a day for recipes

Life has been busy recently with a trip home, a weekend of celebrations, and a full work week. I’ve been looking for uses for my CSA batch from Sunday and have made a few nice dishes.

The broccolini was great over a bed of orzo, fresh tomato, feta, lemon juice, and olive oil.

I used the entire head of lettuce and a handful of kale for another of my standard Chinese-style stir-fries and ate it alongside some vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe’s.

lettuce, kale, egg, garlic, peanuts, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a bit of sugar

I decided to try something “different” with the kale today. “Different” only meaning a different flavor of stir-fry … it’s a start! I sauteed a handful of it with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and black pepper, and added crumbled feta just before eating it. VERY tasty!

My win for the week may very well be the homemade pesto I made this morning. I used my friend Megan’s recipe, I love how simple it is with only five ingredients. My basil has been slowly dying over the week, so I knew that it was today or never. It was so easy to make! I just put the ingredients into my tiny food processor and blended them all together. The smells when I took the lid off were AMAZING! Fresh basil is something that words can’t describe. I love catching a whiff of it! This was the first time I attempted homemade pesto, and it was a fair first try. I over-did it a tiny bit on the lemon juice (accidentally!), and added extra garlic on purpose but maybe that wasn’t the best idea. However, I am confident this pesto will taste wonderful when paired with fresh tomatoes and cheese for a sandwich soon. PS, my friend Angie took the following picture; it is her book underneath the pesto. Angie is, in one week’s time, getting her Master’s of Fine Arts. Check out her portfolio here.

I currently have these muffins (with some changes) in the oven. They are not cooking through. It is a hot day. I’m taking a break from the kitchen while they continue to sit in the heat. Hopefully they’ll get to an edible point and will taste DELICIOUS. I am really excited about these muffins because 1. They are vegan, and 2. They are gluten free. Angie is staying with me and wanted to be able to eat them, so I used her gluten-free pancake and baking mix as a flour substitute. This mix already has some baking soda and baking powder in it so I only added another 1/2 tsp of each to my mix. I also used allspice instead of nutmeg because that is what I have in my pantry, did not include walnuts, and I added a whole avocado just to see what would happen. I did not measure the carrots, I probably used a little more than a cup. I started baking them at 300* because of the avocado, and over the course of this past hour (yes, an HOUR), have lowered it down to 280* and raised it to 340*. They look great and the batter tastes great, but the centers are still gooey. We’ll see how it goes …

Before being cooked. I’ll be taking them out of the oven in 5 minutes time, regardless of how they are in the middle. I find a way to use the parts that aren’t done …

Any suggestions as to what I did wrong with the muffins? The bit of reading I’ve done in the past few minutes makes me think it has to do with the baking soda or baking powder. Does it at all have to do with the use of gluten-free flour? I’ve never baked gluten-free before. (I’ve never baked fully vegan before either.) Any suggestions for next time? This recipe really does look good and I’d like to do it right!

I still have potatoes and patty-pan squash and more carrots to use from Sunday’s CSA pick up. Some sort of stir fry is probably in order again.

I’ll be linking this post with this week’s link party at inherchucks … you should check it out and add your recipes too! Happy weekend!

July 24th addendum- Read this post for the rest of the muffin saga, and how it all turned out for good.

a day of greens

I was so happy to have the day off work, because it gave me a chance to prepare all my leafy greens before they go bad.

I invested in a quality salad spinner this morning, and after today I know that the purchase was not in vain. As it seems I’ll have a surplus of greens every time I pick up my CSA produce, the salad spinner is a great way to save time and frustration. It is so convenient and efficient!

lettuce in the salad spinner basket

I was most excited about making kale chips since I have heard so many good things about them. They only way I’ve prepared kale previously is by sautéing it and adding it to a stir-fry. I also learned today that baking kale does not harm the nutrients that are packed into it!

I love the look of curly kale!

