Recipes for Success

I had a pretty productive weekend. My wife and I ran a bunch of errands all day Saturday and then tackled the nursery. After cleaning it out and repainting what feels like forever ago, we’d only really turned the guest room into the baby junk room. But after Sunday, it’s 100% full on nursery time. I mean a baby could conceivably live there!

It went from this:

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To this:

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It only took all afternoon but it’s finished. It’s now a place where we can’t stop ourselves from peeking in the doorway as we walk by. Sunday evening, we spent an hour and a half just hanging out in there and soaking it all in. The dog joined us too which was probably good for her. She’s totally going to have first baby syndrome. I’ve tried explaining to her that just because we’re have two more babies doesn’t mean that I love her any less. In response, she usually rolls over and lifts her leg for a belly rub. I’m not sure she gets it.

There are still a few more things that need to go in there, but it’s basically done for the most part. Cross that item off the list and move down to the next hundred or more so to go.

We’re taking an all day baby class on Saturday at the hospital to brief us on what to expect during the birthing process. We could have gone for the three hours a week for three weeks version, but we didn’t have the time. Instead, it now feels like we’re cramming to have a baby. Hey, worked for all my tests, right?

As you can imagine, we’ve been thinking a lot about the future. How to be good people, how to be good parents, how to raise good kids, that kind of thing. Something always on the forefront of our minds is nutrition. I think it’s safe to say that my wife and I foodies. Well, maybe foodie-adjacent. We both love to cook and get really excited at a good farmer’s market, but if you come at me with crickets sauteed in peanut sauce on a brioche bun, my first impulse won’t be to immediately put it in my mouth. But I’d definitely think about it.

Anyway, we’re usually trying to eat better. Ever since we were serious about getting pregnant, we’ve switched to a lot of organic products. That’s not always affordable, so we do our best. But basically if we can get away with organic, we’re gonna do it. I bring all of this up, because we were already sort of against processed food but after watching Fed Up over the weekend, I’m convinced that processed food is the fucking devil. It lures you in with whispered words dripping with sugar (yes that’s a pun), but they’re all LIES!

If you haven’t seen the movie, I urge you to do so. I’ve never thought of myself as an activist, but this shit is seriously messed up. The stuff we put in our bodies in the name of food is absolutely atrocious. What’s worse though, and what makes me the sickest isn’t what the government is or is not doing, but just how powerful the almighty dollar really is. Time and again, the documentary shows when someone tried to step up and do the right thing, but ultimately the companies making us fatter and sicker are the ones who control the purse strings and strong arm these people into submission. It’s kind of horrible.

The film clearly has an agenda but I think it does a good job explaining its view point rather than just demonizing the food industry as a whole. It certainly doesn’t paint them in a favorable light, but there is actual fact, reason and scientific evidence backing up many of the filmmaker’s claims.

So now my wife and I talk about how we can make sure our kids are eating properly and how to show them vegetables are their friends. I mean if more people are going to die from food-related illnesses than from malnutrition for the first time in human history I’m pretty sure something isn’t running the way it’s supposed to. Food is what keeps us going. It shouldn’t be killing us.

That said, the writer in me is already filing this away for a killer story down the road. That wasn’t meant to be a pun, but what the hell, I’m gonna roll with it.

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Culinary Mad Science

Yesterday I was so excited to make dinner. I like to cook and cook often enough, but it was one of those nights where my wife and I were just out of ideas. All of the usual go-tos sounded boring. And I also really, really didn’t want to go to the grocery store so whatever happened had to be made out of the ingredients we already had on hand. It felt like a kitchen challenge TV show.

First was the easy part, the protein. Frozen chicken breasts would cover that. But How to spice them up? Most of the chicken we consume is either Tex-Mex style or some kind of Italian-garlic hybrid. I wanted something different. Good thing I always fight to have an array of Indian spices on hand. Shawarma seasoning? Perfect. I’d bake those in some garlic olive oil, the shawarma seasoning and a little salt and pepper at 375 degrees. I needed vegetables now.

