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Archive for March, 2011

One of the things I gave up for lent is cheese. It’s been difficult. I really like cheese. But I felt like I was eating it too much. I also gave up junk food, including sweet things. And coffee. My teeth have been suffering lately, and I figured trying to get more sugar out of my diet would do them some good. However, because we live in an area where fresh produce comes in small and expensive amounts, this lent has been frustrating at times. Though I guess that’s the whole point, right?

Speaking of, I discovered recently in a national Geographic that 45 days is the maximum amount of time a person can stay alive without eating.

On those notes, this post will mainly be about cheese. I made my own cheese last month, and I felt like bursting with pride at the accomplishment! Of course, it was only paneer, or a form of ricotta, and it turned out almost completely tasteless, but still! The next time I make it, I plan on adding salt, and maybe some extra spices as well. I’d also love to learn how to make “real” cheese. You know, with the aging and bacteria and all that. I tried making yogurt in the oven a few months ago. It was sort of sketchy, though I wouldn’t be opposed to trying again.

Now, to make this super easy cheese recipe all you need is:
a liter of milk (whole milk works better)
2 lemons
and cheese cloth, or any fine cloth. I didn’t have cheese cloth so I used an old (clean!) t-shirt.
Pour the milk into a large pot and squeeze the juice from the two lemons in with the milk. Be careful of seeds, I was constantly picking them out.
Heat the milk, stirring often, until it separates into curds and whey. Curds and whey!! I was so excited when this started happening. Once you think it’s all separated (the whey looks all watery but still white) take it off the heat ad let it sit for 5ish minutes.
Line a strainer with two pieces of cloth, then pour the curds and whey through the cloth and strainer. Apparently the whey has a ton of vitamins and you can keep it to use in place of water for most recipes (like soup or bread or anything). It’s like vitamin water!
Gather up the cloth corners and twist it a little to squeeze out more whey, then tie the corners to your kitchen sink faucet and allow it to hang there for maybe half an hour, twisting it every once in a while so all the whey drips out.
Then tie the corners together with string and set the cheese in your fridge overnight.
The next day, you’ll have a firm lump of homemade cheese!!

So exciting!! Look what I made!!

So of course, because this cheese is almost entirely tasteless, we needed to make something spicy and delicious to put in in. Eric and I love those ready-to-eat Indian food meals. They’re super healthy, super delicious, and super cheap too! They’re also super not available for sale up here in the great white north, so I went searching the internet for a simple Palak Paneer recipe. It’s a spinach spicy curry mush, with cubes of this cheese that I just happened to make. I found a handful of recipes with slightly different ingredients. Getting more exotic ingredients up here is really difficult too, so I had to make due with what I could find, replace a few things, etc. (Even finding spinach was a little difficult, and we had to wait until the train came in with food at the end of the week, and even then I needed to throw out some bunches of spinach that had gone bad) But in the end, I think it all turned out pretty darn good for our first try! So here is my adapted Palak Paneer recipe:

Tear up about 2 1/2 cups of spinach and cook them in hot water for no more then 5 minutes. Drain, but save the water.
Fry one small onion and two small tomatoes (both chopped into tiny cubes) in oil in a frying pan until onions are brown.
Mush up spinach with onion and tomatoes and
one tablespoon of Cajun spice or chili powder (we didn’t have chili powder, but the Cajun seemed to work just as well),
one tablespoon of coriander (we could only find coriander seeds, not powder. Bad idea. Biting into a coriander seed in the middle of your meal isn’t fun),
and as much salt as you like (I like things salty).
Fry another small onion (chopped) with oil and one tablespoon of cumin until onion is brown.
Mush it all together into a paste.
Add some of the drained spinach water back into the mixture until it’s however thick you like it, and bring it to a boil.
Once it’s done remove it from the heat, add cubes of your homemade cheese, and enjoy the amazing deliciousness!

Indian food always looks so disgusting, but tastes so amazing.

It’s funny that even though this is considered a curry, there’s no actual curry powder in it.

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Sammy

I love my Sammy.

I think a lot of kids have some sort of rough period at some point. Mine was 6th grade. I got picked on a lot. I was tiny and awkward. I remember missing 19 days of school in a row once because I was so scared to go to school that I actually made myself sick. Sammy was my little happiness, when I could forget about kids at school. He came around right when I needed a good friend the most. He belonged to the neighbors, but he’d sleep under the shrub in our front yard and run around with me in the street. Sammy loved me, even when I couldn’t fit in at all. He didn’t care about that. And I needed that so badly right then.

