Archive for May, 2009

Let’s Cooking with Ronin: Nigel and Dog Soup/Pie

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Select a bowl from the stack of bowls on the shelf. Jostle all bowls violently around so that they make an ear-splitting racket; do this for at least two minutes. Put Nigel in a bowl.

Put the bowl with Nigel on the floor. Get the blue pie plate and put it on the floor too. Dog is already in the pot so we can ignore him for now.

Let’s put Nigel in the blue bowl. Nigel pie!

Reserve bowl for later use.

Give Nigel a turn or two in the blue bowl. You may want to put him back in the other bowl and then into the blue bowl a number of times.

[This is the tricky part requiring much skill and physical exertion. I made a video so you can study Ronin’s technique to reproduce at home. Don’t expect to get it right the first time, it takes hours of practice and hundreds upon thousands of repetitions.]

[flash /images/2009/0905/ro_cooks_sm.flv w=400 h=300 f={autostart=false}]

Dog is done in the pot for now. Let’s get some more ingredients!

Better yet, let’s try the pot out ourselves! You might get stuck in the pot unless you are a little baby. If this happens, scream at the top of your lungs even if the mama is standing RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU just waiting for something to go wrong so she can save you.

That was fun. Let’s get back to cooking.

Here is the baby pan. Let’s put Nigel in it! Smash him in there.

Okay we’re done with Nigel in the pan; put Nigel in the blue bowl now. Put wooden vegetables and corks in the pan. Nice and mix, nice and mix…

When sauteed to perfection, dump them out onto the floor.

Put Dog back in the pot and carefully arrange the wooden vegetables, a champagne cork, and a bottle of travel shampoo.

All done! Time to go to the park!

1 polar bear puppet (Nigel)
1 dog puppet (Dog)
5 wooden vegetables and fruits
1-2 corks (to taste)
1 bottle travel shampoo

YOU WILL NEED: 1 large soup pot, 1 wee saute pan, 1 mixing bowl, 1 pie plate, and something with which to mix/flail.

Carrot Muffins

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I might have mentioned once or twice Ronin’s aversion to vegetables, or frankly, food in general on most days. She eats but sparingly and is very discerning when it comes to, well, I don’t even know what it is that turns her into a sobbing puddle on the floor. When she was very young and only eating purees, she only ate carrots. ONLY. No rice cereal, no peas, no bananas, no nothing else. Just carrots. Luckily she quickly outgrew that but then she also hasn’t eaten carrots since—acts like we’re trying to poison her if we sneak a bit of carrot into her mouth. I’m overjoyed that she often will accept broccoli but I still spend a great deal of time thinking about ways to get other vegetables in her. The answer: through trickery.

This is a recipe I found online but then mangled somewhat (I do this). It’s not necessarily low fat but it is low sugar sort of. Or maybe not. I don’t know. It has a high carrot to flour ratio, which I like.

[Here’s the point where I said to myself, “I should totally blog this,” and ran for the camera. Clearly this is a not-terribly-photogenic step in the muffin process but I cleared the moldy pear out of the way and shot a photo anyway. Here you can plainly see one carrot’s worth of gratings, three unmolested carrots ruefully awaiting their fate, a bowl of flour, and some dirty dishes.]


DRY (mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon each: mace, allspice, cloves

[Because I am an insane person, I prefer to use a fine grater for my carrots. This grater is great, mostly. I like it because it is ingenious (container below!) and pretty (i.e., SHINY). The part where it isn’t great is that if you grate for more than two or three scrapes in any single direction, it somehow creates a perfect indentation and no more carrot gets cut (grate grate grate slick slick slick). To keep the carrot coming, you have to constantly turn the grater, which is sort of a pain in the ass. It makes me think of how when you are driving down I-5 en route to ANYWHERE BUT THE CENTRAL VALLEY OH GOD and you pass all those orchards with baby trees planted in perfect rows. They are always painted white or else they have white PVC pipe around their spindly trunks and as you pass them at 80mph they move into a perfect line shooting out to the point of extinction. The trees are of course planted in grid pattern and the major rows show up as bold lines but you also see smaller lesser rows as you view them obliquely, and then rows where you can’t imagine how there could be rows, rows within rows within rows and you only have a second to ponder the how or why and then you are like, in Arbuckle.]

