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Eating

Oh gosh one of my favorite things is to mash bananas into sticky rich chocolate ice cream. And OH MAN looking at the top photo in this is making me salivate. WANT! BANANAS! MASHED! INTO! STICKY CHEWY CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM FROM SWENSEN’S! I don’t live up the hill from Swensen’s any more. <sadface>. I’m going to have to make that ice cream! Crap! It- you just mix it and freeze it – WHY HAVEN’T THEY THOUGHT OF THIS BEFORE!? IT MAKES ALL THE SENSE!! I WANT TO MAKE ALL KINDS OF VARIATIONS! THIS IS THE NEXT STEP IN ICE CREAMERY!

Listen to this. It is Ball And Biscuit by The White Stripes. SO BOSS:

As I wait for the state to process my license, I’ve been driving out to the coast most weekends to do yard work at my parent’s house, which has been mostly digging-related activities. There’s just nothing like showering and eating dinner and then relaxing after a day of outdoor labor in the dirt when the rest of the week you’re mostly inside at a computer, because that’s really what I do all week. Having not started my job. Because the state is processing my license. It’s taking them a full eight weeks. Hey thanks, state! Thanks.

So digging has been going great! My parents are relandscaping the yard after years of it being kind of spottily barren. They got all kinds of pretty drought tolerant plants and they’re also going to let me put in a little vegetable garden. They’re camping this weekend so today I finished up with the tasks I know about (shaking dirt out of sod clumps so the garbage guys don’t hate us, smoothing out dirt over the fixed drainage system) so tomorrow I’m going to put in some of the garden, maybe buy some tomato plants and strawberry plants, and more seeds. I want to try to get seeds for plants that will produce good seeds. My understanding is that this means heirloom seeds. I need to research this.

I have some seeds saved from my last garden in San Francisco. It was also my first garden, and it was so much fun! My gardening style is definitely to smell those roses and enjoy every transformation, and to put love into moving the dirt around and helping the plants grow and then harvesting and then collecting seeds. And being sad if something dies, but no matter! So it goes! Lesson learned! I learned, by the way, that arugula is the hardiest fancy thing to plant. It’s nuts! The stuff is so so tasty and grows like a weed, and then it goes to seed and the seeds are ridiculously easy to collect and sow again. I have to thank my garden partner and old roommate for pointing out the seed collection possibility. It’s all I care about now! My garden was so weak that I would just let everything go to seed, and I got my gardener’s satisfaction from gathering the seeds!

So I have this collection from all over, from fruits and vegetables I’ve eaten, plants I’ve passed, etc., and who knows if anything will grow true. But I really enjoy the experiment!

Well it’s evening now and I am worn. out. Even with just, really, a few hours of work. Now I’m sipping my wine and patting that black dog when she comes to bother me and put her head on my lap. Aw, dog! I love you too. Time to make pie!

Love, Genna

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Here is how you can make your own yogurt*, because it is really easy and turns out tasty and fresh:

1. Heat up milk (any kind – lately I have been having tasty, repeatable results with whole milk**) in a saucepan or something over, oh, medium-high heat until it just about boils. This means you have to tend it or it will boil over/burn/etc. If it does boil over, no worries – the yogurt should turn out fine – scrubbing cooked milk just blows. Heating kills off organisms in the milk and denatures the milk proteins so the yogurt sets all creamy-like instead of in curds (next foray: cottage cheese!).

2. Take the pan off the heat and let it slowly cool down to a bit above body temperature (I just leave it on the counter – never have tried speeding the process in the fridge or with an ice bath or something, but I think you could end up letting it get too cool, and you want to catch it at just the right temperature to create a nice home for the bacteria to grow and munch). I check the temperature with a clean finger. Once I take it off the burner I also take the opportunity to mix in the skin on the milk and clean the bottom of the pan a little with a clean wooden spatula since once the pan cools down it’s harder to scrub it off. I’ve left all the bits in and it turns out just fine, with some interesting texture. But it’s your call!

3. Mix in 1 or 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (meaning, lots of hungry bacteria, ready to go!). Mix really well so all the bacteria get a fair chance to eat the milk sugars and propagate. Pour mixture into a squeaky clean vessel and seal with the cap. I use plastic food containers, or old yogurt containers, but there is probably some terrible leeching going on with the plastic, so maybe it’s time to look into glass jars.

