It’s time to say goodnight to twenty-fifteen.
Goodnight, moon…I mean, goodnight, year.
At the end of every year, I like to think back on some of the new things I experienced, big and small, over the past twelve months. Some of them are accomplishments…some are really more like sicknesses or injuries.
what i’ve done this year:
2015 favorite recipes:
I discovered and created a lot of new recipes, and screwed up twice as many. There are some that I’m in the process of revising and testing again right now, but most of them are good. Here the ones I’m the most proud of:
My resolutions for this past year were to write more, take more photos, cook/bake more, and just in general, produce more. Let’s compare:
I wrote 9 in 2014 on this blog, from August to December (five months.) This post marks the 28th post of 2015, nineteen more than the last year (and doing the math to calculate how many I could have written from January 2014 through December 2014, seven more.)
I didn’t actually finish my 2015 creativity journal, but I did make up for it by starting a cooking/baking notebook, a career journal, and two freelance writing jobs (I am finally getting paid to write, y’all. oh my lord.)
National Novel Writing Month:
Like the journals, I failed to finish my second attempt at NaNoWriMo, throwing in the towel at about 37,000 words due to gaining a new job the same month, and coming down with a killer cold on my first day of work. I do resolve to finish both the second novel and the first one I worked on a year ago.
According to my editing software, Adobe Lightroom 3, I took 4,141 photos in 2014, and 10,828 in 2015 (all photos, even duplicates and the ones I never edited or uploaded.) I would say that’s an improvement.
It seems…I also did not meet this goal. Last year, I got through 14 books. This year, I managed 12. To be fair, though, I’ve been reading a book since September (it’s the densest book I have ever read) AND I am currently reading FOUR books simultaneously (because apparently that’s what I do.) Had I dedicated more time to sitting down and reading, I could easily have managed 16. (Coincidentally I also have about 16 magazines sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be read…I’m just terribly far behind on reading in general.) At least now I know what I can manage: 12 – 15 books in one year. It’s not that I’m a slow reader. It’s that (1) I generally like to read non-fiction, and in order to avoid overloading my brain, I tend to read those slowly, and (2) I don’t sit down to read often enough.
While in Japan, I cooked dinner for myself at least twice a week. Since moving home, I’ve managed to make dinner not only for myself, but for my parents, with many left overs, twice a week. I also mastered a fabulous French onion soup AND mulligatawny stew recipe (with some guest appearances from tomato soup and blue cheese soup, and a brief foray into roux with white shrimp sauce.) I’ll take it, considering my 2016 resolution (coming up.)
I have a tendency to create expectations for myself that are too high. This is ironic, given my hate-hate relationship with the entire concept of “expectation.” But it’s also understandable, if you consider that I’m an obsessive planner and can never seem to just sit still in the present moment. Because of this, I’m taking extra effort, with every bit of irony, to make a general, achievable, low-maintenance New Year’s Resolution:
I usually try to be really specific and achieve something small, something different than what you usually hear as common resolutions, but this coming year, I resolve to exercise, get fit, cook more, eat better, and learn about my body. This means using the gym membership that I (my mom) has been paying for since September, going to yoga once a week, focusing on savory recipes more than sweet, continuing my exploration of alternative diet (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.), and reading about how to be…”healthy.”
I hesitate to equate “healthy” with “fit” or with any notion of size. Instead, I resolve to be both healthy and fit, regardless of size or weight. I would like a flat stomach again, but we’ll see what happens.
There you have it, The Last Post of the Year.
See y’all on the other side!
previous saturday spices:
[cloves, eugenia caryophyllis/syzgium aromaticum, the nail spice]
The word “clove” comes from the Latin clavus, meaning “nail” on account of their being shaped like nails. The spice is the dried, unopened bud of an evergreen, Syzgium Aromaticum.
Cloves, like cardamom, are a native of the Spice Islands (Molucca Islands/Malaka Islands) in Indonesia, east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The spice has played a major role in world history since before the birth of Christ. From the 4th to the 15th century, common era, the Arab world controlled the spice trade, until the Portuguese sailed all the way to Indonesia in 1514 CE and established a monopoly. During the 8th century, spices were commonly traded throughout Europe and Italy, the port of entry, profited from the industry.
In the early 17th century, the Dutch landed in the Molucca Islands and established their own monopoly alongside the Portuguese. Together, they ruled over the spice trade until the 18th century, when spices were being grown all over the world, prices were lowered as a result, and people at all levels of society had access to the materials.
In order to maintain their control over the trees, the Dutch burned any clove trees planted outside their dominion, upsetting the locals. It was a tradition in Indonesia to plant a clove tree for the birth of a child, linking the life of the tree to the fate of the child, and the destruction of these trees by the Dutch was a great offense to the children to whose lives they were tied. People revolted, inciting bloody war over the clove trees.
