Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Putting the Ack in Achalasia

bill, cat, ack

They say it is a rare disease, but it feels more like a common condition, as in my plans are in constant flux depending on the condition thereof. It has to do with my stomach and the deterioration of the muscles in my esophagus. It has to do with coughing and choking, and going to bed each night convinced that it will be the very last time I ever do so.

I cannot sleep, and when I do I wake up in sudden panics, covered in the remains of the day and a gasp for breath like so many fish out of water. My wife makes me sleep in the guest room. I am exhausted.

It is not life-threatening, but it is life-restrictive. I cannot keep most meals down and I am in a constant tango with dehydration. Every ounce out I put two back in, and then we dip. Then we dance.

The past few months have been spent in various layers of mourning—one death after another, paired by book sales that should be better, a new job built heavy on promise, my only current source of income repackaged as “an exciting new opportunity” that no longer provides said income, sporadic fitness training that my body can’t handle, a home gutted of wall and floor thanks to water damage, and the tubes, the doctors, the procedures.

I have had my insides stretched by balloons and pumped full of Botox. I have had my insides land quickly upon my lap while sitting on the highway with no shoulders there to speak of.

Life of late has been one punch in the gut after another against a gut that punches back. I do not know if it makes me stronger, but it makes me think that I would like to be. It makes me appreciate the strength I feel around me.

I am fully aware that this is not the most adversity that one can face, in fact, it pales in comparison, but it is my adversity, and I am doing my best to own it.

I am doing my best to keep it down.

 

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Good Luck Tastes Great, Fulfilling

chinese, new, year, lantern, festival, lunar, spring, dragon

A horse is a horse. Of course.

Of course.

And then there are the years that trot out of the gate twelve at a time, dogs, rats, goats, rabbits, horses, oh my, and a new moon rising with promises of happiness, good fortune, and longevity.

Wild dragons couldn’t drag me away.

It is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, or the Lunar New Year if you want to get my moon reference. 2014 marks the Year of the Horse, and those born to it are said to be cheerful, perceptive, witty, and talented. There are jokes about being long in the face.

Also, I’m a pig.

There are 15 days of celebration in the Chinese New Year, which happens to end this year on Valentine’s Day with the annual Lantern Festival, and there’s your romance, people.

chinese, new, year, lanter, festival

There are a few different stories about the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, but my favorite is that Buddha invited all of the animals to visit him on Chinese New Year, and guess which twelve decided to show up?

If you guessed the twelve animals from the Chinese Zodiac then you are right!

You’re so smart.

To learn more about Buddha, the Chinese Zodiac, or Chinese New Year, find a computer and push buttons on it, because I’m hungry and this is where I’m going to shift gears to the lucky foods of the holiday, namely Buddha’s Stew (aka “jai”), a vegetarian dish that promises prosperity, longevity, the fulfillment of wishes, a CENTURY! of harmonious union, and the birth of children. Seriously, when is the last time you ate something that brought all of that to the table that wasn’t tequila?

I like to call it Good Luck, Jai because I don’t know what that means and it’s probably offensive, but it sounds like Good Luck, Charlie, which is a show on the Disney Channel, and kids love a good tie-in.

I’ll warn you, the recipe is a bit of a project, but it’s really good. Also, all that harmony and prosperity stuff. The boys love it.

This is what it looks like, give or take:

jai, stew, vegetarian, buddha, chinese, new year, food, luck

I had to use a photo from Pinterest because we sat down to watch Sherlock and totally forgot to take pictures of our dinner; however, Sherlock was AWESOME.

The recipe varies a bit (see above), depending on where you have it or which region inspired it, but the ingredients are usually pretty similar:

2 generous tablespoons of Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1 cup vegetarian broth
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed well with equal parts cold water
10 fresh brown and/or white mushrooms (slice caps and remove stems)
10 fresh Chinese water chestnuts (peel and quarter)
10 snow peas or snap peas (slivered)
4 slices peeled, smashed ginger
2 cups Napa cabbage (torn into pieces)
1 cup firm tofu
1/2 pound baby bok choy hearts
1 pound baby carrots
1 can bamboo shoots or fresh equivalent (halved or sliced)
Chinese parsley (cilantro) for garnish
salt and sugar for seasoning (optional)
rice of your choice

I’ve also seen bean curd sticks, black moss, lily buds, dried black fungus, gluten balls, ginkgo nuts, and seriously, ginkgo nuts and gluten balls? That’s way too funny to eat. Add them if that’s your thing.

In a hot wok (it will smoke) add vegetable oil, salt, and sugar (if desired). Stir-fry mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrot, ginger, bok choy, cabbage, and anything else I forgot to mention. Cook for 5 minutes over high heat.

Slowly add broth then cover and cook for another 5 minutes over low heat.

Add the tofu, snow peas, and soy sauce then cover and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. This is where I usually add more soy sauce, because it’s good. Also, I often skip the tofu because what the hell is it actually doing?

Carefully stir in cornstarch mixture to form a light gravy, adjusting as necessary.

Serve over rice, drizzle with a bit of sesame oil, and top with sprigs of fresh Chinese parsley for the pretty.

Eat until full, enjoy good luck as one does.

Here’s to the Year of the Horse! And look at these pandas!

panda, lantern, festival, new, year, chinese, lunar, spring,

 

____________________

This post is sponsored by Kikkoman, and they are fantastic. Follow Kikkoman on Facebook and Twitter, because in this case a corporation is people, and they’re the good ones.

Lantern photos in order: Rob Thurman via Flickr; photojenni via Flickr; bennylin0724 via Flickr

The beginning of this post is taken from the Mr. Ed theme song, because why wouldn’t I?

