Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Batter-fried Cauliflower Pakoras

Batter-fried Cauliflower Pakoras

Cauliflower, about 2 cups, sliced into cross sections no more than ½ inch thick
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup water
oil, for frying

Combine flour, curry powder, salt, baking soda, and water to make a smooth, thick batter.  It should not be runny.  If it is too thick you can add 1-2 more tablespoons of water, but don’t make it too thin or it won't coat the cauliflower well enough.

Mix well.

Warm ½ inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  The oil is ready for frying when a drop of batter quickly crisps.

Coat the cauliflower slices in batter and carefully place in the oil.  Don’t crowd the pan.

Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Transfer to newspaper or paper towel to absorb excess oil. 



You can train yourself to do just about anything.  I am a firm, firm believer in that.  It takes time and will, but you can do it.  The human spirit is an amazing thing.  We are capable of so much, but I think we too often limit ourselves.  “I can’t do it.”  “I don’t like it and never will.” “It is too hard.”  “Its not worth the effort.”  “I’m too old to change now.”  "It's too late."

I don't believe that.  For the vast, vast, vast  majority I think change is always possible.  If we desire change enough we can make it happen.

A little story for illustration: 
When I was growing up I had to be just about one of the pickiest eaters in the world.  I always was so grateful that my parents accommodated my picky eating and never, say, forced me to sit at the table all night until I ate my spinach.  They mostly just made green beans with cheese for me because they knew that was a vegetable I’d eat.  And that was that.  I liked light tan and white stuff mostly—rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, chicken, cheese.  I ate virtually no vegetables once I moved out of my parent’s house, not that I ate much aside from green beans while I was there.  But, then I wanted to become a vegetarian, but I didn’t eat vegetables or beans... which was an issue.  So, I had some work to do.  Slowly and surely I made my diet take just about a complete 180 degree turn.  Now I love vegetables and beans with a passion that I could have never predicted ten years ago.  

Even within that story is a sub-story that further illustrates:  I still hated certain vegetables, like the dreaded broccoli.  I wanted to like it.  I really, really did.  Matt likes it, we’ve grown it, and I hear it’s so good for you.   I really wanted to like it.  So, I kept trying and trying (steamed, roasted, stir-fried, etc.) and now I willingly eat broccoli.  Is it my favorite vegetable?  Certainly not, but it isn’t bad.  I eat it and enjoy my meal still.  Preference for taste is not set in stone at all, but I think a lot of people believe that it is.

Or how about this one:
I was convinced I hated to cook.  For the first two or more years of our relationship Matt did, and I am probably not exaggerating, 99% of the cooking.  I had no interest.  I’ve since realized it was a two-fold issue.  One, I just didn’t have a clue what I was doing in the kitchen which intimidated me.  Two, I had little motivation to make anything more complex than boxed convenience dinners which aren’t a satisfying way to cook like cooking from scratch is—it doesn’t give you a thrill to serve Hamburger Helper “lasagna” that way it does when you pull a lasagna made with your own two hands out of the oven. 

However, when I started paying attention to where my food came from and the quality of the food I was eating I suddenly found the motivation to learn to cook.  If I wanted to eat healthy, delicious, and affordable food I was going to have to learn to make it myself.  These days I’d say it’s very safe to say I adore cooking and baking.  It makes me so happy inside when I am in the kitchen making up something delicious.  It is an amazingly practical way to express creativity and I’ve found it brings joy to those who share meals with you.  I love sharing a meal with those I care about.  Talk about a simple, beautiful pleasure.  Again, I’d have never predicted this turn of events.  I expected to eat frozen pizza and Campbell’s soup for the rest of my life.  Now I wouldn’t dream of it.

Maybe I should offer some non-food related examples, just in case you are like I used to be and not really that into food.

How about walking?  I used to think walking was a from-the-house-to-the-car-to-class-to-the-car-to-the-house-again sort of activity.  Or something done while camping.  I can’t really explain that attitude now as it seems so odd looking back on it.  I just didn’t really walk places.  If I needed to go to the store or a friend’s house or something I got in my car.  But, when Matt and I decided to consolidate to one car that meant both of us would be doing a lot more walking than we used to.  And to my surprise, I really, really, really enjoy it.  Walking is now my preferred mode of transportation, barring long road trips of course.  I firmly believe that walking pace is the perfect pace to approach the world.  It is so calming and seems to foster appreciation for surroundings and reflection in thought.  Aside from the coldest days of winter I look forward to walking home from work.  It is my alone time.  I enjoy walking home even more than riding my bicycle.  It is slower to walk, but more pleasant to do.  Matt and I go for walks in the evenings several times a week.  Nowhere to go, nothing to see…just a few blocks or many blocks as the weather permits…to stroll and enjoy the sky, the trees, the houses, the neighbors, the clouds, the birds, the flowers, the cats, the icicles, the…whatever we come upon.

While visiting Denver we mapped out our destination from the hotel.  It was just a little over two miles.  I said something like “Two miles, oh that’s nothing.” 