Well, we had a half of a green bell pepper and a half of a red bell pepper left over from the last couple of nights so those were an obvious choice. I also wanted onion. We had plenty of uncut yellow onion, but I found a partially used red onion in the fridge. So the challenge-nature I put upon myself won out and I used the red. I still wanted a bit more and tossed some frozen green beans into the mix. These all went into a large sauce pain. Little olive oil so they didn’t stick. Some salt, pepper and a little shawarma seasoning of their own for flavor and consistency.

That was all great, but I wanted more. Even with the seasonings, it was the same seasoning and I didn’t want to run the risk of bland-town. That meant a secret sauce.

Something you should probably know about me is that I love Indian food. Seriously. I eat myself absolutely stupid whenever a curry dish and rice are involved. Naturally, I wanted a curry-like sauce. Here’s where it got tricky. First, I didn’t want to serve this over rice as we’d just eaten rice the previous two days and a third day in a row sounded old. Second, I wasn’t even sure we had enough rice to make if I decided to change my mind. And third, I wanted a thicker sauce that would act more like a gravy than the stew-like curry bowls like usual. This meant cooking the sauce separately instead of letting the chicken and veggies simmer in the liquid as it cooked down. This was also important in case the sauce sucked. Then I could dump it without having ruined dinner.

So with only ingredients on hand, I used the last of our coconut milk, a splash of half and half, some Madras curry powder, some turmeric and some ginger. I really wanted lime juice figuring it would compliment the shawarma stuff well, but guess what? We were out of it, so I settled for lemon juice instead. This concoction boiled for 20 minutes with constant stirring so it wouldn’t burn. It also didn’t thicken, so I added a roux with cornstarch. It totally did the trick.

I thought the whole thing would take maybe 40 minutes, figuring that’s how long the chicken would cook. I was thinking about the steps all day long as I kept looking up lemon curry recipes to make sure that those two flavors actually went together. I was so excited that I was going to take pictures of the whole process and if not outright impress all of you, then at least tantalize you with the awesomeness.

But nope. Took me an hour and a half. AND I was so caught up with timing and not burning the sauce, I didn’t snap a single picture. Not even of the finished meal. I was too tired and too hungry to remember. Instead, I tore into it like a savage.

The good news? It was freaking delicious!

I’ll make sure to take pictures next time …

The Perfect Cherry Blossom

Night number two on my own proved to be as soul-restorative as the first. I started off with some obligatory Hearthstone of course. I knocked out the third wing of Black Rock Mountain pretty easily (saving Heroic mode for something to do later) and finished up the second half of my sole daily quest. My mecha paladin deck self-explanatorily titled Gears of Justice is becoming one of my favorite decks to play. It was fun. The adventure definitely helped add some whimsy – I love reading the new boss’ hero powers for the first time (I stay away from spoilers), but after my arena marathon the other night, I was kind of Hearthstoned out.

Dinner was sushi from the grocery store.

That’s something I thought I’d never utter before, but our Kroger here is enormous. Gargantuan. So big, it could serve as disaster relief for the community in case of emergency. It recently underwent some impressive modifications which added a whole host of food options for dining, not just shopping. We also have a large Asian population in Bloomington. I don’t mean that to sound weird in any way. This is a college town with a direct line to China through our music program. Put it this way, not only is there sushi in the grocery store, there’s a sushi bar in the grocery store. It has a conveyer belt and everything!

Since the wife can’t eat sushi being pregnant and all, I picked up a couple of rolls and something called squid salad. I just had to try it and let me tell you, squid salad is delicious. That’s a second thing I thought I’d never say. I couldn’t find a matching recipe online, but it was strips of calamari, red peppers, ginger, seaweed and mushrooms in a spicy sauce.

