Tuesday, April 15, 2014

gyoza skins

I've been making, or helping my mother make, gyoza for years. She has an amazing filling recipe, and I've made it with great success a number of times.

The problem is, here in France, gyoza wrappers are a little more difficult to come by than the SF Bay Area. I've made them with wonton skins from the big Asian store, but it's a little bit of a hassle to get to the store.  A while back, I went to a gyoza party hosted by someone I met at my French language school, and he made the gyoza wrappers himself - opening my eyes to the idea this was possible.

Yesterday, I finally got around to trying it.  I went with this recipe (it was the first hit off a Google search, wasn't a video, and looked pretty straightforward) for the dough.  I made a double recipe; I had a LOT of filling.  The filling recipe calls for cabbage and roughly equal weight of ground meat, so what I generally do is find a pretty cabbage at the store, then buy enough meat to use it all up.  Since I got my food processor, this is a lot easier, and while it takes a bit more time to make that much filling, and wrap that many gyoza, it's not actually any more difficult, and this way I can cook and freeze the leftovers and have gyoza meals on demand for several weeks.

With homemade wrappers, I had to figure out the best way to make the dough into wrappers.

Last night, I tried doing it kind of like I'd do cookies - grab a medium-sized ball of dough, roll it out as thin as I could and cut out circles (using a kid's sized rice bowl), collected the scraps, worked into the next ball of dough to roll out into the next sheet.  It worked OK, but the wrappers were uneven thicknesses and a little larger diameter than I decided I wanted.  They were tasty for dinner though.

Today, I had a few wrappers left that I hadn't used last night.  I weighed them, figured out how much each wrapper weighed, and then went to my leftover dough.  Using my kitchen scale, I made balls of dough that weighed 30g.  I then rolled them out into an oblong, and cut them into 3.  These pieces then got dusted with flour, rolled out as thin and round as I could manage, redusted with flour, and put on a plate in the fridge.  A bit time-consuming, but I did it in batches throughout the day.  Preotty much a variation on what the recipe's website recommends. Who, me, do things the way the recipe says? :P


I'll be experimenting with baking the gyoza for storage (rather than steaming-frying them as usual) so they don't stick together as they thaw.  I'll report back :)


Monday, April 14, 2014

planting

A couple of years ago, I semi-successfully managed to have beans and tomatoes on the balcony. I intended to try again last year, but the weather was so weird for so long that it was May before I knew it, and too late to really try.

This year, we're trying again.  We bought some more pots, lots of dirt, a few young plants, a few seeds, found the leftover seeds from 2 years ago... and I planted stuff almost a month ago.  I actually started several seeds in a seedling starter tray at that time, but it went moldy and I ended up throwing the tray away in case there was something catching and weird about it.  I've restarted the seeds, but they're almost 2 weeks behind where I hoped they'd be.

Grape tomatoes, sage and rosemary were acquired as young plants.  They all seem to be doing well - the tomatoes have produced some yellow flowers, the sage is bushier than it used to be, and the rosemary has contributed a few sprigs to a couple of meals.

The peas I planted a few weeks ago seem to be doing just fine - the fragile-looking tendrils are grasping hold of each other and the bamboo stakes I've placed for them.

I've got a few sprouts that are destined to become sweet peas, beans, cherry tomatoes and basil. There were also some pansies (now fading) and daffodils (the blooms were unfortunate victims to a week of suddenly windy weather).  Here's to hoping for some home-grown veggies and flowers for the summer :)

Grape tomato

Sage, with a backdrop of rosemary

Sugar peas. There's actually two pots of these.

Baby basil. Three pots of these.

Bean sprouts!



Friday, January 24, 2014

it was fabulous

G's birthday was last Friday, and my parents' Christmas present to us was a no-expenses-barred-within-reason dinner out for two. I thought we should combine the two, and find tasty food. G agreed, looked at his work schedule, and booked us a table at Michel Sarran.

It was fabulous.

Friday, September 6, 2013

strawberry nectarine jam

So a few weeks ago, a friend from university posted about strawberry jam.  I made a batch.  And then started looking around at different strawberry jam recipes on the internets, and came  across this one.  G also asked his parents about their jam recipes, since they make some pretty sensational jams.

I then made a couple batches of roasted strawberry jam - strawberries + sugar in a baking dish in a 170C oven for around 45min-1h, food processed, put in a container in the fridge,  and consumed within a week or two.  Yum.

And then I got to thinking... how about other fruits?  I decided to try nectarines.  But I also had strawberries... and I never got around to the nectarine jam.

Chopped up a couple nectarines, didn't bother skinning (roughly 250-275g).  Whole strawberries (roughly equal weight).  Sugar (around 200g).  Pie plate.  170C oven, stir after about 20-25min, total time in the 45-60min range.  Food process.  Makes a pretty full jar + worth of jam... which gets consumed fairly rapidly.

Tasty.

(no photos... my camera has been missing for a  few weeks.  I is sad.  There's an actual finished pair of socks, a half-finished pair of socks, and the beginning of a First Sweater that want to be photographed..)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

sparkle lights

We have just returned from a stunning fireworks display.

About a three minute walk from our apartment is the main city library (or médiathèque, if you prefer). It is a strange, upside-down U shaped building straddling the top of one of the city's main boulevards.  Behind the médiathèque lies a square where there's some kind of city-related-something, some little stores (convenience store, pharmacy, bakery kind of thing; mostly we care about the bakery) and apartments.  It is here that the city has chosen for les feux d'artifice du 14 juillet (it's Bastille Day).