Or quitting smoking—that was a huge effort towards retraining myself.  As I said in an earlier post, I fully expected to smoke for the rest of my life.  I didn’t want to, but I didn’t see any other way.  But, try, try, try again (about 20 times) and here I am…a very content non-smoker for more than five years.   It’s easy.  I don’t even think about it anymore.

Or even something as simple as learning to type without looking at your hands.  I can remember taking keyboarding class in junior high and being convinced it was impossible.  But, practice, practice, practice, and I learned it isn't.  It's just a matter of training.
I am not sure this all came out with the impact I hoped, but let the message not be diluted by my rambling examples.  You can train yourself to do nearly anything you want—be it to eat a wider variety of foods, or to juggle, or make bread at home, or run a 5K, or learn to knit, or do a headstand, or whatever you desire.   Just go do it.  You can do it if you put your will behind it and just don’t quit.  I can almost promise you that after a while, and probably not as long as you’d think, it will be easy and routine.  It just takes practice.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ojos: Instructions from the Master

I learned how to make my ojos de dios from Jay Mohler's website a couple years back.  He had text describing the steps and some photos and with a little practice I figured it all out.  The instructions were good, don't get me wrong, but they weren't laid out in the most user-friendly way.  I mean no offense to Mr. Mohler.  He was giving away the instructions for free after all.  In any case, I went back recently to show the website to a friend and noticed that Jay had kindly made a PDF of his instructions.  So, if you feel like giving it a go you now have all the instructions wrapped up in one nice little file.  The link is here.  Have fun!

Audiobooks & A CyberVacation

I can more or less describe my lack of online presence in two simple sentences. 
#1 I’ve been too busy reading good books.  #2 I’m buying a house. 

Maybe I should have flipped those around numerically, but though the house-buying is much more important it is actually reading books over lunch break rather than blogging that is the source of the, shall we say, cyber vacation.  There are so many good books out there.  And then, even when I did have a moment where I managed to stop reading I was busy with house stuff.

We’ll be moving into the new house in March and I’m sure I’ll tell you all about then.

But, back to books….or more specifically...to audiobooks.
  I have sort of fallen in love with audiobooks, but not without a few misgivings about the technology.   I received an ipod from my dad for my birthday last summer.  Months before I’d mentioned I might like to try an mp3 player.  He’s good with remembering those sorts of things and so I got a ipod for my birthday.  But, I ended up not using it too much for a while—mostly on road trips.  I'd thought I'd like it for bicycling, but discovered I didn’t because it didn’t feel safe to me. 

But, then in the fall  I discovered the free Montana Library2Go audiobook program at my public library (which is not the library where I work).
  It opened up a whole new world of books.  I could listen to a book while I did the dishes or mowed the lawn (with the quite rotary mower).  I could listen to books while I folded laundry and while I walked home from work.  Suddenly I was flying through the books, one after another, several at the same time.  I was getting so much more “reading” time in compared to when I exclusively used traditional print books.  In fact, I just counted my little list there on the right and I am at 29 books already this year (10 of which are audiobooks).  It seems that I might be going to surpass the 75 total books from last year.  
(The nearly compulsive drive to read which was brought on by the audiobooks also spurred me on to read loads of print books, too.  I just want to read, read, read.)

But, my audiobook misgivings have to do with the experience of reading a traditional paper book versus an audiobook being read to you.
  I am not sure I retain the details quite as vividly.  I think that maybe you lose a little of the independent imagination of reading—like how someone sounds, the cadence or tone or volume of a voice, the accents—when someone else is reading it to you they are the ones to decide that stuff.  When you are reading to yourself you are in charge of creating those things.  For example Matt and I had difference takes on the main character of A Dirty Job, which he read and which I listened to.  Not huge differences, but differences none the less.  I thought he was harried, but that was just how the reader made him sound.

I’ve found non-fiction far less enjoyable in audiobook format.
  I want to re-read statistics and figures.  I want to read endnotes as I go along.  I want to be able to flip back to a certain passage to discuss it with Matt.  That is all easier in a traditional book format, if you ask me.  Philosophy books are impossible for me to listen to.  I need to stop and ponder and re-read too frequently for it to work.

I also have misgivings about going through the world with earbuds in for a variety of reasons.
  I feel I can’t say hello to the folks I pass on the street and that is something I really enjoy--it is a simple act of community I don't want to miss out on.  I also feel I am less safe being unable to hear approaching cars or pedestrians with earbuds in.  I worry I’ll become one of “those people”—constantly plugged in—those who demand constant technological stimulation and can’t just be alone with quiet thoughts or the sights and sounds of the world they pass through.  The first two I've sort of dealt with by only using one earbud at a time.  The third is a little trickier....

In the end I think something that makes me an even more ravenous reader can't be that bad.  Still, the coincidence of listening to You Are Not a Gadget or Feed on the little digital gadget plugged straight into my head was not lost on me.