Friday, 27 March 2015

What Did I Do?: Overalls and Authentic German Cooking

This week started off a little low-key, then got a little more interesting. I started mostly with my cheater approaches: online articles and the dictionary. I hope I can move away from this more again, and actually do some stuff worth talking about. Something I have been challenging myself with is limiting distractions in my life. One of my approaches the past week has been to leave the music off. Music is great, but I find that when I'm always listening to music, or looking for this or that song on Youtube, I get hardly anything done. And I need to stop surrounding myself with noise all the time.

March 19: Since I had put making Jaegerschnitzel on my list awhile back, and planning to try it soon, I explored many recipes, and also learned about how to make Spaetzle, and found out what a potato ricer was. I also learned that thumbing the touch screen on your smart phone changes the way your brain responds to touch. There's an intriguing article about that here. It's crazy how technology affects us.

March 20: Scientists in Australia have figured out a way to use ultrasound technology to restore memory loss in mice. It could be used in a few years to treat Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's develops as a result of lesions--neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques--building up on the brain.

March 21: I learned about the various benefits of coconut oil, and thanks to Anne of Green Gables, I now know the meaning of the words vim, implicit, impeach, and veracity. And you're probably thinking, is she ever going to finish that book? All in good time. :)

March 22: Sunday one of my coworkers saved me a ton of efforts by informing me that James Watts invented the steam engine. Except I thought I had heard John Watts. Good thing I verified the information when I got home. Steam engines were first used in commercial enterprises in 1776.

March 23: Monday was a very interesting day for me. It consisted of various activities, lots of driving, and lots of waiting. I started my morning at the pool. I didn't really learn anything new this week, but just kept practicing things I've been working on. However, I did venture deeper into the pool. Although not ready for the deep end yet, my instructor had me go in up to my shoulders. Although I have waded into water this deep before not knowing how to swim, there was something scary about actually swimming in it, taking my feet off the bottom. And in my mind I was singing, and the the words seemed to take on a whole new level of meaning.

"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand." --"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong United

From there I headed to The Pita Shack for some lunch. Although initially disappointed that they didn't warm or toast the pita, it was actually excellent. Hours later, I found myself near the downtown core of a city, that as it turns out can be a little uncomfortable to be in. I parked in the parking lot of a convenience store, where I got myself my mid-afternoon coffee and a pack of Cadbury Mini Eggs. This way I could justify parking as a customer while on the premises, instead of putting change in a parking meter. As I waited and enjoyed my afternoon snack, I observed my surroundings and the various people. I looked in the rearview mirror to see a guy vomit in front of Pizza Pizza. My eyes followed an animated young woman with a shopping cart, full of various items and bags. The real curiosity though was a bundle of wrapping paper rolls attached to the cart, which she showed off to many passing by. She later got some assistance from a man to make some modifications to this bundle, and soon he was busy with a roll of electrical tape, utility knife and other items I was unable to recognize. I never could figure out exactly what they were trying to do. And then there was the man parked a few spaces away from me in a black SUV, wearing big black shades, with his window rolled down, having a smoke. And he was watching something. Or for something. Or someone. At times I got a little unnerved, thinking he was watching me. Well, of course, I was watching him too...with locked doors. And then I saw the moment something switched, he took off and sped across the intersection, dodged a cyclist as if he had somewhere real important to go really fast, only to pull into the laneway right across the intersection, and later across the street. I never did figure that one out either, but "drug deal" certainly did cross my mind more than once. It was way too much like a movie! And as I watched these people with seemingly broken lives, I couldn't help but admire those who have the courage to walk into them, build relationships, and show them hope.

Then I went to the mall and shopped for a couple hours, which was all I could handle after my already eventful and slightly draining day. I walked into Urban Planet, not expecting to find much I would be seriously interested in. I saw some denim overalls, which seem to be fashionable again. I never would have thunk. I entertained the thought for a moment, then walked away. But my mind kept going back to those overalls. And I thought, Why not? Might as well take time to have a little fun. I grabbed a pair from the rack and headed for the dressing room. The straps were difficult to adjust and they fit rather awkwardly. I was wearing one of my many MDS T-shirts, my favourite everyday go-to item in my closet. And I thought, if I ever go back to a project to work on the job site, I might just have to get a pair of these for kicks.

And I went home later and looked up the word "epoch", but wasn't about to find out what all the unfamiliar words meant that I came across while reading Anne of Green Gables during my afternoon out.

March 24: Sometimes I just need to pretend I'm a pro chef. On Tuesday I attempted an authentic German meal, with help from my mom. I made Jaegerschnitzel, or German Hunter Schnitzel, and Spaetzle, which is a boiled dumpling. I considered finding a noodle to cook instead of Spaetzle, but after finding out how it's made, I had a real hankering to try it. Also, having had Spaetzle in Germany, I really wanted to try this.

I used a recipe I found online for the schnitzel, which was a bit of a task. Most recipes either called for packaged gravy mix or the sauce was mostly cream based. I wanted to make my own sauce if I was going to do this. So I used pork loin chops, and we discovered the secret to an awesome breading on schnitzel that fries really nice. I made the gravy out of beef broth, wine, flour and cream, which then had fried onions and mushrooms added to it. This was poured over the schnitzel and then sprinkled with fried bacon. The Spaetzle was an interesting endeavor. I didn't have a Spaetzle maker or a proper potato ricer, so I tried using a colander. Spaetzle is made from a simple dough made of milk, eggs, and flour. The dough is then ideally pressed through a Spaetzle maker, directly into a pot of boiling water. Once it's cooked, you toss them with melted butter, although I used bacon fat I had left over. To serve, I also spooned jaeger sauce onto it.

On a whole, it was good, and pork schnitzel like this has me spoiled. However, I have learned that I way overcalculate mushrooms when I buy them, and could have done with a fraction of what I bought. The gravy didn't thicken well, which was disappointing. I think if I make this again, I will try a different gravy recipe, or eliminate the wine and thicken it a little more. I'm a little undecided as to how much I liked the wine flavour in it. And it made a whole lot more gravy than necessary. Also, I discovered making Spaetzle using a colander does not really work, and dropping the dough into a pot with a spoon isn't great either.

But in the end, it was a good experience and I tried something new and unique.

March 25: I made dessert! Shocking, eh? I usually keep a good supply of frozen fruit in the freezer, especially berries, to use in yogurt and smoothies. I never would have thought that I would go crazy over sales at the grocery store, but with frozen fruit I often will. I saw a recipe on the back of one of the bags for a Berry Buckle and I thought it sounded yummy. Especially when I read you were supposed to serve it with ice cream. So this morning, being at a loss and tired of the cheater solutions, I ventured into the kitchen, even though we didn't need more dessert things.

This cake does take a good hour to bake, and I was hesitant even taking it out because, although the recipe said it would be moist and instructed not to overbake it, I was afraid the centre would be dough and berry juice. However, I let it rest awhile, served myself a nice warm slice with frozen yogurt, and poured a cup of Earl Grey, and it was delicious. Definitely did not disappoint!

In the afternoon, I tried some new exercises as part of my workout. One was an inchworm exercise. I didn't get very far before I fell on the ground laughing until I almost had tears. Gotta have fun!

Random note: I saw my first robin this year on the first day of spring. It's coming!!! :)

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