Tuesday, July 22, 2014

tropical iceland - pineapple & basil frozen g&t

maybe there should be a whole line of cocktails with names based on fiery furnaces songs. blueberry boat offers the most obvious possibilities, but i'm sure there are many more. it'll be nice to have a mission to keep me occupied as this summer slogs on, sticky and hot and not altogether optimism-inducing.  

i have to admit, i try not to watch the news. i think at this point i have a fairly good idea of how much information i can take in before succumbing to what mike calls a German mood (which is kind of ironic since he's the one with the Teutonic heritage) and my mom has referred to as "that morose Irish blood of ours." i don't claim to be more sensitive than the average person, but knowing the details of tragedy while lacking the power to change anything is a sure ticket to a gloaming dark apathy and pessimism that a) are not fun to experience and b) sure don't make me a treat to be around. 

all that to say, i try to be aware of what's going on in a broad sense, but shy away from learning more than i have to. i'm sure that's not the best way for everyone, and i'm not even sure it's the best for me, but in a world of randomness and sadness and, it's true, great joy, it's what i need to do to maintain some equanimity in my day to day life. otherwise i just get my heart broken open again and again and it all feels too hard.

finding a balance doesn't mean sticking my head in the sand entirely, though. it's more like taking in the broad strokes of the bombings and the plane crashes and all of the conflicts and and and

but then not reading too many of the smaller, more personal, more 
"and this child who got blown up loved her dog and the color red and wanted to be a marine biologist when she grew up." that kind of thing doesn't help me understand the world better and DOES make me very sad.

anyway, this is turning a little (lot) too downer-y for something that was supposed to be about a nifty tropical drink that you eat with a spoon. oops. sorry. to be fair, i made it before the world totally fell apart. however this IS a nifty tropical drink you can eat with a spoon. so that's something! it's bracing and chilly and bitter from the tonic and herbal from the basil and pineapple-y from the pineapple.

you just chop up the pineapple into little bits, chop the basil into even littler bits, and dump both into a shallow-ish dish along with gin and some (preferably fancy) tonic. toss it in the freezer and stir it a little with a fork every few hours, as if you were making a granita (which you basically are). it gets slushy after 4 or 5 hours (at least in my freezer) and you can eat it then, but it's even better if you leave it overnight. at that point, instead of being slushy, it's crispy and crunchy and tastes like eating magic snow. but slushy's good, too. you do you.

also you can pour coconut cream over it like they do sometimes with snow cones - it makes it more like a delicious sweet creamy piña colada that way.

the only sad thing about this drink is that you have to wait for it to freeze. in an uncertain and sometimes grotesquely terrifying world, i appreciate that simplicity. and i can wait.

*tropical iceland*
~ 1/3 of a pineapple, cut into tiny bits (you could probably use canned, but i feel like it wouldn't be as good. if you must, i think i had like 1 1/2 cups of pineapple, once chopped. but it's pretty flexible)
1 small handful of basil - again, flexible. i used maybe 2 tablespoons
1 cup gin
~ 3 cups tonic (i used 2 bottles of Fever Tree and 1 of Q tonic, since that was what we had. i figured out it totaled about 2 2/3 cups, but probably you won't have the exact random mix of tiny tonic bottles that we did, so use whatever. personally, i prefer the Fever Tree, but whatever kind you have is fine)
a tablespoon or so of coconut cream is not out of place if you like that sort of thing

this actually makes a lot of servings, because you put it in little glasses so it won't melt too fast and a little goes a long way. if you want it to be less strong, add another cup or so of tonic. it sat happily in our freezer for over a week and was still good at the end, so it's not like you have to eat it all at once.

let's all clink our glasses to better times ahead. sláinte.

ALSO i am fully aware that it's an incredible privilege not to have to live in areas of conflict and not to have to worry on the level of those that do. that is obvious, and you do whatever small things you can.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

granola time! (cashew/ginger/coconut)

my friends just had a baby. well, it was like a month ago. and technically only my friend L had the baby, since men (still! in 2014!) have not gotten around to taking on that burden. but regardless, a baby that is now in the world belongs to (?) my friends and has taken up residence inside their house.

clearly this is not a picture of the baby. it's a picture of a butternut squash with googly eyes glued onto it posed next to a bottle and wearing a baby hat. obviously.

the thing is, i don't want to post a real picture of someone else's baby (or rather, i doubt that his parents would like that) and i'm worried that with my really outstanding skills in the realm of Art, even if i tried to draw the baby and add accessories or something to disguise it, its identity would be immediately apparent and in that case one might as well post a real photo of the baby, which as i already explained i am loath to do.

see? you can tell right away that that's the same squash, right? i can't get anything past you.

so, baby pictures or not, it's not as though newborns eat granola anyway. but parents of newborns seem to like to. i wanted to bring something over when i came to see the baby, and i thought granola would be good because it's nice to eat out of hand or as more of a cereal and if you put lots of nuts and seeds in it and go easy on the sugar, it's pretty healthy and protein-y.

i've made a few different batches over the last couple of weeks (one with lots of pecans and cardamom, one with chopped dark chocolate bits - definitely more on the snacky side), but i think this one was my favorite. it features cashews, lots of coconut, and both powdered and crystallized ginger to make it nice and spicy.

