Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sweet Comfort in a Bowl - Rice Pudding

Last night, I was treated to a lovely dinner at Spark, a classy club-like establishment in downtown Provo. I ordered butternut squash ravioli in a leek cream sauce. It was warm & filling, with many complex, yet subtle, flavors. It was delicious & lead to an epiphany: I don't do subtle. I like it, but I'm not good at it. The dishes I cook are full of bold, fresh, outspoken flavors (I feel like I just described myself more than my cooking). So, in an attempt to broaden my culinary range (& myself), today I opted for a classic simple comfort food--rice pudding.

There's something really cozy--and subtle--about rice pudding. There are a lot of reasons for that; the warm creaminess, the vanilla, the cinnamon. But I think mostly it's because of Costco and the giant tubs of Kozy Shack rice pudding that they sell. Back when Gooj & I made frequent pilgrimages to that Mecca of bulk foodstuffs, we would often buy one of those giant tubs of goodness, steal a couple spoons from the Costco eatery, and eat half of the pudding before we even got home. This was occasionally messy, but always delicious.

So today, in homage to my Gooj (& because it sounds yummy and goes with the whole subtle thing), I thought I'd try making my own cozy rice pudding. This is based on a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, a recipe blog that full of wit, great recipes, and pictures that make me ashamed of my sad attempts at kitchen photography.

Rice Pudding
1 cup basmati rice
4 cups water
2 slices orange zest
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
dash of allspice
1 small piece fresh ginger (about a 1/8 inch slice)

1 egg
3 cups milk
2 tblsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Mexican vanilla
1 12 oz. can sweetened condensed milk - less about 1 1/2 tblsp
cinnamon - to taste

In a large saucepan, combine rice, water, orange peel, nutmeg, allspice, and fresh ginger. I also added a pinch of salt. Let this mixture soak for 1 hour. After one hour of soaking--this is like a day at the spa for rice-- bring to a high boil. Reduce heat until rice is at a steady simmer. Cook for 12–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the almost all of the water has evaporated. Remove ginger.

While rice cooks, beat egg in a medium bowl. Add milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and almost the entire can of sweetened condensed milk to the egg--I held some back because I didn't want it to be too sweet, but if you want something a bit more toothsome, you can add the entire can. Add milk mixture to rice and simmer gently. Cook for another 20–30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Keep an eye on the heat; if your flame is too high, the rice will  stick and scorch on the bottom (these stuck spots became my "testers"). 

When the pudding reaches the consistency that looks most yummy to you, turn off the heat & allow it to cool for a few minutes (or until completely cool, if you prefer). Pudding will thicken as it cools.

Top with cinnamon and serve. mmhmm.

*photos to come*

Friday, February 26, 2010

Something I Didn't Write

...but how I wish I had. I found this on a blog that also isn't mine. I believe it was taken from First Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke.

And it's lovely.

Understand, I'll slip away quietly
Away from the noisy crowd.
When I see the pale
Stars rising, blooming over the oaks,
I'll pursue solitary pathways
Through the pale twilit meadows, 
With only this one dream:
You come too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Random Amalgam

Some random thoughts for the day:

Number of things I have eaten today: 3
Number of things I have eaten today that contained spinach: 3 (yup, even breakfast)
Are my eyes bright green YET?

Today I learned that the fur on the hood of my coat has a purpose. I learned this because I took the fur off. Bad move. Its purpose is to catch all the snowflakes that usually get in your eyes and hold them captive in all of its furry fury. I had very wet eyelashes when I got to class this morning.

I think I have Multiple Fashion Personality Disorder. Yesterday, I wore skinny jeans, tweed ballet flats, and a tailored white blouse from BR. It required almost no matching skills from me and felt very '50s/Audrey cute/springtimey. This might also be called "Kels' Ideal Outfit." Today I'm scuffing around in my blue chucks with plain jeans and a blue long-sleeved thermal top. Monochrom/pajamas. It's cold? For the sake of I just want to, this is yesterday's ensemble. I now feel like one of those fashionista bloggers & their selftimers. gah. It's really a shame you can't see how perfect this shirt is - it has tan buttons and sleeves that poof, just so.
this is me, being narcissistic. & cheeky.
And then there's this: I call it "Juxtaposition." 

thanks, facebook
Happy Wednesday. Thanks for wandering through my random thoughts with me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lemon Butter & Green Veggie Pasta

I've been on a veggie kick of late (it's crazy how eating green things can make you feel so much better--green gummy bears are included in my category of life-improving green things). Last night, I was craving some simple noodles with some fresh green goodness. I threw together this super simple pasta dish in about 15 minutes.

