Carrots, Peanuts, Cilantro, oh my!

I promised you guys a recipe a while back, didn’t I? I hadn’t forgotten, but it’s been crazy the last couple weeks. No more than you’d expect before Christmas in my line of work really, but still, paired with the responsibility for my brood, which obviously comes with Christmas bazaar, a sick kid, a full workload, plus celebrations in both schools, for which you’re not only expected to show up and look pretty, but, generally, bake – I will say that it’s been challenging.
But as every year, it’s also rewarding to see the kids do their thing. In my son’s class, the kids were in charge of the whole program – the teacher wasn’t even involved in the planning. So, aside from the usual poems, Christmas carols and scratchy violin performances, I swear that two of the girls actually staged one of Monty Python’s finest – the one with the dead parrot … remember? In the spirit of being open-minded about the whole seasonal stuff, I’m sure, a few boys then went on to tell some of the lamest blonde jokes I ever heard :-).
So, all that happened… and now for something completely different:-))):  That recipe is, as I mentioned before, for a carrot salad, and it comes not with a nod but a deep bow to my friend F. who was good enough to make it for a dinner party I was actually hosting – evcharistopoli, dear F! Ingredients are pretty straightforward if you’re into Asian cuisine. Should fish sauce, sesame oil, cilantro and peanuts not be part of your staples, it might be a good idea to hit an Asian grocery shop first and stock up.
You will need:
4-6 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 handful of blanched peanuts, chopped
1 large handful of cilantro, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
3-4 TS cooking oil
a generous dash of sesame oil
pinch of sugar
fish sauce to taste – take it easy, it’s a really intense flavor
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Grate your carrots, chop the nuts and cilantro and put the ingredients in a bowl.

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Next, you mix your dressing. Juice the lemon, combine with oil and sesame oil, salt, sugar and fish sauce in a jar, shake thoroughly and taste. Careful with the fish sauce and salt, or you’ll be doing it all over again. If happy with the taste (we’re aiming for tangy and salty, with a little sweetness and the nutty flavor of the sesame oil thrown into the mix. It should be really yummy even without the other ingredients), add your dressing and some pepper if you like to the fresh ingredients and toss your salad. Set aside for at least a half hour to allow the flavors to blend.

It’s a pretty accommodating recipe: The other week, it was a simple side dish for roast chicken, but it’s also great as a starter if you’re making a Thai dish. I’ve made it for barbecue salad buffets, and for parties. It’s actually perfect for that because it only gets better after the flavors have had some time to infuse. There’s one salad you needn’t worry about getting spoiled after you’ve dressed it.

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I hope you’ll like it – enjoy, and let me know how it went when you make it.

Next time, I’ll need to tell you about the corn chowder I’ve learned to love so much. It’s a soup after my own heart: nourishing, healthy, quick and easy to make – and absolutely lovely with some white bread ;-))).

See you soon, and please don’t go crazy with Christmas only a week away!

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Big Turtleneck, ‚Nother One Down

It seems that despite of my constantly working on one crafts project or another, it’s actually rare that I get to show off any of the pieces myself. That’s because I’m so easily conned by the puppy eyes my kids, or their friends, or my friends are making and all the ‚pretty please with a cherry on top‘ s I get. Not to mention the narcissistic pleasure that comes with comments such as ‚Oh, you’re a rock star!‘, ‚Wish I had your mad skills‘, ‚The hat/scarf/sweater/bag (insert a given wooly piece of clothing here) you made me is my favorite ever!!!‘ …

Be that as it may, I sometimes do feel the urge to make something for myself, too. The project I will share here started with a bit of irresponsible yarn shopping last fall. I just fell in love: It was soft, it was fuzzy, gorgeously hand-dyed, and it was sooo green. I couldn’t help myself. And then life happened, and I forgot about it. Not completely, it’s been sitting in one of my see-through plastic yarn containers all along, and every once in a while I’d it take out, feel it, play with it a bit, and then I could not be bothered. Too busy, too tired, too bothersome to find a pattern, too hot during the summer – so many reasons not to start. But eventually I did get around to it, and I looked for a pattern – rather for a design idea, for as you know, me and the patterns are not the best buds in the world. And on browsing the Internet I suddenly knew what I was going to make. A big, cozy, warm and maybe a little bulky, gorgeous green turtle.