this picture is misleading because the cashews should be in pieces and the coconut in large unsweetened flakes. whole coconuts have no place in granola, particularly whole coconuts that look like meatballs. 

every time i've seen this baby (three or four times, so far), he's been sleeping sweetly with cute footie pajamas on and long eyelashes grazing his tiny cheeks. although i've heard that he is not always like this, the fact that i have yet to see any evidence of this other, darker side leads me to believe that it doesn't exist. he is almost certainly a perfect child. i have never once thought of stealing him, however.

as a happily childless woman in my mid-30s, i feel like something of an anomaly among many of my friends these days. as an example of the recent baby boom, six close college friends of mine now have 10 kids between them. nine of those kids are under six. and that's just the tip of the iceberg. i feel like i'm suddenly at the point where i know more people with kids than without them. it's sort of an odd place to be.

i've basically always known that i don't want to have children. i don't hate kids by any means, and all of the ones i know personally are, without a doubt, the most charming, clever, and adorable young people one could hope to meet. i genuinely enjoy talking to them, even though i'm really bad at it. i never know what's appropriate for any given age and end up asking eight-year-olds if they like dollies or toddlers if they saw last week's Scandal. it's a problem.

but the thing is, much as i like chilling with other people's kids in small to medium doses, i've never felt an urge to bring them home with me or to get one of my own. it's just not in my nature.

poor crystallized gingers

i used to read a lot of articles about people having kids or not having kids. i've always been an inveterate reader of advice columns and the kinds of articles that run in the Life or Styles section of newspapers, so this was probably related. one thing that kept coming up in these articles was that people quoted on either side of the parenting divide seemed oddly defensive about their decisions. i almost wrote "debate" instead of "divide" just then, because that's what so many of the stories felt like - debates on the relative merits of the choice to become a parent. framing this issue as a debate leads people to feel like one side is right and one is wrong, which understandably makes people defensive about their own side.

i've stopped reading those articles, for the most part. i've never been made to feel less-than because i am not and don't want to be a parent, and i certainly don't want to proselytize about my choice to others. there are lots of choices i've made as an adult that i know aren't right for everyone - owning three dogs, going to law school, commuting on a scooter, diving across the country with five animals in a Toyota Matrix - but they work for me. i don't know anyone with kids who seems to regret their choice, but i also know that it's not the choice for me. isn't it great that we get to make the choices that are right for us (when, of course, we have the incredible good fortune to have resources to make such choices)? 

at work, on the go, watching Law & Order reruns in your slippers - granola is great anywhere!

anyway, basically i feel like there's no real point in debating which of two extremely personal choices is better. everyone who knows that they want children should probably have them and everyone who knows that they don't should probably not have them. science and common sense seem to bear this out. of course, you can't really sell stories in which everyone is happy and supportive of each other. BORING. it's also pretty frustrating that often issues involving children are framed almost exclusively as women's issues, but that's a whole giant other thing for which there is no time here.

in the end it all comes down to this: whether or not you have children, you probably like granola. if you like granola, you might like this granola (see how diplomatic one can be if one tries?).

if you don't like granola, i think we can all agree that you are probably a monster.

cashew/ginger/coconut granola

preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • 3 ½ cups rolled oats
  • ¾ cup rolled barley flakes (you could also just do all oats)
  • 2 cups coconut flakes (they’re the not-sweetened kind in the bulk places. otherwise you could use shredded sweetened coconut and cut down on the sugar/honey element)
  • 1 ½ cups raw cashew pieces
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed (if you want a more coconut thing, palm sugar would be good, but i didn't have any)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger (or more, to taste)
  • ½ tsp cardamom (don’t go out and buy it for this - if you don’t have it, nbd, or add more ginger or other spices (pepper? cinnamon?) to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
mix the above ingredients in a large bowl (i have a giant one from a restaurant supply place)
  • ½ cup oil (i used half and half coconut oil and olive oil, but whatever. all coconut would be good, but i didn't  have enough, but also i think the olive oil adds a savory element that i like. you could use less, too, i'm sure)
  • ½ cup honey (i’d use ⅓ cup next time, maybe? but i am not 100% on sweet things)
put the oil and honey in a smaller receptacle and heat in the microwave or on the stove until the coconut oil melts. mix well and pour over the grain mixture. it's best to mix everything with your hands at this point, i find. it helps get everything more evenly distributed.

bake at 300 degrees in a baking pan/cookie sheet (like 11” x 17” - i think it’s called a jelly roll pan?) lined with parchment paper. i kind of smush it down in the pan so it sticks together a little.

you can use a different/larger pan, but would need to stir it more frequently. if you use a smaller pan, i would split it into two parts.

bake for ~ 30 minutes, depending on the pan/your oven, stirring well every 10-15 minutes. while it's baking, mince a handful of candied ginger (i used about 20 of the little cubes it comes in) total when minced =  ~1/4 - 1/3 cup).

take it out when everything is golden-brown and toasty. i let it cool in the pan - i think it makes it stick together more or something. don’t mess with it! (or do, whatever).

once it’s cool, add the candied ginger (start with 1/4 cup and add to taste) and more salt if needed (this depends on how you eat it - i mostly eat it dry, so i like a little more salty-sweet and added another ~1/2 tsp)