We watched from the square behind the médiathèque, facing towards the boulevard.  You could tell that the display was designed to be seen from the boulevard (as if the temporary pavilion on the other side of the médiathèque from where we were, where there was an open-air concert just preceding (we did not attend) wasn't clue enough).  There some pretty spiffy two- and three-layer effects with a background of glowy sparkly gold feather boa fireworks with the classic koosh-ball poofs in front, or the smaller spray fireworks, or both; we were watching through the background of gold feather boas.  There were also some fireworks that were exploding pretty low - couldn't see them through the top of the upside-down-U.  However, the vast majority were just fine from our perspective, as far as I'm concerned.

The weather is perfect for fireworks.  After a day of deceptively cool weather (I had all the doors and windows open all day, which kept a light breeze going through the apartment, which probably fooled me into thinking it was cooler than it actually was, but either way, waaaaay cooler than it was yesterday), the evening proved to be the same.  There was just enough air movement that the smoke from each round of fireworks had drifted out of the way by the time the next round was sent up.  The sky was virtually cloudless.  There were kids shouting "PAAAM!" after each round, people of all ages oohing and aahing and applauding during the pauses.

Did you know that France has a flag that can be recreated with fireworks?  Pretty cool.  In the US, the 4th of July fireworks are the same three colors for the flag-waving bit... but reconstructing the American flag with fireworks is a pretty daunting task.  French flag - no big.  It was spiffy (if backwards, but I'm a stupid foreigner and didn't realize any different til G reminded me :P).

I feel bad for any animals that live in the apartments around the square and otherwisely nearby though.  The fireworks launchers were probably about a 35-second walk from where we were standing - I've never been that close to the fireworks launch point before.  The explosions themselves weren't as loud as I expected, but it was still pretty deafening - mostly because we were standing in the center of a concrete square, surrounded by tall, hard-surfaced buildings.  The echo was at least twice as loud as the fireworks themselves.  Probably not much quieter indoors.

While watching the bright, colorful lights, I started wondering - do fireworks display/show designers work year round for fireworks-making companies (I presume those exist, along with firework-designers, who figure out how to make the narrow sprays and the big poofy balls, and the delayed 2 or 3 explosion things, and the different colors, and the spinny bits and all that... I vaguely remember something about that in high school chemistry, anyway...).  Or do fireworks show designers work freelance for an extremely seasonal market?  Do the fireworks companies sell the fireworks à la carte, or as prepackaged shows and you buy the set you want?  And when I watch fireworks, I perceive them to be two-dimensional, but they are presumably actually 3-dimentional (like Koosh balls), and how does that work, and fit into the design scheme? Things to ponder.

I was also surprised... when we came home two of the three cats were there to greet us, as they generally do when we come home (though a little twitchier than usual), and the third came out a minute later, meowing in his worried voice (also twitchier than usual).  I wasn't here last year, but G says that it took orange cat at least a couple hours to come out of hiding from under the living room couch-bed.  I'm glad they don't seem to be more traumatized - we do live pretty close to where the loud noises were going off for 20-30min.

But shiny sparkly lights.  One of the better displays I've seen :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

life is hard when you're a perry cat

Perry is a cat of routines and rituals, which slowly shift over time.  One of these is the bedtime ritual.  He used to come snuggle in bed with me when we went to bed, but for the last several months, G has been the preferred bed partner.

When Perry detects that we are starting to get ready for bed, he comes to the bed, wanders around on it, sits on it, makes plaintive sad noises.  Once G gets under the covers (G is usually first in), Perry goes under too for a bit of a snuggle with his boyfriend.  Sometimes he just stays for a few minutes; other times he stays until we've gone to sleep.  If I wake up in the middle of the night, I generally find that Perry has migrated to the foot of the bed, generally cradled between the ridges made by our legs.

Last night, Perry was waiting expectantly for his nightly snuggle.  However, once G was under the covers, a fluffy white cat named Nicki decided that she wanted to try this snuggling thing out too... and Perry was unable to get in.

He had such a lost, sad look on his face as he tried to figure out what had gone wrong with his world...

Friday, April 12, 2013

apple pie gyoza

A few weeks ago, a classmate of mine posted pictures of lovely little apple pie bites on her Facebook page. Inspired, I attempted something similar... but well, it didn't work out so well (aesthetically - they tasted fine).

Tried again today.

Some pie crust + an apple + some random amount of cassonnade (sort of like brown sugar, but not) + some cinnamon + some nutmeg + some walnuts + my food processor + a rolling pin + some different sized cups =


The littlest one is about 1.5" across, the big one about 2.5".  The big one was more satisfying in an apply way, but the little ones were more fun - bite sized!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

smell the flowers

It's been months since I posted, but here I am again, hopefully to start posting semi-regularly again.  I've had lots of little ideas of things to post about, but just never got around to it... I haven't even emptied my camera since Christmas, that's how lazy I've been.

However, the weather is beautiful today.  And we live just a short walk away from this:







It's what I believe to be the highest point of Toulouse.  There is an obelisk (visible in the background of the third photo) - a monument to some battle that Napoleon fought, I think - and a bunch of old observatories, most of which were built in the late 1800s and house or housed telescopes of varying sizes, according to the signs next to them.  There's also open spaces, flowers (or potential flowers), paths, a jungle gym, people of all ages walking around with and without dogs, small people making lots of noise and running, a little house with a lot of cats, birds singing, bees buzzing...  It's really nice to visit, and I should really do so more often.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Safari!

The San Diego Zoo's Safari Park (renamed from the Wild Animal Park, as it was very emphatically known last time I visited... when I was about 12) is less zoo-like than the actual Zoo (though there is a small zoo there), and has more emphasis on the wide-open spaces of the majority of the park.  They have options to rent Segways or get driven around in a small cart, or in a truck, but my friends and I chose to do the standard tram tour.  A lot of the animals are kind of far away, so I didn't take as many photos as I  might have - I only had a point-and-shoot and not very good zoom capabilities. :)