January Frenzy

Since my last post, everything has gotten started up again, which means that I have to convince myself that I do, indeed, have sufficient energy to work hard all day, work out in the evening, and then go to bible study or some other activity after (or before, depending on the day) that.  I'm back on the kind of schedule where I spend my whole weekend in the kitchen preparing food to eat during the upcoming week.  In fact, I'm so busy that yesterday, on my birthday, I didn't even have the time to do anything out of the ordinary.

Yes, I'm 25 now.  All comments about how scary being a quarter of a century old is supposed to be aside, I'm actually really content with where I am in life, and am excited to see where things will go in my future. I'll only start sulking about my age if I hit 30 and still don't have my PhD... but if I can stay focused on my research that will not happen.

I started teaching (reminder: I'm teaching elementary science education) this week, and I have to say that this is, by far, the most fun teaching gig I've ever had.  In class on Tuesday I had to discuss very philosophical things like how to ask good questions and uncertainty, and so - no joke - I had my students count noodles.  The point of this exercise was that I didn't specify what "full" meant for the cups they were filling, plus there is a natural variation in the settling of the noodles, so students got several different counts, and we talked about why that occurred.  It's very simple stuff, but the idea of this course is to highlight the points that are important to bring up when teaching science to K-4 students.  But yes, teaching is awesome.

The cookies I've made over the past couple weeks have also been pretty awesome, despite misgivings I had about both recipes:

133. Chrusciki Leaves
Chrusciki are Polish sour cream cookies that are fried instead of baked.  As a rule, I am not a fan of fried anything, and so the idea of these cookies was just disgusting to me.  The recipe claims a yield of 9-10 dozen, and, even knowing how the yields change completely with unspecified cookie cutters, I knew I would never be able to peddle off a full recipe's worth of these cookies.  Thus, I made a half batch, which still called for half a dozen eggs and yielded about 5 dozen cookies with a standard-sized cookie cutter.

These cookies are flavored with sour cream, vanilla, lemon and orange zest (but I only had orange), and Cognac.  The mix of these is very light, and the cookies themselves have hardly any sugar in them.  Actually, starting out, these cookies have a relatively healthy set of ingredients.

...And then I had to deep-fry them.  Ugh.  Gross.  My apartment smelled like hot oil for days.  But the cookies - oh, the cookies - turned out light and delightful, with a faint flavor that was brought out fantastically by the confectioners' sugar sprinkled on them.  Since they'd been rolled out and cut into leaf shapes, they had a pastry-like texture which I and my friends really enjoyed.  The funny thing is, there's probably the same amount of fat in these as there is in shortbread cookies.  Maybe I shouldn't be so grossed out after all (or maybe I'm going to have to start avoiding shortbread).

134. Raisin Bars
I mentioned that I had misgivings with both of the recipes I'm posting this week, and I guess the potential problem here comes from one of the few ways I am picky - I don't really like raisins very much.  That said, the recipe suggest substituting figs or dates, which are quite similar in flavor and texture, but when I can I try to do things as written.

The crust of these bars is made with vegetable shortening, brown sugar, lots of rolled oats, and the usual mixture of flour, baking soda, egg, vanilla, and salt.  Using vegetable shortening instead of butter made the crust more crisp, and the brown sugar gives it a nice rich flavor.  The filling is chopped raisins, lots of white sugar, apple cider, and water, boiled together with some cornstarch to thicken it.

The filling sandwiched with the oatmeal crumble dough (and baked, of course) was pretty amazing - I'm surprised that both elements were so sweet, but still weren't overwhelming.  I think it helped that there was a decent amount of salt in the crust.  I also, upon tasting these, was reminded of my great weakness: I have no ability to resist food nostalgia.  These raisin bars tasted so much like my Grandma Carol's date bars that I ate like five of them as soon as they were cool.  To be fair, my office-mates couldn't resist either, so maybe it's just the fault of these cookies tasting REALLY good.  Seriously, try making them.  They're simple, and if you're lazy/cheap like me and forgot/don't want to go out and buy apple cider, you can throw in some of a packed of instant cider mix and everything still turns out great.

That's about it for cookies, until tomorrow.  I did want to share one more brief thing, though.  Last weekend I tried a new vegan chili recipe (although it wasn't touted as such), for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili.  This is mostly a standard chili, but it has chunks of sweet potato in it, plus ground chipotle (or cut up dried chipotle since I couldn't find the original ingredient at the store) to give it a nice spicy, smoky flavor.  I am running out of gushing adjectives, but I was very impressed by the result of this recipe, and was thrilled to eat the leftovers during the week.  It was even better when I stole some of my boyfriend's spicy chipotle sauce to give the chili more kick (I thought it was a little too mellow).

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