January 2013

Books read in January:

  1. The Curfew. Jesse Ball.
  2. Powers. Ursula K. Le Guin.
  3. The Otherworlds of Medieval Insular Literature. Aisling Byrne.

As well as two abandoned books (Triton by Samuel R. Delaney and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens), to be picked up again when I have more mental energy for that king of reading in my pleasure time.

I was feeling apathetic about reading after abandoning two books, but F. nudged me into reading again by picking up some Le Guin. Now I’m in the midst of The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin.

In other news, I am now entering the Revision Stage of my PhD thesis. My supervisor informs me that the next several months will become increasingly tunnel-visioned and everything else will fall by the wayside. I suspect she might be right. So, I apologise in advance for a silent blog, missed calls, delayed or forgotten replies to emails, etc. Be patient with me, and wish me luck!

Postponed

I know I said to tune back in today for the results of the Food Log experiment. Come back on Saturday once I’ve had a chance to do the calculations and write up a ‘report’. (Come back before then, because there will be a book post tomorrow and a photo on Friday!)

…meanwhile, it’s so windy here that I’ve had to get off my bike and walk. I’m thinking of strapping bricks to the bottoms of my shoes…

Vegetable enchiladas

I grew up in San Antonio, and I love Mexican/Tex-Mex food. However, I live in Scotland, where real Mexican food is nowhere to be found unless I make it myself. It’s been difficult to get the taste just right: beef just doesn’t taste the same here, I can’t find some ingredients, etc. And, most recently, I’ve been experimenting with making vegetarian Tex-Mex, something difficult to find even (especially?) in Texas.

Enchiladas are ridiculously easy to make and they don’t take very long too cook, either. The enchilada recipes I had from Los Barrios Family Cookbook call for meat and cheese in the enchiladas. If you just remove the meat from these recipes — and I do love this cookbook otherwise — your enchiladas end up being only tortillas, cheese, and salsa. Not very filling and not very exciting either. Using their recipe as a guideline, I’ve come up with my own. I’ve more or less finalised the recipe. Here it is:

Vegetable Enchiladas
Serves 3-6 (depending on serving size)

6 tortillas (corn or flour)*
500g cheddar cheese, grated
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, half of it cut into thin slices, the other half minced
1 bell pepper, cut into thin slices
1 courgette, cut into thin slices
1 carrot, cut into thin slices
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
400g refried beans
white wine vinegar
garlic powder
chili powder
ground cumin
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Saute the onion slices, bell pepper, courgette, and carrot until soft. Season with ground cumin and chili powder to taste.

2. Fill each tortilla with some of the vegetables and cheese. Roll the tortilla and place in a 9×12 baking dish, seam side down. You should be able to fit six rolled tortillas in the pan.

3. To make the salsa: mix together in a bowl the chopped tomatoes, minced onion, and jalapeño. Season to taste with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add a dash of white wine vinegar. Pour the salsa on top of the tortillas, making sure it sinks down into the nooks and crannies.

4. Next add a layer of refried beans and finish it off with the rest of the cheddar cheese. Pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until all the cheese is melted.

Serve with guacamole, sour cream, and salad garnish. Enjoy!

Tune in tomorrow for my one-week food log experiment.

* I know, enchiladas are supposed to made with corn tortillas. Corn tortillas aren’t sold anywhere in my town, however, so I have to make do with flour tortillas.

Craigowl Hill

For our adventure this past week, F. and I went hunting for snow. Although the whole country has been covered with snow the past couple of weeks, most of it hasn’t stuck in the coastal areas like where our Town is. Fortunately, we didn’t have very far to go: just a short bus ride north to Dundee and a bit farther to Tealing, and suddenly there was SNOW. We stepped out into thick snowfall, catching snow flakes on our tongues and laughing in disbelief at just how much snow there was.

We spent the afternoon tramping through knee-deep snow, sometimes falling into even deeper drifts, and going up to Craigowl Hill. Sadly, we didn’t make it to the top, but we had lots of fun besides.

IMG_7929  IMG_7928IMG_7943

I hope we have another chance to go out in the snow… I still haven’t made a snowman this winter!

Whirlwind holiday

My holiday in the U.S. was a month long, but spent in four states. Below are a few highlights from my whirlwind holiday:

San Antonio, TX
Sunny and warm (20s C/80s F) and Christmas with my parents. I got to see old friends from my home church, high school, and the Fun Day Group.