I looked up a few recipes, and the general consensus is to line a pan with parchment paper, place bite-sized kale leaves on it making sure they are not on top of one another, drizzle with olive oil and seasonings, and bake for 10 minutes at 350*.

ready for the oven

I’m not very good at “drizzling” oil- more tends to come out of the bottle than I’d prefer- so after I spilled enough onto the kale, I just fluffed it all around with my hands to be sure all the leaves were coated. I salted one of the pans, and for the other batch I added salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. I love everything spicy!

LOTS of cayenne!

I checked the leaves after 10 minutes in the oven and they weren’t quite dehydrated/crispy all the way through, so I gave them another few minutes and then took them out. They were PHENOMENAL. Plenty of the recipes I looked up had warned about how tasty they are and how you can’t stop at just one. I figured they’d taste good enough and that would be that. I was wrong. I really couldn’t stop at just one. In fact, I ate the entire tray of the spicy ones. And I had left some raw kale out to stir-fry later, but I ended up making it into chips as well.

Out of the oven and ready to eat! So delicious!

My only downfall was storing them in plastic bags for later. I brought some for dinner with Jeremy tonight and by the time I got there, the kale was limp and chewy. I’m hoping that putting them in the oven again tomorrow will rejuvenate the crispiness. Was it how I stored them that made them limp, or are kale chips just hard to keep in general? I’m wondering if I didn’t keep them in the oven long enough.

I also washed and stored the red leaf lettuce, mizuna, and bok choy. I used the lettuce and mizuna to make a quick stir fry with an onion, red pepper flakes, pepper, oregano, sun dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese and ate that for lunch with a crumbled sunshine burger mixed in.

Washed, dried, and ready to cook for dinner.

The bok choy I am saving to eat raw throughout the week since I love its mild flavor. Every last bit of the rest of the greens, including what little kale I had left, went to Jeremy’s to cook for our dinner. I made a stir fry with lots of fresh garlic, peanuts, and one of my favorite Chinese-inspired sauces- 1.5 T water, 3 T soy sauce, 1 T rice vinegar, 1 T sugar, and some cornstarch to thicken it up. It was delicious!

So, all the greens I got on Sunday are already gone (save for the bok choy), and while I wish I kept them longer, I was worrying so much about them going bad that I am happy they all got used. In the next weeks when I get more I’ll have to try some of the ideas I’ve been given about extending the life of the greens.

Qu Mei Gua le

(That pinyin may be entirely wrong. I tried.)

I am home, after 20 hours of travelling. I arrived at my house around 8:00 last night, and here I am, tired but awake at 6:30am. I’ve actually been awake since around 4:00am. 3 hours of sleep last night. 4.5 cumulative hours of sleep during that 20 hour travel period. Yes, I am tired. And I am craving Chinese food. But I’m home, and I’m safe, and it was easy getting back to the states. So, no complaining!

This blog isn’t finished yet, I’ll update it again within the next 2 weeks or so, so please keep checking back! I want to get my bearings together and tie some strings in one last post, and upload more pictures. Until then, please check out the scrapbook page of New Day’s site. You will find updated pages that have lots pictures of what I did with the kids during my last week. Hopefully that can satisfy any of your curiosity until I post again and upload my last batch of pictures. Some have already been updated, the link for the third picture album has all new pictures, as of a few days ago. Enjoy!

Young and With No Clue

***I’d like to make a shout out to my sister Emili who is graduating from High School in a few short hours. I am so proud of her, and wish I could be there to watch her accept her diploma. Love you Em!***

Laoshi. Pronounced: laow-shur. Meaning: teacher.

Well, the kids still call me Ayi. But I don’t think that the words “nannie,” or “helper,” or “aunt” suit my line of volunteering-ism anymore. I have slightly (or maybe entirely) become a laoshi. Bekah the teacher.

No, really. I am a teacher.

I teach the preschoolers every Tuesday and Thursday. For the entirety of preschool. You may well call it the Bekah show. I have found myself in the line of writing lesson plans, cutting paper for crafts, planning activities, and thinking along the lines of preschoolers who speak Chinese but should be learning English.

