What We’re Doing: Keeping Cool and Cooking

Today, my son asked, “Why does glass break?” It’s one of those questions young, inquiring minds provide on an hourly basis. Since I was sitting at the computer, I looked it up, because my own understanding was inadequate. I mean, I had an idea, albeit half-informed, but I wanted to know, too. The first link provided enough information I could paraphrase and answer, including that over 50 glass science experts can’t agree on the answer. But it seems to come down to:

  1. glass has a crystalline structure
  2. glass is brittle
  3. stress causes brittle things to crack, shatter, or explode

When asked a “why” question, my go to answer is usually “Gravity,” but sometimes the best answer is, “Let’s find out.”

wb-julyaug

WHAT WE’RE DOING

This is the first year my partner has suggested we get air conditioning. If you’re not in the PNW, you might not be aware, but most homes don’t have A/C here, though many businesses do. It typically doesn’t got hot enough for long enough to justify the cost. Or at least, that used to be true. Over the last two decades, the summers (and autumns, winters, and springs) have been erratic and warmer. We spent months in rain with barely a moment of sun, which despite stereotypes about the Seattle area, really weren’t the norm.

To beat the heat, we’ve been seeking out more cool outdoor spaces. Our local playground turns into a pizza oven in the sun due to the poor choice in spongy turf beneath the play equipment. Since we couldn’t make the long drive to the ocean, we hit Lake Sammamish, specifically at the lesser known Idylwood Beach Park, just a short distance past the immensely popular Marymoor Park. While we didn’t go swimming (the only swimming areas were in direct sun where there’s a lifeguard), we enjoyed wading into the edge of the lake in the shade of tall trees.

The Little Fox dug in the wet sand, and I walked in the water with ducks swimming by. A bald eagle swooped past us and said hello as it returned to a perch in a cedar pine. A small rivulet from the local creek fed cold, crisp water into the mild lake. The only downside? Climbing the hill in high sun to a hot car.

Since our street is being worked on this week, I’m looking for ways to keep cool in our home and on our porches. At least we have the forest shade! One trick we’ll be trying tomorrow (the hottest day of the week) is inspired by Happy Hooligan’s Dino Dig, although we don’t have plastic dinosaurs. Instead, I’ll put in plastic frogs and shells and dried vegetation we’ve collected, and link it to the Avatar: the Last Air Bender episode where Aang must retrieve frozen frogs from a lake.

For my daughter’s birthday, we couldn’t afford to buy her much this year (she’s taking extra classes at college in the fall), so I wrote a roleplaying game called Amnesia basing it loosely on the White Wolf system. It’s about a team of superheroes and spies (twelve characters) who awake without memory of who they are, and over the course of the evening, they solved clues to find out more about their identities.

We didn’t finish the story arc the first night, though we did polish off all the homemade taquitos, char siu, and shiitake noodles. Now we’re trying to find a good time within everyone’s summer schedules to finish the game, which the Dragon says she really wants to play again. The best part were all of the surprise dice rolls that led to unexpected moments in the game. That’s the best part of an RPG: all the little moments the GM didn’t plan.

According to tradition, August 1st was Lughnasadh/Lammas (the start of the harvest and celebration of the god Lugh), but according to astronomy and the shift of the planet over centuries, it’s actually the 7th. Thus, I’ve set the whole first week of August to be Lughnasadh in our home, and we’re playing with gluten free bread recipes. Our first attempt yesterday to make peasant bread (including braiding a loaf, and making small rolls) didn’t work out because I made my own experimental bread flour and used WAAAAAAAAY too much tapioca flour. (My blend was 2c. brown rice flour, 1c. sweet rice flour, and 1c. tapioca.) The dough wouldn’t hold shape, so I made tiny rolls for our meatball soup.

Our next experiment will be with cinnamon rolls tonight, and I’m going to significantly reduce the tapioca and replace it with oat flour. Potato flour is excellent for making gluten free breads spongy and moist, but potatoes cause inflammation in my joints, so I avoid it most days, especially in my own kitchen. Also on our agenda: making a gluten free copycat of Great Harvest’s dark chocolate cherry bread, but I haven’t found a decent recipe yet, although I think it will likely involve a whole grain bread recipe with added cinnamon, honey, chocolate chunks, and cherries. I’m also craving peaches, so we might hit the farmer’s market and make peach scones or muffins!