IMG_7326

Charleston, SC
A cross-country drive took us to spend second Christmas with my brother and his family and I met my youngest niece and nephew.

IMG_7432

Prosperity, SC
Then my parents and I spent a couple of days in the serenity of the Old House.

IMG_7619

McKinney, TX
Another cross-country drive took me back to Texas, where I watched lots of Star Trek and lost three games of Scrabble to Kelly.

IMG_7627

Ft Worth, TX
Then a couple of days spent with Megan, where her young neighbours had fun playing with my hair.

IMG_7629

Oklahoma City, OK
I took the train north to Oklahoma, where I hung out with Felicity and Thomas, and Felicity sewed a lining onto the hat I crocheted at Kelly’s.

IMG_7682

Los Angeles, CA
A jet plane took me to California, where I spent my last few days in the States with Sarah and David and my buddy little Isaac.

IMG_7732

*

As you can see, it was busy but very fun trip. I stocked up on lots of sunlight, Mexican food, and root beer, and had a very good time catching up with friends and family.

New: Recipe Tuesdays

A friend of mine posted a link to “13 banned foods still allowed in the U.S.” and I was intrigued by a link on that same page was to “50 Seemingly Healthy Foods that are Bad for You”. Fortunately I know to take such lists with a grain of salt, yet as I clicked through all 50 items in the slide show, I was both puzzled and bemused. So many of these foods are packaged or pre-prepared! Since when did fruity gummy snacks start counting as “healthy”? Once again, repeating the observation I made about the lack of vegetarian options in American restaurants, I saw the obsession with calorie counting. I just want to say it here loud and clear: fewer/no calories does NOT equal “healthy”!

Maybe I’m not sympathetic enough to what seems to be the target audience of people trying to lose weight by eating “healthily”. Yes, I am one of those people who always buys full-fat yoghurt and drinks semi-skimmed or whole milk. I just don’t eat junk food; my sweet tooth is picky and limited; I shy away from prepackaged sandwiches and meals; I eat until I’m satisfied and only when I’m hungry. I don’t think about calories at all when I eat or cook —  or, if I do, it’s to make sure I’m getting enough. I choose to eat what I eat because I like it and because, well, it’s healthy.

So, for an experiment, I am going to keep a log of what I eat from today until next Tuesday. And to ensure to my readers that I’m not rigging it by consciously choosing low-calorie foods I will wait to do all the calculating at the very end. I already know that the calculations are going to be tricky because I prepare most of my food.

Until then, I leave with you a recipe I recently made for dinner. This new series also will make up for my lack of book reviews: I may not read as much these days, but I still have to eat! Chosen because it is vegetarian, full of yummy veg, and colourful, F. and I enjoyed this roasted butternut squash with goat’s cheese.

Roasted butternut squash with goat’s cheese
(adapted from BBC Good Food)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or a glob)
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • half a courgette, cut into chunks
  • half a sweet red pepper, cut into chunks
  • half a carrot, cut into chunks
  • a handful of chestnut mushrooms, cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 25g pine nuts
  • 50g goat’s cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs (made from plain crackers)
  • a dash of dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp grana padano (or parmesan)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds then cut criss-cross patterns over the cut-side of each one. Mix together the garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, chilli and thyme and brush this mixture over the flesh. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, make the filling: put the courgette, pepper and onion in a roasting tin and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Season and roast for about 20-25 minutes until tender and starting to brown at the edges. Add the cherry tomatoes and pine nuts and cook for another 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley and grana padano. Arrange the roasted vegetables and goat’s cheese in the squash halves, scatter with the breadcrumb mix and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

It was delicious — and there was enough filling left over to mix with couscous the next day for a yummy lunch. The next time I make this, though, I will also peel the squash to make sure that it cooks all the way through, leaving no hard bits.

Jet-lagged

I have posts in my head, but am too jet-lagged to post them. I will eventually. I didn’t take all those pictures on my holiday for nothing.

Term starts in a week. How is it nearly the end of January already? My diary is filling up with scribbled-in meetings and events. Meanwhile a snow storm has hit the UK and I am bunkered down at home, having walked through the gale, and wanting to go back into hibernation mode. When and why did humans choose to inhabit such cold, inhospitable places?