The thickness of the yarn (recommended needle/hook size was a 6-7) made it pretty clear it needed to have raglan sleeves. Being tallish and, these days, somewhat on the chesty side, I’m well aware these types of sweaters have a tendency to optically add even more substance to what there is already. Raglan sleeves at least tone down the shoulder width a little. Other than that, I just went with the flow, and the sweater almost made itself… OK, I had to unravel the back piece 3 times, I did both raglan sleeves twice, and in the end had to add cuffs for the sleeves were way too short … But I did get there.

A little bulky? Yup. Soft and snuggly? Uh-huh! Really, really warm? Hell yeah! Here it is:

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So, how’d I do?

I, for one, am really pleased with how it turned out. I added the pockets on a whim, always wanted to try that and never had the chance before. And you know what? It’s really easy! Just pick up the number of stitches you deem appropriate, making sure they’re in one row, in the place you’d like your pocket to go, and knit up from there as high up as you’d like your pockets to be. I made 22 rows, could have done 4 more in hindsight. Cast off, sew pockets in place and darn in the ends. I used up almost all my leftover yarn nicely, which was a bonus :-).

Have a good week, everyone.

I may write up a new carrot salad recipe soon. It was stolen from my dear crafts friend F., and is, as is all her food, absolutely delicious. Tune in again soon!

Little Things

Those of you who have kids know how it is. Temperatures drop, sunlight fades, germs gear up, and immune systems … well, I always imagine them raising their little immune system hands and simply surrendering. Sniffles, chills, sore throats and achy limbs ensue. Before you know it, your cozy, wintery home has transformed into a camphor-smelling sick bay, and you can feel the Florence Nightingale cap installing itself on your tired head with a gentle but inevitable click.

This is when you need Little Things. Little Things can be a variety of foods, items or activities, and they may differ from family to family. At my house, it’s usually an assortment of: bowls of chicken soup, a few tangerine slices, a cup of hot milk and honey, a dash of lavender added to a hot bath, fuzzy socks, a soft silk scarf, a favorite furry toy, hot water bottle, a chapter or two of a Dr. Dolittle story, a cute old movie … all these wrapped up in exasperated love for the suffering brood.

It’s on these not that infrequent occasions that I actually question having done the right thing becoming a mom. What was I thinking?! I remember my own hyper, impatient, desperately trying and ultimately losing the struggle to be nurturing, mom. From my perspective of today I can see her straining against the leash my being home and sick put on her brilliant mind – always worrying about some linguistic puzzle or the right pronunciation of a particularly rare word in an ancient Transylvanian dialect. I remember, and I try not to fall into that trap myself. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes, it’s so easy to hide behind an assignment, a conveniently looming deadline, or a set of urgent chores that absolutely can’t wait.

But then, when I really look into those little faces flushed with fever, it’s my turn to surrender. I give up all pretense of being a professional, and I switch gears. I go for one of those grocery runs that make the lady at the check-out cluck in sympathy: oranges, lemons, all sorts of fruit, veggies, a whole chicken, white toast, apple sauce and instant rice pudding, lots of milk and bottled water. Tissues! Linden flower tea, cough syrup and nurofen juice from the pharmacy. Maybe a sweet roll or a treat from the bakery. Then back home, prepare chicken soup on autopilot, and read a story, wipe noses, make tea, refill water bottles, prepare a hot water bottle if needed. And while the sweet smell of fresh chicken soup begins wafting through the house, I can feel myself winding down, enjoying those Little Things, and accepting that it is what it is: My kids are sick, so they need me.

My advice to everyone of you who finds herself in that predicament, privately ranting against the injustice of f…ing gender inequality, demanding a modicum of professionalism of herself while surrounded by snotty, coughing and insufferable youngsters is this: Breathe in, breathe out. Put the work stuff out of your mind for now. Enjoy the fragrance of linden flower tea, help yourself to a little Swiss chocolate, heck, have a glass of Scotch if you want, and remember this: You are blessed. You have children who love you and depend on you. Be there for them, and enjoy their little faces relaxing as their eyes slowly drift shut. They’ll remember you did this for them, and you’re teaching them how wonderful it is to feel cared for even if you’re miserable, annoying and disgusting. You’re making them feel safe.

I’m leaving you today with a bunch of pictures of our Little Things. I would love to hear what yours are. Take care, everyone.

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