Whether it was the sushi or a chicken and egg scenario, but I ended up drinking some scotch and watching The Last Samurai while I fiddled with some Magic cards. That’s another movie I really like. It’s a little – OK a lot – heavy on the romanticism side when it comes to foreign culture, but the scenery is gorgeous. Even half paying attention as I restructured my werewolf deck, I picked up on things I hadn’t noticed over my dozen viewings before. Maybe I did, but I don’t think I really got it, you know? I’m talking about Captain Algren’s desire to become samurai. In an epic steeped in romantic nostalgia like this, of course it sounds awesome to be samurai, but I guess I never truly understood (or had to reremember) just how much Algren hated himself for what he’d done to the Native Americans. He transposes his thoughts and feelings of one indigenous culture fighting modernity onto another in a similar situation.

The rest of you are probably like, “Duh!” But something about it really struck me this time. It’s probably because of my own writing, but I look for meaning and motivation behind actions more than ever before. Also, what happens to Billy Connolly’s character? It’s possible the guy bit it during the initial battle and I just missed it. I was wrangling my werewolf deck under control. It’s still not where I need it to be, but it’s heading in the right direction. The werewolf transformation mechanic is such a cool idea, but its really hard to pull off and be competitive in a timely fashion.

So collectible cards and movies … yep, sounds like my kind of night.

Maintenance for my site is slow going. I’ve been trying to flesh out little bits here and there to add more content.

Side note: I hate it when writers use “here and there.” I mean I get it. It’s a haphazard smattering of something, but you can just say that. I understand the intention, but it always comes off as lazy writing to me. Similarly, I hate “24/7”. Why can’t you just say, “all the time”? “24/7” is five syllables and “all the time” is three. Even though the first is an abbreviation, it’s literally longer to say than summarizing it, but I digress …

I’ve done a little work on the Comics section and uploaded the first 10 issues of my old webcomic NOD: The Animated Series. Once I took the old site down, those issues only lived on my home computer, but I wanted to put them somewhere where they could actually be seen! It’s too many to simply dump on the page so while I’m exploring options of a scrolling or viewing widget, hopefully you can whet your appetite on the first 10.

Balloons and Babies

We celebrated my birthday over the weekend. Thirty-one. We made a big deal of it last year as I was officially thirty, but now I’m officially in my thirties. This whole age thing has always felt skewed for me. I know people always say age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel. What gets me is that I meet other people who are around thirty and I’m like, “Yeah, that dude is totally thirty. Makes sense to me.” But then I look in the mirror and I don’t think that I look even remotely like Mr. Otherguy Thirty. I definitely don’t look like I’m twenty. I look, I don’t know, Dan-age, I guess.

Aside from some philosophical quandaries, my birthday also  meant an excuse to eat some delicious food I’d otherwise wouldn’t have much of an excuse for. White chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies! Who said that chocolate-chocolate and peanut butter are married?  The big day also gave us a reason to go out for a meal too. It’s not that we don’t typically eat out, but Rachel and I pride ourselves on our cooking and with future beings to save for, the discussion of whether or not we should go to a restaurant usually boils down to: Can we make food of similar or even better quality ourselves and is the price point worth getting out of the house for? We stay in quite a bit.

We’re also pretty good cooks.

Last weekend I discovered the joy of seared ahi tuna. And Rachel proved once again that she is the Birthday Queen.

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We like Up. A lot.

Our Hawaii plans have been put on hold indefinitely as there are new critters to care for, but not only did I receive some great sentimental gifts from my wife, but a promise of adventures yet to come. See what I mean? We really like that movie.

She came down with a cold and Easter plans were also put on hold this weekend. That left me with a lot of time indoors and time on my hands, so I put it to good use and worked on the future nursery. We had to get rid of the guest room, but we didn’t have that many guests anyway. Two babies means two of everything, except for rooms as we try and save space.

Here’s me working while under the supervision of their older sister.

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Even with cramming two cribs in there, the room is going to be pretty small, but it took me a solid 5+ hours to prime and paint the darned thing. There’s still a second coat to go, but I’m a little painted out. On top of that, I’m still doing the jobs of two people at work, ran four miles before even going into work this morning, and I may or may not be coming down with what Rachel’s picked up. So we’ll see how motivated I feel tonight.