One day the neighbor guy told me that if he couldn’t find a new home for Sammy, that they were gonna take him up to the old mine and shoot him. I remember my mom angrily responding “Who says that to a little girl?!”

That’s how we got to keep him.

Sammy has always been very meek. Never aggressive. I don’t think I’ve once heard him growl. He is perfect.

When I was in high school and the few friends I had drifted away, he was the best little companion. One of my favorite teenage memories is cross-country skiing with him. He loved to race around me through the woods, off his leash and free!! But he always bounded back when I’d call him. He was so good. One brilliantly sunny spring day we hiked to the top of a small mountain close by. The wind was so strong I could lean back into it and not fall over, and no trees had the strength to take root in such a wind. I felt so content and at peace. I tried to head back to that mountain a year ago last fall without Sammy, but the new iron ore mining operations and their huge and noisy pay loaders wouldn’t allow me past. I was really angry, but maybe it’s better that I just remember how it was almost 10 years ago instead.

When we lived in Connecticut, right before I left for college, Sammy went blind. Apparently glaucoma is common in beagles, and he’s got a sliver of beagle in his blood. I pulled money together in order to get him an operation to get his eyes taken out. He use to have such beautiful eyes. But they were getting infected. He adjusted really well though, as long as we didn’t move the furniture around too much. He could still chase the chickens in the backyard, only now we didn’t have to worry about him catching them, because he’d just follow their scent. The most heart breaking thing for me was that he’d never be able to go with me when I went skiing again.

I missed a good chunk of Sammy’s life, when I left for college. I’d be home for breaks, but I didn’t have much time for him anymore. I guess I didn’t realize he was getting old until this past summer, when Eric and I stopped at the house in CT where he stayed with my brother, in between shows. I gathered Sammy’s boney figure up in my arms and cried to see he barely acknowledged me or recognized my scent.

When I moved up here to Schefferville again in the fall, I moved him up here too. I realized he might die very soon, and I’m rather he did near me, back when we met. His health comes and goes. Over Christmas he seemed to turn from old and sick to old and sick and nothing but bones. He leaks sometimes, so he can’t wander where he likes throughout the house anymore. And I need to carry him when I want him to go outside or to get away from the cat’s food. He barely weighs as much as a cat anymore.

But he’s still alive. He still loves me. And he still has some life. I took a good handful of photos of him recently. I don’t want to start to appreciate him only after he’s gone. I feel like that’s too common a problem.


When Sammy’s dreaming, and whimpering or twitching, I leave him be, hoping that in his dreams he can see, and he’s running through the woods with me.

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Hajimemashite.

Sapporo is one of those places I find my mind wandering back to much more then any other place I’ve ever lived. I wonder why. So much happened when I lived there. It was so wonderful. Which is funny, because while I was there of course, I didn’t think it was so amazing. I didn’t dislike Japan while I lived there, but I guess compared to a lot of the foreign friends I made while I was there, I just wasn’t as super excited about the romanticism of Japanese culture. It was where I was at while I was there, and when I flew back to Rochester, that was just another step in my life. I don’t really miss Japan in the way I miss other places. I miss the time, I think. I miss the late summer, fall and early winter of 2008. I miss my bike!! I feel like I could write for hours about that bike. I named him Sparky and riding to my university in the early morning chill was one of the best things I got to experience while I lived there. I loved the orange sun turning things gold and melting frost through those block-shaped apartment-looking houses. I loved racing all the other hundreds of bikers at green lights, and weaving between uniformed kids near that one school, and pretending I didn’t notice people staring at my white skin. I can still map out my entire rout, all the short cuts I discovered, stopping at a tiny bakery or the 7-11 for an onigiri, through that baseball field with the life-size sparrow sculptures on the gate, and then coasting gracefully into the huge bike lot.

I know what I loved the most about Japan was my independence. That’s what I’ve always told people was the best part of that semester. I loved that I could take that bike anywhere I wanted. It was amazing. And I would take it anywhere I wanted. My school stood alongside a long wonderful bike trail. I loved taking it out of the city as far as I could before it would start to get dark. Nothing but woods, some rice fields, small villages, and a speed train track I got yelled at for places coins on the tracks.

I loved that I didn’t know anyone in Japan before I went, I loved that thrill of having to figure everything out myself without someone holding my hand. I loved having to work harder then I ever had before in school, just to be able to learn a tiny bit of Japanese, so I could communicate, read signs, buy food. It was so hard and I’d never embraced such a difficult challenge before.