While the Dutch and Portuguese held reign over the spice trees, cloves and other spices were worth their weight in gold, but by the time Magellan reached them, prices had dropped dramatically and the monopolies had dissolved. Now, cloves are grown in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Mauritius, Ternate, Tidore, and around Indonesia. In fact, Tanzania now produces 80% of the world’s supply of cloves.
how cloves are used
Cloves have significant medicinal value, as well as long-standing culinary use. The buds contain eugenol, a natural anesthetic, and salicylic acid. As a result, they have served to relieve toothaches, nausea, indigestion, coughs, and other medical ailments. In food, they’re a key ingredient in meat glazes, soup stocks, spice mixes, Worcestershire sauce, gingerbread, spiced pastries, and winter beverages, as well as the base for Indonesian clove cigarettes, kreteks.
As I have learned from first-hand experience, the flavor of the bud is powerful, so use it sparingly. If you’re using 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, for example, consider only using 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon of cloves, unless you like the fuzzy numb feeling on your tongue.
what can i make with cloves?
Cloves pack a punch, so beware how much of the spice you use. A small pinch is enough to give you a full flavor experience. Here are two of my recipes that use the spice:
gingersnaps | | glazed ham | | indian curry | | eggnog | | pumpkin pie | | spiced apple cider | | mulled wine | | chai | | cincinnati chili | | soup stock
ACH Food Companies. “Spice Encyclopedia: Cloves.” Spice Advice.
Bentley, Robert and Henry Trimen. Medicinal Plants. UCLA History and Special Collections. London, Churchill, 1880.
Discover Indonesia Online. “Maluku: History of Maluku.” indahnesia.com. (20 May 2011.)
Gladen, Cynthia. “Cloves.” University of Minnesota Libraries.
Rayment, W.J. “History of Cloves.” InDepthInfo.
upcoming saturday spices:
Categories: saturday spice
What is my favorite thing about baking, you ask?
Well, I have to test the recipes a lot before I feel confident calling them “my own,” let alone “successful,” and as a result…I get to eat a lot.
And if I’m making something buttery or high-carb-y, and my parents are on a diet, I have to eat a lot, a lot. I mean…I get to eat a lot, a lot.
When I was in Japan, I discovered the versatility of rice flour as a gluten-free ingredient, and ever since it’s become my goal to really get to know gluten-free ingredients, and to find recipes using the more common, easier-to-find, and cheaper ingredients.
Also, I started budgeting again and, y’all, it ain’t lookin’ good.
I spent the entire month of November on a muffin journey: testing out the previous monthly muffin, then attempting to make a gluten-free version, testing every flour combination imaginable (white rice + brown rice, white rice + buckwheat, white rice + half a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, white rice + soy flour, and white rice + chickpea flour.) I discovered that they all work well as long as you have a base of white rice flour, plus a high-fiber flour. You can also do 100% white rice flour for a lighter muffin, but for those of you who, like me, need to hibernate immediately, hearty is good.
I also tested out dairy and non-dairy versions: buttermilk, greek yogurt, and soy milk.
In all, I made enough muffins to feed the city, and when I was just about to start the dairy testing, but realized I had no more puree left, I picked out a recipe for the January monthly muffin (shhhh, it’s a secret. duh.) The texture of these muffins is so unbelievable, you’d never guess they’re gluten-free. None of the weird gummy-crumbly-heavy-like-a-boulder stuff, and you don’t have to break the bank searching for flours you’ve never heard of (but if you would like to do so, by all means, go ahead.) When it came to non-dairy milk, I decided just to try a totally vegan version, and those turned out as well as the rest, albeit a little smaller and drier.
All substitutions included in the recipe below.
gluten-free sweet potato muffins (with vegan substitutions below)
adapted from whole wheat pumpkin streusel muffins
makes 1 dozen
80 g white rice flour
80 g high-fiber gluten-free flour (brown rice, soy, chickpea, buckwheat) or 80 g white rice flour (160 g total)
80 g starch (tapioca and cornstarch combined, or one of the two)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
80 g buttermilk*
150 g maple syrup or agave nectar
45 g canola oil
200 g sweet potato puree
extra: pecans, raisins, brown sugar, streusel topping, crystallized ginger
*You can substitute greek yogurt, milk (dairy or non-dairy), or dried buttermilk. For greek yogurt, the batter will be thicker, so add a few extra grams of yogurt (90-100 g), and for milk, substitute 1:1 (80 g.) If you use dried buttermilk: 80 g water into the wet mixture and 4 teaspoons of buttermilk powder into the dry.
**You can make these vegan by using 80 g non-dairy milk and 20 g vinegar in the wet mixture, and 3 tsp baking soda (10 g vinegar + 1 tsp baking soda = 1 egg), instead of 1 tsp in the dry mixture. These will be a little drier than the recipe, so I would do 160 – 170 g syrup instead of 150.
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cups.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, starch, salt, baking soda and powder, and spices.
In a large bowl, whisk together syrup, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and puree.
Dump dry mix into wet and mix quickly. If desired, mix in extras (nuts, raisins, etc.) and divide evenly among muffin cups, ~3 Tbsp per cup, then top with streusel, nuts, cinnamon brown sugar, or whatever else you like.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until firm to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool in pan, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
I like them best when they’re topped with cinnamon and brown sugar.