April 2011


We are in the thick of the hottest month in Penang.  Although the forecast doesn’t change throughout the year (high of 90, low of 78, 100% humidity, chance of rain), something about the intensity of the sun, the lack of breeze and soup-thick humidity make this month sweltering.  This means long afternoon siestas followed not by cooking and baking, but splashing and refilling a bucket over and over.  We often head down there with our neighbors.  Here’s Miles and Ada after an hour of water play, all wrapped up.

I was thinking I could discontinue this update post, maybe slow it down to once a quarter…and then BAM! this month happened and we have a new child on our hands.  For starters, this one looks more like his daddy than ever before.  For more, read on.

  • Monkey.  Miles does not slow down. In fact, he doesn’t sit down unless I physically restrain him (what else are the straps on a highchair for?)  He is in constant motion, and recently the direction of that motion has turned vertical: we’ve got a climber on our hands.  On top of the toilet, on top of the kitchen table, up the chair and onto the window sill, and most disturbingly, up the side of the crib and out of his bed.  I was pretty freaked out when that happened.  He was not so freaked out that he wouldn’t try it again.  The next time I set him in it he was over the side, using the sticky feet to gain purchase on the varnished boards.  I now put the toilet brush up high, keep the table free of anything and put him to bed with socks on, but I am fighting a losing battle against his growth hormones which make him longer and stronger without adding much bulk.
  • Words!  I wouldn’t say Miles is talking.  His only intelligible “dada” word is consistent and dead on (being used for dad only).  Others are consistent but in his own language like food (b/doof), keys, grapes.  However, there are lots of other words slipping out here and there.  Did he just say cat? button? pancake? grandpa? dog?  As the words tumble out, the signs drop off; we haven’t seen daddy in a few days.  On the signing front, Miles has learned to say please and uses it incessantly to get what he wants.  “bbbdddooff” *please*, further emphasized by tugging on the refrigerator doors.
  • A crossroads.  I also feel we are at a crossroads. Miles is old enough to understand, too young to control his impulses.  I am running out of places to move the things I don’t want him to get into, and I feel we need another form of discipline other than diversion.  A wise momma told me, when I asked what to do about his climbing, “you be as consistent as you can, and teach him how to get down”.  We’re trying.
  • And in other news: Miles wants a big sister after we had 2 big girls come stay with us for a few days…Tooth 5 erupted, and 6 is making a torturous descent…Jetlag is bad for sleep schedules.  For everyone…trying to phase out the morning nap, slowly, slowly…
Oh, and happy birthday, uncle Elephant!  I mean TJ!

My calendar says this week is Passover.  If there’s a holiday around with a food tradition attached to it, I don’t mind converting for an hour or so.  We do it all the time in Penang, each week provides a different festival, all with their respective dishes.  Plus, we just got back from DC, where Tim’s grandma (surname Stein) coaxed us (we went quite willingly) into the Jewish food tradition with breakfasts of fresh bagels, cream cheese and Nova lox.

I had never made Matzo ball soup.  Is it kosher to make the dumplings with matzos crackers instead of meal? (Pun intended) How about adding noodles?   I used recipe #15 from my 1 Stock, 100 Soups book, yes I am going through them in order, and the result was delicious, filling and soul-satisfying as only a chicken soup can be.  Given that I used all Halal products to build a Kosher Seder feast on a week bookended by Palm Sunday and Easter, I think there’s at least some little link to heaven there.

If you’re curious about the salad that appears next to the soup, its from this recipe, and it is super easy, springy and delicious.

Matzo Ball Soup

  • 6 cups stock, veg or chicken
  • 2 chicken quarters (leg/thigh combos)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 50g (1/10th box) vermicelli noodles
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 onion, grated
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 cups crushed Matzos crackers
  • salt & pepper
  1. Heat stock and chicken over med heat until boiling.  Simmer for 15 min, skimming off foam that reaches the top of the pot.  Add the chopped veg and parsley, cover and simmer slow about 45 minutes. .
  2. Meanwhile, make the matzo balls.  Saute the grated onion in 1 Tbsp of butter for 5 min on low heat until softened.  remove from heat and cool slightly.  Whip remaining butter in a bowl until fluffy, then beat in egg and egg yolk.  Add cooled onion to this mix along with parsley and water.  Beat to combine.  Fold in crushed matzo crackers and season with salt.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3.  Strain the stock, take the chicken from the bones and cut into bite-sized pieces, and discard the veg and bones (they served their purpose). Return the stock to the pan. Form the matzo mixture into balls.  Break the vermicelli in half.  Add to the stock and simmer slowly, covered, for 20 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!

Some very, very rare shots of just Tim and me on our recent trip to LA.  This is at Venice Beach.

Miles was nearby, scarfing Cheerios (and sharing a bottle!) with his buddy Nico.

We’ve been back in Penang for 5 days now, but I am not counting our presence until today.  You see, almost a month back in Austin is fun, busy fun, the kind that leaves you exhausted and dropping into bed with a smile on your face.  We had nary 5 minutes of unscheduled time by the last week (thankful for Google Calendar so Tim and I can keep our life straight!), and it was almost a relief to drop into our seats on the 777 headed east out of LA and back towards our island-life that I missed so while we were away.

I haven’t technically been “here” since we have been toppled and held under by the horrid jetlag-teething fairy, let up for air in 15 minute increments, enough time to take a shower or close my eyes, but not enough to produce anything creative like writing or a meal.

But today!  I have high hopes for today.  For one, I slept 8 hours last night.  Eight hours that commenced following a recommendation by my dear husband that I “just go to bed” at 7:30, and ended with the alarm clock of Bollywood Dance party on the street below our window at 4am – Penang’s favorite alarm clock.

Miles’ too apparently; he’s calling me now.  Just wanting to let you know I’m back, and that I have a new camera that I will be posting pictures off of soon.

My one recipe post from our month-long stay in the US.  As you can imagine, I was too busy eating tacos and pizza, doughnuts and cereal, chips and queso and salsa, to focus on much home cooking.  But I came home to a cookbook starring America’s food history in flour and butter that I had won at a fellow mom-food blogger’s site, and couldn’t resist trying out at least one recipe in the homeland.

The Indian in the original title of this recipe refers to the native peoples of North America, but upon tasting this spiced pudding, you could convince yourself of sub-continental origins.  For that reason and to be politically correct, I have altered the name of this pumpkin-pie-filling-esque pudding.  This pudding calls for no added fat, no added sugar, and has super healthy ingredients like iron-rich molasses and whole-grain polenta.  The result is something I don’t mind at all serving to Miles for a snack, or enjoying myself.

American Indian Pudding (from America’s Great Lost Recipes)

  • 4 cups + 2 Tbsp whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup polenta (course stone-ground corn grits, not instant)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  1. Preheat oven to 275F.  Boil a kettle of water.  Grease a 2 quart baking dish.  Prepare a roasting pan.
  2. Heat 4 cups milk with molasses, syrup, spices and salt over medium heat until simmering.  Slowly whisk in the polenta and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, until thickened.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, 2 Tbsp milk and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Add to milk-polenta mixture in a slow stream, whisking all the while.  Heat for 1-2 minutes, until big bubbles rise to the top.  Remove from heat.
  4. Pour into greased casserole dish.  Cover with foil.  Place into roasting pan and pour boiling water around until it reaches half way up the pudding level in the dish.
  5. Place in oven and bake for 2 hours.  Remove pudding from water bath and cool at least 20 min on a rack.  Serve warm or chill to serve later.
  6. Serve to your friends and family, young and old.  This would be delicious with whipped cream.

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