4. Tuck the vessel tenderly into an insulation system of some sort. I fill a soft ice chest with blankets or shirts or whatever and make it cozy and then zip it up. People have successfully made yogurt in far more primitive settings that your home over the eons – you’ll be fine with whatever setup you have. I’ve experimented with heating pads and changing surrounding hot water, but my most consistent results involve simply insulating the vessel and leaving it alone for 7 hours.

You insulate because you want the bacteria to be warm and happy so they munch on the milk sugars and turn them into the lactic acid and other stuff that makes yogurt yogurt! I do 7 hours, but you can play with the time – think of it as: the longer you leave the bacteria in a warm environment, the more time they will have to munch and convert sugar to acid, so the longer you leave it, the more sour the product.

5. Refrigerate and enjoy! Lately I have been obsessed with just yogurt and sliced red grapes – oh man so good. Breakfast, snack, and dessert, yo. If you’re into the Fage strained yogurt, read this. I have successfully strained yogurt once using a clean pantyhose. True story. Made a tasty beet salad. Speaking of which: USE YOGURT INSTEAD OF SOUR CREAM! So good.

In conclusion, of course making yogurt like this is time-consuming, but it turns out so fresh, and, heck, you could even make little to-go cups of it with small reusable containers! Dude that is my next yogurt adventure once I start working. I also love how making yogurt expands your mind regarding the importance of microorganisms in the foods we eat.

Bon voyage! Genna

*I could have just linked to this exceptional yogurty resource and be done with it, but one more article on homemade yogurt can’t hurt!

**Benefits of fat.

I grew up in San Diego. I am particular about my burritos. And when I say burritos I only refer to carne asada burritos, because that’s the kind of burrito I order. Now, I apologize for the fly on my final chunk of carne asada burrito in the photo above – it’s the only picture of a burrito I have ever taken, and I think it really shows all the best parts of a burrito like this, plus a cute fly.

Best parts of a carne asada burrito:

1. The tortilla. They always start with a raw tortilla* that they toss on the big industrial griddle and heat a bit on each side. I have no idea what is in the tortillas – vegetable shortening or lard** – or if what is more important is that they are cooked to order, but the texture is just divine. As you can see in the photo, at the end of the burrito you get a chewy chunk of folded tortilla that has been marinating in the contents.

2. The contents. The way I like a carne asada burrito, you order, they throw on the tortilla, and at the same time they throw the good, good, salty carne asada on the griddle too. Then they put the meat on the tortilla, and add, essentially, guacamole: avocado mashed to a near liquid with onions, tomato, cilantro, maybe lime. That’s all. No beans. No cheese. No rice. No grilled peppers.

I guess that’s pretty much it. They roll it up in paper and ask if you want hot sauce. They are simple, delightful foodstuffs.

I’ve just returned to southern California after a long time in the SF bay area, and let me tell you, burritos up there, they are the kind that inspired Chipotle. So, you know, they taste good! They are fine! They feed you and have ingredients! But oh, they ain’t the same. They steam a pre-cooked tortilla, maybe melt cheese inside it, and then it’s like building a sandwich. What kind of meat you want? You want refried or pinto beans? Rice? Lettuce? Mild, hot, or pico de gallo? Guacamole costs you extra. Sour cream costs you extra. Then they roll it up in two layers of thin tin foil that tears unpredictably once you start eating.

Growing up, my dad was the only one who got the whole huge cane asada burrito, and the rest of us got tacos (ooh SD shredded beef tacos all fried, with the break-yo-teeth crunch, shredded cheese, lettuce and faint cleanser smell…). So yeah: when you unwrap the burrito a bit, there’s excess tortilla, and my dad would give me that as a treat. Growing older, I’d order tacos and a single flour tortilla, heated all perfect and wrapped in that paper.

One time I was home for a holiday and bought two burritos, one to bring on the plane the next day. I went to the beach alone, ate part of one burrito, and went to swim. I looked back after a minute and SEAGULLS WERE EATING MY BURRITO. So sad, but I still had my extra in the car! Amen amen!

In conclusion, I really love San Diego-style carne asada burritos.

Love, Genna

*You can buy uncooked tortillas at Costco and probably other places like Mexican food markets – my aunt recently turned me on to the Costco ones, but now I need to try to find even fresher market ones.

**Who Killed Lard? is a great news piece. I mean really: lard. bacon. fat on pork. butter. fat on chickens. fat on fish – we eat all this animal fat and demonizing lard is pretty arbitrary when you step back and look at all the animal fats, animal bits and pieces, we eat happily.