While our rolls weren’t the best, we still left out the largest one on a plate with raw honey and a dab of butter for the fairies.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

61tzp5zex-l-_sx258_bo1204203200_Serendipity comes in small ways in our home. In June, both of my kids were talking about turnips, and my daughter specifically wanted me to make “pork and turnips” without offering a recipe. So, I dug around and found some ideas online, and ended up coming up with a simple ground pork and white turnip recipe with sweet Thai chili paste (mild), mixing in the turnip greens, and serving it with rice. Only, I didn’t make it alone. It was Little Fox’s first time cooking a meal with me. He’s stirred the pasta once or twice, and helped with baking, but he did a lot more work this time. That night, when it was story time, he chose me to read a book, so I picked out one we randomly selected at the library: Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore.

Cora is the youngest child in a large family, but because of her age, she doesn’t get to help in big ways in the kitchen like her older siblings. Not until one day, when everyone else is gone, and her mother gives her an apron and asks what she’d like to make. She chooses pancit, a traditional Filipino noodle dish with vegetables and meat similar to, but not the same as, chow mein or yakisoba. The Little Fox adored reading about another child near his age cooking with her mother on the same evening he’d help cook his first meal with me, and so did I.

Recently, he’s also taken to rereading The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann. I’ve written about it before, but he’s not only enjoying the book, he can recall all the meanings of each Chinese character, despite not knowing the sounds each symbol makes.

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

tutugrouptvtropesWe’re nearly finished rewatching one of our favorite anime short series, Princess Tutu. It combines fairy tales, classic ballet, and beautiful music, weaving it into an odd, beautiful, and melancholy story of its own. The show centers around Duck, a duck who is given a magical amulet by a (not quite) dead storyteller that allows her to turn into a girl named Duck. Her goal: to dance with the sad prince, Mytho and return the shards of his heart to him by becoming Princess Tutu. It’s completely unexpected, even if you’re familiar with the ballets, fairy tales, or Japanese tropes rife throughout. The show is a single season of 22 minute episodes, and one we loved the moment we watched it for the first time.

My partner has been exploring our Amazon Prime membership looking for new shows on Prime Video. Though our son still loves Doctor McWheelie, Masha and the Bear, and others, his favorite new show is DinosaurTrain, which is a PBS production. Since we don’t have TV, it’s nice to have access to programming like this online. He’s also quite into superheroes these days, despite only having limited exposure to superhero shoes. We decided to take him to see the new Spider-Man film, and we all loved it. It was amazing, engaging, real, and provided numerous laughs. After several disappointing Marvel films, this one redeemed many of the other recent ones.

 

WHAT WE’RE EATING

Besides the gluten-free breads listed above (check “What We’re Doing”), the foods I made for our super secret game night turned out amazingly well. Even the one I hadn’t intended. I wanted to make gluten free, vegan dumplings, but I ran out of time, so rather than let the ingredients go to waste (I’d already prepared the filling), I went ahead and turned it into a noodle dish instead. What did I do?

Chopped up a third of a pound of shiitake mushrooms into thick strips, and sauteed them in olive oil. Setting these aside, I sauteed chopped cabbage with sliced green onions until tender. Then I grated fresh ginger* using a microplane directly over the pan, and toss in crushed garlic to cook for two additional minutes, stirring often. A splash of rice wine vinegar and gluten free tamari, set the pan sizzling, and I returned the mushrooms to the heat to mix in with the sauce. After a minute of heating, I set the pan aside to cook the brown rice and millet ramen (I use Lotus Foods brand, as they cook well and I can buy them in bulk at Costco).

Once the noodles were cooked, I added them to the veggies, added a touch more vinegar and tamari, and ground some black pepper, tossing everything together before serving with a drizzle of sesame oil. Sesame seeds were in a dish on the side for anyone who wanted to add them to the noodles and/or the char siu and hot mustard.

 

*If you don’t use ginger root often, buy a small amount, and keep it in the freezer. It preserves it a long time for those dishes that require it, and it’s actually easier to grate.

 

 

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