Lemon & Garlic Butter Pasta with Broccoli & Spinach
1 box rotini noodles
1 head of fresh broccoli
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 clove fresh garlic
2 tblsp. fresh lemon juice (I used that fake lemon from a bottle and it was still good)
4 tblsp. butter
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese
salt &  pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring about 1 1/2 quarts of water to a bowl. Salt water and add noodles. As the noodles cook, prep broccoli and spinach. Rinse broccoli and cut into small florets a.k.a. bite-size bits.  Chiffonade spinach leaves. (Chiffonade is a fancy French word that means "to shred or cut finely." Here's how it's done: First, take a handful of your spinach and stack the leaves so the lie fairly flat; this doesn't have to be perfect, just a bit organized. Second, roll the stack of leaves into a bundle, kind of like you would roll up a newspaper. Third, place the bundly on a cutting board--keep holding on to it, or it will come unrolled--and slice through the bundle of leaves with a sharp knife, just like you would to cut a cucumber into rounds. I made my slices about 1/4 inch thick. This technique can also be used to chop fresh basil, mint, sage, and even cilantro and parsely.) Set veggies aside - they don't join the party until later.

As the pasta continues to boil, melt 2 tblsp. of butter in a small saute pan. Dice garlic and add to sizzling butter. Combine red pepper and a bit of cracked black pepper. Saute until garlic turns slightly golden brown. (And fills your entire apartment with its aroma, as my roommates could testify.) Add remaining 2 tblsp. of butter and remove from heat.

Test pasta. As so as it is almost done as you like it, add the broccoli. The broccoli only needs to cook with the pasta for about 1 minute. Drain pasta and broccoli and add back to the pan. While the pasta is still hot, stir in the spinach. The left-over heat will cook the spinach just enough, leaving it a lovely green color. Just before serving, add lemon juice to melted butter. Stir thouroughly and pour over pasta and veggies.

Server topped with plenty of parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.

*Unfortunately, there are no pictures of this dish, as I gobbled it up too quickly. So, instead, since I'm craving summertime even more than green veggies, there's this. Cause nothing says summer like rainbow sandals, beat-up concrete, bare legs, and bright blue toenails.*

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ginger Glazed Sweet Potatoes & Spinach Smoothies

a.k.a - The College Girl's Anti-Scurvy Dinner.

Lately, my diet has been very well rounded. And by "well rounded" I mean bagel, tortilla, and cheerio shaped. Being a TA and tackling the last of my classes for my minor in editing has kept me so busy the the whole concept of sitting down to eat a meal has been a bit neglected. Bananas and Honey Nut Cheerios are breakfast, an asiago bagel is lunch, and by the time I get home each night, a quesadilla is about all I can manage.

But this is NOT HEALTHY. So. After a very productive (and very needed--my milk definitely tasted a bit "special" on Tuesday morning) trip to the market last night, I'm treating myself to a host of veggie splendor.

I have a major thing for sweet potatoes and, of late, a major thing for ginger (see last three recipes), so I thought I would bring the two together in hopes of splendid results. Voila! This sweet potato recipe is very loosely based on a recipe I found HERE at Food Network--thanks, friends. Also, sweet potatoes are full of vitamins, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. One sweet spud will give you over 700% of your daily need of vitamin A. And ginger has been shown to promote good digestive health.

Brown Sugar & Ginger Glazed Sweet Potatoes
4 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 tblsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 to 1 tsp. diced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne peper
salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 sweet potatoes, diced

Heat oven to 425* F. Wash and peel sweet potatoes, then slice into slightly-bigger-than-bite-size chucks. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, brown sugar, cayenne, and ginger. And sweet potatoes and toss until the potatoes are well coated in the glaze. Bake at 425 for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Spinach & Pineapple Smoothie a.k.a Goojah's Green Goodness
Credit for this recipe goes to my mother (fondly called Goojah), who became enlightened about the goodness of spinach smoothies thanks to the wisdom of a friendly Costco taster/demo lady. This recipe makes about two smoothies.