There were the subways too. One of my favorite trips to take was to the end of one subway line. There, after a hike to the very edge of town, was the biggest Shinto shrine in Hokkaido, the Sapporo zoo, and a couple mountains covered in paths adorned by hundreds of Buddhist shrines. I visited the zoo more times then I can remember, and did so many sketches of the animals that some of them got to recognize me.

I didn’t own a digital camera when I was in Japan. The only camera I had was my dad’s old manual one. I didn’t have much film either, so I hardly took any photos at all. And they’re probably in a box in some attic somewhere now. One of the most important times of my life is barely documented at all.

Sapporo was not affected by the earthquake or tsunami. But it still aches to see how hurt that place I love so much is right now.

P.S. Here is what I do have documented from the time, some small paintings and sketches I did while I was there: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=123447&id=139428336217
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=210779&id=139428336217

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I actually haven’t been getting much into the big Rob Bell debates at all. It’s been frustrating Eric, as he’s been reading stuff saying Rob Bell is a good guy vs. a deceptive false prophet. Every once in a while he’s shared some points or frustrations with me.

What this post is actually about is homemade Samosas! I’ve always enjoyed Samosas when others have shared them with me, and so I looked up how to make them recently, to discover that they are actually ridiculously easy! They do take quite a bit of time, but if you don’t mind that, they’re definitely worth it. Oh, and 100% vegan too! Yet they don’t taste like cardboard! I love when that happens!

Here’s the recipe, in case you’d like to try it out. First, the filling:
1 smallish potato, finely diced into cubes
1 carrot, also finely diced
2 cloves of crushed garlic (or, since we didn’t have any, 1 1/2ish tbs of garlic powder)
1 cup of peas (canned, fresh, frozen, doesn’t matter)
1 tbs veggie/olive oil
2 tbs curry powder (I put in 3 cuz I love a strong curry flavor)
salt & pepper
1/2 cup veggie stock (have the powder stuff I mixed with boiling water)
Heat the oil and spices in a frying pan, then add the veggies, stirring until they are well covered in spices and start getting soft. Add veggie stock and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

While that’s simmering, you can make the dough:
1 1/2 cups of flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbs veggie/olive oil
1/3 cup of water
Mix all the ingredients together, adding more flour or water to make it into a firm dough. Cover and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Once it’s ready, start heating veggie oil in a pan, deep enough to allow for your Samosas to float (about an inch deep I’d say). You know your oil is ready when you drop a bit of dough into the oil and bubbles form all around it.

Divide your dough into about 12 equal-sized portions (we actually got more out of ours) and roll each portion very very thin on a well-floured surface. Cut the portion in half with a knife. Wet edges with water and form each piece into a pocket. Spoon your veggie mixture to fill each pocket, and then seal them off.

Deep fry your Samosas, turning, in the hot oil, until crisp and brown. I found it usually only took about 30 seconds to a minute. Drain them on paper towels laid on a colling rack once they’re done.

Eric and I made a ton of these (about 2 plate fulls like this one I think) and I figured we’d have a lot left over, but they were so delicious and not heavy like I expected a fried food to be, that we ate all of them in one meal!!

I think our next try will be do make them with sweet potatoes!

Back to the Rob Bell debate for just a minute. One thing Eric was having trouble understanding about this entire thing, is how a Christian friend could have a theology that seems to believe so many things that are total opposite to what we might believe. Yet that friend knows with his whole being that the way he believes is right and in step with God. But so do we. How could that be possible? How could we both believe that we’re right, and that God is leading us in these ways, when some of our beliefs are opposite from each other?

The way that I think about it, is that God must talk to all of us in our own unique ways. I mean, He probably looks at me, looks at the way I think and the way I perceive things and the way I react to stuff, and speaks to me in the best way that I understand and interpret, and maybe in that way His Kingdom will become furthered by something that I do. In the same way, I believe He speaks to Rob Bell, or a Christian friend who holds to completely different theology, in the best way that that person can perceive, and things that that person says or does will reach out to further God’s Kingdom some way as well. I don’t think one of us can be totally wrong, since we both believe so strongly in what we do.

Love, and a personal loving relationship with God, are the most important things anyways, right? As long as we both agree on that, can’t we not argue over what shaped box God will fit into for us? He’s gotta be way bigger then that, otherwise I wouldn’t want to believe in Him

Enjoy the Samosas, they are super delicious!

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