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Bring on the Brine!

The first thing I did was kick the bucket. I have a dark sense of humor and I enjoy physical comedy. Also, I didn’t know what the hell was in it, and I wanted to give it a nudge to see what happened.

I DID NOT DIE.

Turns out that the bucket (and some other goodies) had been sent by the lovely folks at Kikkoman for Thanksgiving brining purposes. You put your turkey in there.

So I did. Both of them.

brine, bucket, thanksgiving, kitchen, turkey, kids, family, fun, humor

And then I read the instructions and apparently it involves cooking said turkey for a big holiday feast, and federal laws clearly state that I am not allowed to do this. Your country may vary.

Oh, this kind of turkey (left).

turkey, gentle barn, petting

Hold for laughs.

That’s right, Thanksgiving is next week (whaaaaaat?) and brining a turkey is supposed to be the best way to guarantee a juicy bird for your dining pleasure. The thing is, we are vegetarians, and while that wasn’t always the case (my wife swears by a history of brining), that is the way it is now. This is where you might think we are out of luck.

YOU ARE WRONG.

Did you know that you can brine vegetables? True story.

And that is what we are going to do.

brine, bucket, vegetables, turkey, thanksgiving, kikkoman

The extended family, however, will brine a turkey just like Benjamin Franklin wanted. After all, this is America.

And there will be plenty of thanks for everyone.

________________

Enjoy this brine recipe from the wonderful (and wonderfully talented) Chef Helen Roberts of Kikkoman fame, and use it for all your Thanksgiving needs (even vegetables!):

Savory Turkey Vegetable Brine

Ingredients (Recipe for a 16–24 pound turkey or a small farmers’ market):

2 gallons cold water
10 ounces Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons dried celery seed
1 tablespoon dried thyme

See Kikkoman’s brine site for instructions.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Follow Kikkoman on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is sponsored by Kikkoman, but the sincerity (or lack of it) is all mine! I will be sharing some original(ish) family-friendly recipes in the coming months, stay tuned and stay hungry, my friends!

 

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Kikkoman: I am Soy

Wisconsin

“You went where? To do what?” was the general response. “Did you say soy sauce? In Wisconsin?”

I did. I was invited by Kikkoman, a company centuries in the making, to be an ambassador for their brand, and their largest plant is in Walworth, Wisconsin, so I went there. I was joined by fellow ambassadors (pictured above left to right) Tessa, Rachel, and Erika, and together we learned more about soy sauce than I ever thought there was to know.

And I learned about the people.

The history, the philosophy, and all of the individual stories that have given life to the company of Kikkoman is downright inspiring. Who knew?

In fact, I was so impressed with the story of Kikkoman, which is wonderfully shared in this video (below), that I had a few friends over to watch it. By the time the credits rolled there wasn’t a dry eye in the house—from tears, not soy.

It turns out that sometimes corporations are people.

One of the most telling examples of how much the employees of Kikkoman love their jobs is that each year they all donate money to buy the company an anniversary gift. You read that right, the employees donate their own money to buy the company a present, among them classic clocks, original art, and this sign that we are blocking with our comedic stylings:

Kikkoman

Give it a minute.

We were joined on the trip by a few fantastic employees from the PR firm representing Kikkoman and the amazing Chef Helen Roberts (she is the “i” in Kikkoman, also “team”), and they are all good people. It was a theme.

This look is all the rage with tour groups:

Kikkoman tour

In addition to learning all things soy we also took in the splendors of Wisconsin, including a tour of Lake Geneva and its ritzy shores, not to mention the fancy halls of The Abbey Resort where we stayed. It was a truly enjoyable and informative trip, and I am honored to have been invited.

Thanks, Kikkoman!

And you might want to thank Kikkoman, too. They are hosting a Kikkoman recipe contest on Facebook and you could win $1,000 if yours is chosen. Remember me!

Follow Kikkoman on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is sponsored by Kikkoman, but the sincerity is all mine! I will be sharing some original(ish) family-friendly recipes in the coming months, stay tuned and stay hungry!

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Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberries

The stain was deep and red, and the wood of the cutting board, having absorbed the drainage from the day, was fat and full. The room was ripe with sudden decay, and it lingered heavy in the air just south of sweetness. I took a wet cloth and tried to erase the damage. It didn’t budge beneath the lackadaisical layers of elbow grease, and the strawberries were too far gone to care about much of anything.

The fruit had been fine just hours before. It had arrived freshly bought, clutched firmly in the hands of a houseguest, and served as an important part of a nutritious breakfast. Then, about the time that the morning coffee layer began its burning off, the berries were left sitting in a plastic crate, forgotten to the moment amid the plans of promise and intention.

The benefit of our doubt was spent on the theories of bright-eyed optimists; for instance, time is long and winding, and it isn’t going anywhere. But time is full of surprises.

Like most things taken for granted the fruit did what we never expected, growing soft, gray mold in the sunlight beaming between the bites we had and those never taken.

 

When you stand before an open window it is large and wide, the endless everything starts in the twinkle off your cheekbone and spreads equally in all directions. However, when taken from a distance the window is nothing more than a small, framed square of wonderful opportunity. Ours is to reach it while open is an option.

The thing about windows is that they are often prone to closing.

That is where the fruit was lost, somewhere in the afternoon lull when it was over being wanted and not quite ready to be thought of again, it let time have its way. Then it bled out across the countertop, and all that ever could have been was left for anyone to wonder—the possibilities both endless and ended.

From a distance the frames fill the world like a patchwork of homemade quilts and gently swaying fields, each one a window shutting slowly on the quick turn of fruit, and the bigger moments fading.

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