and say "This is something I would like to put in my mouth!" rather than "Call Energy Solutions; I think some of that nuclear waste arrived here by mistake."

Ube-Coconut Vegan Fudge

6 Tbsp. vegan margarine (non-vegans can use butter)
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. ube powder
1/4 c. soymilk (non-vegans can use cow milk)
dash of vanilla extract
about 1/4 c. sweetened coconut flakes

Grease a loaf pan and sprinkle the coconut flakes in the bottom. Place remaining ingredients in a double boiler; stir and heat until smooth. Press over coconut in loaf pan; let cool. Cut into squares and invert to serve.

* a steamed rice muffin. Yes, I know what that word means in Spanish. My husband grew up in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood and came to hate International Food Day. His mom sent him to school with puto to share; linguistic hilarity and suspendable offenses ensued.

Today's Gratitude Moment

I am grateful that Bagel doesn't know any words dirtier than "poop" and "screw you," and he knows he'll get soap in his mouth for "screw you" so now he just exclaims "Screw!" and loudly protests that he meant the metal fastener as he's dragged to the nearest sink for his soaping. Bagel, like Sonshine at his age, enjoys saying shocking things.

The other day he discovered that there was a word more terrible than "poop" called the "F word," that the other kids mentioned in hushed tones. Bagel knows his alphabet, but evidently it hadn't occurred to him that there might be a one-to-one correspondence between letters and dirty words. So as a young connoisseur of provocative speech, naturally he was curious to learn more about the powers of this "F word," and perhaps discover the entire alphabet of them. He badgered me all day to reveal to him what the mysterious word was, but I wouldn't budge. I told him it was a filthy "potty word" and I wasn't going to say it.

The funny thing is, Princess and Sonshine inquired about dirty words at about his age, and I had The DiscussionTM with them about dirty words, telling them the words and what they mean and why we don't use them. But I won't do it with Bagel, because I know he's just getting tired of yelling "Poop!" all the time and is looking to trade up.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sonshine Doesn't Know What He Wants In A TV Show

The boys watch a TV series called Rescue Heroes, predictably featuring what in Kindergarten circles are called "community helpers" doing their jobs. Sonshine complained, "How come every episode is all 'Code Red, emergency!' and people rushing around?"

I replied, "What, you'd rather watch an episode where the firemen sit around scratching their butts and polishing their helmets for half an hour?"

He said, "No! That'd be boring."

"Well then," I said, "there's your answer."

"But EVERY EPISODE is like that! 'Code Red, Code Red!' How come they don't get a Code Yellow?"

"You mean like a kid calls 911 by mistake and they have to go out and make sure it's all right? Or a kitten gets stuck in a tree? Or some guy puts a frozen turkey in his deep fryer?"

Sonshine begins pacing. "No, I wouldn't want to watch that. But it gets boring with Code Red all the time! Maybe somebody should die!"

"It's a kids' show. They're not going to show somebody dying. They don't put that in kids' shows."

"Yes they do, they show people dying in kids' shows! People die all the time! They blow up and get blood everywhere!"

"Not in kids' TV shows they don't."

"Why do they have to have Code Red all the time?"

"OK, this conversation is over."

So Sonshine went upstairs and put on Star Wars. I suppose it's comforting to know what you want in a movie, even if you don't know what you want in a TV show.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I, For One, Welcome Our New Baby Overlord

My next-to-littlest brother and his wonderful wife have brought a baby girl into the world. It is my practice not to use real names on the blog; however I will say that the name they have given her would, if called out, cause more than a little mistaken identity at any 18th century ball with European royalty in attendance. As she is likely to be confused with royalty, I shall pre-emptively declare her the Queen of Logan. However, I will not be able to swear fealty to her, as I am currently a vassal of Prince Bagel, heir to the Empire of the Universe, whose actual name would cause some confusion if called out at any gathering of Hapsburgs.

This development complicates any possibility of a dynastic marriage to unite the Empire of the Universe with the Kingdom of Logan, because Mormon bishops don't generally grant dispensations for first cousins to marry, and President Monson is unlikely to take bribes to make sure the dispensation gets granted.

Congratulations to the happy new parents!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Who Let The Rabbits Out?

Low temperatures have been hovering around 10-15 degrees around here, so we brought the LesBuns* indoors to wait out the cold snap. They were fine, until today Knuckles decided to let them out. Twice. They did get him back by peeing on his Santa hat, though, but they also made some other messes that now I have to clean up. So I took a bike lock and locked up their cage. I figured a combination lock was our safest bet. I put the combo on a label on the back of the lock so that Princess, Sonshine, and FH could open it easily. If I used a key lock, Knuckles could find my keys and unlock it; but he can't read two-digit numbers and can't master the unlocking procedure.

* For those not familiar with the LesBuns, they are a bonded pair of female rabbits, one of whom keeps on mounting the other's head. We got them on Freecycle; when I got them home and the kids observed their behavior, I had a lot of explaining to do...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Vegetable Rights Violation

Have you seen those paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs they sell this time of year? Well, did you ever stop to think how horrible they are? These bulbs are being sold like slaves, in stores no less, to people who will take them home and kill them. But they won't kill them before they force them to bloom out of season, for no better reason than that human beings like to look at their reproductive organs. And after they are done blooming, it is the rare bulb indeed that will be allowed retirement in a quiet garden bed. If they survive this disgusting operation and are permitted to live, they won't be able to bloom again for a year and a half.

This sickening violation is the shame of our plant-abusing country.