It’s really alot of stretching for me. I am learning as I do this. Remember, my major is Music Management. There is no place in that major for teaching anything, no less teaching younger kids a second language. The Internet has been a big help. So has a book in the preschool teacher’s office that is filled with ideas for lesson plans pertaining to specific topics.

Last Tuesday was apples. Last Thursday was ants. (Last week was capital “A.”) Yesterday was (kind of) airplanes. (For lower case “a.”) The paper airplanes I helped them make were a big hit. Tomorrow is purple. Let me tell you that I drew lots of purple circles for a craft about grapes tomorrow. 263 tiny circles, to be exact. And I cut out 63 of those circles. It was SO MUCH FUN! Haha. So, I am a preschool teacher who is learning solely by experience. It’s very challenging, because seriously, I have no idea what I am doing. But I am definitely having so much fun with it. And then again at the same time, I can’t see myself EVER doing it again after this summer.

So, Bekah the preschool teacher. That’s not all. I am also a private tutor for Savannah now. For an hour and a half a day, I am teaching this beautiful 6-year-old girl English. She knows so much English. She understands much more than she ever lets on. So, I am attempting to teach her how to read. In doing so, I am trying to think back to when I was in Kindergarten and learning how to read. How did I learn? I have no idea. I am making things up. But, there is progress being made! Savannah recognizes alot of her letters now. The only problems at this moment are as follows: Her attention span is not quite as good as it was when we first started. I think she’s gotten too comfortable with me already. Also, we do not have enough books on the correct level for Savannah. Most of the books here are too easy for her. But everything has been working out well so far, and I have no doubt that things will continue to work out as needed.

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We took 6 of the kids to pick watermelons last Friday morning. It was a sticky but incredibly wonderful morning. You should check out some of the pictures of that morning and other adventures on New Day’s website!

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I have eaten two home-cooked Chinese meals in the past week. One at Amy’s house last week. I teach Amy English every afternoon, and she invited me and my roommate Jovy over to eat dinner with her family. It was a wonderful time and very good food.

Jovy and I had Amy and her daughter over last night for some American food. Actually, it was Italian, but I wasn’t about to cook hot dogs or hamburgers or something. Because that is gross. But, we had fruit salad with mango, grapes, cherries, apples, and bananas, and then noodles cooked in olive oil and garlic and peppers and onion and tomatoes, served with pesto tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, and for dessert we made a no bake chocolate pudding pie. I’d consider that all fairly American. They enjoyed it, I think. They told us they did.

My other home-cooked Chinese meal happened on Monday night. One of the English students here, Jill, told me that she wanted to cook for my roommates and me. So, we went to the village and bought all the ingredients (literally, all of them, as we have next to no food in the apartment), and came back to the apartment. I got to watch her cook Chinese style and I tried to remember everything she did. She made four dishes, and every one was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, seriously. The Chinese have a way with spices. Too bad all the spices were labeled in Chinese characters. I don’t know how I’m going to figure out what to buy when I want to cook that flavorfully.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to cook a Chinese meal when I get back to the states. We’ll see.

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Three weeks in China. I feel like I’ve been here forever, and forever is somehow not enough. Sometimes, I already feel sad that I’m leaving at the end of July. Maybe I should stop thinking about that.

I feel at home here. It’s such an odd concept for me to wrap my mind around. I am generally one who does not fare well with change. I like the familiar. I like my environment. I can get pretty shaken up when I am taken out of it. I don’t get strung out over things, I’d say I’m even a bit too laid back for my own good at times, but big changes generally take an intangible toll on my emotions.

So why is it, though I am literally half a world away, 12 hours ahead of normal life as I know it, buying food in an open market place with money that makes little sense to me in a language I barely understand, sleeping in a bunk bed on the 6th floor of an apartment in a village of a country with a culture that is massively different than mine, why is it that I am so completely comfortable here?

One word: Purpose.

I was given a heart for this country. I only feel complete when I am doing work for the orphans here. That is one of the pieces of my puzzle (oh, cliches).

Tangibly fulfilling a sense of purpose is one of the most rewarding acts I have ever experienced.