2 cups fresh spinach, packed
1/2 can of crushed pineapple or about a cup of fresh pineapple
1/2 cup white grape juice concentrate
2 tblsp. limeaid concentrate
1 1/2 cups ice
(opt) 1 ripe banana

Add it all to your blender and blend on high (you might need to add a bit of water). If you don't want to stain your kitchen green, be sure the lid is on tight. Blend and pulse until smooth, about 1 minute. Enjoy - just try not to think about how what you're drinking looks a bit like pond scum. :)

Just Listen

*stay tuned for two new [super veggie] recipes*

You should probably listen to/watch these things. Your soul will thank you.

Vitamin String Quartet is my latest music obsession; they cover popular rock songs via, well, strings--cello, violin, and viola. Many thanks to the Crandalls for introducing me to this incredible new source of music. Their awesomeness is worthy of a bulleted list of hyperlinkage--and these are just my "must listens."
Oh, and while you're at it, watch this version of "21 Guns" by Green Day--apparently they're making a musical? Who knew. Anywho, it's fantastic.

That should keep you entertained for a few hours. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ties of Love - 6 Months Later

6 months ago today, I was getting on an airplane and beginning the biggest journey of my life. The sun was just coming up as I departed Salt Lake City. 34 hours later, after touching down in Hong Kong, I would finally see the sun set. (Snow Patrol was my flying music of choice, hence the new additions to the playlist.)

24 days, 8 flights, 1,783 pictures, and 37 friendship bracelets later, I was back in the US. My three weeks in India with Rising Star Outreach were some of the best weeks of my life. Every day held new experiences, new opportunities to serve, new opportunities to love. Six months later, I still think about the strength of the incredible people I met in the leprosy colonies every day. I still miss the little ones who taught me so much about unconditional love. Here are few of my favorite photos from those three weeks.

This "bracelet" was a gift from my buddy Aravind. The children loved giving the volunteers gifts; we were constantly finding stickers, candy wrappers, leaves, pictures, and strings accompanied by little love notes. These little strings are faded and worn, now, and soon I'll finally take them off and tuck them away in my journal. But for now they remind me that sometimes the greatest love is shown in the smallest ways.

At Rising Star, birthdays are a big deal. On Rosemary's fifth birthday, she got to wear a beautiful fancy dress and share a huge cake with all of the other students.

Mariadas and co excitedly awaiting their slice of cake.

Playing with my little Ajay on my last day at Rising Star.

Though I made many friendship bracelets while at the school, these two were very special. When I first arrived at Rising Star, Ajay was a very quiet little fellow who didn't spend much time with the volunteers. But a few days later, he and I were having thumb wars and reading some stories before bedtime. The days are long at RSO, and a very tired Ajay fell asleep in my arms. That subtle display of love and trust opened my heart. Ajay and I became very close during my time at RSO, and he blossomed with a bit of special attention and love. I made these identical bracelets a few days before I returned to the US, and mine hasn't left my wrist since.

Playtime with my favorite little climbers, Ajay, Mariadas, Jarnarthanan, and Sebastin.

My first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, where I watched the sun rise on my twentieth birthday.

Taking care of a very ill Kristaraj on Independence Day in India.

My dear friend Ravi Chandran. Never have a known a kinder man with a brighter or more loving spirit. Though he has been affected by leprosy for most of his life, he spends most of his time taking care of the other patients of the small leprosy hospital he calls home. Singing and laughing with Ravi was a highlight of my time in India.

With fellow volunteers Jared, Sami, Kristin, and Jenny in the home of one of the leprosy patients.

Can't you see the mischief in Satia's eyes? She's full of it.

Carly, Karly, and me in our India best with Joyce and Ron Hanson.

Lunch - mmm, Limca... how I miss thee.

Though the colors have faded (along with my summer tan), the memories of the people I came to love have not. I am so grateful that I was blessed with such an incredible opportunity. I went to India thinking I would be teaching English, but I learned so much more than I ever taught.
Naan unae khadlikkiren.
(I love you)