1 cup oil (This is what the recipe says but I usually do 1/4 c oil and 3/4 c applesauce)
4 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar (I know it’s not wet but I’m including it here because you have to mix it with the above two ingredients)
3 cups grated carrot (usually 4 decent-sized carrots)
1 cup raisins (if your raisins are old and crusty, soak them in hot water for 10-20 minutes to plump them up a tad)

[I really need to work on my food porn photography. a. Cool retro hand mixer I got from my grandma Mimi. b. Orange zest would actually be a really yummy addition to this recipe. I didn’t add any—this is an already zested orange that has been living on the counter the past few days, its rind turning into a crisp shell and its interior probably transforming into a funky cider. c. My cell phone: someone might totally try to call me! d. Mmm brown sugar. I confess I only used 2/3 cup this time (I’m turning into my mother). Also I picked through it and ate all those little hard molasses balls.]

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the oil, egg, and brown sugar with a beater. It’s a thick scary mess really and highly satisfying to whir all together. Put this aside and grate the carrot. If you happen to have a food processor, well aren’t you fancy and super awesome and I’m not jealous at all; this recipe will probably take you all of 3 minutes to assemble. If you don’t, grate the carrot using a hand grater. If you are crazy, use the fine grate size. My rationale is I’m trying to fool a highly suspicious toddler into eating The Hated Carrot Vegetable. Basically, if they sold powdered carrot flour, I’d pay big bucks for it and save my triceps the hurt.

Dump wet oil/egg/sugar mixture, carrots, and drained raisins into the flour and mix gently (all that baking powder/soda—gotta be careful!).

Portion out batter into muffin tins/cups/whatever it is you use (I have a non-stick muffin tin and a set of 12 silicon muffin cuplets, which are the cat’s ass). I get about two dozen out of this recipe but I’ve stretched it to nearly three dozen (I go for smaller muffins for no particular reason). Bake for around 20 minutes. I do the toothpick test to check if they are done or not. I try to time them on the inside edge of done but I usually overcook them by accident. They are still good. Best of all, Ronin actually likes them.

[This is why my muffins get overcooked. I can’t figure out where anything is and I never remember which direction is more or less heat. Sad. I suck at normal ovens too though so I take it in stride.]

(They are even better iced with cream cheese frosting, but I am a mean mama and typically deny Ronin such extravagances. I usually freeze the ones I won’t use immediately and thaw them on an as-needed basis.)

Baby Chaser and Odds and Ends

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

[In the mornings when I get up early with Ronin, she generally amuses herself by digging through the recycling while I make breakfast and coffee. The other day I turned around to see her lying on the floor amidst various cardboardy debris intently studying a Comcast advertisement.]

I can finally and with great certainty say that Ronin has had her first real cold. I thought she had caught a cold twice before but she really only sniffled and coughed a bit and was in a crap mood for about a day or two. But this, this is a full-on, straight-up cold complete with green snot bubbles when she tries to breathe, a bizarre and adorable nasal twang to her little chirpy voice, an utterly foul temper—particularly in the night time, an unfortunate food strike (I tremble to think that she may never eat broccoli, pasta, cheese, granola, or yogurt ever again), and painfully disturbed sleep. I haven’t had to nurse her four times per night since she was practically a newborn. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of some real sleep in the past couple of months, it’s far too painful for me to even imagine going back. Therefore, now that she is getting better, we’re night-weaning her once and for all. I am a cold wire mommy.

[We recently got back from Arizona where we spent a weekend with my parents. The air was dry and warm and Ronin’s hair turned into dessicated straw. To remedy this, mealtimes were spent rubbing olive oil, yogurt, cheese, risotto, and eggs margarita into her hair. Then she took a nap.]

