Saturday, October 31, 2009


jar of wheatena

Rachael and I ate the last of my Wheatena a few weeks ago, and I have been unable to find any since. I went to all my usual grocery stores, which had carried it a couple of years ago, and had no luck. I did find online sources, but they all required me to buy at least four boxes and pay exorbitant shipping rates. I finally discovered that it's not available anywhere on the west coast(maybe because of the 2006 acrylamide lawsuit?). I found these directions for making it myself and tried it out, with equivocal results.

wheat v wheat

I think part of my problem was that I used soft, white wheat (on the left, above) instead of hard, red wheat, because I was nearly out of the hard kind. I was also afraid of burning it, so didn't let it bake long enough. It had barely changed color when I took it out of the oven, and hadn't begun to have a nice toasty smell. It did end up with the sandy texture that's Wheatena's hallmark, so I'm pretty sure my next batch will be entirely successful.

rachael breakfasting

Friday, October 30, 2009

quince vodka

quince vodka

I picked more quinces from my neighbor bush to make Jane Grigson's quince vodka. It's super-easy: core your quinces and cut out their fuzzy blossom ends, grate them, put the shreds in a big jar and cover with vodka, then let soak for a few weeks. I got 105 proof vodka on the advice of the liquor store lady, who pointed out that if I used 80 proof it would get too watered down with quince juice.

Right now it just smells of alcohol, but when I stirred it with a chopstick and licked the chopstick it already tasted pleasantly quincey. When it's ready, Rachael and I can have a cocktail party, and serve quintinis and quincemopolitans!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

our anarchical day

Rachael at the anarchist bookfair

Rachael and I went to the anarchist bookfair yesterday morning, and had a very nice time. Rachael (pictured above in the anarchist bathroom) got a bunch of Mumia fashion accessories, and anti-nonviolence and anti-hipster literature (and an anarchist planner, which is cuter than her UW one), and I got this Wobblie yo-yo:

Wobblie yoyo

I though I would have plenty of time after the bookfair to fix hom baos and tripe, but my lack of organization got the better of me. I went home to gather my equipment so that Annie could take me and all my things to her house to cook. I had cleverly made a list of everything I needed, so I could get it all bagged up in a hurry.


I'd done a big shopping the day before, but hadn't bought tree ears* or chile-garlic paste as I thought I already had them (I didn't). They were too expensive at the Asian store in the Market, so I decided to have Annie take me by the Viet Wah on the way back to her house. We had to stop to visit Dakki at the hospital and get her keys so we could move her car.

Dakki in her hospital nightie

Once we got to Annie's I realised that I'd forgotten to bring dried black mushrooms (actually, I thought she'd have some but she didn't). We went back to my house for those. Then Annie remembered that there were some movies in for her at the library that she had to pick up before they went away. I was frantically cooking, so didn't go with her. While she was gone I discovered that she didn't have any dried chiles de arbol, a crucial ingredient in my bok choy recipe, so I called her up to tell her to get some at the Red Apple on her way home. Her phone never rang, so we had to go back out to get some from my house. I finally had all my ingredients and could cook in earnest.

Chinese food

The dinner was a success. Julie hurt her mouth eating a chile de arbol on my behalf after Rachael dared me to, and the hot and sour soup was too salt and not very sour, but the hom baos were my best ever! The new dough recipe was a real improvement. It was easy to roll out really thin so as to make nice pleats, none of them came unstuck as they steamed, and they were really light and fluffy.

hom baos

I remembered my camera but left it in my knitting bag, so all these pictures were taken with my phone: that's my excuse for their poor quality....

*Tree ears are called 'cat ears' in Vietnamese, and 'tree jellyfish' in Japanese.

Friday, October 16, 2009

shopping trip

I went to Chinatown today to buy ingredients for a hom bao dinner I'm going to fix for Annie tomorrow (I'm going to try a new dough recipe, but it will be other wise my usual dinner of hom baos, hot and sour soup, and fake tripe). I went to the same stores I always do, but saw interesting sights that I hadn't noticed before:

A giant tin of custard powder, next to a gallon jar of mayonnaise,

big custard powder

these terrible rat traps,

mean trap

and these poor tilapia in their crowded tank.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


bag i

Above is a picture I took of the bag I knitted Rachael for her birthday this year. Click here and look at the photo illustrating this article!

Monday, October 5, 2009


My quince tree did better this year than last year, yielding enough quinces for about one-and-a-half batches of jam. I picked an equal amount of quinces from a nearby bush whose owners always let all the fruit fall to the ground and rot, so ended up with enough for three kinds of jam.

quinces ii

I've used fruit from flowering quince bushes (Chaenomeles lindl) before, but not in conjunction with fruit from my tree (Cydonia oblonga), and I had never realized how different they are. The bush quinces are small, shiny, and sticky compared to my big fuzzy tree quinces. The insides were different too: the bush quinces were crispy and translucent, and didn't brown in the air, while my tree quinces were much harder, opaque, and somehow mealy, and quickly oxidized.

peeled quinces

quince jams

I made three jams: from left to right, Honey-Quince, Quince and Orange with Cardamom (both from Mes Confitures), and Vanilla Quince, a jam of my invention. The Honey-Quince is made of bush quinces, the Vanilla Quince of tree quinces, and the Quince-Orange of a mixture. The bush quinces seem to get darker with cooking, don't they?

Vanilla Quince Jam
makes 6-7 half-pints

1.5kg quinces, about 900g when peeled and cored, cut into thin slices
300ml quince juice
800g sugar
juice of 2 lemons
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

To make the quince juice, put all the of quince trimmings in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil, and let simmer uncovered for about an hour. Strain through a cheesecloth. This always gives me right about the right amount of juice I need for my jam, but if you don't get enough you can supplement it with water or apple juice.

Put the quinces, quince and lemon juice, and sugar into a big jam pan, bring to the boil and let simmer till quinces are tender. Add the vanilla beans, take off the heat, cover, and let rest overnight. When you're ready to can it, bring to the boil and boil hard till it's 221&F: be careful, as this will probably take less than five minutes. Pluck out the vanilla beans and cut two of the halves into thirds. Pour the jam into your prepared canning jars, add a piece of vanilla bean to each jar, seal, and boiling water bathe for five minutes. Dry off your remaining vanilla beans and stick them in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.

fuzzy quince

Sunday, October 4, 2009

another banana bread

banana bread ii

Last week I made banana bread for me and Rachael to sneak into the movies (we ended up not going because she missed her bus, so I went by myself on a different day), and it turned out pretty well. It was different from my usual recipe--Rachael asked suspiciously, 'Does this have any whole-grain flour in it, Mommy?'--but I liked it just as well. It was meant to be entirely pale yellow, but I didn't have quite enough golden flax meal so had to add a little of the regular, dark kind to make up the difference.

Flaxen Banana Bread
makes 2 little loaves, or 1 bigger one

225g all-purpose flour
50g gram flour
80g golden flax meal
1 1/2t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/4t salt
1/2 grated nutmeg
1/2C oil
1T each potato starch, tapioca flour whisked into 1/4C orange juice concentrate
150g sugar
4 small bananas, mashed (about 470 g)
1/2C walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted

Heat oven to 350° and grease two 8 1/2"x4 1/2" bread pans or one 9"x5" one.

Whisk first six ingredients together in a medium bowl, and whisk the oil, orange juice mixture, and sugar together in a bigger one. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, then stir in the bananas and walnuts. Pour into your prepared pan(s) and bake for 45-55 minutes.

Let cool in pans ten minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool more thoroughly.

banana bread i