She has moved into this interesting stage of babbling. Instead of the monosyllabic babble or “DAH! DAH! OOF OOF OOF!” she now natters on with all these weird complex sounds and serious intonation and has animated conversations with her stuffed animals and such. She can clearly understand a lot of what we say to her and it’s kind of awesome to tell her to go fetch something or come here and have her actually do it. Presumably it won’t take her long to realize that even though she understands, it doesn’t mean she has to DO.

[Oma Peggy is not tired of ‘Are You My Mother’ yet. My brother Sage, his wife Elise, and their daughter Riley were also visiting. Ronin still asks for “WILEEE?”]

She is a tantrummer, big time. All you have to do is deny her something, either tell her “no” she can’t do something or move her hand away from, say, the scalding hot cup of coffee, and she completely falls to pieces. She often does this at the park where there happens to be a steering wheel mounted across from the slide. This one little wheel is a major catalyst for strife on the play structure. Ronin, being one of the younger smaller babies, often gets bossed around by the bigger kids who push her aside and take over the steering wheel. As soon as she realizes what is happening, she pretty much loses her mind, crying piteously and yelling at them (cursing them is what it sounds like) in baby jargon. It’s simultaneously tragic and hilarious the way she screams and points accusingly at the offender as I try to reorient her towards the slide. It’s so hard not to laugh at her dramatics. (Cold. Wire. Mommy.)

[Joshua and Ronin during a walk up the road to look at the cows. My parents have a fence around their property, otherwise the cattle that range freely over the entire area would eat all the vegetation, trample mom’s herb garden, and poop on the patio. When we visited, all the little babies had just been born. It was very exciting for Ronin and Riley, and of course Joshua took a billion photos.]

It may possibly be related to her cold, or it may be because in her confidence she moves a lot faster than she used to, or it may just be because her hair is perpetually hanging down in her eyes (she violently refuses all hair management paraphernalia) but she has taken about 20 falls onto the concrete over the past two days. Her palms and knuckles are all scabby, her toes and knees are scraped up, and yesterday evening as she was scooting on her butt down the stairs, she sort of mis-timed the butt and went forward head first down the remaining two steps. She bounced twice on her head and came up with the bridge of her nose all scraped up. And a lot of screaming. Both of us totally freaked and even though she was fine aside from the scrape, we kept checking her pupils and cuddling her and trying to figure out if we could somehow have gotten to her in time to save her the fall. Poor little monkey.

[You can see the massive chunk removed from the bridge of her nose from the step incident. Now I just have to keep her from picking off her scab because that stuff is MIGHTY TEMPTING.]

She’s been on a (solid) food strike the past four days yet I’ve managed to stay surprisingly calm about the whole thing. Today would have been the fifth day but I was able to get 1/4 cup of yogurt, two pasta pieces, 1.5 slices of pear, and 1 broccoli florette in her. This, friends, is a major success (I should be in politics). I had chalked it up to her being sick but as I was nursing her this evening, I noticed that she has her first molar poking through in two spots. Joshua and I have been anxiously awaiting the molars and normally this would be cause for raucous celebration, but honestly she rarely shows interest in food that does not flow through a straw so molars: who needs ’em. And she really only just likes to bite on the straw anyway.

[Someone refuses to wear a hat. This stresses out the mama.]

Chernobyl Part II: Pripyat

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

[To read Part I, click here.]

[All images can be clicked to view a larger version.]

The crown jewel of the Chernobyl tour is of course Pripyat, the abandoned Soviet city. Of course this is not the first large abandoned site ever but it is probably the largest modern-era city standing empty. This is what the tourists come to see, what a city looks like after it has been sitting idle for twenty years.

And it looks… abandoned. Run down. The city is quiet—aside from the dizzying buzz of insects and birds twittering like mad. It is amazingly fascinating and I wish we had a lot more time to explore. Unfortunately, we all had to be out of the zone by 5pm and were on a tight schedule. I want to go back someday though.


Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell